Monday, January 29, 2024

Taking the Precepts (Jukai at Boundless Way Zen Temple, January 2024)

Teachers and Initiates 
Madhu and me
Last weekend, six Boundless Way Zen Temple students received the 16 Bodhisattva precepts from the four transmitted teachers.  David Rōshi and I spent some quality time finding appropriate names that both describe the current quality of the student's practice and hopes for the future -- aspiration names, which we wrote on the backs of the rakusus that were sewed by the students themselves.  Dharma Holders Alan and Michael also helped with coming up with ideas for names and signing and stamping.   

Above are some happy pictures of us all.  The ceremony was hybrid -- people attended in person at the Temple and also on zoom, including one of our initiates from the UK.  Here is the list of the people who received jukai, along with their dharma names in Romanized Japanese, Kanji, English:

Brad Roth (Kyо̄gyо̄):  協行 Flowing Action

Deb Haas (Shо̄kyo):  正居 Authentic Presence

David Linshaw (Myо̄chi):  明知 Bright Knowledge

Bix Spanierman (Shindо̄):  深道 Profound Path

Madhusmita Dhakal (Yūen):  勇炎 Courageous Flame

Susann Herrmann (Tokushin):  篤心 Devoted Heart

Taking the precepts is a step on the path of Zen that is determined by an individual student in consultation with their teacher.  Having a moral and ethical sense of what it means to be a human being is an important balance for the practice, which usually involves "taking the backward step" as Dōgen calls it.  Jukai is taking the forward step, into the world which needs our attention and healing energy.

Congratulations to everyone who took jukai!

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Great Bodhisattva November Sesshin, Running Still December Rohatsu Sesshin and Snow Falling on Bare Branches January Sesshin

 November 2023 sesshin
 January 2024 sesshin

Since I last wrote in this blog, Boundless Way Zen Temple has hosted three sesshins, in November and December, 2023 and in January 2024.  All three were wonderful in their own ways, as usual.  November and January were entirely on Zoom, which continues to be a platform for deep practice in two dimensions.  Our December sesshin was in person at the Temple, and for the first time since the pandemic began, we suspended our requirement for negative covid tests before arrival.  Sadly, we couldn't have predicted the rise in covid cases beginning in early December, and so we had to end the sesshin a little early when one participant tested positive for covid and we had to send them home.  We ended the sesshin early, although most people stayed at the Temple to help with clean-up and care for the Temple before leaving.  Around a third of our participants came down with covid within 10 days of leaving (including me).  Naturally, we will reinstate the testing policy for our next sesshin, scheduled to be a hybrid, with in person and Zoom options, in early February.  We decided not to take a photo on the last day, as we usually do.

I have been reflecting on the Five Remembrances quite a bit while recovering from covid -- it's really true that we are all of the nature to have ill health, as if I needed a reminder.  Resting, canceling appointments, missing Christmas and New Year's with our children and grandchildren, rescheduling our December precepts ceremony have been some of the karmic consequences of being in a human body.  While it's all unavoidable, I did have the delusion that I wouldn't contract covid, having indeed avoided it for the first four years of the pandemic.  All unfolds as it unfolds, and I'm glad for all the learning.  May all of you who read this blog have the best health that is possible for you, as one version of the lovingkindness instructions say.

Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 7, 2023

The Mindset That Steals Your Joy

I had the great good fortune to be interviewed by Dr. Kasim Al-Mashat, a Canadian mindfulness teacher.  We enjoyed each other's company, and hopefully some of that comes through in this conversation, available on Youtube.

The Mindset That Steals Your Joy   

May you find joy in the nidst of the darkness and sorrow of this burning world!

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Friday, August 4, 2023

Hakuin's Song of Zazen paraphrased by Nyogen Senzaki

My dear friend Dosho Port, Rōshi found the following text in his garage -- an unpublished manuscript probably given to him by his first teacher Maezumi Rōshi -- a collection of translations of Hakuin Zenji's Song of Zazen, the first Zen text I fell in love with myself. It's from Nyogen Senzaki (1876-1958) a great Japanese Zen teacher who was one of the pioneers in bringing Zen to the United States in the last century.  Dosho Rōshi writes on his blog that it's not really a translation, but more of a paraphrase.  I find it inspiring and beautiful.   Here it is:

From the very beginning you are a Buddha. As there is no ice apart from water, so there is no Buddha outside our fellow-beings. People fail to perceive the truth, though it is within them, and they search afar for it. They suffer thirst, failing to see the fountain near at hand. They are in poverty, forgetting that they are heirs to boundless wealth.

