2019-09-12

Sep 9 - 15

Summer, week 12
"We use our daily activity as a shield against the fundamental ambiguity of our situation, expending tremendous energy trying to ward off impermanence and death. We don't like it that our bodies change shape. We don't like it that we age. The Buddhist teachings encourage us to relax gradually and wholeheartedly into the ordinary and obvious truth of change. We no longer believe that there are people who have managed to avoid uncertainty." --Pema Chodron
Saturday Zen: Sat Sep 14, 10:00a - noon
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Chants for Mon Sep 9 - Sun Sep 15:
  • Hakuin's Song of Zazen, p. 23
  • Great Doubt, p. 23
  • Taego's Days Like Lighting, p. 23
Opening and Closing for Mon Sep 9 - Sun Oct 6:
  • Opening: Clear Mind, p. 4
  • Closing: Your True Self is the World, p. 28
See: BoWZ Westchester Sutra Book   ☙   Additional Texts   ☙   Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.

Reading for Sat Sep 14:
  • Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty, #14
  • Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 54
This Week's Raven Tale:
  • #114, Hide Yourself -- HERE

Raven 114: Hide Yourself

"Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, order your disciples to stop.'
He answered, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.'" (Luke 19:39-40)
The stones are shouting in any case. You pour out from everything in the universe, as the whole universe pours out from you. Nothing can be hidden.

Case
One evening Wolverine appeared and said, "I've been thinking about hiding myself and fasting."
Raven kicked a twig at Wolverine and said, "Hide yourself in that."
Wolverine stepped behind Black Bear and said, "I'm hidden."
Raven said, "Piffle. You don't even dream of my meaning."
Wolverine was silent.
Woodpecker spoke up and said, "What is your meaning?"
Raven said, "Good question, Wolverine."
Verse
We named our car Blue,
and pronouned her,
as one does to recognize a personality,
part intrinsic, part projection,
as personalities are.

We wondered at the borders.
When the CD player stopped working,
Was that Blue? Or just Blue's?
"Where does a personality stop?"
I asked my spouse,
after I'd slid in a CD to no effect.
She turned on the left blinker, slowed for a turn,
and said to the oncoming traffic,
"Nowhere to hide."
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-09-05

Sep 2 - 8

Summer, week 11
"The activity of buddha is carried out together with the whole earth and all living beings. If it is not activity that is one with all things, it is not buddha activity." --Dogen
Saturday Zen: Sat Sep 7, 10:00a - noon
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Chants for Mon Sep 2 - Sun Sep 8:
  • Shitou's Harmony of Relative and Absolute, p. 21
  • Shitou's Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage, p. 22
  • Torei's Bodhisattva's Vow p. 22
Opening and Closing for Mon Aug 12 - Sun Sep 8:
  • Opening: The Essence of Atonement, p. 4
  • Closing: The Way of Tenderness, p. 27
See: BoWZ Westchester Sutra Book   ☙   Additional Texts   ☙   Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.

Reading for Sat Sep 7:
  • Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty, #13
  • Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 54
This Week's Raven Tale:
  • #113, Mara the Founder -- HERE

2019-09-04

Raven 113: Mara the Founder

In Buddhism, Mara is the demon who appeared to Siddhartha Gautama after his awakening and tried to tempt him to keep his enlightenment entirely to himself. Mara is "the personification of the forces antagonistic to enlightenment" (Nyanaponika Thera). As Raven recognizes, the forces antagonistic to enlightenment -- and thus also antagonistic to practice -- are also necessary for practice/enlightenment.

Our guides on the great way include the passions and delusions, blowing smoke from their ears, as well as our calm insight.

Case
Black Bear appeared one evening and said, "Tell me about Mara. I understand that he is the Great Destroyer."
Raven said, "The Great Founder."
Black Bear said, "That's what the Buddha Macaw is called."
Raven said, "Yes, but she never learned to blow smoke from her ears."
Verse
Psychotropic drugs
Utilize brain receptors
there for a reason.

