Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas, Zensters on Both Sides, No Sides, All Sides

The day after Christmas. So to practice we sit in the mornings and the evenings and maybe in-between. The practice of zazen informs our daily life. Going to work, eating breakfast, washing the dishes, saying hello to the people that cross our path.

If you’ve been raised in our culture, our civilization—aka, Western, the Judeo-Christian, American, whatever you want to call it—then you’ve been touched in one way or another by the story of Jesus who was born in Bethlehem and who 30-something years later was crucified in Jerusalem. It doesn’t matter if you’re an agnostic, Christian, Jew, Native American, atheist, Buddhist, something else or none of the above, the story of Jesus has entered into your thinking and understanding. It’s simply part of the language of who you are. So how do we, as practitioners of Zen, think about the story? Instead of ignoring it (or worse, mocking it) or, on the other extreme, accepting it as truth with no questions asked, my belief is that we should work to understand it. Like we work to understand all the many stories in the Buddhist and Zen traditions. The principle elements of the story of Jesus are found in so many stories of the Buddha and Zen Masters—human birth, practice, teaching, death and resurrection.

So what does it mean to be the son (or daughter) of God?

So yes we will be sitting this Tuesday, 7pm, @ 4425 Byron at the Unitarian Sanctuary. On cold nights the front door may be shut but it’s not locked. You can see the lights through the stained-glass windows. We’ll be sitting inside, ringing the bell, lighting the candle and the incense, chanting and sitting and sipping at our tea. It happens like that every time. Strange, how it’s never the same. I hope to see you guys there if you can make it.

And Merry Christmas to you all. And please, like Jesus of Nazareth taught, respond to others, especially to those in need, with wisdom and kindness.

[P.S. The painting is by Pieter van Breugel the Elder, one of my all time favorite painters. He was one of the masters during the Flemish Renaissance, and he loved to mixed the profane and the sacred, humor and wisdom into his work.]

Friday, December 17, 2010

Photographs from Rohatsu Sesshin 2010

Boddhisattvas after Rohasu

Kathy, Alice & Suki before we got started

The altar atop the new floor completed right before the bell rang

Susan Hakushi Beckett
Taking the Three Refuges & receiving her Wagessa

The Altar for the Ceremonies

Heather Kishin Ogston
Taking the Three Refuges & receiving her Wagessa

David KoMyo Novotny and Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi
During the KaeSanbo Ceremony for KiShin

Kathy RyoGin Sorenson
Taking the Three Refuges & receiving her Wagessa
(Her husband John Shogi is taking her photo on the other side)

John Shoji Sorenson: Jukai Ceremony
Taking the 16 Vows

John Shoji Sorenson's Rakusu
Fresh with his Buddhist name & the date of the ceremony

Order of Clear Mind Zen Lineage of Priests
Beginning bottom right, clockwise:
Bonnie Bussho Hobbs, Celia Kajo,
Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi, Bobby KanKin Byrd, David KoMyo Novotny

Celebration afterwards @ the Village Inn down the street

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rohatsu Sesshin @ The Clear Mind Zen Temple in Las Cruces

The Bodhi Tree

Over the December 6th weekend I attended a sesshin at Clear Mind Zen Temple in Las Cruces. This end of the year sesshin celebrates Rohatsu, the Buddha’s Enlightenment. It’s the central stories in our practice. It goes something like this. Siddhartha Gautama, or Shakyamuni (whichever you prefer—I like Siddhartha because I read Herman Hesse’s novel when I was a teenager) had given up his life of asceticism. He had whittled down his daily intake of food to several grains of rice a day, and he must have understood that he was dying from lack of food. He didn’t want to die. That was not the point. So he had begun to eat again, to take the path we know as “the Middle Way.” His compatriots left him because they felt he had gone astray. But he didn’t turn away from his practice of zazen. Thus, he sat down under the Bo Tree (aka Bodhi Tree), a huge fig tree, and he vowed not return to the world of men until he had received Enlightenment. And so he sat and sat some more. Surely, he rose from time to time and did walking meditation beneath the huge tree with its heart shaped leaves. Surely he ate some rice and vegetables, something to keep his strength. Surely he had to go out into the woods and relieve himself. He was a man after all. But he always returned to the lotus posture of his zazen.

