Tag Archives: zen
I hiked at Phoenix Mountain Preserve on Good Friday with quail, lizards, saguaro, and chipmunks. At the top of the mountain I sat on the ground and waited for nothing.
A man and his two children –teenager and a tween—soon arrived.
What did they say when the reached the top of the mountain?
“Nice job, buddy,” the man told his son. “Alright, we’ll chill for a minute.”
They posed for photos of themselves against the cityscape: selfies, group shots, never turning to view the side that held no streets. What did they capture inside their camera?
I heard the flies buzz, felt the sand against my palms.
“Okay, let’s go down, we’re done,” said the man after three minutes.
A middle-aged couple soon came to the top.
“Is this it?” said the woman, disappointed. She searched for a higher point, found it, and led her husband to the next crest. I watched them climb and once they reached that peak, they immediately turned for the descent.
What did they find at the top of the mountain? More rocks and sand perhaps. Something they climbed for, but could not name and could not touch; something always there, but unseen, untouched, unheard, un-experienced by sleepwalkers.
What do you find at the top of the mountain?
In Paradise Valley I have a neighbor named Jane. Jane’s bamboo plants creep into my patio area, dropping dead leaves onto my rock garden.
Each week I clean the dead leaves from the rock garden; sometimes twice a week, sometimes more.
Within half an hour after each cleaning, a slight breeze blows and more dead leaves fall from Jane’s bamboo.
Jane’s bamboo carries a great teaching about the impermanence of all things.
Much water imagery lately, in journeying as well as meditation; in dreams as well as in synchronicities of everyday life. What does it all mean? In the wise words of an old man by the fire, “It doesn’t mean anything.” Reading the Teachings from the Huainanzi today, this was the message:
“Of all the things in the world, nothing is softer than water. Water is accommodating and yielding, but its depth cannot be plumbed and its boundaries cannot be measured. Rising to the sky, it becomes rain and mist. Falling to the earth, it becomes springs and underground lakes. Life cannot exist without water, and crops cannot be cultivated without it. Water benefits all and has no favorites. It nourishes the smallest insect and the largest mammal and does not expect gratitude. It enriches the world and does not begrudge those who use it.
“Water is soft yet strong. Strike it, and it cannot be injured. Pierce it, and it cannot be punctured. Grasp it, and it cannot be held. Its strength can wear down stone and metal. Its sustenance can nourish the whole world. It can float in the sky as clouds, squeeze through narrow valleys as streams, and spread across wide-open plains as lakes. It takes from the earth and gives back to the earth. Unbiased and nonjudgmental, it does not have notions of first and last and does not distinguish between us and them. Everything is equal in its eyes. Separating and merging, it blends with its surroundings and is at one with the sky and the earth. Not conforming to the left or the right, it can be straight or meandering. Not restrained by space and time, it can be present at the beginning and the end of all things.”
-teachings from the Huainanzi, The Natural Way, translated by Eva Wong
It means nothing. It means everything. Such is the Dao.
Shared by Zen Master Wonji Dharma.
“Everything is already determined and has no meaning. I had met with Zen Master Seung Sahn in a private interview back in about 1992. I have spoken often about this particular interview and even posed Zen Master Seung Sahn’s comments to many of the other teachers in the Kwan Um School of Zen, many of the comments I received were less than satisfying. Apparently, he hadn’t made this particular statement to very many people so they weren’t sure how to respond.
“I don’t remember the particular gongàn I was working on at the time, but I had a question about it and honestly, I wish I remember what question I asked him at the time; yet his response really shocked me at the time and I was extremely confused. Nevertheless, his response to my question was “You don’t understand! You have no choice!” I remember thinking, “WHAT? This isn’t Zen Buddhism.” So, I said to him, “Did you just tell me that I have no choice?” Daesonsa-nim said, “Yes, everything is already determined and you have no choice.”
“This confused the shit out of me, so in desperation, I said to him “That sounds like Catholic Determinism, are you telling me that everything is written in a book written by the Dao or God?” He then looked me squarely in the eyes, “You don’t understand, so you are confused.” I asked him to please explain it to me and he said “Look, everything is already determined, and you have no choice. And until you realize that you have no choice, only then do you get a choice.”
“He continued, “Everything has no meaning, no reason, and no choice, and we have our practice to help us understand our true self. Then, we can change no meaning to Great Meaning, which means Great Love. We can change no reason to Great Reason, which means Great Compassion. Finally, we can change no choice to Great Choice, which means Great Vow and Bodhisattva Way.”