Like that,
We are made to receive
our companions:
   ruby anger,
   ochre shame,
   blue-black fear,
   chartreuse envy,
   and all the rest.

Good medicine
In the right dose.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-08-27

Aug 26 - Sep 1

Summer, week 10
"Out there are all the planets and all the galaxies and vast space, but we're stuck here in this cocoon. Moment after moment, we're deciding that we would rather stay in that cocoon than step out into that big space. Life in our cocoon is cozy and secure. We're in this zone of safety and that's what we consider life." --Pema Chodron
Saturday Zen: Sat Aug 31, 10:00a - noon
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by TBA.
(Meredith will be away.)

Chants for Mon Aug 26 - Sun Sep 1:
  • Yongjia's Song of Realizing the Dao, p. 20
  • The Heart Sutra, p. 10
Opening and Closing for Mon Aug 12 - Sun Sep 8:
  • Opening: The Essence of Atonement, p. 4
  • Closing: The Way of Tenderness, p. 27
See: BoWZ Westchester Sutra Book   ☙   Additional Texts   ☙   Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.

Reading for Sat Aug 31:
  • Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty, #12, "The Root of Suffering."
  • Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 53, "Dwelling in the Present Moment."
This Week's Raven Tale:
  • #112, What is the Way? (I) -- HERE

Raven 112: What is the Way? (I)

The Way is the way of ordinariness. The quest of specialness in ourselves and our experiences: this is what the Way abjures.

Case
The folks were sitting around one moonlit night, enjoying one another's company, when Woodpecker asked, "What is the Way?"
Raven said, "The Ancestors got up and stretched.
Woodpecker said, "Well, we do, too."
Raven nodded.
Woodpecker asked, "Then the Way is nothing special?"
Raven said, "I'll always remember this full-moon gathering."
Woodpecker said, "It's nice, but how is it special?"
Raven said, "The moon."
Verse
The Way

Picture it:
A woman, or a man, in a grocery store.
Also, a second shopper -- not hard to imagine.
Each peruses the shelves on aisle 6.
Each selects a jar of something
and is attended by the same thoughts and feelings
Running along the grooves of the same habits.
Implausible, I know, but imagine it.

If I then tell you that one of them does this
With greater freedom than the other,
I would mean that along with
The matching cognitive and affective processes
One of them is also listening,
Listening for a call
From far away or near, from any direction,
To something different
or the same.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-08-20

Aug 19 - 25

Summer, week 9
"When we become aware that we are thinking, we say to ourselves, "thinking," with an unbiased attitude and with tremendous gentleness. This is the point at which we can consciously train in gentleness and in developing a nonjudgmental attitude. Each time you say to yourself "thinking," you are cultivating unconditional friendliness toward whatever arises in your mind." --Pema Chodron
Saturday Zen: Sat Aug 24, 10:00a - noon
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Chants for Mon Aug 19 - Sun Aug 25:
  • An Unending Truth, p. 19
  • The Three Marks of Dharma, p. 19
  • Loving-Kindness Sutra, p. 20
Opening and Closing for Mon Aug 12 - Sun Sep 8:
  • Opening: The Essence of Atonement, p. 4
  • Closing: The Way of Tenderness, p. 27
See: BoWZ Westchester Sutra Book   ☙   Additional Texts   ☙   Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.

Reading for Sat Aug 24:
  • Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty, #10, "Sitting Meditation."
  • Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 52, "Fields of Merit."
This Week's Raven Tales:
  • #110, The Proper Presentation -- HERE
  • #111, To the Other Shore -- HERE

Raven 111: To the Other Shore

Woodpecker has been with Raven since the beginning of the Tallspruce community. She should know better than to ask "what does it mean...?" questions. Has she not grasped by now that everything is a metaphor for everything else? Rocks represent wrens, as do fence posts. Oak leaves represent kitchen sinks, as do stars. So what can be gained from asking what something means?

