Sunday, December 11, 2022


photo by Michael Herzog, sculpture by David Rynick

Blue Cliff Record Case 42 begins:  "Layman Pang was leaving Yaoshan. Yaoshan ordered ten of his Zen students to see Pang off at the temple gate. Pang pointed to the falling snow in the air and said, 'Beautiful snow-flakes! — they don’t fall on any other place.'"

This is just the beginning of the koan, and is followed by a dialogue between Layman Pang and a Zen student who challenges him.  But before the objecting mind of that student enters the story, we can relish Layman Pang's words by themselves.  

It's snowing in Worcester tonight.  Later, David and I will walk over to the Temple for our Sunday night service, through the darkness, through the falling snow.  It's not a big storm, and the whiteness spreading everywhere is so lovely.  Layman Pang, a Zen ancestor who never ordained and who is revered for both his ordinariness and his deep insight,  must have enjoyed a similar scene as he was ending his visit at the teacher Yaoshan's place.   Sometimes his additional comment is translated as "they don't fall anywhere."  But I like this translation -- there's nowhere else they can be.  There's nothing else that could be happening right now.  

Whether your present moment experience is lovely or painful, sweet or challenging, can you see this truth for yourself?  There is no other life than the one we are living.  And in a moment, there will be some other life.  Our way of practice keeps pointing us to this, this, this.  Nowhere else.  The mind that wants good things to last and bad things to stop has a hard time sinking into the reality of this.  Pause and feel it for yourself.  "Beautiful snowflakes!  -- they don't fall on any other place."

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

The Snake's Tail Sesshin

 We had our annual Rōhatsu sesshin this past weekend, celebrating the day 2600 years ago that our founding teacher, Shakyamūni Buddha, had his great awakening to the true nature of reality.  We worked with kōan 6 from the Gateless Gate collection, where the Buddha twirls a flower and his first Dharma heir, Mahakashyapa, smiles and is recognized as understanding the great matter of our Way.  it was the first sesshin taught by Dharma Holder Michael Herzog, who assisted David Rynick Rōshi and myself, and the head seat (tanto) was Assistant Teacher Adam Monty, with Senior Assistant Teacher Rev. Paul Galvin supporting him as assistant tanto, and Assistant Teacher Rev. Corwyn Miyagishima supporting our zoom sangha as online tanto.  We had 40 participants, 22 in person at the Temple, and 18 in the zoom zendo.   The name given to the sesshin by Adam is based on the poem by Wumen that accompanies the koan, where, describing the Buddha, he writes, "The snake shows his tail."  The whole is revealed with one glimpse of the part.  And so it is with awakening.  The weekend was a wondrous experience of deep practice and community connection.