Sangha Notes


Sangha notes for 6-19-17

Greg read an excerpt from No Beginning, No End (The Intimate Heart of Zen) by Jakusho Kwong:
“In your Zazen practice you will see the thinking mind spin, spin, spin, and the Big Mind will just watch it spin. That may be something new for some of you, and it’s a very interesting phenomenon. The Big Mind will watch it, but since its nature is immovable, it won’t spin with it. This reminds me of the poem by Wanshi in which he alludes to the empty nature and function of this Big Self. The last four lines are very beautiful,
and each one sparkles like the separate facets of one translucent diamond. These lines come from Wanshi’s poem, Acupuncture Needle of Zazen:
‘The water is clear right down
to the bottom.
Fish swim lazily on.
The sky is vast without end.
Birds fly far into the distance.’ ”


Sangha notes for 6-12-17

An excerpt from Nothing Special, Living Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck:
“Historically Zen practice and most other meditative disciplines have sought to resolve the conflict of subject-object dualism by emptying the object of all content. … [But] a hidden subject remains, observing a virtually blank object. … A clearer practice does not try to get rid of the object, but rather sees the object for what it is. We slowly learn about being or experiencing in which there is no subject or object at all. We do not eliminate anything, but rather bring things together. There’s still me and there’s still you, but when I am just my experience of you, I don’t feel separate from you, I am one with you.”


Sangha notes for 6-5-17

An excerpt from The Zen Teachings of Huang Po:
“Even after aeons of diligent searching, you will not be able to find the way. The methods [of Zen] cannot be compared to the sudden elimination of conceptual thought, in the certain knowledge that there is nothing at all which has absolute existence, nothing on which to lay hold, nothing on which to rely, nothing in which to abide, nothing subjective or objective. It is by preventing the rise of conceptual thought that you will realize Bodhi. And when you do, you will be just realizing the Buddha who has always existed in your own mind. “


Sangha notes for 5-15-17

An excerpt from Nothing Special, Living Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck:
“Student: What is the difference between being totally absorbed in hammering the nails and being aware that you’re totally absorbed in
hammering the nails?
Joko: Being aware that you’re totally absorbed in hammering the nails is still dualistic. You’re thinking, ‘I am totally absorbed in hammering
the nails.’ That is not true mindfulness. In true mindfulness, one is just doing it. Awareness that one is absorbed in an experience can be a useful
step on the way, but it’s not quite it, because one is still thinking about it. There’s still a separation between awareness and the object of awareness.
When we’re just hammering the nails, we’re not thinking about practice. In good practice, we’re not thinking, ‘I have to practice.’ Good practice is
simply doing what we’re doing and noticing when we drift off. When we’ve been sitting for many years, we know almost instantaneously when
we’ve started to drift.”


Sangha notes for 5-8-17

An excerpt from Nothing Special by Charlotte Joko Beck:
“Practice is not about having experiences, not about having giant realizations, not about getting somewhere or becoming something. We are perfect the way we are. By ‘perfect’ I mean simply that this is it. Practice is simply maintaining awareness – of our activities and also thoughts that separate us from our activities. … When thoughts arise, we notice them and return to our direct experience.
Awareness is our true self. It’s simply what we are. So we don’t have to try to develop awareness; we simply need to notice how we block our awareness, with our thoughts, our fantasies, our opinions and our judgements. We’re either in awareness, which is our natural state, or we’re doing something else.”


Sangha news for 5-1-17

An excerpt from True Love by Thich Nhat Hanh:
     “Meditation is the practice of looking deeply into the nature of your suffering and your joy. Through the energy of mindfulness, looking deeply into the nature of our suffering makes it possible to see the deep causes of that suffering. If you can keep mindfulness and concentration alive, then looking deeply will reveal to you the true nature of your pain. And freedom will arise as a result of your sustaining a deep vision into the nature of your pain. Solidity, freedom, calm and joy are the fruits of meditation.”

Sangha notes for 4-24-17

Steve read from The Zen Teaching of Huang Po, translated by John Blofeld:
“It is only in contradistinction to greed, anger and ignorance that abstinence, calm and wisdom exist.
Without illusion, how could there be Enlightenment? Therefore Bodhidharma said: ‘The Buddha enunciated
all Dharmas in order to eliminate every vestige of conceptual thinking. If I refrained entirely from conceptual
thought, what would be the use of all the Dharmas?’ Attach yourselves to nothing beyond the pure Buddha-Nature
which is the source of all things.  Suppose you were to adorn the Void with countless jewels, how could they
remain in position? The Buddha-Nature is like the Void; though you were to adorn it with inestimable merit
and wisdom, how could they remain there? They would only serve to conceal its original Nature and to
render it invisible.”

Sangha notes for 4-10-17

An excerpt from True Love by Thich Nhat Hanh:
“In meditation we act according to the principle of nonviolence. This is because I know that I am happiness and that I am also suffering, That I am understanding and I am also ignorance. For this reason, I must take care of both these aspects. I must not discriminate against one of them. I must not suppress one in favor of the other. I know that each of them is vitally necessary for the other. The Buddha tells us that, ‘If this exists, that exists.’ This exists because that exists. So there should be no conflict, no violence, between one element of our being and another element of our being. There should only be an effort of taking care and being able to transform. So we must have a nonviolent attitude in regard to our suffering, our pain. We must take care of our suffering the way we would take care of our own baby.”


Sangha notes for 4-3-17

Greg read a passage from The Zen Teaching of Huang Po, translated by John Blofeld:
“Q: If there is nothing on which to lay hold, how is the Dharma to be transmitted?
A: It is a transmission of Mind with Mind.
Q: If Mind is used for transmission, why do you say that Mind too does not exist?
A: Obtaining no Dharma whatever is called Mind transmission. The understanding of this Mind
implies no Mind and no Dharma.
Q: If there is no Mind and no Dharma, what is meant by transmission?
A: You hear people speak of Mind transmission and then you talk of something to be received.
So Bodhidharma said: ‘The nature of the Mind when understood,
No human speech can compass or disclose.
Enlightenment is naught to be attained,
And he that gains it does not say he knows.’
Q: Surely the void stretching out in front of our eyes is objective. Then aren’t you pointing to
something objective and seeing Mind in it?
A: What sort of Mind could I tell you to see in an objective environment? Even if you could
see it, it would only be Mind reflected in an objective sphere. You would be like a man
looking at his face in a mirror; though you could distinguish your features in it clearly,
you would still be looking at a mere reflection. What bearing has this on the affair
that brought you to me?”


Sangha notes for 3-27-17

Steve read from an article by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, “Love and Compassion in Meditation and in Action,”
in Parabola, Volume 41, No. 4, Winter 2016-2017:
“In the teachings of the Buddha, love and compassion are regarded as the foundation of ethics and important criteria of
right speech and right action. They are also qualities to be developed by meditation. The Buddhists texts call love and compassion
brahmavihara, “divine abodes,” for they manifest our inherent divinity even while we dwell in a human body. For Buddhism love and
compassion should be balanced by wisdom and insight into the real nature of things…. The meditative practices of love and
compassion purify the mind of constricting emotions [such] as resentment, ill will, anger, and callous indifference, which cause misery
for ourselves and others. These [practices] promote harmony and break down the barriers that confine us in the prison cage
of ego. By developing love and compassion, our hearts can expand and radiate immeasurable good will to everyone we meet.”