Steve read from The Eight Gates of Zen by John Daido Loori:
“One of the important parts of training as laid down by Master Dogen is what he calls ‘purification.’ This purification gets down to the nitty-gritty of life itself. His teaching is that the daily actions of our life are sacred…. [Purification] is not an attempt to be rid of pollutants, sins, or guilt, but rather the self-affirmation of original purity or emptiness, totally untouched by dualism. It is the simple act of using the bathroom, washing the face, brushing the teeth. Whether you are eating, working, or bowing, be present with the whole body and mind. Tune into yourself, into your body, into your life. Every act is not only a ritual in Zen—it is a sacrament.”
Steve read from The Eight Gates of Zen by John Daido Loori:
“Song of the Grass Roots Hermitage’ by Shitou Xiqian:
“I’ve built a grass hut where there is nothing of value.
After eating, I relax and enjoy a nap.
When the hut was completed, fresh weeds appeared.
Now it’s been lived in – covered by weeds.
The only person in the hut lives here calmly, not stuck inside, outside or in between.
Places worldly people live, he doesn’t live.
Realms worldly people love, she doesn’t love.
Though the hut is small, it includes the entire world.
In ten feet square, an old man illumes forms and their nature.
A Mahayana Bodhisattva trusts without doubt.
The middling or the lowly can’t help wondering;
Will this hut perish or not?
Perishable or not, the original master is present,
Not dwelling north or south, east or west.
Firmly based on steadiness, it can’t be surpassed.
A shining window below the green pines-
Jade palaces or vermilion towers can’t compare with it.
Just sitting with head covered, all things are at rest.
Thus, the mountain monk doesn’t understand at all.
Living here he no longer works to get free.
Who would proudly arrange seats, trying to entice guests?
Turn around the light to shine within, then just return.
The vast inconceivable source can’t be faced or turned away from.
Meet the ancestral teacher, be familiar with their instruction,
bind grasses to build a hut and don’t give up.
Let go of hundreds of years and relax completely.
Open your hands and walk, innocent.
Thousands of words, myriad interpretations
Are only to free you from obstructions.
If you want to know the undying person in the hut,
Don’t separate from this skin bag here and now.”
An excerpt from Becoming Enlightened by The Dalai Lama:
“Why is Shakyamuni Buddha valued so highly? By developing great compassion to an unbounded state, with sympathy for an infinite number of sentient beings that is like a mother’s feeling for her own sweet child, he developed a boundless intention to help all beings overcome all obstacles to happiness, and worked eon after eon in order to be of the greatest benefit to others. At the culmination of his practice, he succeeded in attaining all realizations and removing all obstructions to his own enlightenment, solely for the sake of continuously assisting others to rise to the same state. This is why it is suitable to go to him for refuge.”
Steve shared a passage from Becoming Enlightened by the Dalai Lama:
[quoted from Chandrakirti in Introduction to the Middle Way]
“Compassion itself is seen to be
The seed of a rich harvest, water for growth,
And the ripened state of long enjoyment.
Therefore, at the start I praise compassion.”
Steve shared thoughts on the practice of meditation:
“Do you want to practice Zen? Do you want to be more mindful? Then have no plan. Have no conclusion.
The ancient Zen Masters said that most people spend their lives in a state of delusion. Most people fail to see things as they truly are because they are seldom in the present. And most people believe things that are not true. They believe that they will always have friends and family that they can count on, but a war or plague could quickly be the end of your friends and family. Most people believe that they will always have enough food, and a comfortable place to sleep. Most people believe that they will always be able to walk and that they will always have their sanity. All these things could be lost, but many people are afraid to spend some time thinking about how impermanant our lives and our situations are. But the practice of meditation enables us to be fully in the moment without false beliefs, to accept the fact that any plan we have may become unworkable at any moment, and to realize that we are not infallible and that any conclusion we may arrive at may be false. So forget about making plans (your mind will make some anyway), then any plans you have will be less significant because you know that they may never work out. And with that understanding you will be less disappointed when your plans don’t work out. You will be more resilient and adapt to changes more spontaneously. And you will worry about the future less because you are not running from thoughts of possible disasters and you accept that there are limits to your control of your situation. And you will be more in the moment. Just the present sounds and smells. Just your breathing. Just this.”
Greg read a passage from Cultivating the Empty Field, The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi:
“Contemplating your own authentic form is how to contemplate Buddha. If you can experience yourself without distractions, simply surpass partiality and go beyond conceptualizing. All buddhas and all minds reach the essential without duality. Patch-robed monks silently wander and tranquilly dwell in the empty spirit…. Dignified without relying on others and radiant beyond doubt, maintaining this as primary, the energy turns around and transforms all estrangement.”
Steve shared a reading from Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron:
“When the bottom is falling out we might suddenly recall the slogan, ‘If you practice even when distracted, you are well-trained.’ If we can practice when we’re jealous, resentful, scornful, when we hate ourselves, then we are well-trained. Again, practice means not continuing to strengthen the habitual patterns that keep us trapped; doing anything we can to shake up and ventilate our self-justification and blame. We do our best to stay with the strong energy without acting out or repressing. In so doing, our habits become more porous.
Our patterns are, of course, well-established, seductive, and comforting. Just wishing for them to be ventilated isn’t enough. Mindfulness and awareness are key. Do we see the stories that we’re telling ourselves and question their validity? When we are distracted by a strong emotion, do we remember that it is part of our path? Can we feel the emotion and breathe it into our hearts for ourselves and everyone else? If we can remember to experiment like this even occasionally, we are training as a warrior. And when we can’t practice when distracted but know that we can’t, we are still training well. Never underestimate the power of compassionately recognizing what’s going on.”
Greg shared a reading from No Beginning, No End: The Intimate Heart of Zen by Jakusho Kwong:
“Stepping back, or the backward step, is an interesting phrase…Dogen points the way when he says that we take the backward step when we turn our thinking mind, with the light of awareness, on our own mind source.
In our meditation practice it is very important not to get lost entertaining the thinking mind, because the activity and capacity of the thinking mind is endless. If you give it all of your attention, it will take your life. It’s the same for each and every one of us: the more attention you give it, the stronger it becomes. And the more you try not to entertain it, the more you confirm its presence. Either way, it’s got you. The antidote is really a very simple thing; instead of putting all the emphasis on your small mind, put the emphasis on the Big Mind. ‘Cultivate your Big Mind,’ as Suzuki-roshi said. And so in zazen the backward step is taken when you turn your light of awareness inward like a mirror on your mind source.”
An excerpt from The Zen Teachings of Huang-Po, On the Transmission of Mind:
“All the qualities typified by the great Bodhisattvas are inherent in men and are not to be separated from the One Mind. Awake to it, and it is there. You students of the way who do not awake to this in your own minds and who are attached to appearances and who seek for something objective outside your own minds, have all turned your backs on the Way.”