Sitting on the shore
The endless ocean roars
Living life to its fullest isn't about checking off thrills from a list; It's about being fearless in following my dreams, courageous in accepting that some will go unfulfilled and taking the time to savor something as simple as a cup of tea - Daiku Michael
Sitting on the shore
The endless ocean roars
Posted by Shonin at 8:25 am 0 comments
Posted by Shonin at 9:09 pm 7 comments
For sanzen (zazen), a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. Cast aside all involvements and cease all affairs. Do not think good or bad. Do not administer pros and cons. Cease all the movements of the conscious mind, the gauging of all thoughts and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha. Sanzen has nothing whatever to do with sitting or lying down.
At the site of your regular sitting, spread out thick matting and place a cushion above it. Sit either in the full-lotus or half-lotus position. In the full-lotus position, you first place your right foot on your left thigh and your left foot on your right thigh. In the half-lotus, you simply press your left foot against your right thigh. You should have your robes and belt loosely bound and arranged in order. Then place your right hand on your left leg and your left palm (facing upwards) on your right palm, thumb-tips touching. Thus sit upright in correct bodily posture, neither inclining to the left nor to the right, neither leaning forward nor backward. Be sure your ears are on a plane with your shoulders and your nose in line with your navel. Place your tongue against the front roof of your mouth, with teeth and lips both shut. Your eyes should always remain open, and you should breathe gently through your nose.
One Practice Samadhi means at all times, whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, always practicing with a straightforward mind. The Vimalakirti Sutra says, 'A straightforward mind is the place of enlightenment,' and 'a straightforward mind is the pure land.' ...Deluded people who cling to the external attributes of a dharma get hold of One Practice Samadhi and just say that sitting motionless, eliminating delusions, and not thinking thoughts are One Practice Samadhi. But if that were true, a dharma like that would be the same as lifelessness and would constitute an obstruction of the Way instead. The Way has to flow freely. Why block it up? The Way flows freely when the mind doesn't dwell on any dharma. Once it dwells on something, it becomes bound. If sitting motionless were right, Vimalakirti wouldn't have criticized Shariputra for meditating in the forest.
Good friends, I know there are people who tell others to devote themselves to sitting and contemplating their minds or purity and not to move or to think. Deluded people are unaware, so they turn things upside down with their attachments. There are hundreds of such people who teach the Way like this. But they are, you should know, greatly mistaken.
Posted by Shonin at 7:40 am 1 comments
Need I mention the Buddha, who was possessed of inborn knowledge? The influence of his six years of upright sitting is noticeable still. Or Bodhidharma's transmission of the mind-seal?--the fame of his nine years of wall-sitting is celebrated to this day. Since this was the case with the saints of old, how can we today dispense with negotiation of the Way?
You should therefore cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay.
Questioner: Such reasons as correct transmission by the unexcelled method of the Tathagatas and following in the footsteps of the patriarchs are beyond common sense. To ordinary people, reading the sutra and saying the Nembutsu are the natural means to enlightenment. You just sit cross-legged and do nothing. How is this a means to enlightenment?
Dogen: You look on the meditation of the Buddhas and the supreme law as just sitting and doing nothing. You disparage Mahayana Buddhism. Your delusion is deep; you are like someone in the middle of the ocean crying out for water....What good are such actions as reading the sutras and saying the Nembutsu. How futile to think that Buddhist merits accrue from merely moving the tongue and raising the voice. If you think this covers Buddhism, you are far from the truth. Your only purpose in reading the sutras should be to learn thoroughly that the Buddha taught the rules of gradual and sudden training and that by practicing his teachings you can obtain enlightenment. You should not read the sutras merely to pretend to wisdom through vain intellections. To strive for the goal of Buddhism by reading many sutras is like pointing the hill to the north and heading south. It is like putting a square peg in a round hole. While you look at words and phrases, the path of your training remains dark. This is as worthless as a doctor who forgets his prescription. Constant repetition of the Nembutsu is also worthless-like a frog in a spring field croaking night and day.
