Sunday, October 30, 2011

Great Robe Of Liberation

The evening ceremonies we have done on the last year and a half - I'm thinking of last year's jukai, and the Lay Entrustment ceremonies - have all had a distinctively intimate feeling, and the jukai on Friday night was no exception. There was a nice turnout of Saturday Sangha people and of residents to support Dennis and Oceania. With Michael at the helm along with Jordan, I knew the formality would tend to fluidity rather than rigidity, and this also came to pass.
The drawback is that it is harder to get decent photographs - I am generally loath to use a flash, although one of the flash pictures came out okay; notably it was the one that wasn't posed. Luckily there was enough light in the Art Lounge afterwards to catch some of the socialising:

Blanche admires Dennis' new rakusu

Jim, Karissa, Robert, Susana and Dennis in the Art Lounge


Dennis and OC

Again with the feet

Probably my favourite picture of the evening

Friday, October 28, 2011

Study Hall

Diligence has always been a resonant word in my practice vocabulary; I even have hanging on my wall a calligraphy by Daigaku of 'shojin', which I believe is the usual translation of diligence in lists like the six paramitas. Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche refers to these as 'transcendent practices', and this is part of what he says about diligence in Rebel Buddha:
"Ordinarily, we equate diligence with a lot of effort. On the one hand, there's a sense of physical or mental sweat. On the other, there's a sense of being a good, industrious boy or girl - we're working hard toward a goal and not letting up. But being diligent on our spiritual path does not mean that we're meditating for hours, vacuuming the shrine room, and serving meals at a homeless shelter all in one day. Transcendent diligence means that we take whatever opportunities we have to practice, and we do those practices with a sense of appreciation and delight. In this sense, diligence is energy, the power that makes everything happen. It's like the wind, a driving force that keeps us moving along the path. Where does this energy come from? It comes from the enjoyment and satisfaction we experience as we get further into our path.
The primary obstacle to diligence is, of course, laziness - the absence of energy. One problem with laziness is that it takes up so much time. Think how much time taking it easy or spacing out requires. The problem with activities like going to the beach or hanging out is not that they're negative; it's our attachment to them. I'm sure more people go to the 'beach' that's a state of mind than to all the resorts in Mexico".
Well, speaking for myself, I am getting plenty of opportunities for practice, with the jukai this evening and Sejiki on Monday, and since, as I mentioned in a recent comment, tomorrow is my first free Saturday afternoon of the month, and with the weather being as it is, I am quite attached to the idea of going to the beach. The actual beach, and the state of mind.

Shojin, or diligence, by Daigaku

The sky during soji - I was aiming for some crows, but they are barely visible

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Eternal Peace

I realised that I have been missing Dogen. There was something about the accrued luminosity of Saturday, which carried over into Sunday - okay, it helped that it was a pearl of a day - that reminded me how being opened up while reading him can bring about a subtle dislocation which leaves you blinking anew. The silence of the one-day was hugely beneficial, along with a morning of riding alone with just occasional greetings to fellow riders, and I got to feel again how much can come from such an experience of spaciousness.
Well, that is how it was a couple of days ago. My energy started to dissipate with a gnarly Practice Committee meeting yesterday afternoon, and also two interactions this morning that left me feeling that I had not been heard or met, which took the wind out of my sails somewhat.
Nevertheless, I opened the Shobogenzo again, and this seemed the most appropriate paragraph: "When we reflect quietly, it appears that our body-and-mind has practiced together with all buddhas of the past, present and future, and has aroused the aspiration for enlightenment together with them. When we reflect on the past and future of our body-and-mind, we cannot find the boundary of self or others. With what delusion do we believe that our body-and-mind is apart from all buddhas of the past, present and future? Such delusion is groundless. How, then, can delusion hinder the arousing of the aspiration for enlightenment and practice of the way by all buddhas of the past, present and future? Thus, understand that the way is not a matter of your knowing or not knowing" - 'Only a Buddha and a Buddha'.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coming Attractions

