Monday, February 10, 2020

Santiago by David Whyte

Path to the Sea, Nova Scotia 2019
I recently saw a video of David Whyte reading this amazing poem about the journey that all of us who have committed ourselves to liberation share.   As the poet sings, "no matter that it had to break your heart along the that one day you realized that what you wanted
had already happened long ago." 


The road seen, then not seen, the hillside
hiding then revealing the way you should take,
the road dropping away from you as if leaving you
to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,
when you thought you would fall,
and the way forward always in the end
the way that you followed, the way that carried you
into your future, that brought you to this place,
no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you,
no matter that it had to break your heart along the way:
the sense of having walked from far inside yourself
out into the revelation, to have risked yourself
for something that seemed to stand both inside you
and far beyond you, that called you back
to the only road in the end you could follow, walking
as you did, in your rags of love and speaking in the voice
that by night became a prayer for safe arrival,
so that one day you realized that what you wanted
had already happened long ago and in the dwelling place
you had lived in before you began,
and that every step along the way, you had carried
the heart and the mind and the promise
that first set you off and drew you on and that you were
more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach:
as if, all along, you had thought the end point might be a city
with golden towers, and cheering crowds,
and turning the corner at what you thought was the end
of the road, you found just a simple reflection,
and a clear revelation beneath the face looking back
and beneath it another invitation, all in one glimpse:
like a person and a place you had sought forever,
like a broad field of freedom that beckoned you beyond;
like another life, and the road still stretching on.

David Whyte

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Thursday Shuso Hossen Shiki and Coming and Going Sesshin Talks

We're in the last week of our three-week open house retreat, the Boundless Way Temple Coming and Going Sesshin.  On Thursday night, we will have the Shuso Hossen (Dharma Combat) Ceremony for our retreat leader (shuso) Esther Sorgenfrei Blom, at 7:30 pm.  All are invited for this special evening, where Esther will offer a brief talk and offer responses to questions from the sangha.

Meanwhile, our sesshin talks, all of which focus on koan practice, are available for your listening pleasure.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Coming of Coming and Going

Tomorrow night our annual Coming and Going Sesshin begins at the Temple with an opening ceremony at 7:30 pm.  Here is a link for more information, and to register for overnight stays:  coming and going sesshin information

This intensive meditation retreat is unique -- it's an opportunity to dip into practice at Boundless Way Temple in any way that suits your needs.  Practice begins every morning at 6 am, and ends every evening at 9 pm.  You're welcome to attend at any time, before or after work, or during a moment of freedom from childcare or any kind of daily tasks.   The best part is that you can discover Zen retreat practice even if you are relatively new to it, or completely immerse yourself in many days of silence and stillness.  The first few years we held this unusual sesshin, I was working full time, and attended practice in the mornings and evenings.  When I retired, I was lucky enough to stay all day whenever I could manage it. 

When you arrive, enter the Temple in silence, and join in whatever we're doing:  sitting, walking, listening to a talk, participating in group dialogue, coming to meet with a teacher, having a meal or resting during informal periods.  And you can also register to stay overnight, for anywhere from 1 to 20 nights.  People are heading to Worcester from all over the country and the world to join us.  I never know how the three weeks will unfold, but I'm looking forward to it with wonder and curiosity.  As Hakuin Zenji says, "Coming and going, we are never astray."  May it be so.

The full schedule is here: 

6:00 am            Early morning practice period -- includes dokusan (individual meetings                                                  with a teacher or senior students)

8:00 am            Breakfast followed by samu (caretaking practice)

10:00 am          Sutra service and late morning practice period -- includes teisho (dharma 
                           talk by a teacher or senior student) and dharma dialogue (group 

12:30 pm          Lunch followed by afternoon rest period

2:30 pm            Afternoon practice period -- includes dokusan

5:30 pm            Dinner followed by evening rest period

7:00 - 9 pm       Evening practice period -- includes teisho and dokusan


Sunday, December 29, 2019

Roshi Joan Halifax on the climate crisis

Roshi Joan Halifax speaking on Dec 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. Photo: Fire Drill Fridays
I was quite inspired by this address on climate change from Roshi Joan Halifax, which I have copied below.   She states the situation clearly, and makes suggestions for action.  Thanks Roshi Joan for your clarity, compassion and chutzpah!

My name is Roshi Joan Halifax. I am a Zen Buddhist priest and Abbot of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I have been a social activist since the 1960’s and know first-hand the power of the people in mobilizing responsible moral and social change.

