Zen 101

Thursday, January 31, 2008

StreetZen Ordination

Good Morning Everyone,
 
The winds blew fiercely across the construction site of the new Federal Building in downtown Las Cruces, spraying us with sand as we sat for our peace vigil on Church Street.  At the very beginning of the sit, Rev. Bussho sat in front of me and I offered her the vows of a Zen priest in our Order. I had to do the ceremony from memory and without incense or candle. She repeated them flawlessly. We recited the Wisdom Heart sutra, the verse of repentance, and I dabbed her head with water using a pine bough she had picked for the purpose.  We then recited the Three Refuges, the Three Pure Precepts, and the Ten Grave Precepts.  With a crack of the kyosaku on her shoulders, it was done. I offered Rev. Bussho my kyosaku, given to me by my teacher, and presented her with a rakusu in the new emerald green color of our order.  Rev. Bussho is the first priest ordained in our new Order of Clear Mind Zen. 
 
Afterwards we sat in zazen holding small signs for peace and Earth Witness.  Then along came Abbey, the teen granddaughter of one of our vigil participants.  She was excited to see a woman Zen priest sitting there and asked a number of questions.  It was good to see them talk, yet the wind was relentless.  After an hour we left and had some pie and tea in celebration at the Village Inn. 
 
A good day.
 
Be well.
 
 
.


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Real Zen

Good Morning Everyone,
 
So, we sit down on a cushion, face a wall, place our palms together, bow, take up the cosmic mudra and practice presence. We breathe in, we breathe out.  We let our self fall away. As we and the Infinite realize our oneness. Then a bell rings, we bow, rise and perhaps recite a sutra or some vows and move on through our day. So?
 
Unless we carry those vows, the essential nature of the sutra, the essential connection with the Infinite gained on that cushion into the world, our sitting is meaningless.  When you read these words what is your experience?
 
When your partner is crabby or your boss a jerk or traffic deeply, tightly congested, what is your experience?
 
This is your real practice.  The cushion is essential, but still only prep work.
 
Do the prep, then walk the walk.
 
Be well.


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ordination

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Rev. Bonnie Bussho Hobbs will undergo Shukke Tokudo, becoming a full priest in the Order of Clear Mind Zen during streetZen Wednesday, January 30 at 4:00 PM near the corner of Church and Griggs next to the Federal Building. All who wish to attend and honor Rev. Bussho, please come.
 
Be well. 


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Monday, January 28, 2008

Facing the Sun

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Your Original Face is faceless.
Like a boundless mirror,
There it is in everything you
See, taste, feel, smell, hear, and  think. 
Know it.
 
This is the meaning of form.
 
This is the meaning of formlessness. 
 
Practicing the forms
Allows formlessness to be realized.
Not practicing the forms
Makes them prison walls.
 
Freedom resides
Within the boundaries of form.
To be truly free,
Take up a daily practice
And do it religiously.
 
As we practice
Our daily practice,
Our heart-mind opens
As if it were a morning glory
Facing the sun.  
 
Let us grow.


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Change

Good Morning Everyone,
 
In life it is always a good idea to be open to your actual experience.  We tend to live in our thoughts so much that we are really not as open as we could be.  The result is a constant strain to keep things from changing.  An impossible task, of course, as life itself is constant change.  But if we live in our thoughts, the real, actual world does not have an opportunity to present itself as it is.  This is very sad because if we keep things from changing, against the natural order of things, then we live in death itself.
 
As I write to you this morning, for example, I sit with Pete-kitty on my right and Tripper, the cockapoo, on my left.  Both are sleeping, but in close proximity to me in the middle. The coffee is ready.  I have to go to my cushion shortly. And in just two sentences I am not sitting here with you.  Did you notice?
 
This is important because we live in relationship either to others or to our physical world.  When we cut ourselves off from the living nature of our relationships we die.
 
Life is like that, so our vigilance toward living awake must be constant and real.  We should check ourselves with nearly every breath.  It is in every breath that we create ourselves.
 
On a personal note: The last couple of days have been a bit of a challenge.  My Little Honey is not well.  She has a chest cold and nagging cough that has resulted in a very irritated throat.  I hope she wakes this morning feeling a little better today.  We have had to cancel things and she cannot teach religious school this morning at the Temple. Neither of us get sick very often, but when we do, geeez, its a lulu. Son Jason came through his heart procedure nicely and my mother has returned home from the rehab center.  Also, it seems one of two expecting nieces delivered her baby yesterday!
 
Life is change, indeed.
 
Be well.


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Killing

Good Morning Everyone,

I vow not to kill.