Sejiki has been a popular search word this past week, and I notice that I have been avoiding writing about it. Of course there is an account from last year, which the searchers will have found, but I resisted plugging it after the lecture on Saturday as I wasn't sure how to encapsulate it. On one hand, it is a commemoration of the dead, as we read out a list of names of people we know who have died in the last year - and in this vein, I invite anyone reading to submit the names of anyone they knew who has died and who they would like included in this list (mail to: ccino, care of That part is always solemn and moving. It is mixed with the Kan Ro Mon, or Gate of Sweet Dew, which is full of esoteric invocations and mantras, with the doshi also performing mudras and blessings to invite and assuage the roaming hungry ghosts; we literally turn the Buddha Hall back to front to make them feel welcome, and the chanting can be spine-chilling if it is done well. And on top of that people, are decked out in Halloween fineries, which personally I am not so bothered about (well, one year I might shock everyone by putting on a costume, but it won't be this year - and I said exactly the same thing last year), and we make a lot of noise with musical instruments, not something that happens every day around these parts.
Doesn't make for a snappy announcement to the assembly, really. Come for 6pm on Monday if you can, and on Monday for morning service if you want to have a crack at the Kan Ro Mon ahead of time -  you can download it from here also.

Postscript - the work leader hung the trunkful of costumes out to air this morning, and encouraged me to take pictures, so here they are:

Monday, October 24, 2011


From Christopher Musgrave, whom I remember seeing moving around with his camera on the night, via Jennifer of the Bold Italic, and David Z, our programming boss, here is some video * of the event here a few weeks ago. I was delighted to get to see it, and noticed that I had different reactions to each piece. For the Date Palms song, the delight of hearing the familiar, as this was a tune they sound-checked with in the afternoon, and then played on the night, so it had stuck in my head nicely. For the Barn Owl piece, it was as if I was hearing it for the first time, as I had been more absorbed in the overall effect and less in the structure of the music, such as it is.
The video is very nicely put together as well, my only regrets being that he kept the shots pretty tight, so you don't get to see the surroundings or the crowd, which would have been nice, and of course that there is no way that the sound can match up to the reality of being there. Don't get me started on the inadequacies of mp3 data compression (or data reduction as we used to call it, seeing as it strips away 90% of all the information, albeit very cleverly), it's just that Jeremy's bass playing for Date Palms was powerfully loud on the night, not to mention, since I have already, with Keith backing me up, the unbelievable physicality of Barn Owl's sound. Enjoy them though, if you didn't get to be there when it happened.

* I would have liked to try and embed these, but Blogger only seems to let you do this for YouTube stuff, which strikes me as being a bit of a closed shop... so instead, a few more photos from the day itself:

Date Palms sound-check in the courtyard

Barn Owl's Evan and his pedals at the sound-check

The crowd at Barn Owl's performance - Blanche is still there, but she didn't say for the whole set...

Study Hall

"Imagine if we went up to someone and said, 'I'd really like to help you, but first you need to clean up your act a little bit. And it would be great too, if you'd be a little nicer to me. Then, yes, I think I could be a big help to you'. We may not actually say this out loud or even be fully conscious of it, but that kind of precondition is sometimes there. That's where our confusion lies in terms of extending our heart of compassion. We want to help people, but at the same time, we have our own requirements they need to meet first. It's like applying for a grant from a charitable foundation. There are pages of prerequisites, conditions and obligations to meet and promises to keep before you get the foundation's support. That's not really the vision of compassion we're talking about. Compassion here begins with a sense of acceptance. It's more of a handshake approach than a prenuptial agreement. We meet and make a connection, and then we work out the details as we go along" - Rebel Buddha, Dzogchen Ponlop.

