Zen 101

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Clear Mind Zen

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



The sun has not yet come up this morning and we are waddling around the apartment doing our morning things. I am very sore. Yesterday I dug a bunch of holes in what felt like concrete for soil outside our back door so that we could plant flowers and a few vegetables. I do not have solid shoes and wore my running shoes to pound on the shovel. Big mistake. Yesterday afternoon my knee began to ache. I tried a short run to loosen it up. Another big mistake. I stopped mid first interval repeat and walked gingerly back to my car. This morning I used Aspercreme and am favoring it considerably. No scheduled March for Babies for me this morning!



Later this morning, though, we are scheduled to offer a meditation period to children at a “mini peace camp” in Anthony, NM. I am, as always, looking forward to this experience. Children are usually a delight to work with.



We have sold the remaining texts for the Zen 101 Class and I ordered two more copies. They should arrive on Tuesday just before we meet at 6:00 PM. For those who want to attend the class, please join us. The text is “The Eight Gates of Zen” by John Daido Loori Roshi and we are just beginning to explore it.



For those who consider themselves members of our Order and who live in this area, please attend our Annual Membership Meeting at 11:00 AM tomorrow. Please go to our website and download the Membership application, fill it out and bring it with you.



If you are not in our area, please download the form, complete it, and mail it to the Temple. The address is on the form. We want to be as inclusive as possible.



I will be deleting the ZenLiving Group at Yahoogroups tomorrow. There were far too many members of that group who were not affiliated with us and were not responding to the needs of the Order. In other words, it was not a working list. In its stead, I have created ClearMindZen at Yahoogroups. This group will be for members of the Order only. To sign up please go here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ClearMindZen. You will be asked to complete a membership form and submit it prior to your acceptance into the group. I will approve only those who we have a completed Membership form on file.



As our Vice President on our Board said to me yesterday, we must somehow communicate to those who are associated with us that it is time to get serious. We are in fact a religious organization with a mandate to do engaged practice. We are not simply a place to come and sit, hang out, or learn about Zen.



We are entirely supported by donation and Membership Dues. We are a New Mexico non-profit corporation and donations are tax deductable. It is that time of month again, when I must ask for donations. Begging is never easy, but it is necessary. I have found, however, that it is a good practice to ask for your support. The history of Zen Buddhism is a history of monks and priests begging for their sustenance. And, as you know, generosity is the first paramita. To develop this perfection, we are asked to give without reference to self, giver or receiver. We are to be the manifestation of generosity itself.



Lastly, please consider jotting down a few notes regards the future course of our Order. We are always seeking ways in which to serve our members and the community. As you know, I have solicited this sort of information in the past. Unfortunately, we do not receive very much direct feedback. This is unfortunate because we cannot change, add or subtract what we are unaware of.



Thank you very much for your kind attention.



Yours,
Daiho

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stewardship

With palms together,




The morning opened like a flower today. The sky is clear and the sun has risen over the mountains. Our mountains here are rarely blue. Instead they are often magenta. I love this color. It is so warm and passionate. I see these mountains as warm and passionate, yet know, when deep inside them, they are brilliant, active, and often forbidding.



Life exists in these mountains, as one behind the other, they rise into the New Mexican sky offering cover and safety for those creatures who reside in them. We have an obligation, it seems to me, to care for them.



A local Representative, Steve Pearce, has decided to introduce a bill in the House that would ease or eliminate many of the protections of our delicate desert and mountain areas. We must ask, where is his mind? Ranchers and Four Wheeler enthusiasts love him. After all, the land is for us to use, is it not?



No, Steve, it isn’t. It is there of its own, with its own life and we are its enemies or its stewards. The choice is ours. They do not defend themselves.



I have spent a few years witnessing hunters, ranchers, and four wheeler enthusiasts trashing land they say they love. After hunting seasons would pass, as I would walk along a mountain road, I would face trash bags of garbage, beer cans, and fast food wrappers. Cows smashing and eating, leaving their waste, and creating rutted paths were common. Mud ruts from four wheelers, torn branches, bushes run over with abandon, and the smell of burnt gasoline permeating the air would greet me as I walked. It used to be that hunters cared about their environment. I see little evidence of that these days. No Steve, this is not my idea of good stewardship and it is a bad idea.