As a woman, a Buddhist, and an elder, I am standing here today in solidarity with the younger generation, people of color, indigenous peoples, and those fleeing war and the climate catastrophe, all of whom will disproportionately bear the burden of climate devastation.
I am also standing in solidarity with you, all of you. Every one of us, our children and grandchildren, no matter how great our privilege, will be affected by this unfolding climate catastrophe.
We must awaken, collectively, to the fact that the primary cause for climate change is fossil fuel dependent economic growth, primed by human greed, ignorance, and the perverse incentives of capitalism. Fossil fuels are a finite, dangerous, dirty, and destructive source of energy. For us to continue to depend on fossil fuels is life-destroying and immoral, no matter how you look at it. 
We live in an interdependent world, and cannot deny how profoundly damaging this energy source is to the individual and collective health of all species. It is absolutely necessary that we revolutionize our intertwined energy and economic systems. And we have to do this now from a space of courage, compassion, love, and wisdom.
And yet, thus far, we haven’t. Why? Fossil fuel companies are focused on making a profit, and they have bought politicians, derailed the media, lost their moral compass to cronyism, and subverted our democratic processes so that they can continue to profit, no matter the cost to the environment and humanity.
And listen carefully: there’s a reason why predatory corporate and financial elites promote a focus on individual behavior, like recycling or energy saver light bulbs, and also why they support autocratic regime change, which ends up causing gross economic and social inequality. These forces of capitalism do not want us to realize that we need fundamental systems change, including making our government enforce checks and balances on the companies profiting from polluting our earth and condemning our future. They know that thriving democracies with active citizens are a threat to them; and, hear me clearly!: We need to behave like a thriving democracy, or else!
Marching in Washington, DC: Dolores Huerta, Gloria Steinem, Heather Toney, Roshi Joan Halifax, Jane Fonda. Photo by Fire Drill Fridays, 2019.
We also have to wake up to the fact that the climate crisis is making us sicker and sicker every day.
Our air has become a toxic harbor for increasing allergens, mold, fungi, smoke, mercury (a neurotoxin for fetuses), petrochemical cancer-causing poisons, choking dust, disease bearing insects, and extreme heat.
Our water is a toxic harbor for endocrine disruptors, poisonous chemicals, microbial pollutants, including sewage and lethal algae bacterium; as well, plastics are wiping out our oceans and fisheries, sea water is contaminating our drinking water; and drought and flooding are destroying forests, farmlands, and cities.
But maybe the most insidious and least talked about area of sickness is the profound trauma and bottomless grief being experienced by millions whose lives are shattered by floods, droughts, fires, and heat waves caused by climate change.
Extreme climate heat is also linked with aggression, and connected with violent conflict and forced migration, another source of profound trauma, as well as moral injury for millions of people.
Then there is the pernicious psychological suffering experienced by those who witness the terrible degradation of life associated with our climate catastrophe, and the moral anguish experienced in response to the aggressive assaults on the dignity of those who raise their voices in protest and who are bullied and dehumanized by politicos, fake news reporters, and those who profit from this devastation.
We must ask then: who will make the change? Clearly, every one of us must! Whether faith leader or farmer, politician or policewoman, kid or grandmother, we must demonstrate in solidarity for those who are on the frontlines of climate change impacts and hold accountable the perpetrators of climate-caused suffering.
Lawyer Mariel Nanasi, President of New Energy Economy, writes: “We are at a crossroads. We either face the very real possibility of a planet on hospice, driven by an energy system that is the epitome of capitalism on steroids with extreme exploitation and racism at its core. Or a profound opportunity to shift at the very basis of our economic system that we haven’t seen since the abolition of slavery. And it’s really up to us which way we go.”
The first 200 years of capitalism were based on slavery; the second 200 on fossil fuels; and the next 200 must be based on renewables, if we are to survive. If we could abolish slavery on which our country was built, which involved the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives, we can respond to the climate crisis and abolish the use of toxic fossil fuels, as well as transform the economies of injustice into economies of peace. Just as the abolition of slavery was the morally right thing to do in 1861, ending fossil fuel use, whatever the cost, is the moral imperative of our time. And we can do this!
As I said, we need to function as a thriving democracy. What happens in a thriving democracy? People VOTE. It’s the single thing that almost everyone can do regardless of station. And it’s the most important thing at this point. Clearly, we need to get this administration out of office, and people need to vote for principled candidates in next November’s election and get their friends and family to vote and help get out the vote and they need to start now! Phone banks, canvassing, financial contributions to democratic candidates in swing states.
For every voter the Republicans purge from the rolls, we need to register two new democrats.
The next thing people can do is contact their elected representatives. Flood them with calls and letters. Tell them to support the Green New Deal. The only thing that will counter corporate power is a steady and overwhelming expression of people power.
Another thing we can do is support the organizations on the front lines: the Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Resource Defense Council, Fridays for Future.
Join, give money, volunteer. And talk to friends. Share concerns and ideas. Organize. Protest. Engage in civil disobedience. Action breeds hope. Without hope we have no future but if everyone acts, there is something to hope for.
Roshi Joan Halifax arrested on the floor of the Hart Senate Office Building as an act of civil disobedience during the eleventh Fire Drill Friday, Dec 20, 2019. Photo: Greenpeace.
And you and I must take action now, if there is to be a viable, morally grounded, and healthy future. We have to take the science seriously, and hold accountable the petrochemical, corporate, military, and political pirates who are stealing the future from our children and grandchildren.
We must take a stand now for ending the structural violence associated with our climate catastrophe.
We must rise up together, in solidarity with young people, indigenous peoples, people of color, and meet this collective crisis with moral nerve and committed, compassionate action.
And we must not cower behind walls of privilege that we erect out of fear. Fear, denial, and futility are not options at this critical time.
Rather, we must vote, act, support, and wake up now, wake others up now, and be a revolutionary force for a sane and healthy future for all beings.
Joan Jiko Halifax
December 20, 2019Washington, DC
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Grateful to Jane Fonda and Jodie Evans for making it possible for me to be a part of this extraordinary event. Thanks to Dekila Chungyalpa, David Cantor, Sydney Cooper, and Daniel Smith for reviewing, editing, and adding important insights to this talk.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Vital Compassion takes the precepts

