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!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

On Not Having a Headache

water spout gargoyle, Italy

After a couple of weeks of enduring various bouts of illness, including bronchitis caused by a virus that kept moving from one part of the body to another (lungs, sinus, throat) I am noticing the absence of sickness as a most subtle joy.  This feeling is physical, emotional and mental.  It arises as a softness and ease in navigating the world. 

When I'm sick, I often resign myself to feeling tired and miserable forever.  This attitude, while admittedly negative and fairly depressing,  has the positive effect of eliminating the anxiety that comes with wondering when and if I will ever feel good again. 

I've been lucky in my life so far -- my various chronic conditions have very mild or absent symptoms, and it's only when I'm struck down by a bacterial infection, headache or virus that I get to experience what many people know intimately on a daily basis.  I'm reminded, in this tender presence of the absence of illness, of the Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh's description of the return of health as "the feeling of not having a headache."  When we are suffering, we forget what the absence of suffering feels like.  It's so subtle...and so sweet.  I'm planning to enjoy it until it changes once again into something challenging.  The memory of illness acts as a reminder to have empathy for everyone who struggles with ill health, while knowing that at some point I will once again join this noble company of suffering myself. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Alan Sunhyo Richardson completes Shuso Hossenshiki

David Rynick, Roshi, Alan Richardson, Melissa Blacker, Roshi,
Mike Fieleke, Sensei
photo by Jenny Smith
Our three week Coming and Going Sesshin at Boundless Way Temple ended this morning.  Last night we held our Shuso Hossenshiki (Dharma Combat) ceremony for our shuso, Senior Dharma Teacher Alan Richardson.  He spoke on a koan, which was presented to him moments before he gave an impromptu talk about it, and then answered questions from the sangha.  The talk, and his answers, displayed his wisdom and compassion in equal measure.  Congratulations to Alan and endless gratitude for his service to the Sangha and to the Dharma.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

coming and going audio recordings

Ango: Peaceful Dwelling Place

Coming and Going Sesshin 2019
Three-week Residential and Non-Residential
Open House Meditation Retreat
January 4 - 25, Currently in Progress

If you are unable to attend, you can still take part by listening to the two talks given daily. Recordings are posted at

Please visit the Coming and Going Sesshin information pagefor more detailed information.https://worcesterzen.org/cags/
Coming and Going Sesshin is our most flexible opportunity for experiencing a silent meditation retreat in the Zen tradition. There are two options: commuter and residential practice.

Non-Residential (Commuter) Retreat
You can drop in and practice for one or more of the four daily practice periods listed below, on as many days during the sesshin as you like, with no registration required. 
  • 6-8 am
  • 10 am-12:30 pm
  • 2:30 pm-5:30 pm
  • 7-9 pm
Donations for any part of a practice period will be gratefully received in the collection bowl in the front hallway. The suggested donation is $5 - $50/day.
Residential Retreat

You can come and go at the Temple as your schedule allows during the sesshin. You could stay for just one night, one or more of the three weekends, for the entire three weeks, or any stretch of days in-between.

If you've been curious about residential practice, Coming and Going Sesshin is a good opportunity to try it in a way that works for you.  

Advance registration is required for residential practice. Early registration is encouraged, but you can register up to 24 hours before your arrival. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

the karmic flow

water shapes on the path at Cascade Park, Worcester

The flow of our lives, like the shape of water, is caused by an infinite array of causes and conditions.  Some of these events are known to us, but the vast majority are hidden from conscious awareness.  We barely understand what has already happened, and none of us can know what lies ahead.  Still, we can hope...

May this new year be full of unexpected blessings for you and everyone you love! 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Finding Lojong practice

At our Coming and Going Sesshin at Boundless Way Temple this year (see my previous post for more details: Coming and Going Sesshin post) we are focusing on the book "Training in Compassion" by Norman Fischer, which explores the Tibetan Buddhist practice of  Lojong from a Zen perspective.  Lojong practice derives from a text written by the Tibetan teacher Geshe Chekawa Yeshe Dorje, called The Root Text of the Seven Points of Training the Mind,  composed in the12th century, and based on an earlier text by the Indian teacher Atisha. 

This text is very important to me personally, because it provided a lift raft at a very difficult time in my life.  In 2001, I had just left my original Zen teacher, because of my heart-broken perception of his inability to abide by our Zen precepts.  I had lost my faith in Zen as a practice, but not in the Buddhist teachings, and so I did some exploration of other kinds of Buddhism.  I had already studied with other non-Zen Buddhist teachers, in the southeast Asian traditions, sometimes called "Theravada" or the Way of the Elders, and with Tibetan teachers, and had learned different approaches to Buddhism that I deeply appreciated.  But I always returned to Zen for some mysterious reason. 

In this time of confusion, I stumbled on a book about Lojong called "Buddhism with an Attitude" by Alan Wallace, and took on the slogans as a way to study my life, without the guidance of a teacher.  I immersed myself in all the translations of the text that I could find, including an earlier book by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called "Training the Mind."  A few months later I met my second teacher, James Ford, Roshi, and set aside Lojong for continuing with zazen and koan practice under his guidance. 

When Norman Fischer's book came out, I was delighted to find such a clear, Zen-oriented version of the Lojong practice, and for a time resumed working with the slogans.  I am thrilled to engage with them yet again during this winter period of intensive practice at the Temple.  The teachers at the Coming and Going Sesshin will be offering talks on this practice, and they will be posted on our Temple podcast.  In addition, I hope to offer some reflections on this blog during this time.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Coming and Going Sesshin 2019

January 4 - 25, 2019

Our annual Coming and Going Sesshin is inspired by the ancient Buddhist practice of 'Ango' (peaceful dwelling place.) During the rainy season, the Buddha's early sangha gathered together for study and practice for three months.   Here at the Temple, we have hosted an intensive three-week practice period since 2013. While some of us can stay for the whole three weeks, this is not always possible. So, during the Coming and Going Sesshin, everyone is invited to find a practice and time that works for you.  You can come for a few minutes, one practice period, part of a day or a whole day, or any number of days that feels right for you.
Our invitation to the whole Boundless Way community is to use these three weeks to deepen your practice of and commitment to the Buddha Way. This might mean spending one day or many in residence here at the Temple. It might mean coming every morning or evening, or simply coming more often that you usually do. Or it could be a commitment to deepen your personal practice at home, in your local sangha or in your daily life.
During this year's Coming and Going Sesshin we will focus on the twelfth century Tibetan Buddhist teaching of Lojong. This teaching is traditionally divided into fifty-nine slogans, each one encouraging us to deepen our capacity to live our lives in alignment with the Dharma.
We'll be using Zoketzu Norman Fischer's book TRAINING IN COMPASSION: ZEN TEACHINGS ON THE PRACTICE OF LOJONG as our entry point to study and practice these rich teachings. Norman Fischer is a poet and Zen Buddhist priest who has taught for many years at the San Francisco Zen Center. His book is a wonderful guide and invitation to using these traditional practices in our daily lives and as guides on our path to awakening.
Two talks a day will be given at the Temple, one around 10:30 a.m. and one at 7:00 p.m. These talks will be recorded and available online throughout the sesshin. The talks will be posted at Coming and Going talks.  During week one (1/4 - 10) we will focus on Points One and Two. During week two (1/11 - 17) will take up Points Three, Four and Five. And during week three (1/18 - 25) we will examine Points Six and Seven.

All are welcome. For more information, including the daily schedule and the link to register for residential practice, see our announcement at Coming and Going Sesshin information.