Sangha Notes

Sangha notes for 7-31-17

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.”

Sangha notes for 7-24-17

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.”

Sangha notes for 7-17-17

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.”

Sangha notes for 7-10-17

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.”

Sangha notes for 7-3-17

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.”

Sangha notes for 6-26-17

Steve shared an excerpt from Nothing Special, Living Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck:
“Who is it that you cannot forgive? Each of us has a list which may include ourselves (often the hardest one to forgive) as well as events, institutions and groups.
Isn’t it natural that we should feel this way about a person or event that has injured us, perhaps severely and irrevocably? From an ordinary standpoint the answer is yes. From a practice standpoint the answer is no. We need to vow: I will forgive, even if it takes me a lifetime of practice. Why such a strong statement?
The quality of our whole life is on the line. Failing to grasp the importance of forgiveness is always a part of any failing relationship and a factor in our anxieties, depressions and illnesses – in all our troubles. Our failure to know joy is a direct reflection of our inability to forgive.”

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.”