photo by Sophia Togneri

On Saturday, December 14, Kristine Togneri, a long-time member of Boundless Way Temple, took the sixteen Bodhisattva precepts in a ceremony witnessed by the Temple community and her three children, Charles, Elise and Sophia.  Kristine had sewed her rakusu, the ceremonial garment worn as a symbol of her commitment to the path of Zen.   She had been helped by one of the Temple's sewing masters, Corwyn Miyagishima, who also provided delicious almond cookies for our post-ceremony party.  David Rōshi and I gave her the precepts and a lineage document, showing her connection to the line of ancestors traced back to Shakyamuni Buddha 2600 years ago.  And we gave her the Dharma name Vital Compassion.  She wrote and read aloud beautiful and thoughtful responses to each precept.  Congratulations Kristine!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

A New Buddha for Boundless Way Temple

photo by Chad Cook

Last night, at Boundless Way Temple, about forty people from our community, including families and children and friends,  witnessed the Eye-Opening Ceremony for our new altar Buddha.  The painted wooden statue is pictured in the center of the photo to the left, surrounded by Mike Fieleke, Sensei, me, David Rynick, Roshi and Bob Waldinger, Sensei.

The Buddha was donated by Paula Moreau, a neighbor, who had received it from her late mother, a follower of the Dalai Lama, and a collector of Buddhas.

Led by our ino (chant-leader) Corwyn Miyagishima, we chanted the Heart Sutra, and Mike Sensei and Bob Sensei recited a special Return of Merit.  Then the teachers and Rev. Paul Galvin recited the ten names of the Buddha.  Many people offered thanks to our old Buddha, and gratitude for our Boundless Way Temple and community.

Here is the ancient text recited at the ceremony by Rev. Paul Galvin, after we served the Buddha his tea and sweet water.

        The body of the Bodhisattva is the intense expression of Buddha's vows.
The world of the ten directions is immeasurably vast.
The boat of compassion is always rowed in this place.
Within the swirl of the sea of delusion
the Dharma Wheel is constantly turning.

David and I painted the eyes of the new Buddha with ink and water, the traditional way of opening the eyes of a Buddha statue and welcoming him to his new home.  Our old Buddha has sat on our altar for the last ten years, since the opening of the Temple.  He has now retired to the Temple hallway, where he greets new-comers and presides over our announcements table.  He is still smiling, but hasn't said anything, so we can only assume that he is happy in his new role.

At the end, this Return of Merit was recited by Corwyn:

                In the dharma world the Buddha body is all-pervading
Appearing everywhere yet not obstructing the myriad beings
Reaching everywhere in accord with conditions and feelings
And yet never moving from the seat of enlightenment
Thus the Buddha’s sea of merit is beyond veneration.
On this occasion of celebrating the Eye Opening of Shakyamuni Buddha
We the community of Boundless Way Temple,
have chanted together the Heart of Great Wisdom Beyond Wisdom
And reverently offered incense, flowers, candlelight, tea and sweet water.
May Shakyamuni Buddha protect the world,
Illuminating all constantly, fully manifesting bodhi mind,
Encouraging us to be timelessly joyful, peaceful,
and in harmony with all living beings.
May the community inside and outside be soothed
May our aspiration for living the Buddha Way increase,
And may awakening be accomplished with all living beings.