You are the light itself
Rely on yourself
Do not rely on others
The Dharma is the light
Rely on the Dharma
Do not rely on anything
Other than the Dharma
"Now I am frail, Ananda, old, aged, far gone in years. This is my eightieth year, and my life is spent. Even as an old cart, Ananda, is held together with much difficulty, so the body of the Tathagata is kept going only with supports. It is, Ananda, only when the Tathagata, disregarding external objects, with the cessation of certain feelings, attains to and abides in the signless concentration of mind, that his body is more comfortable.
"Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.
"And how, Ananda, is a bhikkhu an island unto himself, a refuge unto himself, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as his island, the Dhamma as his refuge, seeking no other refuge?
"When he dwells contemplating the body in the body, earnestly, clearly comprehending, and mindfully, after having overcome desire and sorrow in regard to the world; when he dwells contemplating feelings in feelings, the mind in the mind, and mental objects in mental objects, earnestly, clearly comprehending, and mindfully, after having overcome desire and sorrow in regard to the world, then, truly, he is an island unto himself, a refuge unto himself, seeking no external refuge; having the Dhamma as his island, the Dhamma as his refuge, seeking no other refuge.
"Those bhikkhus of mine, Ananda, who now or after I am gone, abide as an island unto themselves, as a refuge unto themselves, seeking no other refuge; having the Dhamma as their island and refuge, seeking no other refuge: it is they who will become the highest, if they have the desire to learn."
To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.
Huìnéng asked Hui Ming, "Without thinking of good or evil, show me your original face before your mother and father were born."
Posted by Shonin at 4:12 pm 4 comments
Dogen's Fukanzazengi is fundamental to Soto Zen, due to the emphasis this school places on practice (zazen) being not a means to attaining realisation, but as being realisation itself.
There are a number of translations of this fascicle of the Shobogenzo available - many of them are collected together on this page which I shall use as a reference for comparing the various translations. I shall be using the first of these, marked as 'English Translation 1', as my principle text - it's the most commonly commented translation I've come across. Unfortunately I've so far been unable to find the origin of the various translations.
There is a danger with taking a single statement or passage of Dogen out of context and using it to support a viewpoint because his writings often jump from one viewpoint to another - expressing a truth that goes beyond the limited scope of any single viewpoint. Most importantly, the relative and ultimate viewpoints are expressed together without contradiction, even if they appear to do so - they are both true in their own terms.
The Way is basically perfect and all-pervading. How could it be contingent upon practice and realization? The Dharma-vehicle is free and untrammelled. What need is there for concentrated effort? Indeed, the whole body is far beyond the world's dust. Who could believe in a means to brush it clean? It is never apart from one, right where one is. What is the use of going off here and there to practice?
And yet, if there is the slightest discrepancy, the Way is as distant as heaven from earth. If the least like or dislike arises, the Mind is lost in confusion. Suppose one gains pride of understanding and inflates one's own enlightenment, glimpsing the wisdom that runs through all things, attaining the Way and clarifying the Mind, raising an aspiration to escalade the very sky. One is making the initial, partial excursions about the frontiers but is still somewhat deficient in the vital Way of total emancipation.
Posted by Shonin at 10:37 am 0 comments
Dogen finishes with a koan.
Mayu, Zen master Baoche, was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, “Master, the nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. Why, then, do you fan yourself?”This is the heart of the Genjo koan and directly addresses the 'Great Doubt' that he set off from Japan to China to resolve - if it is the case that we already have (or are) Buddha nature - why do we need to practice? Or, in the terms of the metaphor he uses here - if air is everywhere, why does Master Baoche bother to fan himself? There is a kind of nihilistic interpretation of Buddhism which implies that since eveything is already empty or already awakened, there is no need to practice - yet it is clear that practice is required. So is the teaching of universal Buddha nature wrong?
“Although you understand that the nature of the wind is permanent,” Mayu replied, “you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere.”
“What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?” asked the monk again. Mayu just kept fanning himself. The monk bowed deeply.
The actualization of the buddha-dharma, the vital path of its correct transmission, is like this. If you say that you do not need to fan yourself because the nature of wind is permanent and you can have wind without fanning, you will understand neither permanence nor the nature of wind. The nature of wind is permanent. Because of that, the wind of the buddha's house brings forth the gold of the earth and makes fragrant the cream of the long river.
