2016

2016 Blessing

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It’s that time again, boys & girls…

…time for Zen 7. I’m not so scared this time since I know about what to expect. Looking forward to total lack of talking & eye-contact with anyone for one solid week! Only possible problem: can’t fold that black robe. Well, I bet there will be a “class” or we’ll be able to see the instructional video. To sleep in a quiet room in 72 degree heat…such luxury. It means no stuffy nose at night. We sleep from 10:30 to 4:30, which is about my usual hour. And this time I remembered to bring my hair drier and a heavy coat & scarf. Will it rain? I have my umbrella!
I always wonder why participants torment their legs into full lotus for the whole time. Does that bring them closer to enlightenment? We’re on benches! You can put your legs down for a period or two. We’re in the USA!

P.S. This is interesting: my computer knows it’s Dec 24th, but WordPress seems to think it’s the 25th, so Merry Christmas to all!

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Merry Christmas to all!

Yes, I’m taking a day off Buddhism to share my favorite recipe. Watch out…you’ll be cutting hunks off it all day if you’re not mindful.

Christian Brothers Cake
(Bake in a Bundt pan.)

Preheat the oven to 350 deg.
Ingredients:
One box of yellow or white cake mix
1 small box of Jello or Royal Instant Vanilla Pudding mix.
4 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 C cream sherry
3/4 C vegetable oil (Crisco or Wesson)

Whip it all up with a mixer. Bake for 45-50 min. until firm on top.
Turn out onto a plate. Sift powdered sugar over the top. Serve with coffee. Your guests will never know how easy this was to make.

….and to all a good night!

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In the Wake of Redecoration

I’m repainting a room in the house to match a newly purchased rug. In the process, I’m weeding our library of books no longer relevant to our lives and establishing some sort of order. True, I have an Amazon-book-addict in the other room, but…

Anyway, I came across a book of teishos by Eido Shimano, and reviewed what I had seen on the ‘net years ago. Shimano was a sex addict and psychopath, and he, Sherry Chayat and all his disciples were disqualified by his order as Zen teachers because of his repeated, unrepentant behavior. As a result, I’m removing the link to The Zen Studies Society (Chayat is Abbess there.) If you’re interested the ZSS you can find it easy enough, but I can’t link it on a site called Good Clean Zen. This letter might be of interest.

In my Books section I link A Rare and Precious Thing by John Kain. I highly recommend it. I have been blessed so many times over the years with extraordinary teachers, and I remember each of them with fondness.

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“Thanksgiving Day, 2015”

A passer-by comments to the old gardener
“It must be hard to do that in this wind.”
She, sweeping leaves, replies
“The property I care for is even bigger than this-
And when I come to the end of it,
It seems that the wind blows the borders away
Red and yellow, red and yellow
Such wealth of leaves is always being provided!”

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Joseph Goldstein’s “On Dhamma”

When you begin studying Buddhism, it’s easy to get mired in terms and lists. And because your teacher has curriculum to think about, and wants to cover particular sutras on some kind of schedule, the way he’ll do it is plan the lesson, present to the class and take questions. This slows things down considerably. There are always suggestions for practice, but at our temple there’s only so much time–a couple of hours a week, less the time taken for meditation. Then, if you’re lucky, you come across insight meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein’s Abiding in Mindfulness, Vol. 3 ‘On Dhamma’. This is a series of discourses (very well-planned and written out, presented before a congregation) on the teachings of Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutra. Technically, the cd recordings are excellent and Mr. Goldstein’s voice is clear and soft without being soporific.

Things that you’ve encountered before-the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path-these Mr. Goldstein opens up in a very detailed way, and continually draws us back to how they operate in the mind and how they can be instituted in daily life practice. For example, he presents three lectures just on “right view”. There’s no Q.&A. These are forty-five or fifty minute lectures. He uses extensive examples from his own experience and doesn’t lose sight of the ultimate goal of Buddhism: nirvana. This is a college level course in vipassyana meditation. Listening repeatedly and putting the instructions into action can potentially get you going in the right direction and make you a more peaceful person in the process.

Joseph Goldstein is one of several Western teachers of refined understanding bringing the sutras to life for native English speakers.

Quotation: “What is sudden awakening? It is the recognition and direct experience of the mind’s empty, aware nature. This empty aware nature of mind is always and already present. It’s already here. Kensi Rinpoche, the great ZoChen master said ‘Mind has no form, no color and no substance. This is its empty aspect. Yet mind can know things and perceive in an infinite variety of phenomena. This its clear aspect. The inseparability of these two aspects, emptiness and clarity, is the primordial, continuous nature of mind.’ So this is sudden awakening. It’s awakening to the empty, aware nature. But just as in the Theravada tradition, here too there can be subtle attachments of mind that are difficult to see. So we may think we are open, have recognized this empty aware nature but really there is a subtle attachment going on. So it becomes an interesting place to investigate. We can see how states of bliss or clarity or non-thought; we’re sitting in this place (…) and can take that to be the unborn, unconstructed nature of mind (…)There can be subtle identification with awareness itself.We reify awareness in some way; it’s like we make a home of awareness, then have our sense of self settle right in [and say to ourselves] ‘This awareness is me.’Now, different teachers in the Zen and Tibetan traditions also point this out, because the truth is the same. One Tibetan teacher, Tchaichongo Rinpoche, he just had one little teaching that when I read it, it almost  jumped off the page…He said ‘The failure to recognize the true nature of mind occurs because the lucid or aware aspect of mind obscures its empty aspect.'”