All living things should be treated with respect and with the understanding that they possess Buddha Nature. Our precept against killing is an indication of our willingness to keep this understanding in our experience as we live out our lives. We vow not to kill, but understand that life lives off of life. So this precept against killing cannot be about killing to live. Killing to kill is not respectful. Killing for glory is not respectful. Killing for fun is not respectful. These are not acceptable in terms of our vow not to kill.,

If we have roaches in our kitchen we should try to tease them away, or trap and release them or, failing in that, we must kill them because they pose a health risk to human beings and the observe of our precept is to support life.

On the other hand, if we have a mouse in our kitchen we should trap it with a non-lethal trap and release it to the wild. Doing so takes a little effort, but the powerful sense of deep care that arises as a result of such action will pervade the universe. It is in this that the precept takes its life and its meaning.

So, we recognize that killing is a part of existing, but we also refrain from killing unnecessarily and look for ways to nurture and protect all life if possible. We cannot be rigid and black and white in our approach to life. Life is not like that. Besides, its why we have shin: heart/mind.

Be well.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tails A-Waggin'

Good Afternoon Everyone,
 
Zen is a way of life, indeed, it is life itself.  When we practice Zen we are alive and awake.  When we do not practice Zen we are asleep and dead. No special tools are required, just a willingness to open our eyes to see and our lungs to breathe.
 
This morning I made a tuna salad for our breakfast club.  The pups, Pepper and, rounded the corner as soon as they heard the hand cranked can opener at work.  Pete-kitty followed close behind. All waited patiently -- and not so patiently -- as I emptied the can, chopped the onion, and mixed the relish, peas, and spices, into the tuna. 
 
Pete-kitty was insistent, but he really does not like tuna.  Tripper was doing near back flips to get at the can.  Pepper, old dog that he is, waited patiently.  I gave him a small chunk of tuna and topped it off with a dog biscuit, as I slipped the near empty can to Tripper.
 
During this whole live theatre, I kept awake.  Opening the can I was aware I was opening the can.  Dealing with tails-a-waggin' I was aware I was dealing with tails-a-waggin'; mixing the salad I was aware I was mixing the salad.  I witnessed without reference to self, just opening, dealing, mixing, each in their appropriate turn and place.  
 
I am always aware of where this food comes from; aware of the lives offered to be food itself; and of the many hands involved in bringing it to me. Pete-kitty is not as aware, nor is Tripper or Pepper.  They just smell food and salivate until they can get their teeth into it.  We human beings are fortunate.  We have the ability to practice Zen.  We have the capacity to be awake and alive.
 
A bow to each of you.
 
 


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Just Do It

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Its a nice chilly morning and I am preparing now for my morning run.  I just did my weight work in my bathroom dumbbell gym: bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, delt raises, and shrugs.  I am doing one set of twenty reps in the morning, afternoon, and evening with the heaviest weight I can manage for that number of reps. I was going to go for a walk with my friend Abe, but he could not muster himself and my training partner, Katie, isn't feeling very well.  So, I am on my own.
 
Life is like that.
 
We partner with people, draw on their support, but in the end it is our own effort and willingness to get down and do the thing that really counts. 
 
Yesterday I sat alone at the Veteran's Park.  The air was not particularly cold, but I wore a thermal insulated shirt under my robe. It was a peaceful two periods of Zazen.
 
From there I went to Temple Beth El where I led two periods of meditation.  This was a good little group.  We even had one of my Zen students attend, Sara Moren.  It was a delight to see her!  She has spent the last few weeks at San Francisco Zen Center and has just applied for a eight week program there. 
 
After meditation we sat with cups of tea in the social hall and talked a bit.  Community is an important ingredient in our practice.
 
I look forward to sitting at the Federal Building in Las Cruces on Wednesday at 4:00 PM.  If you are up to it, come join me!
 
Be well. 


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Monday, January 21, 2008

On Pots and Hummingbirds

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Yesterday at the El Paso Sangha, I offered at teiso on everyday life.  I used a portion of Master Dogen's Tenzo Kyokun (Instructions for the Cook), translated by Uchiyama-roshi of the Soto tradition,.and a portion of the book, Novice to Master by Morinaga-roshi of the Rinzai tradition.  One of the fundamental tenets of our practice -- Soto or Rinzai-- is this:  there is no trash. The second fundamental derives as,: everything is sacred, but nothing is special.  This means we should honor the everyday, finding in the everyday everything we need.
 
Yet, we human beings go around marking things as special.  We invest things with meaning.
 
This is why we suffer so: Everything, special or ordinary,  dissolves over time and returns to the Source.
 
