Teachings

All the Ancestors Are Like This

· Teachings · , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi

The True Dharma Eye, Case 101

Nanyue’s “Its Not Like Something”

Main Case

Zen master of Nanyue went to study with the Sixth Ancestor, Huineng. The Sixth Ancestor said: “Where are you from?” Nanyue said, “I came from National Teacher Huian.”

The Sixth Ancestor said, “What is it that has come like this?” Nanyue could not answer.

He attended on the master for eight years and worked on this question. One day he said to the Huineng, “Now I understand it. When I first came to study with you, you asked me, ‘What is it that has come like this?’ The Sixth Ancestor said, “How do you understand it?” Nanyue said, “To say it’s like something misses it.” Huineng said, “Does it depend upon practice and enlightenment?”

Nanyue said, “It’s not that there is no practice and enlightenment. It’s just that we should not be defiled by them.”

The Sixth Ancestor said, “Just this non-defilement is what buddhas have maintained and transmitted. You are like this. I am like this. All the ancestors in India were like this.”

Verse

Blue sky, bright sun

there is no distinguishing east from west.

Yet acting in accord with the imperative

still requires dispensing medicine when the sickness appears.

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Serving the Spirit

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Mondo by John Daido Loori, Roshi
originally printed in Mountain Record in the issue Spiritual Calling (2008)

In the Zen Buddhist tradition there are several ways of engaging with a teacher and one of them is mondo, an informal question and answer session on some aspect of the Dharma. This mondo was held with John Daido Loori, Roshi, the founder of the Mountains and Rivers Order, at Zen Mountain Monastery in 2008.

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The Immovable Spot

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by Jody Hojin Kimmel
Originally published in Mountain Record journal: Zazen (2013)

Just resting is like the great ocean accepting hundreds of streams all absorbed in one flavor. A practitioner of the way follows movement and responds to changes in total harmony. Moreover, haven’t you yourself established the mind that thinks up all the illusory conditions? This insight must be perfectly incorporated. Discontinue leaks and do not act on them.

— Master Hongzhi

Cultivating the Empty Field

How do we leak the vital energy we need for spiritual awakening? What do we have to do to, “discontinue the leaks and not act on them,” as Master Hongzhi teaches? 

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The Unspoken Thing

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by Bonnie Myotai Treace, Sensei
Originally published in Mountain Record journal: “Practicing the Edge” (2001)

In the space between desire and despair, between holding and letting go; between clinging and release, in this space is the unspoken thing. The thing that lives.

—Lives of the Monster Dogs

I’ve been working over the last few weeks with family members as they make a memorial visit to Ground Zero. The trips begin at the Family Assistance Center on Dock 94, where death certificates are being issued and other support services can be arranged. The Center is very big and very busy. From there we get on a ferry that goes down river to the World Trade Center site. On the water there are gunboats everywhere you look, and on board there is significant security. The wind blows brisk and the river incongruously glistens, and on the way the clergy and mental health workers make what connections they can with the families, offering support or space as needed.

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Photo by Blue Eyes 94

Practice and Resilience

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by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi


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FROM THE RECORD OF MASTER YANGSHAN

Ho-shang Mi of Ching-chao sent a monastic to ask Yangshan: “Right in this very moment are you dependent on enlightenment?”

Yangshan said “There is no absence of enlightenment. Why fall into the secondary?”

Ho-shang Mi was a peer of Master Yangshan, a very important Chinese master in our lineage. Here he asks, right in this moment are you dependent upon enlightenment?

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Photo by Kevin Harber

What Do You Call it?

· Teachings · , , , , , , , ,

by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi


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Book of Serenity Case 74

Fayan’s Non-Abiding

The Pointer

Plenty has myriad virtues; swept clear, there’s not a mote of dust.
Detached from all forms, identical to all things: taking a step atop a hundred foot pole,
the universe in all directions is one’s whole body—but tell me, where does it come from?