Following the ceremony, we had a Zen party, with delicious snacks contributed from many people, coordinated by Joanne Hart.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Virtue of Abusive Words

Every few days a poem with a wise commentary arrives in my in-box from Ivan M. Granger, the curator of Poetry Chaikhana.   Here is one that arrived today.  The timing of the universe is excellent, as always. Please consider supporting his work with a contribution, and subscribing to his list-serve.  Information can be found here:

Below is todays' poem with Ivan's commentary:

 When I consider the virtue of abusive words (from The Shodoka)
By Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku
(665 - 713)
English version by Robert Aitken

When I consider the virtue of abusive words,
I find the scandal-monger is my good teacher.
If we do not become angry at gossip,
We have no need for powerful endurance and compassion.
To be mature in Zen is to be mature in expression,
And full-moon brilliance of dhyana and prajna
Does not stagnate in emptiness.
Not only can I take hold of complete enlightenment by myself,
But all Buddha-bodies, like sands of the Ganges,
Can become awakened in exactly the same way.

Ivan M. Granger's commentary:  This opening line is meant to be humorous. I picture the Buddhist monks of China and Japan laughing as they read this short poetic discourse on "the virtue of abusive words."

But the poet is also saying something very important to the sincere spiritual aspirant.

I find the scandal-monger is my good teacher.

People who offend us, who spread rumors and lies, those we might think of as enemies or petty tyrants are sometimes our best teachers. They continuously pressure test the maturity of our practice.

It is easy to go along thinking, 'Oh, my meditation is getting so deep and I think such kind thoughts about people,' but when someone offends that carefully constructed spiritual facade, do we instantly boil over with outrage? Does it suddenly become essential that we correct their false perception of us?

No matter how offensive or cruel the other person may be acting, our reaction is about ego. Are we getting proper acknowledgment for who we are and what we have accomplished? -Which is a question only the ego asks.

The poet then says something especially interesting:

If we do not become angry at gossip,
We have no need for powerful endurance and compassion.

All of that spiritual practice we do to endure upset and hold our thoughts safely within the bounds of compassion, it is all really about making the mind spiritually acceptable in its patterns. That certainly has its importance, but it is ultimately a path of frustration. The mind that emerges from the ego-self is never tamed, it is always selfish and me-focused, always quick to anger in order to reassert itself as the center of importance.

If we truly learn to let go of all of our pretense and self-importance, however, the instinct to get upset at everything, including what is malicious, falls away. And then there is no need to work so hard at enduring offense or somehow squeezing compassion from a constricted heart. Endurance becomes natural patience with the world. And compassion is simply recognized as inherent within the universe and not the result of our own heavy effort.

To be mature in Zen is to be mature in expression

When we have truly matured in our awakening, when we have allowed the endless tensions that comprise the ego-self to fall away, along with its tendencies toward offense, then our expression becomes natural, fluid, without effort.

And full-moon brilliance of dhyana and prajna
Does not stagnate in emptiness.

Dhyana is meditation, and prajna can be translated as clarity. When we become mature in our practice and realization, we are flooded with a brilliant light that is often compared with the full moon.

When our practice is too much about effort and harsh control, there is the tendency to stagnate, to get caught up in our patterns of policing everything about our thoughts and actions. A certain amount of that approach is an important discipline, but we can't make the mistake of becoming totalitarian toward our own psychic energies. The goal is not greater or more perfect effort but, instead, to become effortless, to drop the self-important, self-focused self and, with supreme humility, settle into our true nature -- from which our inherent compassion and goodness naturally flow.

Not only can I take hold of complete enlightenment by myself,
But all Buddha-bodies, like sands of the Ganges,
Can become awakened in exactly the some way.

So you see, those people who irritate us, who offend us, even those who attack us, they should be among our most cherished teachers. They poke holes in the ego. They deflate our pretenses. They passionately remind us that we are not the psychic facades with which we wrap ourselves. They test us with an intensity missing from other teachers. They show us the pathway to selflessness and, thus, are highly charged agents of enlightenment.

(Caveat: I don't want to suggest that one should passively accept cruelty or violence or remain in the presence people caught up in toxic patterns. The point here is to recognize what in ourselves we are defending. Personal safety and basic self-value are important and should be protected. But when it is our own self-importance that feels threatened, perhaps it is an opportunity to laugh at ourselves instead.)

Praise to those who irritate us! (Grumble.)


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Ivan M. Granger's original poetry, stories and commentaries are Copyright © 2002 - 2019 by Ivan M. Granger.
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