So, on the one hand, we should recognize the sacred is the everyday, and on the other hand, we should not endeavour to hold onto it.  We should practice with the knowledge that everything is transitory.  Everything.
 
How do we do this practice?  By opening ourself up. Or, as Uchiyama-roshi suggests, opening the hand of thought.
 
Its rather like scrubbing out a pot caked with pudding residue.  We just scrub, noticing the transformational nature of the process.  Or like holding out our finger at a hummingbird feeder, generating warm and loving thoughts, and remaining very still. A hummingbird will perch on the finger offered.  We can only witness this; feel the tiny, lovely body on our finger, but we cannot grasp it.
 
So, as we add "lovely" and "warm" to our experience of the hummingbird, it is fleeting and no more special than cleaning a pot. Both are in the moment experiences both are transitory, both are special, and both are everyday..
 
Be well.
 


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Extraordinary Magic

Good Morning Everyone,

My Little Honey has just completed a short novel entitled "The Extraordinary Magic of Everyday Life" In it she has three aged women, one of whom is a bag lady, and with the magic of a teddy bear and everyday life, itself, they come of age. This process of coming of age is interesting. It is in the process of rising to the occasions required by activities of the ordinary with friends and family that we take our place in the world.

Yesterday we went to see "The Bucket List" and while the activities on that list were wonderful "things to do" the really important stuff was relational. We often forget that. At least I do. Yet, as I am aging, like my wife's characters in her book, I trust I am coming of age myself.

We cannot short circuit the process and there are no real short cuts. Life is to be lived and the less we live in the creation of our minds, the more we live in the everyday moments, the more authentic our lives. Zen is all about that.

This morning I will drive down to El Paso to visit my friends at the El Paso Sitting Group. Then I teach a class at the Jewish Academy. Life is good.

Be well.



Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi
http://www.clearmindzen.org/



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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Cooking Your Life

Good Morning Everyone,
 
This morning is again a cold one.  The temps are in the low twenties and I am scheduled to go sit in front of the environmental center.  Sitting Zazen in the cold is no fun.  I've noticed that my nose runs, eyes water, and internal things begin to shake. This can't be good. 
 
I am cancelling my morning outdoor sits until the morning temps are above 35.
 
I missed the Wednesday Peace Vigil due to Rev. Kokyo's surgery.  It was supposed to be in the early morning, but it was moved to the afternoon.  So it goes.  Life is full of little twists and turns and the more quickly we get to a point where we relax into them the better. Just like on a motorcycle, you don't resist leaning into the curve.
 
Learning to let go is really important.  Last night we attended Chef Jacob's opening night at Meson de Mesilla.  It was an unexpectedly large crowd, every table full, the lounge crowded, and a very green kitchen staff.  I stepped back to the kitchen a few times.  The wait staff were really stressed. The cooks were very stressed. I invited them to breath free and easy.  We smiled together.  And while this didn't speed things up, it may have helped them settle their internal engines just a little. 
 
As with anything intense, it is very important to learn to relax within the intensity.  While running, for example, a runner can place their attention on their calf muscles and relax them with each step.  The same for our arms, chests, and shoulders.  The key is learning to notice the muscle groups and understand that we have real control over them when we decide we can take it.
 
An easy breath with a smile and pleasant thought in the middle of yuk is always a welcome, if brief, relief.
 
The evening at Meson was extraordinarily delicious.  The music was wonderful.  The atmosphere elegant.  If any of you ever get to Las Cruces, please visit.
 
Be well.
 
 
 


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Friday, January 18, 2008

The Small Things

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Life is good.  This morning's power outage made an impression on me.  When we are at our Refuge in the mountains we have no power outages, period (due to our own, reliable, solar power system, and there is always heat through the woodburning cookstove or propane furnace.  As we rose early this morning and wanted coffee, though, the percolator refused to work without electric. Imagine that.  In the mountains, we would simply get the cookstove going and shortly we would have our coffee and tea.
 
Lessons: Always have matches available, candles, and flashlights with batteries. Have a small propane campstove available to heat water for coffee and tea. And always have a battery operated radio available to find out what's going on.
 
My matches were not in my drawer.  My flashlight was emptied of batteries in an attempt a few weeks ago to get a tape recorder to work, and we left our propane campstove in the mountains.
 
Fortunately, my memory is sometimes in good repair, especially in the morning so I was able to find, in the dark, a book of matches, a small flashlight and my Itty-Bitty Booklight (which actually had batteries in it!).
 
So, live in the moment, live by your wits, and be grateful for the small things in life.
 
Be well. 
 