You say that you are suffering. You only suffer because of your own ignorance. Light your prajna, the inner wisdom, and darkness will instantly vanish. That is what we call zazen, Mahayana Dhyana.

I can not tell you how zazen, Mahayana Dhyana, does its marvelous work for you. No other study, however sublime, surpasses it. It stands beyond comparison. You can experience it by yourself. The errors of the past will no longer harass you. Where is hell? You left it in yesterday's dream. Where is paradise? You are standing in it.

If you praise zazen, Mahayana Dhyana, you are drawing yourself next to the Buddha. If you practice zazen, Mahayana Dhyana, you are actually walking in the path of the Buddhas. When you realize that your true self is not-self then your mind will transcend all thoughts.

Thus the gate of true freedom will be opened, and you will enter the holy path rightfully. Your karma will be the emanations of Buddha's wisdom and grace. You can now come and go when ever and where ever you please, for the truth is yours, and you have nothing to do but to manifest it. Even your singing and dancing will actualize Buddha-Dharma. The whole world will be beautiful to your eyes.

In the infinite sky of Samadhi, the moon of the Tathagata's four wisdoms is shining, yet its rays of silvery light are the reflections of your true self. Now what else do you want in this world? The long sought Nirvana is yours. You live in Buddha's paradise of lotus flowers, and you are a Buddha yourself.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

This Very Sesshin: June 2023


This past weekend we completed our June sesshin, all online on Zoom, and lasting from Friday night to Sunday mid-day, our shortest sesshin of the eleven we offer each year.  This gave a few people who were completely new to sesshin an opportunity to taste the flavor of Zen in the form of intensive practice.  In addition, many of our long-time practitioners got refreshed through practicing together.  Time seemed to be no obstacle, and also no matter.

Despite the brevity of our time together, the sesshin sangha, under the leadership of our tanto Rev. Corwyn Miyagishima, and his assistants Rev. Paul Galvin, Pierce Butler and Sabrina Miller, dove deeply into the Great Matter.  David Rōshi, Dharma Holder Alan Richardson and I looked into the kōan from the Gateless Gate, case 30:  "This very mind is Buddha."  In the story, the student Damei asks the great teacher Ma, "What is Buddha?  And Mazu answers, "This very mind is Buddha." Since one of the great discoveries we make in our study of Zen is that everything is Buddha, that is, everything is the awakened heart/mind, this short kōan gave us many pointers to knowing this for ourselves, through our actual lived experience.  

Every sesshin is named by the tanto, and this particular one was named "This Very Sesshin" by Rev. Corwyn.  Our next sesshin opportunities will be in July, August, September and October. More information can be found here:Boundless Way Zen Temple.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Comings and Goings

2005 sesshin photo at Senexet House in Connecticut

Someone sent me this photo recently.  He didn't know where or when it was taken, but I managed to identify it, from the people and the colors of the rakusus,  It was taken 18 years ago at the end of a sesshin at Senexet House, where Boundless Way folks used to meet to have our intensive meditation retreats.  Looking over the photo, I have mixed thoughts and feelings -- the first thought being: "we were all so young!"  A handful of people in the picture are still practicing with David and me in Boundless Way -- you may recognize some of those faces.  And a few more have died and many more have gone on their way to other Zen communities, or to another kind of non-Zen life.  So there is also nostalgia and some sadness.  The main teaching for me that comes from this photo is how fragile our connections are to each other, to life, and to the dharma.  Currently we have a dedicated and devoted group of practitioners in Boundless Way:  over one hundred members of the organization, and many more who come and practice together on Zoom and in person.  This morning there were nearly forty faces who showed up for dokusan, or just to practice zazen together.  How many will be with us in 20 years?  I myself, if I'm still alive, will be close to 90.  Because everything comes and goes in this delicate system of connection, I am moved to be even more grateful for who is in my life right now.  Thanks to all who are reading this, whether or not we've met or practiced together, for being here.  Many bows to you all!