by Zen Master Hongzhi
Contemplating your own authentic form is how to contemplate Buddha. If you can experience yourself without distractions, simply surpass partiality and go beyond conceptualizing. All buddhas and all minds reach the essential without duality. Patch-robed monks silently wander and tranquilly dwell in the empty spirit, wondrously penetrating, just as the supreme emptiness permeates this dusty kalpa. Dignified without relying on others and radiant beyond doubt, maintaining this as primary, the energy turns around and transforms all estrangement. Passing through the world responding to situations, Read more
by Bonnie Myotai Treace, Sensei
Book of Equanimity, Case 6
Ma-tsu’s White and Black
A Stage Whisper:
Where you can’t open your mouth, a tongueless person can speak; where you lift your feet without rising, a legless person can walk. If you fall within their range and die at the phrase, how can you have any freedom? When the four mountains all oppress you, how can you penetrate to freedom?
A monastic asked Great Master Ma-tsu, “Apart from the four propositions and beyond the hundred negations, please directly point out the meaning of living Buddhism.” Ma-tsu said, “I’m tired today and can’t explain for you. Go ask Zhizhang.”
The monastic asked Zhizhang; Zhizhang said, “Why don’t you ask the teacher?”
The monastic said, “The teacher told me to come ask you.” Zhizhang said, “I have a headache today and can’t explain for you. Ask Brother Hai.”
The monastic asked Hai, who said, “When I come this far, after all I don’t understand.”
The monastic related all this back to Ma-tsu. Ma-tsu said, “Zang’s head is white, Hai’s head is black.”
Medicine working as illness—
It is mirrored in the past sages.
Illness working as medicine—
Sure, but who is it?
White head, black head—capable heirs of the house. Statement or no statement—
the ability to cut off the flow. Clearly sitting,
cutting off the road of speech and explanation.
Laughable is the old ancient awl at Vaisali.
This is one of the “Nanto“ koans, a variety of koan that is traditionally classified as difficult to pass through. Nanto koans demand a raw and wide presentation, and will be alive with a student for a student’s whole life, never settling into the comfort zone. This koan of Ma-tsu deals with the issue of existence itself. It takes up the basic matter of life and death—not just our physical death in the future—but also that undermining and ongoing sense of our present insubstantiality, the sense one can have of not being able to quite grasp a continuous self. It sends us looking for our life, bouncing off our ideas and formulations, right along with this earnest monk. Read more
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. Read more
by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi
This Discourse appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Mountain Record, “Within Light, Darkness.”
True Dharma Eye, Case 113
Baofu’s Blocking of the Eyes, Ears, and Mind
How do we become lost to ourselves? What does this even mean, and what’s the consequence of being lost? To see things as they are—it sounds so simple. We open our eyes, and there is something before us. The sun is bright; the moon is half-full; the grass is green. It appears plain and clear—what more is there to see? Well, if our ordinary seeing and perceiving was in accord with the real nature of things—our world—then shouldn’t our lives be functioning in harmony? Read more
by John Daido Loori, Roshi
This excerpt appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Mountain Record, “Within Light, Darkness.”
From The heart of Being:
Moral and Ethical Teachings of Zen Buddhism
by John Daido Loori, Roshi
Actualize harmony. Do not be angry.
Bodhidharma said, “Self-nature is inconceivably wondrous. In the dharma of no-self, not postulating a self is called the precept of refraining from anger.” Not creating an idea of a self frees us completely from anger. You cannot have anger unless there is a self. There is no boundless and omniscient self somewhere in the sky that created the whole universe, and there is no tangible and limited self that inhabits this bag of skin. All of reality is simply infinite dharmas that arise and disappear in accord with the laws of karma. There is not one thing standing against another. Read more
by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi
The Zen tradition places a special emphasis on beginner’s mind because the mind of a beginner has qualities that are so important for dharma study. The beginner’s mind can be quite open and have a certain kind of innocence within the dharma. There can be a sense of eagerness to set out on a journey into unknown territory. And there’s no history with regards to practice and training, which means there’s not much accumulation, not much prejudice to cloud our view. Read more
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. Read more
By Dogen Zenji
Kashvapa Bodhisattva extolled Shakyamuni Buddha with a verse:
Although beginner’s mind and ultimate mind are indistinguishable, the beginner’s mind is more difficult. I bow to the beginner’s mind that lets others awaken first. Already a teacher of humans and devas, the beginner’s mind excels the mind of a shravaka or of a pratyeka-buddha. Such aspiration is outstanding in the three realms, so it is called unsurpassable. Read more
By Ron Hogen Green, Sensei, MRO
Gateless Gate Case 9
Daitsu Chisho Buddha
Once, a monk earnestly asked priest Jo of Koyo, “Daitsu Chisho Buddha sat in the meditation hall for ten kalpas, but the Dharma of the Buddha did not manifest itself, and he could not attain Buddhahood. Why was this?” Priest Jo replied, “Your question is reasonable indeed.” The monk again said he sat in zazen in the meditation hall; why did he not attain Buddhahood? Priest Jo replied “Because he is a non-attained Buddha.” Read more