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Taking a short break

Hello All,
 
Just a quick note to let you know I'm taking a short break from writing.  My Little Honey had surgery on her nose yesterday to remove a malignant basal cell carcinoma, my son in Florida is having a rather sticky heart procedure Friday, and I am just plan tired.
 
Please keep Judy and Jason in your prayers.  Also, my former Disciple Rev. Sam Kokyo is having a hip replaced tomorrow and we will attend his partner Mary Ellen in the surgery waiting room.  Keep him in your thoughts as well.
 
Lastly, thank you Deana Kessin, for keeping me company while Judy was being treated in the hospital outpatient surgery center.
 
Meditation at the synagogue went well and I have double the number of students I expected to have in my spirituality class at the Academy of Jewish Learning. I guess there is a demand for a JuBu Zen priest :)
 
Anyway,
 
Be well.
 
 


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Monday, January 14, 2008

Work Meditation

Good Morning Everyone,
 
In the West we often think of the sacred as something special residing in a special place or created through a special activity. In fact, we often think of the universe as divided and separated, categorized, tagged and bagged: me ~ not me.
 
In Zen, East or West, we strive to see through this delusion, this veil of ignorance, and see that everything is one.  In such a world, there is no sacred, no profane, nothing special, there is just the world we experience as we experience it.  We could say this is mundane.  Hardly.  It is, in fact, extraordinary.
 
The universe is all us, everything.  Our breath and our very existence both depends on it and it depends on us.  Nothing means anything without our making it mean something.  We are partners with the Infinite.
 
In Zen, we approach all activity in this way: meditation, walking, eating.  Today I will suggest that even our work is such an activity.  We call work meditation, samu. It is typically done as a meditative practice in monasteries, but also at Zen Centers during retreats.  The reason I indicated both is that during retreats at Zen Centers, samu is taught as a contemplative practice, whereas in a monastic context, all work activity is samu, all work activity then is contemplative. 
 
In our "secular" lives, I suggest we live as if we are monastics, in the sense that we make all life activity a source of contemplation.
 
When we approach work as a spiritual activity what do we mean?  First, I think, we approach it openly. Work is not opposed to us.  It is not an exchange value, it is in itself.
 
Second, we appreciate all of the activity.  We reside in the activity as if there were no other activity to be done in that moment because, in truth, there is nothing other than what we are doing just now.  Multitasking is at best a fiction, at worst, a house dividing itself.
 
As we approach our work with an open heart and willingness to be completely present during it something really wonderful happens.  It becomes our own regardless of who we are doing it for or what we might receive in return.  This is the value of living in the moment.  There are no degrees of separation.
 
Be well.
 
 
 
 


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lets Eat

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Seated meditation and walking meditation are but two of our meditative forms.  There is also "oryoki" or the practices involved in eating meditation.  Formal practice requires two things for the Zen Buddhist, a robe and a set of bowls.  These point to our basic necessities of food and shelter.  The robe shelters us against the elements and food offers us sustenance for our journey.
 
Just as there is a prayer when opening our robe, so too there are prayers associated with eating.  In Zen, all activity is activity of a buddha.  We should therefore treat all activity with a high degree of reverence and awareness.
 
Oryoki is usually practiced at the noon meal in Temples.  The noon meal is often the last meal of the day and is the most substantive.  An oryoki bowl set contains three bowls, a table cloth, a cloth bib, a cloth napkin, and a utensil pouch with contains chop sticks, a spoon, and a cleaning tool. 
 
We open the bowls together in the meditation hall in precise movements.  The bowls are set out, prayers are chanted, for each serving of three courses.  No eating occurs until all three servings are served, all the prayers are chanted, a portion is offered to the hungry ghosts, and permission is given to eat. Once the meal is completed, we each wait patiently for all to finish. We then clean the bowls with hot water, wipe them out, stack them back in order, and wrap them in the intricate lotus bud flower pattern each of us is taught.
 
All of this is done while sitting in lotus or half lotus at our cushions.
 
 
Eating meditation is a wonderful practice.  It teaches us patience, gratitude, and thoughtfulness.  Much of our practice involves dealing with feelings and thoughts as they arise during the prayers and long periods of serving the three courses.  We eat slowly, very slowly, being mindful of our food, how it came to us, the many lives and many hands involved in its preparation,
 
In the United States we are particularly calloused, I think, to these things.  Our food is often prepared by others hidden from our view. We eat quickly. We often do not give a thought to the lives offered as food for us. We just consume.
 
Eating meditation is all about addressing this distance from nature.  It brings us face to face at each meal with our true interconnectedness. 
 
These benefits are true even of informal eating practice. We can recite simplified versions of the meal chants, consider the food we are eating, its sources, and those who prepared it for us. We can wash our dishes with clear mind and open heart, being present in the practice.
 