What I do see in you, Steve, is a politician so in need of a few votes, so blind to the effects of his own ideology, that he cannot think out of his box to protect that which cannot protect itself. Please reconsider this very poor choice and offer something that might actually benefit the land you claim to love so much.



Yours,

Daiho

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Practice Peace

With palms together,


Good Afternoon Everyone,



Peace and joy to the world. Would that it were so. Unfortunately, we are fighting on many, many fronts and there is great discord in the world at large. There is fighting in nearly every land and if not fighting, great suffering. Sometimes to consider this truth is enough to make a sane person crazy.



We have this month: Hanamatsuri, Passover, and Easter. Each celebrates the hope of liberation. Yet, it is clear to me that this sort of thing is a person by person thing. Groups are so often discordant. Mass liberation is a delusional hope.



So, rather than ask for, or to pray for, world peace, I will chose instead to practice peace.



Homeless Kodo once said it’s all about practice. He said it’s about Zazen. If it is raining and the roof leaks, try to fix it, but if you cannot fix it, move to where there is no drip and practice Zazen. He said religion is not a concept, but a practice.



So, we do not believe in world peace, we become world peace. How? Practice peace.



Don’t know how to do that? Hint. Put your body speech and mind in neutral.



Be well.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Team Zen

Team Zen completed the Iron Bunny 5k today in support of ALS disease research.  Thanks to Student Kanu and Jiisha Soku Shin for running with me.

Be well.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Announcements for the Order of Clear Mind Zen

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



So, I am not a Christian and have no TV or radio. I don’t really look that closely at the little notes above my calendar. I did not know this Sunday was Easter. Goodness. So, I think it is wise to postpone our Annual Membership Meeting for a week. We will still hold Zen services at 9:00 AM this Sunday.



So, Annual Meeting is set for May 1st at 11:00 AM



Team Zen will race the Iron Bunny 5k Charity race tomorrow morning at Ponder Park in El Paso (start time is 8:00 AM). Team Zen will also walk the March for Babies on April 30 at Young Park at 7:30. This will be followed by Clear Mind Zen assisting at Peace Village’s Mini Peace Camp in Anthony NM at 9:35.



We will host May Zazenkai from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturday, May 7th. Please consider joining us and reserve your space soon.



May you each be a blessing in the universe.



Yours,

Daiho

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Life is Short

With palms together


Good Evening Everyone,



Sometimes thing get away from me. Today I had an appointment with my attorney to discuss a will, power of attorney, and an advanced directive. Unfortunately, it was scheduled at the same time as several of my weekly Dokusan’s. My apologies to all.



It is important to keep ahead of things. Dying is one of them. Not that I plan to expire anytime soon, but life is short and unpredictable, so being prepared is always a good idea.



When I do die, I would like to make the library I have collected over the years the Order’s. I would like all items related to Zen and the practice of Zen to be in the hands of my able disciples and my Jiisha. This Order should not be dependent on my living.



I am, however, 64 years old and have had some rather serious, life threatening traumas. There is only so long a bunny can hop. It was time to get things in order.



Be well,

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jiisha and Volunteer Opportunities

With respect,




Hello Everyone, As you know now, Kathryn Soku Shin has formally become my "jiisha." A jiisha is the personal attendant of the abbot. She will be responsible for fielding my calls, scheduling, and a variety of other tasks at the Order. Please give her your complete cooperation and assistance as needed.



We are a growing organization. I want to keep it as flat an organizational structure as is possible. To accomplish this we need people willing to offer their services to the Order. Sewing tasks include zafus and zabutans. Marketing tasks include press releases, attending community meetings on behalf of the Order, seeking out free advertising wherever possible, and being willing to talk to friends and new acquaintences about our Order and the various services we offer. Social engagement would include writing letters to editors, bearing witness for peace, voluntering at the soup kitchen, peace village, hospice, or other social service agencies. We are planning to offer seminars. If you have an interest in assisting with the design and implementation, administration, and so on of educational seminars, please let us know. We would like someone to be in charge of our kitchen at the Temple, making sure it is stocked with the necessary daily and weekly needs of the sangha. These are just a few of our personnel needs.



