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, January 31, 2010

THE ANGO TANGO- COME DANCE WITH US! - INSTRUCTIONS TO THE COOK


We begin another dance with Dogen in Feburary. As I think of Dosho's presentation in the previous video, Ruben Habito points to this "hands on" Zen that is right in front of us, if we pay attention.

Our lives will end in tragedy if we go astray, looking for the Truth afar, not realizing that it is right here! How unfortunate that we find it hard to see and hear the things that are so close to us.
 Let us listen to these simple facts of our daily living. Our lives come to fruition not in some glorious, idealized future, but with every fact and event right here in the midst of our day-to-day existence.
I think Dosho will be speaking to this in this next 100 day Ango. I am looking forward to the experience. Meanwhile though, I'm just paying attention to this day, this hour, this moment!

Gassho,
Alan

 

Here's An Invitation From Dosho for The Next Ango

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Paying Attention to Things I Can Touch



I have been rereading Ruben Habito's Living Zen, Loving God.
In his chapter on The Song of Zazen (written by Hakuin), he makes the following observation about Hakuin:

Hakuin did not write great tomes, but he had a grasp of the intricacies of Buddhist Doctrine and occasionally wrote treatises on various Zen themes. His life, writings, and teachings occasioned a revival of Zen that made it's mark throughout the country of Japan in the succeeding centuries. And yet for all this he was a very practical and pastoral person, concerned with the well being of the people around him, with special concerns for the poor and the sick...


What caught my attention in this little paragraph was, "And yet for all this he was a very practical and pastoral person, concerned with the well being of the people around him..."


This reminded me of how important it is to be intimate with the things you are close enough to touch. This reminded me how important it is to pay attention where you are with compassion and loving kindness and maybe this practice can ripple out beyond your touch, and in some small way, change the world.

Gassho,

Alan



Sunday, January 24, 2010

Looking thru Lentils



It's always recommended that you wash your lentils and look for "foreign" objects before you begin to cook. Chomping down on a nice solid little pebble is not good for these sixty year old teeth. As you can see, not so easy to distinguish the bean from the little pebble that may be hiding in there. I didn't find one in these.

It's actually fun looking for those little pebbles. It's rare that I find one but it always feels so satisfying to find one of those little rascals. Truth is, if I don't find one, it kind of leaves me with an empty feeling, like I haven't accomplished the task at hand.

My Zen is like that sometimes. I feel like I am supposed to find something and when I don't, I feel like the task is not complete. But you know, if I am always looking for that little pebble maybe I'm missing the beauty of the lentil right in front of my eyes.

Maybe that is it. Maybe it is about REALLY SEEING what is right there in front of you. Maybe I don't have to LOOK for IT, maybe I just need to SEE what is there.

Now aren't those lentils beautiful?! Pebbles and all!

Bows,

Alan
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

MEANING, QUALITY, SIGNIFICANCE


Dosho left us with this to ruminate about on our cushions this weekend, as he went off to the Alaska.



I'm off to Anchorage for the weekend in a little bit and am leaving you, dear reader,  something to play with - same thing in brief that we'll be investigating with delight this weekend - the koan of zazen. Here's how Katagiri Roshi put it: 

I often emphasize that zazen is a koan we have to digest in our whole life. Zazen is not the simple issue you have thought. “Simple issue you have thought” means you usually think zazen is a means to discover peace. At that time, you never have the great opportunity to digest zazen exactly in your life….If you misunderstand zazen you misunderstand Buddhism. Even though it is difficult, you have to practice zazen in the appropriate way. That’s why Dogen-zenji wrote ninety-five fascicles of Shobogenzo, explaining the meaning of zazen, the quality of zazen, the significance of zazen.

Sit down, Shut up, look at the wall!

Again, like I mentioned last night, that is the simplicity of this practice. But this simplicity must be wrapped in Meaning, Quality and Significance.

Now our normal western minds would say, "Ok, let me just try to figure this thing out, let me try to figure out what the meaning of this "looking at a wall" has for my life, let me just figure out the significance of this and then I will know it's meaning. So let me just think about this for awhile."

NO!

Sit down! Shut up! Look at the wall!

Bows,
Alan

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pleasing to the eyes



So here is the finally presentation. Just thought I would show you this because I did say there would be more. Now that's Italian!

Chow, or
Ciao


Alan
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Here are the meatballs. I'll put them in the over for awhile and finish them off in the sauce. It's a combination of grass fed beef and and pork. Sorry, don't know what they fed the pigs. And then there is parmesan cheese, garlic, egg, bread crumbs, kosher salt, cracked black pepper. Trust me, these are some hot balls!