The sun illluminates Mission Bay and the freeway through the fog this morning

Saturday, October 22, 2011

On The Cushion

It was a beautiful day out there today, but apart from half an hour on the roof after lunch, I was just gazing at it longingly out of the window, and hoping that tomorrow will be equally warm. We had a big one-day sitting, which meant a long day of preparation yesterday, and a long day of sitting today. In the end, the preparations were as smooth as they could be, even with all the vagaries of our new booking system, and I was about an hour ahead of my usual schedule getting all the pieces of paper together; even the printers behaved.
As usual, I did not get to settle into the sitting until this afternoon. We had had some debate about changing the timing of Saturday mornings, and the Abbot finally conceded that we could try the shorter service today that we usually do on Monday. As it happened, with seventy-odd people to get in and out of the Buddha Hall and give soji assignments to - and most importantly, to feed in the zendo - by the time we got out of breakfast, it wasn't even worth me trying to take my robes off and get to the bathroom. I went up to my room, gulped some coffee, and went straight back to the zendo to make sure everyone could find a place for 9:25 zazen, and then took a break once the period had started, which always makes me feel just a little guilty.
During the first period in the afternoon I was verging on catatonic, as I have been during most afternoon sittings this week - probably due to not getting to bed early enough. Once I got through that though, I enjoyed the feeling of some habitual stuff getting blunted, and other ways of being getting sharpened, allowing my spine to unfurl and my shoulders release, feeling my ribs come into balance and moving my neck just ever so to give a more spacious feeling. Then at the last moment I had to step in as kokyo for evening service, and found that my voice was drier and more wobbly than I would have liked.
We had dinner in the zendo, which is rare enough that I was having to think back to Tassajara to remember some of the forms; many other people were probably experiencing it for the first time. Luckily, some attrition in the numbers through the day meant that we weren't as tightly packed as we had been for the other two meals.
Sitting in the evening is also an uncommon treat here, even if the first period after dinner always seems to go on a little too long, and wrapping up the day with the Refuges in Pali is always lovely, again evoking memories of Tassajara where every day ends that way.
At the end I even got some thank-you notes and verbal thank-yous; enough to send me off to bed happy.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Study Hall

"Once we have an experience of selflessness, our confidence grows...We can see now that the trip is transforming the traveler. Our path, at this point, becomes less about traveling to a destination we call 'liberation' and becomes more a way of life. We no longer focus solely on how to get out of our own personal suffering. It may come as a surprise to us, but by studying our mind, we discover our heart; by freeing our mind we open our heart; and our vision of freedom naturally expands to include others. Instead of seeking to protect ourselves from confusion and chasos, we begin to appreciate that confusion as being full of opportunities to train our mind further. The possibilities are actually infinite. For that reason, we feel a sense of delight at being in the world and working with others; it never becomes tiring. Our budding experience of selflessness opens a door to a new sense of appreciation for the full range of human experience" - Rebel Buddha, Dzogchen Ponlop.

If I had been moving faster just now, I could have got a picture of a perfect V of Canadian
geese flying low over the building. Instead, some slower moving crows from the other day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Like all good Californians, we at Zen Center periodically undertake trainings for different skills; over the years I have done sessions on diversity, multi-culturalism, conflict resolution, being an ally, difficult conversations and so on, and I have learned much about myself and my fellow sangha members through doing so. Recently the senior staff at City Center has invited Zen Center alumnus Marc Lesser for some trainings, and on Monday we looked at team building.
We assessed ourselves as a mostly cohesive and functional team, but there is always room for improvement, and a chunk of the afternoon was given over to each of us offering suggestions, one on one, to the other members of the group, as to how they could be more effective in the team. As Marc anticipated, most of the answers each of us collected revolved around similar themes, and the main theme I received was to express myself emotionally more.
This and the other suggestions were all interesting and to the point, and evoked a certain recognition in me. I think of how Blanche often said during practice period at Tassajara, "Everyone can see how you are, you might as well see it for yourself". This expressiveness is something I have been chewing over in different ways recently. Part of my effort to meet people where they are is to put aside anything that I might be feeling as best I can at that moment, so as to have fewer obstacles in the way. Regardless of how I might feel about the person, or the emotional state I might be bringing into the encounter, I want to be present for them. The more I work at this, and at sitting with emotions, the less power they tend to have. I tend to think though, that even if I do not articulate to others how I am feeling, I am usually fairly transparent in showing my joys and pains. And it was especially interesting to leave the training and be confronted with a situation that brought forward some negative emotions, which I have been having a hard time shaking since then.
Simon, my fellow countryman, retorted, when I told him of the group's suggestions, "Didn't you just tell them that you are English?"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Don't Just Do Something, Sit There

