Monk In The World

To be a monk is to have time to practice for your transformation and healing. And after that to help with the transformation and healing of other people.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Excitement of Zazen

I have had family members ask me about why I do zazen . Not exactly that question but it would certainly eventually lead to this basic practice of zazen. Sometimes I wonder why I do zazen!

I would love to tell them that it is very exciting and they should try it, but does the above picture of the wall I stare at every morning for about 25-30 minutes look that exciting to you? The truth is I have great faith and great doubt! What does that mean? I don't know really but it keeps me staring at that wall every morning.

The secret of this is that there is an ox on that wall somewhere and I just keep messing with him and he keeps messing with me.

One day I will just get up from that place and go to work and think nothing about all this. I will just live my life just like it is.

Just this!



Saturday, September 25, 2010

Puzzles and Practice


This serves to underscore a crucial point that Dogen makes again and again about the unity of practice-enlightenment; all the Buddhist teachings, like the vows, are real dharmas, real expressions of truth. As real dharmas, they are no other than our self. All the Zen warnings about getting tangled up in words and concepts are warnings to avoid reaching hasty conclusions as to what they mean. Any conclusion we achieve prior to experiential realization can only be arrived at via abstract speculation, and thus will inevitably be off the mark. Of course Dogen, like all the great Zen masters, taught that a careful study of the Buddhist scriptures and commentaries was essential for all practitioners, awakened or not:
When students are beginners, whether they have the mind of the Way or not, they should carefully read and study the Sagely Teachings of the sutras and shastras.
Record of Things Heard, Thomas Cleary, Collected Translations Vol. 4, p.796
Also in accord with the classic masters, Dogen urged us to carefully heed the cautions about conceptualization expressed in those very texts and teachings. This is especially crucial during pre-kensho study when the term “true nature” is as impossible for a Zen student to understand as the note b# would be to someone born deaf. This is one reason why awakening is associated with the terms “Dharma-eye,” “Buddha-eye,” “The eye-to-read-scriptures,” etc. This “eye” is also the eye Buddhas and Zen masters use to “see” whether or not a student has actually awakened; and it is the reason Dogen asserts that the authenticity of “Buddha ancestors” can be discerned by their “utterances” or “expressions.” Having experienced true nature, even a glimpse, one will be able to “say something” to verify it. Having actively engaged the “Dharma-eye” in practice-enlightenment for a year, one will be able to say more, ten years even more. Not having awakened to truth, one cannot be express truth.

Ted Biringer, over at, in discussing affirmation of Buddhahood, again reminds us of the dangers of words and concepts being perceived as the "truth" of things before we have an experience of realization. At the same time he reminds us that Dogen encourages the study of these words.
I have the picture of putting together pieces of a puzzle and all the pieces are blank but you continue to work on putting the puzzle together. Once you have an initial kenso experience, some of the pieces are given colors and forms in those colors. So we have to continue to piece the puzzle together, even when we have no idea about what form it is going to take. This is our continued study of Buddhist scriptures and commentaries, awakened or not. In the mean time we continue our practice, we continue our Zazen and all the other practices that will hopefully some day reveal our true nature, the complete puzzle. But even then, maybe we take that completed puzzle and throw all those pieces off the dining room table and start all over again. Nothing is permanent! Form is formlessness and formlessness is form!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mind over Matter...NO! Mind under Matter

Even profound concepts are ultimately empty: the Ultimate Path is wordless, and if we speak, we go astray from it. Though we may characterize the fundamental basis as "empty by nature," there is no "fundamental basis" that can be labeled. Emptiness itself is wordless: it is not a mental construct.

 - Records of the Lanka...From

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Knowing with Your Body

I am presently reading ZEN TRAINING,methods and philosophy by Katsuki Sekida.

He says:
To look at oneself and the objects of the external world in the context of pure existence is kensho, or realization. And this has been achieved, since Buddha himself did so, by men and women of every generation, who bear witness to its feasibility.

The experience, as we have stressed, is attained by the training of the body and mind. Reason comes later and illuminates the experience, and thus the two wheels of the cart of cognition are completed.
pg. 30-31
What does it mean to "know" with your body?  Does it mean the body knows before the mind understands?

I had an experience with a patient this week that had everything to do with the body, in some sense. The patient was in the chemo room crying, while talking to the nurse during evaluation. I went over and sat beside the patient. We talked a bit and I recognized it would be better for the patient to have this conversation in my office. My sense was that there needed to be some kind of emotional release that was being inhibited in this public space. We went to my office and I put my arms around the patient and said, "just cry." The patient embraced me and cried deep cries for about five minutes. This whole experience was body! No words, no thoughts. Just deep heaving, crying and tears. This was a knowing with your body in that moment.

Was this an experience of "actualizing the fundamental point?"


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dosho asked me today, "What is mu?"

I really did not have an answer. Too much conceptualization on my part. Maybe this is mu.

Bows to the unconditioned mind,