As for the other shore, the raft you are using to get there has long since sunk.

Case
One evening Woodpecker asked, "What does it mean to cross to the other shore?"
Raven said, "Flowers crowd the cliffs."
Verse
Friend, we have walked around this Mobius strip
A thousand times, thou and I.
You ask me about the other side.
Other than what? I say.
Trust the walking, I say,
And never ignore a flower.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-08-17

Raven 110: The Proper Presentation

Grouse previously appeared in: 12, 21, 41, 44, 78, 88, and 108.

It is enough that you are what you are, ceaselessly scattering your manifestation across the landscape. You might notice that this is enough. Or you might not. That's enough, too.

Case
Grouse spoke up one evening and said, "Everybody else seems to know what is going on here, but I'm in the dark. What would be a proper presentation?"
Raven said, "Anything goes."
Grouse said, "I'm at a loss."
Raven said, "Ding, ding, dang, dang, bong, bong, clank, clank."
Grouse clucked.
Raven said, "Hey, Grouse, not bad."
Verse
Isn't it all, all, all
A series of bumping into things?
Bits collide, thence
Carom, split, merge.
Birth: bump.
Life: one bump after another.
Death: bump.
Nonliving matter: bumpity bump.
Here against this,
There off of that.
The music of the spheres,
On Earth as in heaven, goes
Ding, dang, bong, clank.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-08-05

Aug 5 - 11

Summer, week 7
"Sitting meditation is a method of cultivating unconditional friendliness toward ourselve and for parting the curtain of indifference that distances us from the suffering of others." --Pema Chodron
Saturday Zen: Sat Aug 10, 10:00a - noon
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Chants for Mon Aug 5 - Sun Aug 11:
  • Fukanzazenji, p. 16
  • Heart Sutra, p. 16
Opening and Closing for Mon Jul 15 - Sun Aug 11:
  • Opening: The Five Remembrances, p. 4
  • Closing: Prayers, p. 27
See: BoWZ Westchester Sutra Book   ☙   Additional Texts   ☙   Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.

Reading for Sat Aug 10:
  • Primary Reading: Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty, #7, "Why Meditate?"
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 50, "A Handful of Bran."
This Week's Raven Tale: #109, Facing In, Facing Out -- HERE

Raven 109: Facing In, Facing Out

Raccoon, a student of Moose Roshi, makes his third appearance. He first appeared in #93, where Raven asked him what Moose Roshi was teaching lately. "The practice of Zen is the perfection of character," he said.

He also appeared in #98, where he prompted a dissertation from Raven on he relation between everyday life and zazen.

Here, however, his question prompts no answer at all -- or an answer presented as a rebuff.

When Raven looks around, is she facing in or facing out? Does your original face face in or face out?

Case
Raccoon visited again from Cedarford and asked, "Why do some Zen groups sit facing into the circle, and some sit facing out?"
Raven looked around and asked, "Any other questions?"
Raccoon sat back and was silent.
Verse
Questions

Questions to ask for the sake of the answer:
Which way to Haymarket Street?
Have you seen my keys?
What's the diagnosis, Doc?

There's a going involved.

Other questions might be more for the sake of the question:
What am I aware of?
Who hears?
What is mind?

There's a staying involved.

There are also times I ask,
Keen neither on answer nor on question.
I want to hear your voice responding
And be the one who prompted you.
Why is that?
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-08-03

Jul 29 - Aug 4

Summer, week 6
"When we start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, we often think that somehow we're going to improve, which is a subtle aggresion against who we really are." --Pema Chodron
Saturday Zen: Sat Aug 3, 10:00a - noon
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Chants for Mon Jul 29 - Sun Aug 4:
  • Genjokoan 2, p. 14
  • Yobutsu Yuibutsu, p. 15
Opening and Closing for Mon Jul 15 - Sun Aug 11:
  • Opening: The Five Remembrances, p. 4
  • Closing: Prayers, p. 27
See: BoWZ Westchester Sutra Book   ☙   Additional Texts   ☙   Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.

