Friday, July 19, 2019

Drinking Deeply, Being the Water

The Sixth Ancestor's Rice Mill, ink on paper, 10.8 x 16.7 cm, Shinwa-an Collection

A few hours ago we finished our summer sesshin at Boundless Way Temple, named by our tanto (sesshin leader) "The Original Face Sesshin."  The topic was a koan about the Sixth Chinese Ancestor, Hui Neng, who threshed rice in a monastery for nine months and then was recognized by the Fifth Ancestor, Hongren, as his Dharma Heir.

We have used this koan many times, including at a previous summer sesshin, but as always, it felt new and fresh and we considered it from many angles.  One of the translations we used this year was from David Hinton, and the question that Hui Neng asks Monk Lumen (know to most of us as Monk Ming)  is translated by Hinton as:  "Don't think about right answers, don't think about wrong.  Right here in this very moment, what is the original face of Head Monk Lumen, the face that's been gazing out since the very beginning of things?"

This is a fundamental question in Zen, and you may want to play with it yourself, as we played with it for the past week.  Who are you before all of the constructions of personality and history arose in you, blocking your view of what has been here forever, and will continue with no end?   In this very moment, who are you?  The answer to this question endlessly deepens.  May you find your way to what Lumen discovered, in Hinton's translation:  "Here today I've taken a drink, and it's like the water itself knows how warm or cold the drink is."

Friday, July 12, 2019

International Precepts Ceremony at the Temple

photo Mike Herzog

A happy day in June at Boundless Way Temple -- the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts were give to 6 students of the Way by David Rynick,  Rōshi, Mike Fieleke,  Sensei, Robert Waldinger, Sensei and me.  During this semi-annual celebration, students who have been studying the precepts and sewing rakusus (the bib-like garments that represent the Buddha's robe) are given Japanese Dharma names, welcomed into the Boundless Way Zen lineage with documents that trace our ancestors back to Shakyamuni Buddha, and have a chance to speak briefly about their understanding of the precepts.  This spring we had our first international attendee, who Zoomed in on a laptop from Denmark.  (Thanks to Corwyn Miyagishima and Mike Herzog for helping with the modern tech side of this ancient ceremony!)

Pictured in the photo, from left to right,  are:  Craig Dreeszen, me, Mike Sensei, Hannah Hamad, Lone Fjorback (on laptop), David Rōshi, Bob Sensei, Susan LaMar, Marsha Gershon and Chad Cook.  Congratulations to all!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Affection and Appreciation

Jizo of West Boylston

I just received the following text from my beloved colleague Mike Fieleke, Sensei.  It's from Joan Halifax, Roshi, and beautifully describes the stages of the student-teacher relationship.  In my experience, as a student and as a teacher, all three of these stages are equally important.  Thanks Mike Sensei and Roshi Joan!

"On considering a student's relationship with a teacher: I have often said that a student's relationship with her or his teacher can go through three phases. The first phase is the phase of idealization. Here the student's enlightenment is projected onto the teacher. The second phase is demonization – the student withdraws the projection of the ideal from the teacher, and projects her or his negative complexes onto the teacher. That’s usually when the student abandons the teacher. But, if possible, the negative projection is finally withdrawn and normalization begins to unfold, the third phase, where there’s a relationship that’s based on the realization of differences in capacity, and where there is affection and appreciation. In this phase, a phase associated with maturation, there’s intimacy, transparency, and love in the relationship. I have learned that it is truly beneficial for a student to understand this process in order to enter into a more realistic and less deluded and reactive relationship with her or his teacher."

Monday, June 17, 2019

returning to the new life



Years ago, when I was teaching mindfulness in the inner city in Worcester,  I heard a beautiful  Brazilian song called Começar de Novo.   It turned out that this was a favorite song of many of my Spanish-speaking women students -- somehow it reflected the difficulties of their lives and the new hope that meditation was giving them.

I often take heart in this song, especially when I wake up in the morning feeling haunted by ghosts of the past, with their endless stories of failure and judgment.  Começar de novo -- I can start a new life!  Not someday, but right now, in this moment...

The song was written by Ivan Lins and Vitor Martins, and a couple of us translated it into English and sang it together in our final class.  Here is a beautiful rendition by Ivan Lins with the amazing Portuguese singer Simone.  Below are the lyrics in Portuguese, followed by our English version -- a singable if not literal translation.