I'll put my social action hat on this morning, and plug the meditation event this afternoon that Zen Center is co-sponsoring. Being the ino, I feel bound to do my sitting in the usual spot this afternoon, but there will be a contingent going from City Center, so if you are in easy walk/bike/transit distance of us or Union Square, please come along to join forces with us.

Monday, October 17, 2011


I left the tangaryo students pretty much to their own devices over the two days of sitting. They are supposed to be responsible for their punctuality and their effort; when I noticed on Saturday morning that some of them took longer to return to the zendo after oryoki, when people were already coming for 9:25 zazen, I encouraged them to support each other's practice by not lingering on their breaks.
I took the other meals with them, as we all ate together silently in the bustling dining room, and served them tea - with Renee's help on Friday. After dinner I went and sat with them for the last hour, before I walked them through how this morning's entering ceremony would go, noticing how they were at the end of a long day of sitting.
We get to do a lot of leaving ceremonies, but it has been more than a year since the last entering one here, and of course there is a different feeling to it, even if the form is basically identical. Paul noted that they are not really new - as they would be at Tassajara - but encouraged them to see this as a moment to reconnect with why they wanted to be here, to help motivate their practice. Of course we shouldn't need a ceremony to remind us of these things, but it always helps.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Study Hall

I have been enjoying Rebel Buddha by Dzogchen Ponlop, which Renee lent me; she is going to be moving up the coast to Seattle to study with him at the end of the year. Here are two sections from early in the book: "When Siddartha left the palace to search for enlightenment, he didn't leave because he had such strong faith in a particular religion, had met a charismatic guru, or had received a calling from God. He didn't leave because he was exchanging one belief system for another, like a Christian who becomes a Hindu, or a Republican who becomes a Democrat. His journey began simply with his desire to know the truth about life's meaning and purpose. He was searching for something without knowing what he was seeking...
The closest thing to a notion of a god in Buddhism is probably the state of enlightenment. But even enlightenment is regarded as a human accomplishment: the development of consciousness to its highest state. The Buddha taught that every human being has the capacity to achieve that level of realization. That's the difference in the approaches of nontheistic and theistic traditions. If I said' 'I want to become God', it would sound crazy or even blasphemous to a theist. It would be considered a very ambitious, very ego-centered thought. But in the Buddhist tradition, we're encouraged to become like Buddha - awakened ones".

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One Hundred Grasses

I am torn between my usual desire not to repeat myself more than strictly necessary, and the desire to acknowledge that things happen more than once and that we live in a world of cyles - lunar, seasonal,  annual and so on - which living a ceremonial life often makes very explicit.
So I don't really have anything new to say about last night's Full Moon Ceremony. It was well attended, more than sixty people in the Buddha Hall at a guess, and very warm - I was sweating before we even started on the prostrations. We had a pair of pros as kokyo and doan in Tim and Anna, who did us proud, and a brand new doshi in Rosalie, who seemed to have it all down from what I could see. I was mainly looking at White Tara as usual.

I took this picture yesterday morning, and it reminded me of this one, though of course there is a difference in where the moon is setting. After dinner, I went upstairs to be greeted by this:

Nothing new, but still beautiful to behold fresh.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Back In The Groove

 I offered this photo to Kate to put on the YUZ Facebook page, and when she was a little confused as to what it was, I suggested we could add a title like 'turn it up' (and I like the fact it even goes up to twelve).
It would be nice if we could control our attention levels like that (bringing to mind one of Charlie P's legendary Tassajara skits where he was the inventor of a machine that could do just that), but these things tend to come and go. On Monday and Tuesday of this week I had noticed that my chanting in morning service was pretty lacklustre - I was not getting as far on each breath as I am used to, and there wasn't much oomph there. Similarly I had noticed during noon services thus far in the practice period that I hadn't really connected with the words of the Self-receiving and -employing Samadhi - was I just giving too much of my attention to the new doanryo as they made their best efforts to get things right? Then, yesterday, when I was doshi for the first time in a while, I really felt right there at the center of the energy of the service, and everything came alive - which was nice. It may have had something to do with the sunshine.