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From: Taisen Deshimaru

His book: “Questions to a Zen Master” (1981). I found this in the English language section of our library at Chung Tai. The minute I opened it, it fell apart! It had been sitting on a shelf drying out for who knows how many years! So I will have to glue it back together before returning it.

On sinlessness:

“…there was a boy here who was practicing zazen for the first time. He said, ‘I have just understood what real silence is. Until tonight I have never spent one whole hour in silence in my life. The only time I’m quiet is when I’m in bed and sometimes I even talk in my sleep! But zazen, that’s real silence.’ I said to him, ‘You were quiet in your mother’s womb; that was silence too.’ But he said, ‘My mother talks all the time. I have bad karma. I always want to be talking and it’s hard for me to be quiet even in zazen.’
But everybody’s true origin is silence, you must understand that. Only silence is your true origin.
Silence first, then incessant talking. For twenty, thirty, fifty or sixty years you have been talking nonstop. So then you get completely exhausted and return to complete silence again in your coffin. So silence is what goes on eternally. What you have that is eternal is your consciousness of silence, the normal condition of your mind. That is ku, nirvana. The true origin. In Zen we say that we must go back to the original silence, as in Christianity they say we must go back to the state before sin.
If you practice zazen you will return to the state before sin.”

On the normal condition:

“In zazen the normal condition of consciousness is hishiro, non-thinking.
When you think all the time you are not in a normal condition; it’s your imagination, your personal desires that are expressing themselves. You think more and more, you’re afraid, you grow anxious. If it goes on too long, complications arise and even madness.
If you stop thinking you return to the normal condition of consciousness. But then you go to sleep….while you sleep, consciousness stops. Dreams bring the subconscious to the surface; but when you dream you are not in a phase of deep sleep.
It is not easy to stop thinking during zazen. The process is that of Master Dogen’s hishiryo and to some degree, Jasper’s nicht denken; that is the basis of Zen philosophy of normal consciousness.
Fushiryo means to not-think; hishiryo means to think without thoughts. If you deliberately try to stop personal consciousness, you’re still thinking. But “without thinking” is something you can experience during zazen. Thoughts arise, the subconscious appears, but you don’t need to stop it; being natural is best.
How can you use your personal consciousness to stop thinking? By concentrating on your posture. When the posture is good, the muscular tonus is right, and the state of consciousness is closely connected to muscular tonus. If your muscles can return to their normal condition, so can your consciousness. We have to balance, harmonize the two. If the tonus is weak, consciousness takes over, and your thumbs droop, your head sags, and you are sad, melancholy.”

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On a Lecture: 11/19

Your Finger Pointing…My Finger Shaking

Under the strobing fluorescent lights
You labor like an elephant
And give birth to a flea.
I am tired of giving you “the benefit of the doubt”.
I have heard this antic justification before:
In long sermons on lists of names in the Bible.
When the pastors assumed that hard work made up for content.
But it’s possible to make a diamond (sutra)
Into a zircon, I think-
As your tiny distinctions fly past the window like moths
There are many times
When you are the only one in the room wired not tired
When you are home and all others need to get home
To real food and drink
And our beds. So repetition
Just doesn’t help with this sad situation…
Our lights are dim as it is.
Don’t mess with our heads.

[Note: I was in a bad mood when I wrote this. I wasn’t dealing well with the shift from Daylight Savings Time back to Standard Time and I continually fell asleep in class. For me it was still like shifting the end of the evening classes from 9:30 to 10:30 pm. I ended up having to force myself to go to bed one hour later, so that I would not awaken at 4:30 or 5am and could then stay awake in class. ~ SK]

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Nisargadatta describes the end of illusion

“Realize that you are dreaming a dream you call the world. Once you realize that there is nothing in this world which you can call your own, you look at it from the outside as you look at a play on the stage or a picture on the screen. To know the picture as the play of light on the screen gives freedom from the idea that the picture is real. In reality I only look. Whatever is done is done on the stage. Joy and sorrow, life and death, they are real to the man in bondage; to me they are all in the show, as unreal as the show itself. I see only consciousness, and know everything to be but consciousness, as you know the pictures on the cinema screen to be but light. It is enough to shift attention from the screen onto oneself to break the spell. It is enough to shift attention to the Self and keep it there. Look at the dream as a dream. When you see your dream as dream you wake up. When you have seen the dream as a dream you have done all that needs be done.”

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For those of you who want to hear an enlightened sage

Coming to our area Nov 21st, 4-6pm:

Adyashanti is giving satsang at
PEACE United Church of Christ
900 High St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Further information

 Also: Check out Cafe Dharma for Wed. 11/18
Live audio or video stream

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