We discussed the question, “What is Zen?”
Here’s a quote from Zen for Beginners:
“Zen cannot be described in words, it is an experience more basic than
the conceptual level of thinking. It has to do with our innermost
life, what Zen masters call ‘our original face before our parents were
born’ which is gone as soon as we analyze it. Zen is not something we
can learn, or even become, because we are already it, we can only be
A dialogue between the novice Chou-chou and Master Nan-ch’uan:
Chou-chou asks, “What is the way?”
“Ordinary mind is the way.”
“How should I pursue it?”
“If you move towards it, it moves away.”
“Then how can I attain knowledge of it?”
“The way does not belong to knowing or not knowing.
Knowing is delusion; not knowing is blank consciousness.”
“In the expert’s mind the possibilities are few, in the beginner’s mind they are boundless” (Suzuki Roshi) We discussed the idea of beginner’s mind that does not try to fit everything into preconceived notions of meaning, fairness, knowledge, etc., but rather finds interest and awe in everything it encounters, with the innocence of a young child exploring his/her world. Is not this also the mind of love, compassion, and joy? Zen Master Dae Gak spoke of beginner’s mind as a willingness “not to know what is awakening and what is not, to not know what the meaning of life is, to not know absolutely anything.”
Note: Steve will be back to lead our Sangha on Monday, Feb. 25th.
(excerpt from dharma talk by Zen Master Dae Gak) “The nature of our thinking mind is that it can’t know the absolute. The mind wants to know, the mind thinks it can know, and so we reach a gate of impassability. True “don’t know” pervades every crack. You know eventually when you finally get it. When one really sees the hopelessness, that mind comes to a screeching halt and something else that has always been there is revealed…That is the first gate. If it can’t be realized here, then where?”
“Whenever I dance, I dance; when I sleep, I sleep; and when I walk in the orchard if my thoughts drift to distant matters, I lead them back to the walk, to the beauty of my solitude.”
Michael Eyquem De Montaigne
Tonight we had a poetry reading with only 1 poem which was written by Zen Master Dae Gak.
Sitting Upright No Matter What
Sit upright in it.
You can endure,
Nor fearing you can’t.
Just sit upright with
Poise and grace.
Have no opinion
About your circumstances.
A student asked,
“How does one have no opinion about one’s circumstances?”
Have no opinion there either.
A few short excerpts from Upright with Poise and Grace by Zen Master Dae Gak;
“Can we see how in our practice the very sense that awakening is somewhere else undermines the immediacy of our practice?
We often delude ourselves by thinking that what is rare is precious. It is a scarcity mentality (a lack of appreciation of the sanctity of the immediate).
Remember that our enlightenment, our awakening is the very alert looking, as opposed to the finding.”
A quote from “Upright with Poise and Grace,” by Zen Master Dae Gak: “Narcissistic projection appears when we think everything is about us and most of us do. …. But if we step back and see how things truly are, if we could take away the false illusion of magnification by self-reference and see what’s really going on, a whole different perspective may appear. Can we practice even here with wonder and investigation without conclusion, here in the midst of mistaken perception, turmoil, confusion and conclusion?”
We discussed the following quote from Zen Master Hakuin: “It is said that one shouldn’t consider the ephemeral body to be Buddha, but discriminations like “delusion,” “enlightenment,” and “sentient beings” are wrong. How about before any words are spoken: on what basis is there “this discrimination” whereby dual states like grasping and rejecting, hating and loving immediately arise?”