Começar de novo
E contar comigo
Vai valer a pena
Ter amanhecido

Ter me rebelado
Ter me debatido
Ter me machucado
Ter sobrevivido

Ter virado a mesa
Ter me conhecido
Ter virado o barco
Ter me socorrido

Começar de novo
E contar comigo
Vai valer a pena
Ter amanhecido

Sem as tuas garras
Sempre tão seguras
Sem o teu fantasma
Sem tua moldura

Sem tuas escoras
Sem o teu domínio
Sem tuas esporas
Sem o teu fascínio

Começar de novo
E contar comigo
Vai valer a pena
Ter amanhecido

Sem as tuas garras
Sempre tão seguras
Sem o teu fantasma
Sem tua moldura

Sem tuas escoras
Sem o teu domínio
Sem tuas esporas
Sem o teu fascínio

Começar de novo
E contar comigo
Vai valer a pena
Já ter te esquecido

I can start a new life
Knowing that it's worth it
Counting on myself now
Waking with the sunrise

Here am I, revealed now
After all the searching
After all the hurting
Here am I surviving

Now I've turned the tables
I know where I'm going
Like a boat that's sailing
Safe into the harbor

I can start a new life
Knowing that it's worth it
Counting on myself now
Waking with the sunrise

Safe from all your wounding
Safe for now, for always
You no longer haunt me
Now your spell is broken

Now your words can't hurt me
You cannot control me
I have left my prison
You no longer own me

I can start a new life
Knowing that it's worth it
Counting on myself now
See, I have forgotten you



Thursday, June 13, 2019

Exposed to Fire


Broken Glass, North Wales

An important part of the Zen Way is learning to meet difficulties without reactively running away from the pain or rushing to find a fix for the situation.  Facing what is present requires a great deal of courage, and an ever increasing capacity to stay with challenges until they either transform, on their own, into something else, or until a path of transformation is revealed.  In my own experience this transformation and/or revelation is subtle and may not necessarily feel like it's heading in a positive direction.  But things have a way of revealing their essence if we can stay present to what is here, now.  


Along these lines, I was very encouraged by the following quote from a Sufi teacher, H. I. Khan, from an article by my mindfulness mentor and friend Saki Santorelli.  The purpose of transforming suffering by learning to bear it is a part of the bodhisattva path.  As we realize our bodhisattva nature, we discover that we are a part of everything else in the entire universe.  And so, anything we do to facilitate our own healing helps to heal the world.The transformation of suffering is not for our own self-improvement, but a necessary part of realizing our bodhisattva nature -- that we are all connected and that our own healing is ultimately a part of healing others and the entire world.

….”There have been hearts that have been exposed to fire for a long, long time, and there comes a sulphury water from them, purifying and healing; for it has gone through fire, it has gone through suffering, and therefore, it heals those who suffer.  There are hearts with many different qualities, like water with different chemical substances: those who have suffered, those to whom life has taught patience, those who have contemplated. They all represent one or other kind of the water that heals, and so do their personalities. People who have deep appreciation of any kind, of suffering, of agony, of love, of hate, of solitude, of association, of success, of failure, all have a particular quality, a quality that has special use for others.  And when a person realizes this, he will come to the conclusion that whatever has been their life’s destiny, his heart has prepared a chemical substance through sorrow and pain, through joy or through pleasure, a chemical substance that is intended for a certain purpose, for the use of humanity, and that he can only give it out if he can keep his heart awakened and open. “ 


-- Khan, H.I.:  The Heart Quality In Sufi Teachings,Volume VIII


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Radiant World Spring Sesshin


This past weekend we had our Boundless Way Zen Temple Spring Sesshin, taught by David Rynick, Roshi, Michael Fieleke, Sensei and myself.  Our tanto, Alan Richardson, named it the Radiant World sesshin, following the theme of awakening being available everywhere.  Indeed, it is so!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Great Vehicle Heart Connections


Two Tibetan monks and two nuns visited Boundless Way Temple on Sunday, and joined us whole-heartedly in our regular Zen practice. They are on a 2 week visit to Worcester State University, and decided to drop in to our regular Sunday night practice period, which included chanting, sitting and walking meditation, and a Dharma talk by Dharma teacher Rev. Paul Galvin.  During the Dharma dialogue following Paul's talk, they participated along with the rest of the sangha, and we all enjoyed laughter and insightful comments and stories from a number of participants, including the Tibetans of course.  And at the end, they insisted on a photo -- ordained folks on the floor, with the rest of the sangha standing behind, grouped around the Buddha altar.  Just before the photo was taken, one of the monks shouted "Mahayana!" a reference to what connects us.  Zen and Tibetan Buddhism are both part of the Mahayana, or "great vehicle" tradition in Buddhism.  Sharing the practice and feeling our heart connection was simply delightful!