By Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche
Our fundamental nature is intrinsic. No sane, intelligent human being is impeded from being in touch with this basic nature. There is no one standing between you and it, no one is appearing like a mara to perform dances of distraction. At any given moment, each one of you—even with no understanding of Buddhism—has the natural potential to realize you are completely and inseparably united with your intrinsic wisdom nature. You have never been separate from it for a moment. It is not a sometimes- there-sometimes-not quality or an adornment that’s been attached or added on to you.
By Hakuin Zenji
I went to the Shoin-ji and became a monk at the age of fourteen. Beginning that very same spring, I began serving as an attendant of Nyoka Roshi. During this period I read my way through Five Confucian Classics and studied the literary anthology Wen-hsuan from cover to cover. When I turned eighteen, I accompanied Kin Shuso to the city of Shimizu, where we were admitted to the assembly of monks at the Zenso-ji. In the course of one of the lectures there, the story of Yen-t’ou the Ferryman came up. Wanting to learn more about the life of this priest, I got hold of a copy of Praise of the True School, and Kin and I read through it on our own. I learned that Yen-t’ou had met a violent death at the hands of bandits.
By Belden C. Lane
Discernment is the spiritual task of sifting through what is illusory in our lives to discover what is authentic. It’s the process of making decisions that are compatible with who we are. One of the gifts I bring back from wilderness trips is the clarity of purpose that’s apparent in everything I meet there. Things in the natural world know inherently how to be what they are. Discernment is naturally embedded in them as instinct. Only we humans struggle to figure out who we are and what we should be doing. As poet David Whyte observes, we are the one species able to resist our own flowering.
By Teresa of Avila
While I was beseeching Our Lord today that He would speak through me, since I could find nothing to say and had no idea how to begin to carry out the obligation laid upon me by obedience, a thought occurred to me which I will now set down, in order to have some foundation on which to build. I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions. Now if we think carefully over this, sisters, the soul of the righteous man is nothing but a paradise, in which, as God tells us, He takes His delight. For what do you think a room will be like which is the delight of a King so mighty, so wise, so pure and so full of all that is good?
By Annie Dillard
You climb a long ladder until you can see over the roof, or over the clouds. You are-writing a book. You watch your shod feet step on each round rung, one at a time; you do not hurry and do not rest. Your feet feel the steep ladder’s balance; the long muscles in your thighs check its sway. You climb steadily, doing your job in the dark. When you reach the end, there is nothing more to climb. The sun hits you. The bright wideness surprises you; you had forgotten there was an end. You look back at the ladder’s two feet on the distant grass, astonished.
By Thanissaro Bhikkhu
We meditate, developing mindfulness, developing concentration, and after a while we begin to wonder, “When is the discernment going to come? When are the insights going to come?” And it’s important to look at what the Buddha has to say about what gives rise to discernment. Mindfulness and concentration are prerequisites, but there’s also more. And in searching for that “more,” it’s especially instructive to look at two sets of qualities that the Buddha said lead to Awakening—the Five Strengths and the Seven Factors for Awakening—to learn their lessons on what gives rise to discernment, what’s needed for these insights to arise. Otherwise you can meditate for twenty, thirty, forty years—as Ajaan Lee says, you could die and your body could dry out on the spot—and still not gain any discernment, because you’re lacking some of the proper qualities.
By Thomas Merton
When I finally got off in Bardstown, I was standing across the road from a gas station. The street appeared to be empty, as if the town were asleep. But presently I saw a man in the gas station. I went over and asked where I could get someone to drive me to Gethsemani. So he put on his hat and started his car and we left town on a straight road through level country, full of empty fields. It was not the kind of landscape that belonged to Gethsemani, and I could not get my bearings until some low, jagged, wooded hills appeared ahead of us, to the left of the road, and we made a turn that took us into rolling, wooded land.
Then I saw that high familiar spire.
NOTE: This July, Shugen Arnold Sensei made his annual trip to New Zealand to lead retreats and public programs with our substantial sangha there. He first visited NZ almost 30 years ago with Daido Loori Roshi and he and other teachers in the Order have been visiting ever since. In this blog post, sangha member Navina Clemerson shares her reflections on the sesshin that took place . To read an account of the public talk given by Shugen Sensei in Nelson, click here to read another post by Myokei Adams and Gensei Moore.
by Jody Hojin Kimmel
Master Dogen taught in his fascicle Henzan—Encountering Everywhere, that whole-hearted practice of the Way is to take up the study of one thing and to understand it deeply. He encouraged us to “study each dharma exhaustively and then to study it still further.”
In Spring of 2000 during one of our three-month training intensives, called ango, we were presented with an art practice assignment: to choose one thing, one object, and be in its presence for next 90 days with full attention. Daido Roshi charged us to enter into the continuously changing nature of our experience, and bring our understanding into a form of creative expression.
By Robin Wall Kimmerer
We poor myopic humans, with neither the raptors gift of long distance acuity, nor the talents of a housefly for panoramic vision. However, with our big brains, we are at least aware of the limits of our vision. With a degree of humility rare in our species, we acknowledge there is much that we can’t see, and so contrive remarkable ways to observe the world. Infrared satellite imagery, optical telescopes, and the Hubbell space telescope bring vastness within our visual sphere.