Reading for Sat Jul 20
  • Primary Reading: Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty, #6, "Loving-Kindness and Meditation."
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 49, "Earth's Lessons."
This Week's Raven Tale: #108, Jealous -- HERE

2019-08-01

Raven 108: Jealous

In #102, when Woodpecker asked about equanimity, Raven said, "I'm not a very good teacher." Here, she says it again, responding to Grouse's jealousy. She's not being self-deprecating. She's demonstrating equanimity and (non)jealousy, isn't she?

Case
Grouse sought out Raven privately and said, "Sometimes I feel jealous of other students who seem to understand things so much better than I do."
Raven said, "I'm not a very good teacher."
Grouse said, "I heard you were saying that."
Raven said, "It's okay."
Verse
Jealous

I: a kludgy machine that makes and
Remakes itself from found objects --
Copies of representations of parts of
Available models.
I glue together pretty bits, and
Grease moving parts.
Neither glue nor lubricant works very well.
I'm always falling apart, or jammed, or both,
which I call learning and growth.
Chunks break off, get lost in the universe's sofa cushions,
Or left in my other pants.
Other bits get buried, scratched, bent as the parts
rearrange, or new ones are acquired.

The process depends on comparison,
which, increasingly abstract -- mostly --
Continues to drive, and bless, me.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-07-25

Jul 22 - 28


Summer, week 5
"We are a poignant mixture of something that isn't all that beautiful and yet is dearly loved. Whether this is our attitude toward ourselves or toward others, it is the key to learning how to love." --Pema Chodron
Saturday Zen: Sat Jul 27, 10:00a - noon
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Chants for Mon Jul 22 - Sun Jul 28:
  • Genjokoan 1, p. 12
Opening and Closing for Mon Jul 15 - Sun Aug 11:
  • Opening: The Five Remembrances, p. 4
  • Closing: Prayers, p. 27
See: BoWZ Westchester Sutra Book   ☙   Additional Texts   ☙   Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.

Reading for Sat Jul 20
  • Primary Reading: Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty, #5, "Loving-Kindness: The Essential Practice."
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 48, "Covering Mud with Straw."
This Week's Raven Tale: #107, Grace -- HERE

Raven 107: Grace

We encountered Rev. Crane once before -- in #33, which prompted the Tallspruce community to wonder how holy spirit compared to Buddha nature.

What, indeed, about grace? The loveliness of life appears without our earning it or deserving it. The pain and the very possibility of life appear without our earning it or deserving it. Everything appears without our earning it or deserving it -- nothing that happens is ever earned or deserved. Is there an intending agent making it happen? How would it matter? It would matter only if the intending agent could be induced somehow to smile upon us. With grace prevailing everywhere, inducement is nowhere to be found.

Case
Reverend Crane visited the circle one evening and asked, "What role does God have in our practice?"
Raven said, "None."
Crane said, "But the Bible says God concerns godself even with the sparrow's fall."
Raven said, "Does it say God intervenes?"
Crane asked, "What about grace?"
Raven said, "The east wind brings soft showers."
Porcupine murmured, "The ground gets wet."
There was a general silence. Then Woodpecker said, "We seem to talk a lot about Christianity these days."
Raven said, "We're not talking about Christianity."
Verse
by Hafiz
Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.

Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God.

Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child’s training wheels
To be laid aside
When you can finally live
With veracity
And love.

Hafiz is a divine envoy
Whom the Beloved
Has written a holy message upon.

My dear, please tell me,
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
And God?

What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incites you to fear?

Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred

This is the time
For you to deeply compute the impossibility
That there is anything
But Grace.

Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is sacred.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction by Meredith Garmon; verse by Hafiz
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