More to come...

Alan
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Mama Idoni's Sauce



This is my offering for today. My wife's grandmother's recipe...of course this has probably been adjusted several times over from the orignal. It was passed down about sixty years ago. What you are looking at is the sauce before all is stirred and begins to simmer. Of course there are homemade meatballs with this! I'll show you that later. No matter what time of day I prepare this, I always have to have a glass of the red wine which goes into the sauce. Yummy combination to be smelling the spices and tasting the wine.

You have to wonder how much this resembles the original. Probably not that much, truth be known.

What about the dharma transmission that has been passed on and on, and on and on. But how difficult is it to tell someone to go over there, sit down, shut up?

The beauty of this sauce is it's simplicity. The beauty of Zen for me is also it's simplicity. SIT! Just this!

Bows,

Alan

Oh, More pics to come with this meal.
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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Stuck In The Mud or Comfortable in The Water


I have been doing some reading in Daido Loori's Cave of the Tigers.The book consist of chapters of actual dharma combat between Loori and his students. (Nod of thanks to Steve for the recommendation) One chapter is entitled Pearls, Perils and the Path.

I have noticed the last two or three days during my zazen that the question has come up for me, "What is it that I need to ask Dosho. I feel like I am stuck. Is being "stuck" also one of the perils of the path?

The other side of this coin is being aware that the ordinary, the (what seems) boring also have something to teach me. I need to learn to sit with just this.

But I still wonder, "What is the question that needs to be asked?"

Bows,

Alan

Friday, January 8, 2010

Read All About It!


I've been reading some of the post about the Brit Hume vs Tiger Woods "thing". Got me to thinking about the media again. What would the world be like if we only knew what was happening within hollering distance?
I get so tired of the "us" vs "them" genre!!

The Blue Cliff Record - case 59

A monk asked Chao-chou, “ ‘The Ultimate Path has no difficulties—just avoid picking and choosing. As soon as there are words and speech, this is picking and choosing.’ So how do you help people, Teacher?”

Chao-chou said, “Why don’t you quote this saying in full?” The monk said, “I only remember up to here.”


Chao-chou said, “It’s like this: ‘The Ultimate Path has no difficulties—just avoid picking and choosing.’ ”
Bows,

Alan

Sunday, January 3, 2010


This was my food offering for last night, split-pea soup with ham. I forgot to photograph the ham. A hardy little simple meal, as  a reward for a hard days work.
This soup with a little crusty bread, yeah!

We spent most of the day taking down all of the holiday decorations. Actually my wife spent the whole day doing this. She really can get things done! I did my part, but not as much as she did.
The house is now back to its ordinary state. We just moved into this townhouse a little over two years ago. After everything was done (taking down all the festive symbols of the holidays), I commented to my wife, "You know, this home still looks nice and cozy even with all the decorations down." And it does. It has a very welcoming personality. I think it invites intimacy among people.

Not unlike bringing the house back to it's ordinary place, this spiritual journey we are on is about stripping away all the conditioning that we have accumulated over the years and getting back to our ordinary selves.

We might be surprised to find out just how warm and welcoming that ordinary self can be.

Of course getting there takes work, probably longer than the one day it took us to bring this house back to order.

But hey, then you can sit down with those you love and have a nice warm bowl of soup and celebrate the simple goodness of this life and your own.

I've never been too big on that original sin thing anyway!

Welcome home,

Alan
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Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Moment




Right now the eyes I have to see this practice with are a lot like the picture above. There seems to be something there but I'm not quite sure what it is. I just know it is there. Lifting the fog, or focusing the lens is the part I have to play in this journey. I think this part is what the Genjokoan is trying to tell us in it's so many ways of saying it. I have to actualize that which is realized. I know, I have been talking about this a lot lately. It's just where I am right now on this wonderful spiritual journey we call life.

As I reflect on my very first sentence in this post, I realize that maybe it is not about having eyes...no eyes, no no ears, no nose...you know...

Dropping body and mind leaves nothing, at least in the normal sense of the way we experience this life...no seeing...no thinking...or is that the conditioned sense in the way we experience this life?

Now to drop body and mind and experience that picture above...that would be a Happy New Moment.

I would not have to be grasping to see or understand. I would just experience it, purely, intimately.

Now that is a fresh new beginning...Happy New moment!


Bows,
Alan