Main Case

A monk asked Fayan, “I hear that in the teachings there is a saying‚
‘From a non-abiding basis are established all things.’
What is the non-abiding basis?”
Fayan said, “Form arises before substantiation,
names arise from before naming.”

Verse

Without tracks, No news
The white clouds are rootless—What color is the pure breeze?
Spreading the canopy of the sky, mindless,
Holding the carriage of the earth, powerful;
Illumining the profound source of a thousand ages,
Making patterns for ten thousand forms.
Meetings for enlightenment in the atoms of all lands
in each place is Samantabhadra:
The door of the tower opens
everywhere is Maitreya.

 

The enlightened path is to practice and awaken to the Buddha mind that each and every one of us possesses. Though it is our very nature—it is never apart even for an instant—to directly realize this truth is both subtle and profound. To engage the teachings that point to self-nature is also a challenge. There are teachings that are challenging and so we need to engage them thoughtfully and carefully, and take time trying to understand what they are saying. This means that in the beginning we are using our rational mind to reflect on and understand conceptually what the dharma is pointing to—something that is itself, beyond all concepts and knowing.

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Photo by John Daido Loori, Roshi

Miraculous Communication

· Open Access, Teachings · , , ,

by Eihei Dogen


The miracles I am speaking of are the daily activities of buddhas, which they do not neglect to practice. There are six miracles [freedom from the six-sense desires], one miracle, going beyond miracles, and unsurpassable miracles. Miracles are practiced three thousand times morning and eight hundred times in the evening. Miracles arise simultaneously with buddhas but are not known by buddhas. Miracles disappear with buddhas but do not overwhelm buddhas.

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Photo by CBS Fan

Words and Phrases

· Dharma Discourses, Teachings · , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Vanessa Zuisei Goddard, Sensei


The poet Wallace Stevens wrote:

After the final no there comes a yes
And on that yes the future world depends.
No was the night. Yes is this present sun.

The last line of the poem reads, “It can never be satisfied, the mind, never.” Is this true, that the mind can never be satisfied? From a conventional perspective, from the perspective of desire, we would say, “Yes, it’s true.” The mind always wants more and more, and this endless wanting  keeps the sense of self going. As Annie Dillard once said, the mind wants to live forever. But is it possible for the mind to be satisfied—to know itself as complete and without lack?

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photo by Chizen Brown, MRO

With Nothing to Call My Own

· Teachings · , , , , , , ,

by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi

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Book of Serenity Case 14

Attendant Huo Passes Tea

The Pointer

Probing pole in hand, shadowing grass around him, sometimes he wraps a ball of silk in iron, sometimes he wraps a special stone with silk. To determine the soft by means of the hard is of course right; what about the matter of being weak when meeting strength?

Main Case

Attendant Huo asked Deshan, “Where have all the sages since antiquity gone?”
Deshan said, “What? How’s that?”
Huo said, “The order was for a ‘flying dragon’ horse but a ‘lame tortoise’ shows up.” Deshan let it rest.
The next day when Deshan came out of the bath, Huo passed him some tea.
Deshan patted Huo on the back. Huo said, “This old fellow has finally gotten a glimpse.” Again Deshan let the matter rest

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photo by Andrew Xu

Cultivating Gratitude

· Essays, Teachings · , , , , , , , , ,

by Jan Chozen Bays, Roshi


It is ironic that in countries where food is abundant, disharmony with food and eating is most common. Americans appear to have a particularly unbalanced and often negative relationship with food. In the 1990s, a research team led by an American psychologist and a French sociologist teamed up to do a study of cross-cultural attitudes toward food. They surveyed people in the United States, France, Flemish Belgium, and Japan. They found that Americans associated food with health the most and pleasure the least. For example, when Americans were asked what comes to mind when they hear the words “chocolate cake,” they were more likely to say “guilt,” while the French said “celebration.” The words “heavy cream” elicited “unhealthy” from Americans and “whipped” from the French. The researchers found that Americans worry more about food and derive less pleasure than people in any other nation they surveyed.

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