Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Zen Buddhism El Paso Texas (11/21/2009)

Yes, we will be sitting this Saturday, 330pm, November 21, at 711 Robinson in the Kern Place neighborhood. Hope you can join us.



Toward the end of his life, the Buddha took his disciples to a quiet pond for instruction. As they had done so many times before, the Buddha’s followers sat in a small circle around him, and waited for the teaching.

But this time the Buddha had no words. He reached into the muck and pulled up a lotus flower. And he held it silently before them, its roots dripping mud and water.

The disciples were greatly confused. Buddha quietly displayed the lotus to each of them. In turn, the disciples did their best to expound upon the meaning of the flower: what it symbollized, and how it fit into the body of Buddha’s teaching.

When at last the Buddha came to his follower Mahakasyapa, the disciple suddenly understood. He smiled and began to laugh. Buddha handed the lotus to Mahakasyapa and began to speak.

“What can be said I have said to you,” smiled the Buddha, “and what cannot be said, I have given to Mahakashyapa.”

Mahakashyapa became Buddha’s successor from that day forward.


Since the November cold snap it’s been more and more difficult for John to find flowers for the altar in his neighborhood or in the arroyo, so he walked down to Albertson’s and bought a bunch of cut lilies, the three-bunches-for-$12 kind. He picked one for the altar, and the others he put in a tall vase on the dining room table. The lily he chose for the altar was beautiful--fully formed and open, a soft-russet spotted with dark specks and with white showing through, its creative parts fully exposed although of course no bees or hummingbirds are allowed inside the Zendo. While lighting the candle and seeing the lily I remembered the story the Buddha, his flower and his student. After serving tea, I placed the flower on the floor so we could see it easily. I rang the bell, we sipped our tea and enjoyed the flower in silence. Silence can be difficult but not always. Certainly not with the flower. After tea and the bell and the Four Great Vows, I blew out the candle, we thanked each other and we stacked the zabutons and the zafus. That’s been a few days now. The flower is probably dead.

By the way, scholars are not sure whether this story is true or not. The Wikipedia article suggests that it may be an invention of the Chinese Ch'an Buddhists. I don't really care. It's a good story.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Zen Buddhism El Paso Texas (11/14/2009)

Yes, we will be sitting this Saturday, 330pm, November 14, at 711 Robinson in the Kern Place neighborhood. Hope you can join us.

Two books that have been recommended to me recently from Zensters I respect and listen to:

The first was BUDDHA'S MIND: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom (or here) by Ph.D. Rick Hanson. The recommendation came from Mike SoGozen LaTorra, abbot of the Zen Center of Las Cruces. Several folks in our Sangha and its suburbs are interested in the neurological and physiological responses to Zen practice, so here's an opportunity to dig a little deeper into that work. There are also a couple of videos available online dealing with similar material, and if you're interested, drop me a note.

The second is Philippe Coupey's ZEN: SIMPLY SITTING. Harvey SoDaiho Hilbert recommended this one in one of his daily commentaries: "It is a commentary on Master Dogen's Fukanzazengi [Universal Guide on the Correct Practice of Zazen]. I must say immediately, it is a wonderfully insightful and very practical volume. Sometimes, the best things are in the simplest formats. Direct, complete, simple."

Sit well, sit strong.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Zen Buddhism El Paso Texas (11/7/20090

Well, our blogspot is not showing up when I google, so for a while I will use the same title over and over again until we start getting some recognition in the digitized universe. Yes, we will be sitting tomorrow at 330pm at 711 Robinson. I look very much forward to it. I've been away for a couple of Saturdays and I certainly miss sitting with the Sangha and chanting and staring at the wall, the smoke of the incense rising and shifting with our breathing. The sermon of the incense, the sermon on the smoke.

This is a photograph of John Daido Loori Roshi (and here) who died October 9th at the age of 78. He received Dharma Transmission from both the Soto and Rinzai lineages, making him "one of three Western dharma-holders in both the Soto and Rinzai schools," according to scholar Richard Hughes. Loori is the founder of the Zen Mountain Monastery and the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen. In terms of his understanding of Zen in America, he called himself "a radical conservative," an explanation that makes sense if you read his work. During my own studies for Jukai, I read both his THE HEART OF BEING: Moral and Ethical Teachings of Zen Buddhism and THE EIGHT GATES OF ZEN: A Program of Zen Training. They are important books, and I recommend them highly.