Zazen, as Dogen always reminds us, is action. 

Siddharta cupped his hands in the cosmic mudra and slipped into deep meditation. I don’t know how long this went on. But it was a long time. One morning before dawn cracked open the sky he looked up into the black sky in the southeast. There he saw the Morning Star and he received complete realization, complete enlightenment, nirvana. It has many names. The universe was exactly as it is. Nothing added. The shell of his self was empty and so was full.

My heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, was released from the fermentation of sensuality, released from the fermentation of becoming, released from the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there was the knowledge, ‘Released.’ I discerned that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.’

There was nothing left for him to do. But he did not turn his back on the world of women and men. Instead, he returned as teacher. He went and found his friends who had left him and he told them about what he had become and the Four Noble Truths which concluded with the Eight-Fold Noble Path. These are our gateway toward our own realization. These are the foundation of the Buddha Way. Our practice.

So this event was what we celebrated on December 8th. Around the world others were doing similar practice this week, many much more intensive than our own, others less intensive. Ours is a Householder Zen. Our practitioners come from their families and their lives for the time they can afford and they come to sit together. We had folks from California, Las Cruces and El Paso. It was a good solid group, 10 to 14, depending when you walked in the front door. We sat three periods Friday night, 14 periods Saturday, five periods Sunday. The bell was ringing; the candles and the incense were lit. We all had a place on the floor for our zabuton and our zafu, we all had a piece of the wall to stare at. Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi gave us teishos on Friday night and Sunday morning--good stuff to ferment during our practice. David Komyo Novotny was the sesshin leader, and he made sure that all was quiet and he marked the time. Celia Kajo was our Ino, although she got pulled away from time to time by her life duties. I was the Tenzo, the cook, and Katia SokuShin Masuryk was my assistant. We prepared and served the meals. Truly, an honor. Luckily I had recently re-read Master Dogen’s “Instructions to the Cook.” Essentially, how to be present in the activities of being a cook, how to respect and prepare the food, how to organize the life of the kitchen and how to organize one’s own mind to make the process meaningful. On Sunday three members took their first deep steps into their practice. The ceremony is called the KaeSanbo, or taking the Refuges in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. They receive their Buddhist names of Zen practice and their wagessa which they had sewn. They were Susan Hakushi Beckett of Las Cruces, a student of Kajo; Heather Kishin Ogston of California and a student of KoMyo; and Kathy RyoGin Sorenson, a student of Daiho Roshi's. John Shoji Sorenson took the Jukai vows and received his rakusu which he too had made. They were beautiful ceremonies for each, and the talks of the teachers and the recipients demonstrated the power of this practice. [Note: I'll post photographs of these ceremonies in a separate post and on our Facebook page.]

We worked and we sat. That’s what Zen is--zazen and sweeping the floor. Being who you are, discovering who you are, and looking up one morning and seeing the morning star or hearing the mockingbird atop the juniper tree.

And you experience the universe as it is.
It’s been there all along.
Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.
How can that be?

May we all sit strong in the New Year, may we all receive enlightenment together.

[Note: soon I will put up some photographs I took at the sesshin, so please check back later here or on our facebook page.]

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Zen Fundamentalism: Just Sitting

This is a cool video--Master Gudo Wafu Nishijima showing us how to sit. The half-lotus, the full-lotus--it's a pleasure to watch the old man fold his legs into zazen. His discussion of the ears helped me remember my ears and my spine. And zazen, just sitting, is where we learn the first step along the Eightfold Noble Path: Right View. Indeed, Right View "is the beginning and the end of the path. It simply means to see and understand things as they are." Or as Nishijima might say, Zen is about the experience of reality.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Dana Paramita: The Act of Giving

We breathe in.
We breathe out.
We take from the universe.
We give to the universe.

The act of giving is Dana, the first Paramita, the first Perfection. Dana we discover is really a two-way street, receiving and giving, breathing in and breathing out.

