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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
Many years ago, His Holiness theDalaiLama came to the remote Lahaul Valley in India where I was living. He was there for about one week, giving Dharma talks and empowerments. After one of his talks, which had lasted for several hours, I turned to one of the Lahauli women and asked, “Do you know what he was talking about?”
She said, “I didn’t catch much. But I understood that if we have a good heart, that’s excellent.” And that is basically it, isn’t it? But let’s explore just what we mean by a good heart.
In Zen practice, the journey of awakening is placed within the metaphor of ascending the mountain and returning to the marketplace with bliss bestowing hands. While enlightenment was the culmination of Siddhartha’s search, it was also the beginning of another journey. His insight still had to be honed, tested, and communicated to the people around him. He didn’t ascend to heaven, or float away in nibbanic bliss, or have a jeweled crown placed on his head to be adored forevermore. This is a childish view, which some people attempt to live, manipulating the world and others to accommodate their spiritual narcissism and inflation, usually with dubious results. After awakening, even in small ways, we have the challenging task of living and demonstrating our understanding within the world. This includes the world of relationship, money, livelihood, including what we say and do, and more important, the consciousness we do it from. The other side of insight and the clarity we hone in meditation is the rather messy business of human life.
The paramita of enthusiasm works like a miracle ingredient that brings eagerness to all we do. What the bodhisattva commits to isn’t a trivial matter. Without enthusiasm, we might push too hard or give up altogether. As the Zen master Suzuki Roshi put it: “What we’re doing here is so important we had better not take it too seriously!” The key is finding this balance between “not too tight” and “not too loose,” not too zealous or too laid-back.
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?
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.”
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.
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.