True Zen Buddhists are in constant practice.
 
Be well.
 
.  


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Taking Aim

Good Morning Everyone,

Everything has its use, its place in the universe, and for the sake of this, everything is necessary. According to Aristotle, there were four causes: material, efficient, formal, and final. In modern times we use only one type of cause in our thinking, formal cause. Yet each type of cause reveals a point of view and each point of view has validity.

Material cause suggests something is what it is due to the material it is made of. We are holy beings because God breathed his spirit into us. We are human beings because we live in social groups and we get our life from the group. We are human beings because we have evolved into human beings as a result of many physical, psychological, and spiritual causes. Lastly, we are human beings for the sake of our partnership with the Absolute in order to perfect the universe.

Each "cause" has its place and offers us a view of our reason for being. One view looks at the stuff we are made of, another the conditions regarding that stuff, another the plan or order of the making itself, and still another, the purpose of the stuff itself. Only in the last case, the final or teleological case, do we find a rich, imaginative and deeply spiritual understanding of causation.

I am for the sake of something, not just because of something. In such a case, our aim in life and the path we follow become incredibly important.

When we practice Zen, we practice for the sake of something. We practice with what Master Dogen refers to as a "Way seeking mind" or the "thought of enlightenment". Notice, these are not causes in the modern sense. But rather, they are purpose driven.

As Zen Buddhists we are taught that everything is itself perfection already: we are vaguely aware that this perfection is covered by closed eyes. Our practice, encouraged by the thought and vague awareness, is to open our eyes and see clearly. So, for the sake of seeing clearly what is already present, we practice Zen.

Christians and Jews know this, as well. In the Jewish sense, we practice tikkun 'olam, a practice of assisting God in His work, righting wrongs, healing people, providing for the poor. In the Christian world, the same, we practice charity and love for all beings. Prayerful practices are meant to bring us closer to the Absolute in and out of the sanctuary.

In the theistic religions, from a non-mystical perspective, we behave because of our love of God, the Law of God, and an inevitable joining with God.

In Zen Buddhism, we practice for the sake of allowing the perfection that already is to emerge.

At first sight these appear different and even occasionally opposed to each other, but such is only a matter of perspective. Shift the ground you sit on and a whole new perspective emerges.

May you practice to be the perfection you already are in a world in dire need of your assistance.

Be well.





Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi
http://www.clearmindzen.org/

Friday, January 11, 2008

Walking Meditation

Good Morning Everyone,
 
This morning I want to talk about Kinhin.  Kinhin is walking meditation.  It is essentially stillness in motion. There is a formal and informal version of this practice.  Formal Kinhin is practiced in the Zendo between sitting periods.  Informal kinhin is practiced anywhere at anytime.
 
Formal Kinhin should be done in the following way.  Standing at your cushion, facing the wall, place your hands in gassho (prayer-like hand gesture), with elbows extended and forearms horizontal to the floor. Then bow from the waist.  Turn to your right.  Close your left hand into a fist with thumb surrounded by your fingers.  Place your right hand on top as if to cover it like a shield. With elbows extended, forearms should remain horizontal to the floor.  Step off with your right foot.  Each step should be like a half step and very slow.  Kinhin is practiced slowly and mindfully.  Breathing in, we step, breathing out, we step.  Our attention should be on our presence as we walk. 
 
Typically Kinhin is practiced by walking around the interior of the Zendo following the practice leader.  This can be a set amount of time or a set number of rotations.  In any case, remain present and awake.
 
Informal Kinhin can be practiced anywhere and it is a real favorite of mine. Step slowly, but deliberately, with hands easy and relaxed either at one's side or in an informal clasped hand gesture, left cradled in right.  If you are wearing your rakusu (short robe), your hands should be under it.  Walk with your mind on your walking.  Notice your feet touch the earth, rise and fall as you walk.  Notice the sounds in the air, the smells, the sights of the earth before you. 
 
If you are in a store, say grocery shopping, move slowly with your cart.  Feel the products you examine, Notice how you place them in your cart.  Smile to others, but remain focused on being present.  We practice being free and easy in the marketplace this way.
 
Sometimes I practice kinhin while running, by placing my complete attention on my feet and breath.  Noticing my body as it moves, feeling the wind as it passes over my skin, and so forth.  I often listen to my brace as it squeaks when I walk or run.  Try to avoid patterns, stay in the exact moment.  Patterns make for sleepy Zen.
 
Practice Kinhin today and let me know about your experience.
 
Be well.