If you are free to do any of these please confer with Soku Shin.



Be well.

Monday, April 18, 2011

On Flagpoles and Snow Globes

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Zazen at the Veteran’s park was very serene this morning. The breeze was steady and refreshing in light of a blazing, but beautiful, morning sun. I had ridden my bicycle to the park, a distance of about 2.7 miles of mostly steep hills and welcomed the opportunity to sit still under the rotunda. Colette sat with me. It was very peaceful.



My mind was at work intermittently, though. I had re-read some of the very famous text, The Three Pillars of Zen, last night and was swirling in Yasutani-roshi’s words regarding his understanding of practice. The other day I read a piece of the commentary Daido-roshi had written on the Mountains and Rivers Sutra. Things seemed to coalesce in the stillness in front of the flag pole.



Both of these sages had views on our practice. Both had decidedly strong views on Soto and Rinzai schools. We would do well to pay attention to them. Our practice, however, must drive us. It is both our anchor and our wheel.



When the we are awake, there is no movement. Practice is like this. We, the wind, the flag, the dogs walking across in front of us as we are sitting, are all one. So, what is moving?



Mountains walk, the sutra points out, and “there should be no doubts about these blue mountains walking.”



So, walking while not moving? What’s this? Is the snow globe stationary as the snow within it falling?



We should practice in this way: centered, serene, still. All the while we walk.



Be well.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

On Zen

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Zen is Zen. It is not American, Asian, or European. It is the authentic practice of the buddhas and ancestors. No one, not one group, organization, temple, body of experts, blogger, website, web directory or nation has the authority to determine the authenticity of a lineage. Only our practice itself does that. Let me be clear (and maybe just a tad radical here): it is our practice, not our thoughts, feelings or pedigree that determines our authenticity in Zen.



Zen is alive. It is the living manifestation of the buddha-dharma. Authenticity is revealed in Zen’s practice, not in a piece of paper, chop, whisk, or shaved head. The questions, “where’s my mind?” in my activity, “who am I?” through in each moment, and “what is my next step?” as I encounter the world are fundamental questions and how I manifest their answers determines my authenticity.



My Teacher and his Teacher before him gave me a great gift: the opportunity to practice the dharma, to bring the dharma into the world, and to share it with others. I have steadfastly done that over the last nearly fifteen years I have been authorized to teach in my lineage. This gift is precious. So I take great offense at those in the Zen world who feel they are in a position to determine the authenticity of my practice, my teaching, or my lineage on the basis of anything other than its practice itself. To do this, they must know me, see me, experience my practice.



Rev. Dr. Soyu Matsuoka-roshi has two living Dharma heirs who have steadfastly practiced and taught the dharma: Rev. Michael Taiun Elliston-sensei and Rev. Ken Hogaku ShoZen McGuire-roshi. One on the East coast, one on the west coast. Both of these teachers have established Temples or Zen Centers, taught and sanctioned dharma heirs. As in other lineages, dharma heirs differ in temperament, personality, and style. They also differ in how they perceive and manifest their mission as dharma teachers. One is not better, more authentic, higher or lower than the other. Both have lived the dharma and manifested the transmission of mind. As I see it, this is the only real and honest test of authenticity.



Comments have been made about the legitimacy of Matsuoka’s heirs and typically, one of these two heirs is considered “recognized” whereas the other is questioned or given short shrift. This effort damages Matsuoka, his lineage, and consequently his heirs. Is Hogaku’s silent, less in your face, practice any less “authentic” than Taiun’s larger, more publis effort? Does the fact that Hogaku has had a small temple and daily practice for over forty years not count? Hogaku is reticent about putting himself “out there.” Given the opportunity, Hogaku dresses in his purple robes, but he easily and quickly removes them, more comfortable he is in a t-shirt and western jeans. He does not write, he does not promote himself, he simply practices Zen on a daily, moment to moment basis in his woodshop, in his Zendo, and in his student’s hearts.