I write this note to ask you all during this time of giving to remember our Zen Community, Both Sides / No Sides here straddled on the U.S./Mexico Border. We’ve been fortunate to have the use of the sanctuary at the El Paso Unitarian Community for our Tuesday evening services. For this opportunity we pay $100 a month. So far we’ve been able to pay each month, but for a few months we’ve had to wait a couple of weeks to gather enough funds for our payment. And to be honest our payments have fallen on the shoulders of several of our members who are with us every week. We have no reserves, and we will have expenses beyond the use of the UU sanctuary. I ask each of you to give as you are able. If you cannot attend our services and wish to give, please send a check to John Byrd @ 701 Texas Avenue, El Paso, TX 79901. On the memorandum line note that the check is to the Both Sides / No Sides Zen Community. John is our treasurer and keeps exact records of receipts and payments.

And oh yes, we will be sitting this Tuesday, the 14th, at 7pm @ 4425 Byron. And by the way, there are Six Paramitas, or Perfections—

Dana Paramita: Generosity, giving of oneself.
Sila Paramita: virtue, morality, discipline, proper conduct
Kshanti Paramita—patience, tolerance, acceptance
Virya Paramita—diligence, effort
Dhyana Paramita—concentration, contemplation
Prajna Paramita—wisdom, insight

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Human Brain: So Who Are We?

"Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions -- motion, speech, self-awareness -- shut down one by one. An astonishing story."

Note: I thought this post was already up on the Both Sides /  No Sides blog but when I went and looked for it, I couldn't find. That's because it was on my personal blog. I was looking for this interview for a practitioner who is studying with me--indeed, a person who has had an experience similar to Ms. Taylor's--and so I thought I'd add it here for future reference. Mike LaTorra, aka Gozen, a Zen priest and abbott at the Las Cruces Zen Center  sent the link out on his list way back in April 2008. The video went viral for a while and I've thought about it much since. I have some differences with with some of the conclusion, but that's cool. Her talk is most important. At the link, you can read and copy the text of her talk, but I highly recommend that you watch the 18 minute video. It's a most remarkable lecture--scientific very interesting, witty and wise.  
  / Bobby Kankin

Ms. Taylor, a neuroanatomist at Harvard, experienced a stroke on the left side of her brain, and because of her expertise she was able to witness the separation of her right and left brain lobes and to understand precisely how they each see the world. The talk is eight-plus years after the stroke, the time it took for her to fully recover. She became, in her words, in those few hours before help arrived like a new born baby in a woman's body. She had no language, no skills, no baggage of her 37 years on the planet. Yet, it was euphoria, a leap into what she called nirvana. And she realized during the experience that was soon to be dead. Luckily for us, this last transition didn't happen. She awoke finally in a hospital, startled to be alive. Her talk brings up incredible questions for me as a citizen of all the different communities where I hang my hat, for my work as a poet and writer and for my practice as a Zen Buddhist, those nagging spiritual or religious (I hate both those words, so much baggage) interests I carry around in my heart.

She says toward the end of her talk--

So who are we? We are the life force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere where we are -- I am -- the life force power of the universe, and the life force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form. At one with all that is. Or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere. where I become a single individual, a solid, separate from the flow, separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the “we” inside of me.

Coincidentally, about the time I first watched this video Lee and I were on a roadtrip back and forth to Dallas and were listening to an audible telling of War and Peace (those 1300 miles weren't nearly enough for that huge book). Tolstoi describes Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who when almost fatally wounded on the battlefield having an almost identical experience as the one Ms. Taylor describes.

Thank you, Jill Bolte Taylor.
And Peace.

Monday, November 22, 2010


This long holiday weekend my youngest son Andy Byrd is coming home with his daughter, and Johnny Byrd’s birthday is Tuesday night, November 23rd, so I’ve decided to cancel our services for tomorrow night. Come next week, Tuesday November 30th, we’ll be ringing the bell again, bowing to our cushions—to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha—and sitting together in the big sanctuary of the Unitarian Center.

Light the candle on your altar and a stick of incense for peace in the city of Juárez.