I am aware that I pitch this blog with a certain lack of explanation of the basics, a function of who I am and where I am with my practice, so I am happy to send you off to investigate some other blogs in the near environs where people articulate their own dharma positions, which, depending on yours, may be more helpful - first of all Renee who has started one with her own special blend of Tibetan Buddhism, music and dance; also Lynn, one of our YUZ regulars, bringing forward a lot of pertinant questions; not forgetting the compassionate teacher, wrestling with her thoughts, nor the zen beginner, who has good advice for the beginner, as well as reviews. Indra's net in full effect.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Every Day Is A Good Day

It happened that yesterday was my birthday. I would have wished for better weather had I known it was going to be so dreary and wet all day, and there was a distinct torpor in the morning schedule that may have been attributable to the change in the weather after such a sunny weekend, but apart from that it was a fine day.
Most likely, if people here know it is your birthday, you will have 'Happy Birthday' sung to you at work meeting, and this was the case yesterday (we also sang for Anna whose birthday was the day before). I had several visits from the chocolate fairy with offerings left on my desk, in the office, outside my room, and even under my cushion in the zendo when I went to sit in the afternoon - and I guess I am okay with being type-cast as a chocolate lover -  as well as flowers, cards, phone calls, emails and messages from friends and family, and a good number of hugs.
I did try to get some work done in the morning, and then it was my turn, with Bernd, to do lunch dishes. Many people commented along the lines of 'they made you do dishes on your birthday?', but I was fine with it - apart from giving me occasion to interact with everyone who was having lunch, it didn't feel like much of a chore.
And anyway I had an appointment to go to Kabuki baths afterwards, courtesy of a recent benefactor, which made for a nice indulgent stretch of the afternoon. I enjoyed noticing how different my gait was on the way back compared to the way there, and tried to carry that feeling through the rest of the day.
To wrap things up, being Monday, we had our Young Urban Zen meeting - for which I am now even further past the age range of course. I had thought that the wet weather might keep a few people away, but on the contrary, we had the biggest meeting yet, with thirty people showing up. About half the group came along to the Orbit Room afterwards, as some of us had for Hannah's birthday a few weeks ago, to expand our practice together beyond the cushion. It turned into a slightly later night than I had anticipated, mainly because we were having fun. I am happy to report that all the residents in attendance made it safely to the zendo this morning, as did one or two others, who were perhaps wanting to show their determination. I confess that I was not feeling at my freshest, and that during second period my concentration was more than haphazard; a fine demonstration of how intimately cause and effect are linked.

Monday, October 10, 2011


One of the great things about living at Zen Center is that often the entertainment happens at home, be it a movie, a reading, an ice cream social, or as on Saturday, a whole big happening. I was sitting in the dining room during the Bold Italic event, listening to Barn Owl, in almost exactly the same spot as I had sat on Friday night listening to Zenju reading from and discussing her new book, but while that offering was a very typical Zen Center offering, quiet and intimate, Barn Owl were possibly the loudest thing ever to happen in this building. I loved them, something about the pure intensity of the sound that reminded me of going to see the jazz pianist Cecil Taylor, after which I would feel like I had been standing under a waterfall for a couple of hours - a little battered but completely invigorated. I had heard them during their sound check in the afternoon, as we set everything up for the evening, and on the basis of that, recommended to Keith, our resident who is now deaf, that he come and sit in to feel them playing (you can read his impressions here).
There was much more happening during the evening as well: two other sets of music, well chosen to match the space, from Danny Paul Grody and Date Palms, who were in the chilly courtyard; an art installation managed by David Wilson, tea tasting, chocolate, the listening booth with Bernd, and meditation with Lien followed by a showing of movies featuring Suzuki Roshi. I really enjoyed the feeling of the evening, people free to roam the ground floor to find something to give their attention to, and having the space mixed between our usual activities and these new creations and new visitors was really energising.