The seventh grave precept suggests we not elevate ourselves above others at their expense. We should honor this, and in the process, go about the business of bringing the dharma into the world.



Be well.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Karma Is

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Reading a quote about karma on Facebook this morning pinched me. The quote, appearing on Adam Tebbe’s Sweeping Zen said the following:



“Karma is of body, speech and mind. Thoughts have karmic results. Speech has karmic results. Bodily actions have karmic results. That’s why it’s important to think, speak, and act properly.”



This is a common view, understandable given how things are so often taught, yet incorrect. While we often consider karma to be cause and effect, it is actually cause-effect, one, not two. People perceiving with Small Mind see a linearity, when seeing with a Big Mind, no linearity.



If we focus our attention on the “effect” of a “cause” we are separating one from the other, thus eviscerating a living, continuous and dynamic reality, and, in effect, killing it. We are no longer seeing karma, but instead examining a carcass.



Karma is one, not two. It is a continuum (cause-effect-cause-effect-cause, etc.), a complete, total manifestation of our intentional action in thought and body. Yet even this is not quite it. We suffer from linearity of language. Flowing water has no beginning or end: flowing water is just flowing water. Is it flowing to nourish or destroy?



Intention is key in understanding karma. This is so because it is a manifestation of our true nature. We cannot become a buddha, we are a buddha. Practice to open the self to that nature, be a buddha and no problem. So the precepts are not external rules, principles, or guides. They are a mirrored reflection of something we have hidden deeply within us. They are our true nature. We have but to shed the barriers that hide them in order to bring them into the universe. We shed through practice, as Master Dogen teaches, letting body and mind fall away.



Be less concerned with the result, give up the poison of delusion. Be buddha. Be well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chicken Little

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Yesterday I was invited to offer a lecture on Zen Buddhism at Dona Ana Community College. The lecture was part of their Cultural Awareness Week. It was good to be on a college campus again. I enjoyed the relaxed nature of the venue very much. I sat on my travelling zafu in the center of a small stage in an open interior food court. They set me up with a microphone and I began by telling the story of Siddhartha.



As I spoke, working my way through the history of Zen and into its practices, I noticed people were actually listening. Students, faculty, and college staff sat at the tables and paid attention. How wonderful to be heard. I think each of us should be offered a similar opportunity. We each have very important things to say. We should each be heard.



A society that fails to listen to its members fails its members and in the end silences them through such a failure. We each have a story to tell and that story is the mosaic of our humanity. In Zen, we hear from the hardcore punkster, Brad Warner, as his band, Zero Defex screams into microphones. We hear from the soft spoken Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hahn. We hear from the disrobing Big Mind guru, Genpo-roshi. The chuckles of clown roshi Glassman. The smile of Joan Halifax-roshi. Through the blogosphere we hear from everyday Zensters, students, dabblers, and not so high class teachers like myself. The stories are there; the fabric is being woven.



Is anyone actually listening? A society that fails to listen fails itself.



Listening is not passive. Listening is active. It requires action. Too often it is in one ear, out the other, yeah, yeah, yeah. To listen we must engage the speaker, respond somehow. My fear is that we are not doing this so much in any meaningful way. We have a global crisis on many, many fronts: environmental, political, social, and spiritual. Many of us are squawking, looking very much like Chicken Little. In one ear, out the other. Many of us want the Chicken to sit down and shut up. The soft sand our heads are buried in feels safe and secure. Careful, though, some perfect storm approaches and with a scythe swung like a golf club, will take off our heads.



Be well.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fearless Bodhisattvas?

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning I woke thinking about the six people standing around a small stand in a park on the left side of Las Cruces’ City Hall. They were witnessing for peace. On the other side of the Hall was a much larger group of people standing around listening to the newly elected governor of New Mexico give a speech. We were sitting Zazen on a small rise in between.



I was thinking about the six people as heroes. These were six people out of the thousands who live in southern New Mexico who thought enough about peace to actually get off their asses and show themselves. While I disagree politically with those on the right side of City Hall, those standing there were are also heroes. They were citizens who cared enough about their government to also get off their butts.