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Three Generations

Good Morning Everone,
 
Yesterday afternoon at the  Peace Vigil I sat in serene reflection meditation on the sidewalk in front of the old federal building. The sun was still up and we practice facing west so the sun warms our skin against the cooling late afternoon desert air.  Sometime during the second period, Abbey and her friend (I cannot recall her name) sat down next to me to practice a few minutes. Abbey is a high school student whose mother and grandmother stand with me during the peace vigil on Wednesdays.  She is a tall young lady, with long blond hair, and a keen interest in the world.
 
Over the last few weeks Abby has sat with me on a few occasions on the street.  She has also written to me a couple of times with questions.  Her questions suggest she has had a meditation practice for quite some time, but that her practice has been undisciplined.  Anyway, Abbey and her friend sat in silence, hands in the cosmic mudra, and brought peace into the world with me.  It was a very good experience to sit with such young people. 
 
I chanted the Four Great Vows as they prepared to leave as a family.  Three generations of women committed to making a difference.  I was honored to be in their presence.
 
Beings are numberless, I vow to free them.
Delusions are inexhaustable, I vow to end them
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.
The Buddha Way is unsurpassable, I vow to realize it.
 
 
Be well.


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Awake

Good Morning Everyone,
 
When we sit down to practice zazen, we should sit down with a certain aim.  This aim is to be open and present without attempting to have this thought or that; this state of consciousness or that; or this feeling or that.  Zazen is the pure act of just sitting to be just sitting. 
 
We practice zazen in order to be awake.  Most of the time we are not awake, rather, we are thinking about something other than what we are doing.  as I type just now, I am thinking I need to get off the computer to get to the grocery store before my Breakfast Club meeting at 9:00.  This is not being awake. 
 
We often confuse having our eyes open for being awake. Drivers are "awake" but often appear to have tombstones in their eyes, mesmerized by the monotony of traffic.  Parents are often "awake" as they attend to their children with their minds a couple of dozen miles away.
 
This is no way to live.
 
Today practice for one hour to just be awake.  Tat is just attending to what you are in fact doing and nothing else. Watch your mind as it tries to slip away, gently bring it back.
 
I'd like to hear about your experience.
 
Be well.
 
 
 
 
  


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Cold Wind

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our car is repaired and we got it back last night just before Zen Judaism and just after streetZen.  I am personally relieved. Being without a vehicle for nearly two weeks was a considerable stressor for this retired couple.
 
streetZen was a challenge yesterday afternoon. The day was windy and as the sun went down so did the temperatures.  The result was that we sat in a very cold sustained wind in the 30 mph range. I wrapped myself in my serape, but it was billowing during the first sitting period.  During the second period I wrapped it around my head and tucked the front under my knees so as to hold it down.
 
Rev. Zento sat with me.  It was good to have him there.
 
As I sat there I remembered one night in 1964 when I stood guard duty in the dead of winter in Germany. It was so cold the tears from my eyes froze on my face. Of course I was 17 at the time and thought I was God's gift to soldering, but those thoughts were little comfort against the cold.  Still, they got me through that night.
 
Sitting last night in the cold desert wind I thought of the Buddha sitting himself alone in the forests of India. Nothing but a robe or two layered on his body. Yet, he sat in serene reflection. Goodness, I have much practice ahead of me, I can tell you that!
 
As those thoughts arose last night, I would let them go and place my attention back on my breath.  I resorted to counting, which helped my concentration in the wind, and left me in the end, partners with the elements.
 
May we walk together in peace and harmony.
 
Be well.
 
 


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Monday, January 07, 2008

On the Street

Good Morning Everyone,
 
Lately, I am sleeping later than usual.  This is a good thing as I seem to require less nap time in the afternoon as a result. While naps are wonderful, an hour or two is a bit over the top. So, I turned off my alarm a week or two ago and let my body do its own thing.  It appears that it wakes me up about an hour later each morning than my alarm would. Time to reset my alarm to accord with my body.
 
Zazenkai on Saturday went well.  Rev. Zento, Rev. Kajo, and I sat at the beginning, although we got a late start my car is still not repaired). Rev. Kajo wasn't able to continue as she had much discomfort (she is undergoing physical therapy for this just now). So, it was Zento and myself the remainder of the day.  We sat for seven periods and left after chanting the Heart Sutra and the Shigu Seigan Mon (4 Great Vows). We had no one visit with us and no one took a handout. So we were left to practice pure Zen.
 
Each and every time I sit outside on the street like that I am reminded of the Buddha doing the same. Buddha and his followers have practiced in this manner for more than two and a half millenia now. It requires nothing special but a cushion and a willingness to be present out in the open.  It is this 'out in the open' that provides the difference. There is no cover, no temple walls, no sacred references or symbols other than the vast sky, trees, birds. passersby, or the breeze as it pushes leaves across the sidewalk. There is just the universe as it is with the practitioner awake in it.
 