Artists at work
The installation

Danny Paul Grody

Foot traffic
Barn Owl
Trying to represent the Barn Owl sound pictorially

Date Palms in the coutyard
Gregg from Date Palms and his array of instruments

Danny Paul Grody and the moon

Friday, October 7, 2011

Think Different

I started getting enquiries yesterday about whether we were going to mark Steve Jobs' death, and I did what I usually do when I can't think what the appropriate response should be, which is move the question up to Paul and Rosalie. Paul was in favour of doing a memorial service, on account of Jobs having been a student of Kobun Chino, who had long associations with Zen Center, so we are going to do one this evening - just the same service as we do when we are asked to mark the passing of a sangha member or someone close to a sangha member. This morning there have been a flurry of emails circulating among various staff members as we field the media interest in this; people seem keen to explore the 'zen of Steve Jobs' angle. We are trying not to make this more of an occasion than it needs to be, but of course anyone reading this who can make it is welcome to attend as part of the usual evening schedule.

Written on a MacBook Pro

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Living The Precepts

During last weekend's jukai, a line that stood out for me was right at the beginning, in the invocation: "In faith that we are Buddha, we enter Buddha's way". As someone asked me to write about what it meant to receive the precepts, I thought this might be a good place to start.
Any teacher will give you instruction in their understanding of how to approach the precepts, and there are usually classes here at Zen Center as well - Tova is teaching one this practice period. Of the books on the subject, the two most widely recommended here are Being Upright by Reb Anderson, and The Mind of Clover by Robert Aitken.
I was a bit of a late developer when it came to the precepts. I lived here at City Center for two years, with Paul as my teacher, and took classes studying them, but did not feel ready to ask to sew my rakusu. It was only when I went to Tassajara and met Gaelyn that I felt the urge to take that step; she said yes, but I still ended up waiting two years before I did the ceremony, mainly as she had not had dharma transmission when I asked, so she was not able to perform the ceremony herself.
When I did finally have my jukai, in the spring of 2004, coming at the end of four practice periods at Tassajara, I found that I was seriously thinking about becoming a priest, and I remember speaking about this with Gaelyn on the day of the ceremony. As it happened, with causes and conditions and dealing with things happening in my life rather unskillfully, that took another five years to come to fruition, and by then I had returned to being Paul's student.
In that sense, my notions of what it means to take the precepts and receive a lay ordination are a little coloured by my desire to be priest ordained, so that my blue rakusu seemed like a marker on the way somewhere else, though of course the precepts you receive at lay ordination and priest ordination are exactly the same.
I think when practice starts to make sense to us in a certain way, when it starts to integrate into our lives, and we want to articulate this in a committed way, it follows that we make the precepts a foundation of that, and our receiving the precepts a recognition of that. As I have heard many teachers say over the years, the undertaking is an intention to make this effort, and not just a rod to beat ourselves up with if we start to think we are not doing well enough; the precepts are guides more than rules. We are just saying that we care enough about how we live to explicitly make this our path. As a priest I am just taking this further by making practice the central element of my life, by vowing to uphold forms and ceremonies, as one version of one of the Pure Precepts has it, and by endeavouring to help others find their way.

Rain and blue sky after breakfast this morning

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Coming Attractions

If you pay close attention to the Zen Center calendar, you may have noticed an upcoming event in conjunction with The Bold Italic, which you can now read all about here - it is sold out though, so if you haven't already got tickets, sorry. I have been curious about how this event will unfold since Michael B. proposed it many months ago, and have been happy to be a part of planning it. There is a continual debate here, as there needs to be, as to how we keep Zen Center vital and interesting to the wider community without losing sight of the fundamental reasons why we do this (which is why I was keen to help Young Urban Zen happen), and while I tend to scepticism around the whole notion of 'Zen and ...' that sometimes seems to happen here and at Tassajara as a way to entice people, the angle proposed here definitely got me enthused. Imagining as we have that this event will reach a very different crowd than usual, I look forward to seeing how such an influx of people will affect the building, and vice versa.


