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30 November 2008 @ 05:08 pm
As the seasons come, go, leaves drop from maple and oak. Snow appears one morning; on the car, blowing around on rooftops, the squirrels more rarely appear. Some days begin with a thirst for insight or ultimate wisdom. Some days begin with homework and coffee. Insight is the taste of french roast with my tap water, made in my french press. That moment is all there is. Statements such as this block the flow of time, which is the revelation of what we are, no moments, no stopping. Ponder, and it is there in the pondering. Look and it is the seen.  What more need of description? What more need of some 'thing' figured out or figured on?
24 July 2008 @ 09:57 am
Buddhists generally profess commitment to the notion that there is only one reality, not several, that we are 'all One', so to speak. A person who takes this seriously, it seems to me, must accept the ultimate non-substantiality of the 'self', or ego, at least as an unchanging inherent being. According to Buddhist tradition, accepting this principle allows one to let go of the notional basis of belief in separateness, and allow suffering over this 'self-construct' to drop away. In turn, one is freed to experience Life in all of its moment-to-moment glory.

There was a recent discussion/debate on one of the Buddhist LJ communities surrounding the blog of a Shingon priest that is here on LJ. Rather than exacerbate the contentious state of affairs in that community, I just wanted to write some notes of my view on what constitutes pretention, especially from a Buddhist standpoint. This is what I imagine a Buddhist would say when asked to define pretention or arrogance.

Pretention is:
  • holding fast to a fixed idea of how the world/life is. Having to be 'right' instead of 'wrong'; arguing with others to uphold the trait of being 'right' instead of being 'wrong'. 
  • believing strongly in the real existence of one's self as an immutable core, rather than recognizing the inherent changing of the experience of what we normally call the 'self' and the ultimate equality of all beings; the impossibility of pinning it down at all, since 'it' is not substantial.
  • acting/speaking in such a way as to foster the felt divide between one's 'self' and another 'self''. Both of which are imagined constructs we use for our everyday purposes, but which have no more substance than that which we ascribe to them.
  • accepting as real and indicative of the status of one's 'self' the nominal 'honors' placed upon it by priests or 'masters'; in the Buddhist world, this is all too common. Robes and Japanese names, certificates and so forth.....all just empty distinctions based on a complex structure of meaning and perception in the temporal realm.
  • using the acquisition of such honorific status to enshrine one's 'self' as this or that in the world, as an 'Authority'. As T'ang dynasty Zen master Huang Po once said, "There is no Zen teacher."
  • defending one's honorific status by engaging in and provoking pointless semantic debates; once again, having to be 'right' vs. 'wrong', yet another empty distinction.
29 May 2008 @ 12:54 pm
I was browsing the Philosophy section in Borders this afternoon. Much is made in that discipline of what is called 'truth', and its correlate, 'knowledge'. Conceptual content seems to be all that occupies the philosopher, so truth becomes a mere shifting of words on a page, perhaps even the feeling of 'shifting them the right way'. Zen approaches these things from a different standpoint, as I am instructed by books and so forth.
For Zen, truth is a mere concept, and yet the Zen Masters point to Truth, i.e. that which resolves all doubts. In this structure, all things that pass through the mind, all writings and speeches, are mere words, are things that have no real substance. But, they are used to point out the Truth, which again, is provisionally named, and which resolves all doubts as to the nature of reality, life, the world, etc. So, the Zennist does not seek truth, but only attempts to become more in tune with her experience. At least, that is the 'story of Zen practice' handed down by teachers of various ilk.
My own experience of Zen practice has been quite different. No matter how much I may try to 'fit the mold' proffered in books and magazine articles and speeches and so forth, the actual experience has been much much different. As I have worked in zazen, both on the cushion and off, my mind has slowly become more solid, less likely to float away with each passing thought. There has been no breakthrough or Enlightenment, despite my earlier efforts to convince myself and others that there had. I seem to ebb and flow with enthusiasm for Zen: one week, I am 'in the zone', the next, it is hard work just to think of Zen. This pattern of oscillation has been going on for a long time now. The Enlightenment of Buddha must be something wholly other, an experience of experience itself, and not something that can be thought of, explained, figured out, anticipated, etc. I only write this because I feel as if the other avenues have been exhausted. But even this is not enough. I read Zen writings now and hardly recognize them. For really, when you read it, it makes you look at yourself. And one cannot see oneself truly, the eye cannot see itself, so to speak. Given the idea of ideal practice, it is all too easy to recall that to mind, and make it a suit one wears, fooling oneself over and over. There must be another way.
The mind wants to settle for something fixed, and unchanging. It wants a rock in the stream to lie on and sun itself. It wants an end to change, or rather, it wants itself to be fixed, and therefore able more capably to comment on the world. Most of all, this mind wants to be separated from everything else. The utter illusion of separation is intellectually clear; the reality of the tight grip this notion has on me is obvious. There are 'skillful means' that can help loosen the hold, but only a leap will eradicate the bond. It is a leap that is needed, to another wholly different way of seeing.
Seeing too that writing all of this is wanting to settle things, this reliance on words, on the logic of grammar and the convenience of vocabulary. When all this is is one experience, not divided. Enumerating and ruminating on what I perceive as subtleties of my mind; this gets me nowhere in the work of Zen. For all of this is words talking to other words about words. I cannot even seem to write about anything else. Because, finally, there IS nothing else. The root of experience, of life, and I can't see it.
03 May 2007 @ 08:44 am
Just how far underneath the nest of words and concepts can one go? How far can one push beyond 'Zen' and 'Buddha', where all the sayings and questions meld into one thing?
22 April 2007 @ 10:00 pm