Here is the thing: we get what we deserve. Always. It’s the truth, plain and simple. Our apathy at the fact that we are at war on three fronts is astounding. The fact that we are wringing our hands and crying to save assistance to veterans, homeless, those without means, without medical care, and basic public educational necessities like teachers and classrooms while literally burning up a projected trillion dollars in spending on defense this year and next, just blows my mind. We get what we deserve. If you want good schools, schools that actually have teachers, buildings and classrooms, then, damn it, pay for them. If you want less homelessness, less poverty, less sickness, pain and misery, work to create the conditions within which these will no longer be such an unmanageable and devastating social problem.



Cutting taxes to Corporate America will not do this. Jobs are not related to tax cuts: increased salaries, benefit packages, and other perks to corporate CEOs and upper management stars are the true beneficiaries. We are sold a bill of goods by the conservative right, those deluded beings who think they actually deserve to flourish on the backs on the poor and disenfranchised. What’s good for business is good for America, right? Perhaps the upper 2 percent of America and, from their point of view, they are America. The rest of us are, and by rights, should be, in-service to them.



Our wars are no longer about freedom, they are about oil, power, influence and control of world resources. Our religious leaders, in the main, make me sick. They are either in bed with conservatives, lackeys of Corporate America, or direct supporters of war (in the name of peace, Jesus, and all that is right, of course). Good grief.



We Buddhists aren’t much better. We sit on our asses and do nothing. We talk about compassion, want to be bodhisattvas, and what? Live in La La Land thinking it will all somehow be OK.



Where is our passion? I don’t mean the sort of crap passion that drives evil, I mean our passion to live deeply, to actually BE bodhisattvas? Afraid we are, I suspect. Too comfortable in our robes and on our cushions, I suspect. We no longer have to beg for our food and have forsaken the Buddha as he actually lived, just as Christians have forsaken, twisted, or perverted the words of Jesus.



Maybe when we have to ride a bicycle because we cannot afford a car, or when we ourselves have to stock up on cheap carbs because we cannot afford real food, we might begin to wonder (as all the while that 2 percent of real America insists) even this we do not deserve.



We get what we deserve and our willingness to passively buy a bill of goods is our currency.



Be well.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Notes

With respect,












Last night was a delight at Rev. Kankin's Sangha. We sat two periods, did walking meditation, and had tea as I delivered a Dharma Talk on the Essentials of Zazen practice. Before all this, though, we had a wonderful meal of Bobby's Wonderful Beans, salad, and bread. We stoppd for a snack at an El Paso Starbucks on the way home.











This morning we did desert sand hill repeats of about a tenth of a mile each. The grade was varying but about 6%. We first walked to the hill through a sandy road, then did four repeats (me) five repeats (Kathryn). We then hiked back to the car. All tolled we did 1.5 miles. Heart rates were maxed out on the last two repeats, I believe (I forgot to put on my HR monitor this morning). Earlier this morning I caught up on my weights by doing a shortened version of Tuesday's chest and back workout. I did do the Wednesday leg workout, though, of squats and calf raises. I also carted my forty pound dumbbells up the flight of stairs to the weight room.







We are now on our way to the Temple for our private yoga class. Tai Chi Chih, Zazen, and yoga this evening beginning at 6:00 PM.







Sesshin begins at 7:00 PM this Friday!











Be well!.



Notes

With respect,












Last night was a delight at Rev. Kankin's Sangha. We sat two periods, did walking meditation, and had tea as I delivered a Dharma Talk on the Essentials of Zazen practice. Before all this, though, we had a wonderful meal of Bobby's Wonderful Beans, salad, and bread. We stoppd for a snack at an El Paso Starbucks on the way home.











This morning we did desert sand hill repeats of about a tenth of a mile each. The grade was varying but about 6%. We first walked to the hill through a sandy road, then did four repeats (me) five repeats (Kathryn). We then hiked back to the car. All tolled we did 1.5 miles. Heart rates were maxed out on the last two repeats, I believe (I forgot to put on my HR monitor this morning). Earlier this morning I caught up on my weights by doing a shortened version of Tuesday's chest and back workout. I did do the Wednesday leg workout, though, of squats and calf raises. I also carted my forty pound dumbbells up the flight of stairs to the weight room.







