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 30, 2011

Taking Practice too Seriously

I have my personal ritual before I begin my sitting each morning. Taking my shoes off before I enter the room, bowing before I enter the room, lighting my candle, lighting my incense, bowing again, walking slowly over to my cushion, bowing again, taking my seat on the zafu, adjusting my posture, setting my timer, ringing my bell, deep breath and then Zazen! All this creates an intimacy which I feel is important.

Did all that this morning and when it came to "taking my seat", I fell backwards on my zafu, flat on my back to the floor. 

I just laughed. Sometimes I take my self too seriously.

Nine bows to laughter! The Dharma is funny too!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lighting the Holy Candle

Case 1 Joshu's "MU"
A monk asked Joshu, "Has a dog the Buddha Nature?" Joshu answered, "MU"

Mumon's Comment:

In order to master Zen, you must pass the barrier of the patriarchs. To attain this subtle realization, you must completely cut off the way of thinking. If you do not pass the barrier, and do not cut off the way of thinking, then you will be like a ghost clinging to the bushes and weeds. Now, I want to ask you, what is the barrier of the patriarchs? Why, it is the single word "Mu." That is the front gate to Zen. Therefore it is called the "Mumonkan of Zen." If you pass through it, you will not only see Joshu face to face, but you will also go hand in hand with the successive patriarchs, entangling your eyebrow with theirs, seeing with the same eyes, hearing with the same ears. Isn't that a delightful prospect? Wouldn't you like to pass this barrier?

Arouse your entire body with its three hundred and sixty bones and joints and its eighty-four thousand pores of the skin; summon up a spirit of great doubt and concentrate on this word "Mu," Carry it continuously day and night. Do not form a nihilistic conception of vacancy, or a relative conception of "has" or  "has not." It will be just as if you swallow a red-hot iron ball, which you cannot spit out even if you try. All the illusory ideas and delusive thoughts accumulated up to the present will be exterminated, and when the time comes, internal and external will be spontaneously united. You will know this, but for yourself only, like a dumb man who has had a dream. Then all of a sudden an explosive conversion will occur, and you will astonish the heavens and shake the earth.

It will be as if you snatch away the great sword of the valiant general Kan'u and hold it in your hand. When you meet the Buddha, you kill him; when you meet the patriarchs, you kill them. On the brink of life and death, you command perfect freedom; among the sixfold worlds and four modes of existence, you enjoy a merry and playful samadhi.

Now, I want to ask you again, "How will you carry it out?" Employ every ounce of your energy to work on this "Mu." If you hold on without interruption, behold: a single spark, and the holy candle is lit!

Mumon's Verse

The dog, the Buddha Nature,
The pronouncement, perfect and final.
Before you say it has or has not,
You are a dead man on the spot.

(Taken from Two Zen Classics,The Gateless Gate and The Blue Cliff Records, translated by Katsuki Sekida)

Again I go sit,
Waiting for the lighted match.
Holy candle lit!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Nothing To Offer, Sorry

I have spent a lot of time over the last two days reading about the violent act in Arizona. I have read news reports, blog responses, looked at pictures and listened to short blips of news on the internet.

All of these conduits of information make me feel I am required to do something but I have no idea what the proper thing to do is. 
I can't change the world. I have a hard enough time just trying to uproot the violence in myself much less the rest of the world.
I'm not a social activist. I am too much of a wimp for such as that.
Does this make me a apathetic?
I certainly don't have any suggestions for what the causes are or what the answers are for whatever the causes may be. I'm not informed enough for such things.
I am a simple guy, who loves simple things, who loves his family and friends and who just wishes we could all get along.

I am also wise enough to know that will never be a reality.

When the winner does win, what does he or she win?


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Flowing, Letting Go, Not Holding On.......


The following is a quote from Norman Fisher from the Every Day Zen site. It is taken from a talk given on Dogen's time-being.

"Last time I was discussing the idea that we're not going to make [Dogen's teaching on time-being] into a doctrine, or hold onto a concept about our lives, and that we have to be willing to let go at every point.  This is something that we have to deal with all the time.  So, unfortunately, we've got fixed ideas - like the idea of "me."  There's a big difference between "me" as a concept that I am clinging to, and "me" as an ongoing flow of experience.  This ongoing flow of experience is more like what Dogen is speaking about." 











Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sacred Space as Container

Still reading Journeys into Emptiness by Robert Jingen Gunn. Came across the idea of "containers" in this writing, when Gunn was referring to Merton's desire to enter the monastery. Gunn suggest we all need some kind of container to do focused battle with our egos and says the monastery was that container for Merton and for Dogen. Jung had his own place he called the Tower.

As much as I believe zazen to be that container, the sacred space I have created in my home is the container for that container. A sangha, a church community, synagogue et all...can certainly be containers for those who have access to these spaces. It certainly seems significant to me to have this one particular place where I practice. And I certainly encourage those who come to me for spiritual direction to create such a place for themselves. 

This is not suggesting that this is the only place where practice occurs. This is one launching pad, this is just one place where our lens are cleared, this is the place where spiritual babies are born, this is that place of intimacy with all the demons and assorted myriad things that eventually give birth to an actualized spiritual life. 

And, of course, this is not the spiritual life but only part of the whole.

So you might consider, What is your container?