Underneath the rampant activity of the dualistic mind, all the judgements and wishes, thoughts, dreams, etc, life is actualized. Or at least I imagine it must be underneath all of that, for it is nowhere else in all that I perceive. But how to directly go there?Just hold to one thing.

13 March 2007 @ 11:44 am
How can we step back from this mind of duality? We are so enmeshed in it, seemingly surrounded by its distinctions and dualisms, this or that, either/or. How might one step back from it into silence, total absorbing silence? How does one discover the primordial silence, accepting and nurturing?
08 February 2007 @ 08:53 am
Dogen writes something like the following in his Genjokoan: Even though when one looks out, the landscape is round and even, you should know that there are whole worlds, whole jeweled palaces there. The ocean is neither round nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It only looks circular as far as you can see at the time. 
Looking into the arising of the waves, can we see the water? Are the two distinguishable? Looking into the water, will we miss the waves? Are the two the same? The experience of wave is itself water, is itself the ocean great and round. The jeweled palace is itself the water, expressed in so many wondrous facets.
02 November 2006 @ 08:28 am
While drinking my tea this morning, I was struck by something one might call "beauty" or " wonderment". That experience is our life, and not whatever story we may make up about life. Getting underneath this a little, I observed the thinking and calculating mind rolling over again and again, trying to produce a statement, a discrimination of some sort to pin on experience, to make it not the whole marvel it is. And then I realized that something much deeper is beneath all of our story-telling about the world and ourselves. What is this wonder that produces knowledge and doubt, faith and irresolution, the passing shades of existence and non-existence? That which cannot be grasped does not fit these words; something runs deeper and more constant than any particulars we pretend to know. And then my cat jumped in my lap and I came out of my daydream.
26 October 2006 @ 11:12 pm
Hey, I'm new here in this community as am I relatively new to the Zen community. So, to start, my name is Emily, I am 17 years old living near Albuquerque, NM, and I have been an official student of Joshu Sasaki Roshi for about one year. I am about to embark upon my first full daisesshin, which is also the Rohatsu daisesshin at my home temple. I have done bits and pieces of sesshin before, mostly general sesshin, but never more than 4 days at a time, so I am excited to see how the week will go (when it comes, it starts on Thanksgiving day). Naturally, I have some questions, but I usually just observe, or at least that's how I work in 'real life'. I hope that there are good conversations to come!
07 October 2006 @ 05:30 pm
Membership in this community is now open. Free to all. Those of you who submitted requests to join, sorry for the red tape.