Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Continuing the thread of the last post, the one way that you can easily communicate with people at Tassajara is a good, old-fashioned, hand-written letter. Two days a week in the winter, Keith comes in from Jamesburg with produce and mail, and it is always nice to receive something.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to get two such pieces of mail here in the city, both blog-related, and this post is partly to say thank you to Peggy in Oahu, and to my pen-pal in Scotland who sent me a huge box of delicious-looking locally-made chocolates, including some that are Marmite-flavoured, and whom I have no other way of thanking except publicly (for the record, I am pro-Marmite, but still on the fence about Marmite chocolate until I try some, intriguing concept that it is). This is the same the person who sent me the card of a Tunnock's tea-cake, which prompted much musing back in January, not to mention a subsequent delivery of actual tea-cakes.
I would also like to thank yesterday's anonymous commenter for this link to an article about Britain's Buddhist police officers, which contained within it a link to another story about the growing numbers of Buddhists in Britain's jails, both of which are subjects I would definitely want to explore further if I move back to England in due course.
Naturally, I was perked up by all these offerings, and, tired as I was for much of the day, I was also enlivened, as so often, by last night's Young Urban Zen meeting, where Mike, one of our original cast, offered his way-seeking mind talk with a series of anecdotes, including his thoughts about mindful eating, which, I realised, would make a great subject for us to go into - I heard that there was a small group meeting at the Green Gulch retreat about this topic as well.
As sometimes happens, a number of us took off to the Orbit Room afterwards to say goodbye - hopefully temporarily - to Collin, who has been a mainstay of the group for the past few months, and one of the people there took the opportunity to remind me that I had promised to give her my way-seeking mind talk if she bought me a beer. Even though I had already bought my own beer, I still found myself, not for the first time at the Orbit Room, holding forth to a tableful of people about some of the events that brought me to where I am today.
All of which makes me think of the very fluid and inter-related nature of teaching and learning. A friend was recently taking me to task for being somewhat recalcitrant at accepting gratitude for the teaching I offered, and it is true that being on the receiving end of such praise feels awkward to me. Partly this has to do with my own, family-generated karma around praise and blame; partly it is because I am not officially a teacher at Zen Center - being shuso is the first step to making that happen - even though, as Paul acknowledged recently, I kind of slipped under the wire with YUZ. Partly it is also to do with my sense that on many levels you cannot teach anyone anything; just the other day I was discussing this with a resident who had come to me for advice, and to whom I ended up lending the book of Hakuin letters, as I had just been reading him forcefully making the same point. That said, perhaps the exchange I had with the resident was useful for her, just as people find what I write here to be of some benefit, and perhaps 'teaching' can happen over a beer in a bar (as that friend pointed out), or sitting down to dinner with someone, as I did a couple of times last week, to hear what is going on for them. And, as Mike very nicely brought into his talk last night, all of us have something to offer and all of us feel we are lacking something (we broke into pairs to say what came up for us around those two notions). As I have said before, I have learned a lot from elders in this community just by watching them move through the day, just as much as I have from sitting in dharma talks. It is almost incidental learning, but not quite. It is always there if you are motivated to pay attention to it.
And with that, some sky pictures from the past few days.







Shonen said...

The concept of teaching and the idea that you can't actually teach anyone anything is an interesting one.

For me, dharma talks, books and having some sort of teacher (whether formally or informally) act as a sort of mirror, helping me to see things that are hidden from me due to greed, hate & delusion. They all help to make me rethink my limited view and the sense of self that I have.

I think simply the way one lives ones life can be a great teaching to other people.

Shundo said...

I wholeheartedly agree with all this Shonen, thank you for articulating it.
I also noticed that Hakuin, in the letter I read today, which I will probably post in a few days, was taking one of his students to task for trying to work on his own rather than with a good teacher, i.e. just the opposite of what he wrote in the passage I offered the resident

Sandy's witterings said...

Sometimes I look over the edge of the boat and I'm surprised at how different the waves can be from day to day. I don't know how many pictures of the sky you've given us over the last couple of years, lots I would say. Directionally nearly the same shot every time but each one has different weather or light - you could easily just have a book of these sky shots.

Shundo said...

I had a quick look in my folders, and I have about 1500 sky pictures from the last four years... obviously most of them don't make it to the blog, but I did compile an actual photo album of my favourite hundred or so for my last photo show, which Robert christened 'The Book of Clouds'.
I'm sure waves can be just as interesting as clouds day by day.