This Week: Apr 21 -26

"We ordinarily see our lives as encounters with things 'out there.'. . .  There's no problem with this process -- unless we believe it. . . . When our world consists of objects, we guide our lives by what we can expect from each object."
- Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special
We would rather be ruined than changed.
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.
- W. H. Auden

Morning Zen: Mon-Fri: 7:30 - 8:30
Saturday Zen Service: 10:00 - 11:45

The dharma talks/discussions each day are based on these readings. Read the chapter or koan in advance if you can. (If not, no worries.)

Mon Apr 21. Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special. Ch. 18, "Experiences and Experiencing."

Tue Apr 22. Koan of the Week. "Luzu Faces the Wall," Book of Serenity #23.

Wed Apr 23. Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Ch. 20, "To Polish a Tile."

Thu Apr 24. Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Buddha's Teaching. Ch. 19, "The Three Doors of Liberation."

Fri Apr 25. Taizan Maezumi & Bernie Glassman, On Zen Practice: Body, Breath & Mind. Ch. 9, "The Practice of Effort."

Sat Apr 26. Diamond Sutra, chapter 9.

Book of Serenity #23

Whenever Luzu saw a monk coming, he would (immediately) face the wall.
Hearing of this, Nanquan remarked, "I always tell others to receive directly, even before the empty kalpa,
(I usually tell them to realize mastery before the empty aeon,)
(I usually tell my people to realize what has existed before the kalpa of emptiness),
and to realize themselves even before the Buddha came into the world
(to understand before the buddhas appear in the world)
(or to understand what has been before Buddhas appeared in the world).
But still, I haven't found half a man, let alone a whole man
(I haven't acknowledged one disciple or even a half).
If he is thus, he will be stuck in the year of the donkey
(Luzu that way will go on till the year of the ass)."
NOTES: Main translation: Gerry Sisshin Wick. In parentheses: translations from Thomas Cleary and Sato Migaku.
Nanquan (748-835; 9th gen) and Luzu were dharma "brothers" -- both were among Mazu's 13 most noted dharma heirs.
The "empty kalpa" is one of the "four kalpas" or periods of cosmic changes: the empty kalpa, the kalpa of growth (creation), the kalpa of dwelling (existence), the kalpa of decay (destruction).
Since there is no year of the donkey in the Chinese zodiac, the expression "until the year of the donkey" means endlessly.

1. Luzu sits facing the wall when he sees a monk coming. The monk would be coming to ask Master Luzu a question. Wall-facing is Luzu's answer to whatever the monk has to ask. What sort of answer is that?

2. One kalpa is about five or ten million years. Or billion. "Before the empty kalpa" would be before time began. What has existed since before time began?

3. The cycle of kalpas recapitulates the arc of each thought: from emptiness the thought emerges, dwells for a while, then fades out. So what is Nanquan saying when he says, "receive directly, even before the empty kalpa"?

4. When Nanquan says "stuck in the year of the donkey," is he praising Luzu or criticizing him?

Hongzhi's Verse
Plain water has flavor, subtly transcending the senses.
(In plainness there's flavor, subtly transcending thought and expression)
It precedes forms, though seeming endlessly to exist.
(Continuously seeming to exist before any sign.)
The Way is precious, though seeming massively to be foolish.
(Unbending, like an idiot, his path is lofty:)
Inscribe designs on a jewel and its glory is lost,
(Jade, when a pattern is carved, loses its purity;)
a pearl even from an abyss naturally beckons.
(A pearl in an abyss attracts of itself.)
Plenty of bracing air purely burnishes autumns' swelter,
(A thoroughly clear air burnishes sweltering autumn pure;)
far away a single tranquil cloud divides sky and water.
(A bit of cloud at leisure divides sky and waters afar.)

Hotetsu's Verse
Days and moons and years come and go.
Kalpas come and go.
Before all that was, as after all that will be, facing the wall.
And before facing the wall? Or after?
If you have been cut, you won't play with such knives.

* * *
The "Koan of the Week" is drawn from these three koan collections.

"Gateless Gate" (a.k.a. "Wumenguan," "Wu-men-kuan," "Mumonkan").

"Blue Cliff Record" (a.k.a.. "Biyan Lu," "Pi-yen Lu," "Hekiganroku").

"Book of Serenity" (a.k.a. "Book of Equanimity," "Congrong Lu," "Ts'ung-jung Lu," "Shoyoroku").

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