There's a pretty steep learning curve when you move into the building. Apart from the practical things of any new place you live like where all the bathrooms are, where does the recycling go, where is the milk kept, there is the whole spiritual side as well, with its wealth of forms: what time do I have to get to the zendo in the morning, how does kinhin work, how do I get in and out of the Buddha Hall without standing out too much, finding the chants in the chant book and so forth. And then you are expected to take on different jobs on top of that: kitchen prep jobs, dish shifts, house jobs - taking care of different aspects of the practical running of the temple - desk duty, night-watch, bathroom jobs and doan jobs. Obviously my realm is the latter, and we have been working hard to get all the new people stitched into the doanryo. Yesterday I showed a group of people how to be cleaning chidens, the people who take care of each altar so that it looks immaculate at the beginning of each day, and we have also been doing noon service trainings, where new people get the opportunity to try out as doan, kokyo, shoten or jiko. Last night we had an energetic and laughter-filled run through the forms of service, even if we didn't have time for everyone who came to try each position they wanted to.
I have noticed over the last eighteen months that I have often had a fair amount of resistance at the idea of doing trainings, and I think it has to do with feeling the responsibility that I have to transmit all the forms correctly so that everything is done right afterwards, even though I know that hardly ever happens, and that the whole thing is really a process of noticing how things go, pointing out the mistakes that happen and trying to correct them gently, as we do in the morning service review. Of course not everyone has an in-built aptitude for all these jobs, and not everyone is receptive to feedback, so dealing with those issues is one thing I have to keep learning.

After the rain this morning

Monday, October 3, 2011

Study Hall

A last excerpt from Returning to Silence for the time being: "The moment between before and after is called Truth or Buddha's world. We don't know what this is but we are there. Our life is completely embraced by this. We are present from moment to moment right there. That is what we call buddha, Buddha's world or Buddha-nature. That Truth is not something objective; it is the original nature of the self. Original nature of the self is not something different from the Truth. They are one.
The source of energy that helps the growth of our original nature is not in the conscious conceptual world. We are just going, so there is no room to say it is anywhere. It is continuous dynamic working and it is there we must stand up. Life is the full manifestation of total dynamic working. There is no room to conceptualize. It is just working. If we want to taste this, it is practice. We have to be right there, be present right there. We have to be in harmony with our original nature. If we are there, very naturally seeds of our energy grow, the source of our energy, our life, grows. But it is not an idea of 'right there'; it is more than that; it is nothing but dynamic energy, energy in motion. It is going on eternally, regardless of whether the world is born or not."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Three New Bodhisattvas

I had been angling to write about Saturday being one of those non-stop-twelve-hour days, but in the end it didn't quite feel like that. Having missed out on the one-day sitting last weekend, I did feel a bit rusty about doing a morning with oryoki, and there was a certain feeling of one thing after another - zazen, service, breakfast, doshi for zazen, lecture, setting up the Buddha Hall, kokyo for nenju, a silent lunch with the ordainees, rehearsal, jukai ceremony, photographs, reception - but I also had time, after Paul had run us through the rehearsal very efficiently, to take a bath so I could shave my head before the ceremony.
Michael in his talk had spoken of how ceremonies never go the way you think they are going to, and this jukai was a fine example of that, as our newly minted bodhisattvas needed to be nudged on the forms a few times, but it was also a very sweet and emotional occasion. As usual, the photographs say more:

Preceptors Paul and Cynthia and Lucy the jisha

Virginia receives her kechimyaku
Caren shows off the back of her rakusu

Cynthia and Cynthia

Virginia Paul and Caren

You're never too old to be a Bodhisattva
Envelopes, chant cards, serene name cards and kechimyakus