“At this point, I bowed to him and thanked him for the interview and frankly I wasn’t sure what it meant. His statement became a huàtóu for me and I sat with it for a very long time, and eventually I digested his comments.” –Wonji Dharma
We create our prison out of these four walls: wanting, holding, attaching, and checking.
Wanting: I want a new car. I want to be happy. I want to XYZ. I want enlightenment.
Holding: She said this and I will never forgive her. Twenty years ago, he did ‘this’ and I will never forgive him.
Attaching: I must meditate for two hours a day or I will never attain enlightenment. I must chant for one hour a day or I will be a bad practitioner. I must give up X or I will never be blessed. I can’t miss my morning work-out or my day will be ruined.
Checking: I used to meditate more. I should be spending more time reading the sutras, the Bible, the blah, blah, blah. I need to exercise more, eat healthier. I shoulda coulda woulda. . .
Your prison has four walls. Those walls are wanting, holding, attaching, and checking. You are not your idea of yourself. You are not your thoughts. It is not good or bad. It just is as it is, right now. Be present for it.
(Reprinted with permission from Ven. Dr. Wonji Dharma, Zen Master FMZO.)
Five precepts for living
“1. Welcome everything, push away nothing. My teacher Zen Master Seung Sahn was quite fond of saying, “Put it all down,” which was his way of saying “welcome everything, push away nothing.” In Zen we also say things like; “live in the moment” or “be mindful.” Pema Chödron, who is a teaching lineage holder of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, says it from the opposite perspective, “Abandon all hope.” This means to give up our ideas that things will change other than what they are. Abandon the idea that the outcome of a given situation is other than what it is, right now. Face this life with full awareness. Suzuki Rōshi once said something to the effect of: “it’s like going to a restaurant for lunch, and when your lunch is served you say to yourself, ‘I shouldn’t have come to this restaurant, I should have gone to some other restaurant. This restaurant is not so good.’ The truth of this situation is that we can only be here now. I still have a little card my first psychology professor gave me from a class on “transactional analysis” I took in 1980 which says, “Even if you don’t like the way it is, it still is the way it is.”
“2. Bring your whole self to the experience. This means to live our lives with our whole bodies and souls. To be completely present and to pay attention to ourselves as much as we pay attention to others. We have to feel ourselves in each situation, feel our own tension, our own fear, our own apprehension. We need to love ourselves in each moment, especially in times of stress and anxiety. If we pay attention to our inner self we can relax into the moment and it will be easier to be present.
“3. Don’t wait. Waiting implies something is going to happen by itself. It also implies that perhaps it can be done in the future. The reality that Buddha taught was that the only moment we have is now. Krishnamurti, who was one of the greatest sage’s of the twentieth century, talked a lot about this point. He said, “We delude ourselves in thinking that we can change some behavior in the future. It is through our discursive thinking that change can happen in the future. The only moment we have to change anything is now.”
“4. Find the place of rest, in the middle of things. This means that we must find that place of calm in the middle of the storm. The storm of our lives, the storm of work, the storm of getting our kids ready for school, the storm of someone who is close to us that is dying. It means that within each activity we can find a place of peace and then we can see the truth for what it is.
“5. Cultivate don’t know mind. Suzuki Roshi called this beginners mind. In the mind of the beginner possibilities are endless, in the mind of the expert, possibilities are few. An ancient once said, “Not knowing is most intimate.” This is being here without expectation or idea. This is our essential practice.”
–Ven. Dr. Wonji Dharma, Zen Master FMZO
“Zen means understanding your true self. “What am I?” That is a very important question: What is the one pure and clear thing? If you find the one pure and clear thing, you will have freedom from life and death. How is it possible to attain freedom from life and death? First, it is necessary that your direction becomes clear; if your direction is clear, then your life is clear. Why do you practice Zen? Why do you eat every day? You must find that!
“Put it all down –your opinion, your condition, and your situation. Moment to moment just do it. Then there’s no subject, no object, no inside, no outside. Inside and outside already become one. Then your direction and my direction, your action and my action are the same. . .
“Most people understand too much. This understanding cannot help your life. Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” So “I” makes “I.” If you are thinking, then what? Even if you have a big experience, if you cannot attain the one pure and clear thing, then all your understanding and experience cannot help your practice. Therefore Zen practice is not about understanding. Zen means only go straight, don’t know. “
–Zen Master Seung Sahn, The Whole World is a Single Flower