We are now on our way to the Temple for our private yoga class. Tai Chi Chih, Zazen, and yoga this evening beginning at 6:00 PM.







Sesshin begins at 7:00 PM this Friday!











Be well!.



Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tuesday

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning Kathryn and I went out for a nice hike with Mike GoZen LaTorra, my old student, former disciple, and abbot of the Zen Center of Las Cruces. We have a lot in common and it was good walking with him. Altogether in the desert with lots of sand and hills, we did 2.5 miles. We committed to doing this at least once a week. Alright!



Last night a photographer dropped by the Temple a took some pictures of us in practice to go with an article about Clear Mind Zen Temple that will be coming out this weekend, we think. It was a very good evening with lots of Zensters sitting upright.



This evening Kathryn and I are traveling to El Paso to sit with Both Sides/No Sides Zen Sangha. I am to deliver a teisho. I am looking forward to seeing our El Paso friends and, hopefully, those from Juarez, as well.



In my absence, Student Alice will facilitate the Zen 101 group this evening. Alice is a dedicated practitioner with a sharp eye and clear mind. I hope you will not miss this very wonderful opportunity at 7:00 PM.



We have added Kathryn Soku Shin’s picture to our “About Us” page on the Clearmindzen.org website. She has been acting as my Jiisha for sometime now and deserves this recognition. A Jiisha is the abbot’s personal assistant, like an executive assistant. In a corporation. She has been doing very well learning the various roles in Temple life.



I am doing a t-shirt order this afternoon. If you wish a t-shirt, please let me know the size. My guess is that the cost to the Temple will be about $9.00 per shirt.



Be well.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Announcements for the Order of Clear Mind Zen

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Be advised: What follows is a short update on our Order’s activities and a request for dana.



This morning we have a few important announcements. First, this coming weekend we will be offering April’s Hanamatsuri Sesshin beginning at 7:00 PM Friday evening and extending through until noon on Sunday. John Shoji Sorenson, our acting American River Sangha leader, is flying in from California and will be taking the precepts as a novitiate priest. Please reply with your reservation so that we might prepare our food budget. Suggested donation is $25.00.



Second, this month we have a few additional expenses that we need to address. Our website domain name needs to be renewed, we have to order new t-shirts for Team Zen (the set up fee is $25.00), and we need to complete and ship an order for wagessas placed some time ago by Claude Anshin Thomas, author of “At Hell’s Gate.”



If it is at all possible, please make an additional donation to the Order soon.



We will be up-dating our website’s calendar of events soon. My apologies for not doing this earlier. If there is something you would like to see added or something you think we might do differently, please forward your comments and suggestions to me.



We are a growing Sangha, well into the world of electronic communications. We currently have 380 readers on our YahooGroup, ZenLiving, 480 “Friends” on Facebook, 44 “Friends” on Tricycle.com, and 64 readers on Blogger.com. In addition, we currently have five students receiving services through Skype, our Women’s Group is picking up members and is thriving, and our beginners group is also doing well.



Our Sangha in California continues to practice in a Martial Arts dojo in Northern California, as well as practice Zen in the park. While Rev. KoMyo is sorely missed, Student Shoji is ably filling in.



Our Sangha in El Paso is also doing well. They just completed a Zazenkai there. We are pleased that Rev. Kankin is doing such a great job making Zen practice available to both West Texas and Juarez Mexico.



In March we were interviewed by a local newspaper reporter and a Master’s student doing research on Zen Temples. The student seemed surprised that our Order was so widespread and that we used Skype Internet communications. One example of educational thought to be lagging behind the real world.



Lastly, we have revived Team Zen and it has sparked a lot of interest. We believe this effort is one way to assist local charities and practice Zen Running and Zen Walking in the process. If you have an interest in becoming a Team member, please sign up at YahooGroups. Search for TeamZen there.



Thank you each for being an active part of this growing grassroots Zen movement to make Zen available to everyone even if there is no sitting group in an area and no teacher available. As the quote from my Dharma Grandfather below points out, we make a monastery in our heart. I cannot help but see us each as a lotus in bloom.



Be well.