Light the candle on your altar and a stick of incense for peace in our own hearts and minds.

I hope you are all well and that your practice is strong.

I bow to each of you.

Bobby Kankin

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Practicing the Dharma: Buddhist Chaplaincy Program

Thanks to Mike Dretsch for sending this link via his Facebook page. Mike is a member of our Sangha although he lives in Georgia. His practice is leading him into new places. He is busy sewing his black rakusu. I thank him for his practice.

Monday, November 1, 2010

New Altar for our Sangha

With many thanks to Hogaku Shozen McGuire Roshi (aka Roshi Ken), our sangha--Both Sides / No Sides Zen Community of El Paso / Juarez--now has a new altar for our practice. A few months ago when we first moved into our new digs at the Unitarian Community, Roshi Ken asked me if there a particular piece of furniture that we needed.

An altar, I said.
How do you like your altars? he said.

Ken is an accomplished wood-worker, as you can see from the photo of his workshop in Las Cruces. We talked back and forth. Since we must move stuff and set up every practice session, we needed an altar that is portable, but it also needs to be big enough to store all of our paraphernalia--the bells, the mukugyo (the fish), the incense bowls, all the odds and ends. Also I wanted the top to be hinged with handles on the sides for carrying the altar from one place to the next.

Yes, yes, I can do that, said Roshi Ken.

And besides, he added the extra ingredient--the stand and the altar are separate, which makes moving it from one place to another simple for a pair of zensters. Please join us on Tuesday nights, 7pm, at 4475 Byron in El Paso, and you can enjoy our altar with us.

Postscript: Some notes. Roshi Ken is in the business of wood-working (please visit his Zen Furnishings website) but he gave us this altar to us as Dana. "Dana" is the First Paramita, the first perfection, and it means generosity, the act of generosity. I have received it in that spirit. He didn't ask for anything in return, but I wrote him a personal check for $40 to cover his materials. We bowed to each other--giving and receiving, the act of reciprocity. He also gave us a beautiful hand-crafted incense bowl made of wood. It has two square containers, one for burning of incense and the other to hold the granules of incense that we offer during our incense ceremony. This was not a gift, but I took it along on $40 of credit which I hope the Sangha can pay in the near future. I write all this because we must remember as a Sangha our responsibilities in the everyday world, the marketplace. We pay $100 a month for the use of the wonderful sanctuary at the Unitarian Community. We did have a bit of a surplus, but that is no longer true. Please consider adding to our Dana Bowl, either when you sit with us or by mail. Johnny Byrd is our Sangha's treasurer. He can be reached @ (915) 861-9214. Or you can send a check to him at 701 Texas Avenue, El Paso, TX 79901.

Many thanks and a deep bow to all of you for your continuing practice.
Bobby Kankin

Monday, October 25, 2010

How to Eat Your Lunch

Going out to lunch in Galveston this last Saturday I took along John Daido Loori’s little book Bringing the Sacred to Life. Its subject is how to consciously practice our liturgy in the Zendo, how to perform our daily practice in our homes and, simply, how to practice out in the world. How to make our daily practice sacred? One of the subjects is eating. It's something we do everyday, but usually we're not paying attention, we're not conscious of the activity of eating. We read a book, the newspaper, we talk to others (real or imaginary), we daydream, we make plans. According to Zen, if we are eating, then we should eat. The point is to be conscious during the process of eating. So here:

We take our food in a bowl. We call the bowl the Buddha’s bowl. Master Dogen said:

"The Buddha bowl is not an artifact, it neither arises nor perishes, neither comes nor goes, neither gains nor loses. It is not concerned with past, present or future. This bowl is called the miraculous bowl."

Miraculous because it’s used in a miraculous event, at a miraculous time, by a miraculous person. On this account, when a miraculous event is realized, there is a miraculous bowl. There is no need to search for the miraculous. We’re surrounded by it, interpenetrated by it. Our very life is a manifestation of that miraculousness. When we acknowledge that the food we eat comes from the efforts of all sentient beings, past and present, we immediately identify with that Great Net of Indra.