Last night as I sat in my Zendo staring at the wall, my experience was fundamentally different.  Zendo practice is far more intimate. There is no place to look, but at yourself. Street Zen enables us to see that the Universe and the Self are really not separate, whereas, in Zendo practice, the universe stops at the wall unless we use our imagination. But being present is not imaginary, so we are left with serene reflection of a most intimate sort. 
 
Neither are above the other, but I suggest both are complimentary.   We can live our lives under the impression that Zazen is all we need. Wrapped in the cocoon of Zendo intimacy it is easy to insulate ourselves from Buddhahood which is being one with the universe and not just ourselves.
 
I would ask that each of you who practice to take your practice outside at least once a week.  I would enjoy reading about your experience.
 
May you each be a blessing in the universe.
 
     


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Day of Practicing the Kalama Sutra

Good Morning Everyone,
 
My car still is not repaired.  The parts supplier apparently got my order confused with another and neglected to actually order the strut itself for my car. So now I have the mount but not the strut.  Goodness. The SAAB parts department promised to have the part overnight-ed to El Paso and the mechanic promised to retrieve it from there today. Once again I am hopeful.
 
Meanwhile, today we practice Zazenkai, a day long intensive meditation period from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM on the street in front of the Southwest Environmental Center at the downtown mall. Zazenkai should be practiced in mindful silence with our attention always awake and aware. 
 
In a very real way, Zen is our lives.  When we appreciate Zen as nothing more than the practice of being awake to the moment we are in, we can see the truth of this. Much of the time of our daily life we seem to reside in fancy and delusion.  The fancy is our thinking world, a world not at all real or connected to our actual world. The delusion is that we believe one is the same as the other.   So, we spend our day thinking or dreaming about some imagined self in relation to some imagined set of events we wish to embrace or avoid, yet do not do either because we are so busy creating a mental construct of reality that we do not experience the actual reality.
 
This is one of the underlying teachings of the Kalama Sutra. The Buddha was approached by some villagers once and asked how to know what path to follow when there are so many claiming to be the true path.
 
Claims of truth, like the power of theory to explain or predict, are only as good as our skill at experiencing them. Truth is relative to the perceiver, theory is a construct of two or more concepts. So all of truth and reality is in the realm of conditioned existence. Our only reliable crap detector is our own actual experience and that should always be suspect.  The Buddha asks us to become spiritual scientists investigating our own lives. He asks us not to rely on beliefs or teachers or claims.  Rather, to rely on our own powers of investigation.
 
Does this mean we should not have teachers?  Traditions? Theories?  Not at all, its just that we should not rely on them. Instead, we use them as they as guides.  
 
This is a challenge to us because it requires us to actually do the practice. Zen is not about thinking about the practice.  Zen is actually living life. Today we are so quick to accept teachers and teachings, political actors, talking points of view, wars on everything; so obsessed with appearances rather than substance, that we live in a self made bubble, a fiction we call reality.  Are we really authentic practitioners of life?  And what do we practice? 
 
We can only answer this question with our actual lives.  The Buddha added near the conclusion of his sutra that we should develop four "dwellings" if you will. These are the practice is living in peace; the practice of living in compassion; the practice of living in joy; and the practice of living in equanimity.
 
Be well.
 
Reference: The Kalama Sutra from the Anguttara Nikaya
 
   "Rely not on the teacher/person, but on the teaching. Rely not on
the words of the teaching, but on the spirit of the words. Rely not on
theory, but on experience. Do not believe in anything simply because
you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been
handed down for many generations. Do not believe anything because it
is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything because it
is written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely
on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation
and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is
conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it
and live up to it." 
Here is a link to the entire Sutra:
 


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Friday, January 04, 2008

Teachers

Good Morning Everyone,

Sometimes life seems to be like a knot on a rope that lashes us from time to time. My knot has three twists this morning. My mother fell off her bed and fractured her pelvis; my son in Florida was just diagnosed with super ventricular tachycardia and has to have a heart catheterization procedure; my car parts seem lost in transport somewhere. On top of this no renter yet for the vacant condo and two mortgages are a serious challenge to our fixed income.

"No worries", as my other son, the chef says, though not about this specific set of knots.

Here's the thing. My mother is in a hospital with a rehab center nearby; my son has great care and this procedure will likely cure the tachycardia that has plagued him under the guise of panic attacks for years, and my parts will eventually arrive. I set up a contract with a property manager yesterday afternoon to make sure the condo is rented, and we are safe where we are, able at least to pay our bills.