From a cow comes milk; from milk, curd; from curd, butter; from butter, ghee; from ghee, the skimmings of ghee, and that is reckoned the best; even so, monks, among these four individuals the person who is engaged in promoting his own good and also the good of another is the foremost, the chief, the principal, the best and the supreme.So, Dogen is saying that although Buddha nature is always manifested, Buddhist practice is necessary to reveal it.
- Chavalata Sutta/ Anguttara Nikaya IV.95
Posted by Shonin at 9:32 pm 4 comments
Accordingly, in the practice-enlightenment of the buddha way, to attain one thing is to penetrate one thing; to meet one practice is to sustain one practice.
Here is the place; here the way unfolds. The boundary of realization is not distinct, for the realization comes forth simultaneously with the mastery of buddha-dharma. Do not suppose that what you realize becomes your knowledge and is grasped by your intellect. Although actualized immediately, the inconceivable may not be apparent. Its appearance is beyond your knowledge.
Posted by Shonin at 11:31 am 1 comments
My wife (who has a sensitive and anxious disposition) desperately wants her first child. She is in her mid-30s now. In the course of the last year she has miscarried three times and three times I have seen her heart break. There is no instruction manual given out for how best to support someone going through something like that and it has been a real learning curve for me. Even her normally-very-supportive best friend told her she could no longer support her and they are no longer firends. I know that I'm far from perfect but also know that I've been invaluable to someone who was dependent on me and whom I was in a position to genuinely support. I also know that my Buddhist and mindfulness practice has helped a great deal - allowing me to be calmer, more patient, more empathetic, less interfering and to have a better view of my own 'stuff' than I might otherwide have had.
Zen teachers I know have stated (quoting Dogen as saying that a person who does zazen unconsciously and automatically benefits all beings) that the best way to help others is not by supporting them or engaging with them in any way, but by practicing zazen. One explanation given was that without wisdom our attempts are useless or even harmful (which by itself I have some agreement with). And that zazen by itself (perhaps via the dedication ceremony) benefits all beings through some mysterious karmic processes.
This doesn't accord with my experience. My experience is that to influence the world we need to engage with it. I certainly have no experience of this mysterious process and would have to believe in it through blind faith. I remember hearing about the belief among transcendental meditators that simply by doing TM they could influence social harmony in a positive way (by emanating harmony in some mysterious way). But, as I recall, the supposed evidence for this didn't withstand much scrutiny.
One of these teachers (not knowing the full background) suggested that I should not have cut short a week-long retreat to support my wife. This seems like a rather escapist view of life.
I have also heard of a monk in the same lineage declining to visit his own father on his deathbed in order to attend an extended retreat.
Buddhist ethics are indeed focussed on the intentionality behind our actions, but if my intention is sincerely to benefit all rather than just myself then my intention will be to actually act rather than merely to have 'good intentions'. My understanding of our dedication ceremonies and vows had always been that they are expressions of selflessness, ways to let go of selfish attachments, rather than seen as acts which by themselves help others and absolve us of any further responsibility to them. Is it really more selfless to dwell in private feelings of harmony than to actually help others? For me, to help others we have to actually engage with them. Meditation and self-awareness may help us in our relationships a great deal. Letting go of trying to change others may help a great deal, but we still have to engage, to be there, to care, and to act with wisdom and compassion. We need to 'return to the world' or 'return to the marketplace' rather than simply look after and dwell in our own feelings of cosmic harmony.
Posted by Shonin at 9:32 am 3 comments
Now if a bird or a fish tries to reach the end of its element before moving in it, this bird or this fish will not find its way or or its place. When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point. When you find your way at this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point; for the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others'. The place, the way, has not carried over from the past, and it is not merely arising now.
Posted by Shonin at 12:09 pm 0 comments
A fish swims in the ocean, and no matter how far it swims there is no end to the water. A bird flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies there is no end to the air. However, the fish and the bird have never left their elements. When their activity is large their field is large. When their need is small their field is small. Thus, each of them totally covers its full range, and each of them totally experiences its realm. If the bird leaves the air it will die at once. If the fish leaves the water it will die at once.
Know that water is life and air is life. The bird is life and the fish is life. Life must be the bird and life must be the fish. You can go further. There is practice-enlightenment which encompasses limited and unlimited life.
Posted by Shonin at 9:41 pm 0 comments