Of course, after reading this passage, I had to set down my book, give a prayer of thanksgiving and pay attention to my meal. Spicy caldo de pescado. It was delicious.

I hope to see you tomorrow night.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tea cups, Tuesday nights

Tuesday nights @ 7pm services and zazen seems to be working fine. Last week Susana, representing our Sangha during the incense ceremony and offering the tea, had to pour seven cups of tea. We only have nine sets of zafus and zabutons. And the interesting thing is that Susana and I were the only regulars. The usual suspects were working late, sick, traveling or caring for babies. The new folks (they sat strong, like champs) had come via a friend, word of mouth and the blog. One had come for a third time. My gosh, soon we’ll have to be buying new zafus and zabutons. I look forward to sitting with our Sangha this Tuesday.

But right now I’m in Galveston with my son Johnny. It’s a beautiful sunny day, the surf pounding against the Seawall. Last night, when we got here, I walked along the Seawall, the surf was at high tide, the roaring incessant sound of the waves, the moist wind coming off the Gulf. The seashore always attracts a wild and very diverse menagerie of people, and I’m so happy to be one of them. Our family has a lot of personal history in Galveston, which I won’t go into now, but the city feels like home in so many ways. So I’m glad to be here, although tomorrow we turn around and come back home. Our 3rd floor room has a tiny little balcony and that’s where I sat Zazen this morning. When it’s possible I like to drag my zafu and zabuton outside from time to time and sit. It makes me realize how important it is that the senses be engaged—actively passive—during zazen. It’s important to keep the eyes open during practice, to let in a little bit of light, not to focus on any object, but to simply have the sense of sight present in zazen. I have trouble with this. My eyelids begin to feel heavy and want to shut, and sometimes they do, but when I notice them shut, then I open them. The light is there. So is the sound of traffic on the Seawall, a gull screeching about its morning hunger, some children playing, a worker taking out the garbage and banging the dumpster door shut.

Sit strong and straight. Breathe easy.

Bobby, aka KanKin

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sangha Building

When Suzuki-roshi first came to Sokoji (San Francisco Zen Temple) people would be referred to him for direction. They would come with all kinds of questions, and wanted answers. He simply told them "I sit every morning at 5:45, you are welcome to join me." 
This is a response by David KoMyo Novotny, a disciple of Harvey Daiho Roshi, to one of Daiho's blog about "Sangha Building" that I am pasting below. This is my belief also--if we sit, then our sangha will grow. And so it seems our Tuesday night schedule seems to be working: 7pm, 4425 Byron at the Unitarian Community. We sit and more people come. We've been averaging six or seven. Sweet. Who knows if that will continue. Who knows if we'll need to buy more zabutons and zafus. But, one way or the other, we'll continue to sit. Ken McGuire Roshi has built us an altar which I need to pick up this week. The weather is changing from summer to winter. It's so nice. I hope you can make it some evening.
If I want to build a sangha, I do not look for Zen Buddhists or even Buddhists for that matter. That would be a big mistake as I would be likely to collect a motley crew of people with all sorts of ideas about Zen.