My Little Honey is considering a flight to Florida to be with Jason. This will help her deal with her anxieties. I will take care of the condos, maintain my practice, and continue to work on my writing.

Life offers us a variety of challenges. It is our job to untie the knots and release the tensions. Taking in the pain of others, offering our own peace and love is a difficult practice. First, it is an assault on our sense of self, second, those being offered may not appreciate the offer, and third, we ourselves may require a respite in order to heal our own wounds.

I suggest that we understand all of this as practice. We may not get it right. It isn't a formula and there will be glitches along the way. We should live for the glitches, however, as they are our true teachers.

Yesterday I tried to offer My Little Honey some words of comfort. I asked her to try to see the good stuff that was happening. I noticed I was on edge with her. I have trouble being in her presence when she suffers. My comfort was not acceptable. Judy is an action person. And sometimes nothing can really be done. So we talked about it all. We made some tentative plans and the day slipped into night.

My lessons: I must practice my ability to be present when someone I love is emotionally distraught. I must accept that my ability to care and affect the situation has natural limits. And I must maintain a positive attitude through the process and not give way to automatic thoughts and the consequent feelings.

These are my teachers.

Be well..



Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi
http://www.clearmindzen.org/



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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Four Practices of Mindful Living

Good Morning Everyone,
 
My hope is that each of you had a wonderful New Year's Day and that your life will be much improved as this year unfolds.  When I say this, I don't mean your circumstances, but rather, your life.  We often assume that our lives are our circumstances, but we all have circumstances, don't we?  It is how we approach and encounter these circumstances that make our lives what they are.
 
When each day dawns I make a vow to see the world as it is and free all beings in the process.  This is an acknowledgment that Clear Mind and Zen Practice are one. Many of us struggle with this.  We think that our circumstances, if improved, will make our lives better.  In some respects this is true, I suppose.  If we understand better to mean food on the table, a warm home, or recovery from illness.  But if we mean better to mean a larger TV screen, the latest fashion, or  a new car, well this is just lust.  We human beings regardless of our circumstances always envision better circumstances and too often "better" is framed by cultural or media tease and tinsel.
 
Clear Mind enables us to see directly, exactly, what is there.  Zen is the approach of a full human being who is in sync with reality. Attitude adjusted.
 
We do this through the Four Practices: the practice of Zazen (seated meditation), the practice of Kinhin (walking meditation), the practice of Oryoki (eating meditation),  and the practice of Samu (work meditation).  These are the practices of mindful living, the practices of Clear Mind Zen.
 
Be well.


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Exam That Never Was

Good Morning All,
 
On the Internet we must be constantly alert to falsehood spread as truth.  Recently I wrote a blog entry about an Eighth Grade Exam.  While my points were valid, I believe, they were made against a false platform.  The article I was responding to, that is the exam, was a fiction.  My apologies. I should have checked the authenticity first. I have deleted my article referencing the exam that never was.
 
Be well.
 


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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On Generosity

Good Morning Everyone,
 
This morning I would like to wish you each a generous year.  Generosity, our willingness to share is the cornerstone of our practice. Generosity is openness.  A willingness to live in the world without fear and with great compassion. May we all practice this through the coming year and as a result, have a less fearful, more magnanimous and caring world.
 
When I first approached this practice two themes ran around my head.  First, I wanted to show my Teacher just how advanced I was.  Second, I feared dropping away me self protecting devices: anger, self-centeredness, and the need to be recognized as really smart. I worried that if I dropped these devices along the way, I would be vulnerable and constantly attacked. Of course we equate vulnerability to attack in our world. We are taught nearly from birth that this is the true way of the world.
 
It isn't so.
 
The true way of the world is mutual aid to create mutual benefit.  We are a complex world, deeply layered, vastly interconnected and totally interdependent.  I hurt you, I hurt myself.  You hurt me, you hurt yourself.  This is the true meaning underlying the Golden Rule.
 
When we open ourselves and reveal our generosity, some might take advantage. OK. So? They are showing their need, their fear, their dark side. We, on the other hand know that nothing we "possess" is ours to begin with. So there is nothing to really "protect". Our wedding to things must end in divorce or death, always, with no exception.
 
In giving we demonstrate a way to be in the world that is healthy and courageous.
 
So, in this year, we vow to free all beings; we vow to extinguish all delusion; we vow to master all Dharma; and we vow to follow the Buddha's Way completely. 
 
May we do these together as one.
 
Be well. 


 
Rev. Dr. So Daiho Hilbert-roshi 


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