No. First, I wouldn’t look period. I would find a place and set a time, and then I would just sit. Second, I would welcome whoever came to sit with me.  The key is openness and keeping our eye on the ball: practice. I might post a flier or two.  I would ask my friends.  I would first and last, however, practice. People too often set out with ideas in mind. This is not the Zen way.  We do not chase ideas.  We practice zazen.
Training is important when we get past just sitting.  Instruction is important before and during our zazen.  We never get past just sitting.  Training in the forms is an issue for Zen Temples and Practice Centers.  Important, yes, but not essential. What is essential first is that we understand what we are doing and second, our limitations.  We are practicing zazen. Instruction on this practice is readily available and quite simple.  Its practice is difficult. We should be careful not to allow the fact that we do not have a sangha, room, or building to take us away from our practice. We always have a park or a tree or a sidewalk or some other public space we can just sit in. Kinhin can be practiced pretty much anywhere and at anytime.  And mindfulness practice becomes a deeply ingrained way of life.
Let the labels go.  Zen Buddhists?  Not necessarily.  People willing to sit down with us and take the backward step?  Yes! Compassionate hearts?  Yes!  Diligent hearts?  Yes!
It is the practice that is essential, nothing else.
NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: I was looking in my archives for a nice photograph for "sangha" and I found this one from a wonderful sesshin (August 2005) conducted at Daiho's Refuge a bit off the grid northeast of Cloudcroft, NM. Bonnie Hobbs and Reba Montera, the two ladies on the right, still practice with Clear Mind. Mike Gozen LaTorra, the man in the middle, is the Abbott and teacher at the Las Cruces Zen Center on Mesquite Avenue. The lady far left and the man on the right I don't remember their names. And, I am embarrassed to say, I don't remember the name of the lady, second from the left. She was a long time practitioner in Las Cruces--a yoga teacher and masseuse. That very weekend she massaged my back and the tension and pain slipped away like water. She's moved up to Santa Fe and we miss her. And if you can, help me out with her name. Egads. I am embarrassed.

But what this photograph also reminds me is that the Clear Mind Zen Temple in Las Cruces is planning the Rohatsu Sesshin for the weekend of December 10. Rohatsu is the celebration of the Buddha's Enlightenment and, thus, it's the most important sesshin of the calendar year. And the most rigorous. Please look at your calendars and, if you can, plan to attend. More about this soon.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Genevieve Ramirez, the baby daughter of Ruby Finlen Ramirez and Sangha member Sebastian Ramirez did not need to learn to do the mindfulness dance. She does it perfectly. Congratulations to the whole family from all of us.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Zazenkai Saturday, 9/11, 9am

"Zen is not, in my view, philosophy or mysticism. It is simply a practice of readjustment of nervous activity. That is, it restores the distorted nervous system to its normal functioning." This image and quote from the essay "Ordinary Mind" by Katsuki Sekida from the very interesting blogspot "We are Perfect Buddha Mind."
2709 Louisville (click heer for map)
Call Bobby Byrd at 915-241-3140 for more information

9:00 - 9:30AM           Beginning Services, Tea and Talk
9:30 - 11:00               Three Zazen periods
11:00 - 11:15             Break
11:15 - 12:15PM       Two Zazen periods
12:15 - 1:00               Lunch / Rest
1:00 - 1:30                 One Zazen period
1:30 - 2:00                 Samu (Work meditation) and Dokusan (see note below)
2:00 - 3:00                 Two Zazen periods
3:00 - 3:30                 Closing Services with cookies and tea              

Note: Dokusan is a private interview with a teacher. It gives you an opportunity to talk personally about your practice and to ask questions. It is not required, but can be requested.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Let's get on with it." Robert Aitken: 1917-2010

The passage below is from The Mind of Clover, p110, the chapter "Eating the Blame." In the chapter Aitken is discussing some of the famous stories of Zen, how the monks and their teachers can participate in "Dharma Combat" because they have stepped aside the self, the "me," and are able to speak from their true self. This is his question of us: Do you, in speaking about your practice, defend yourself, exonerate yourself? Or do you simply dance with the other and thereby reveal the dharma.

Sangha is a treasure of the Buddha Tao, ranking with enlightenment and the truth. Singing and dancing are the voice of the dharma; cooking and gardening are the voice of the Buddha. Sangha is the complementarity of unity and diversity, of emptiness and form. Sangha is the story of the Buddha, lived out in our work together.

The sangha ideal is our guide through the complexities of people in combination. Everybody is different, and so misunderstandings arise. With our realization of pure emptiness, with our sense that nothing really matters, we find true devotion because we no longer worry about ourselves. The great potential of the Dharmakāya becomes our own unimpeded great action. Differences become configurations we can use and our collective energy can be focused on the task.

Let’s get on with it. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010


NOTE: A minor modification in our schedule. We’ll ring the bell at 7pm, not 715pm, Tuesday nights, in the Sanctuary of the UUCEP, 4475 Byron in Central/NE El Paso. The sanctuary has a big hand-crafted double-door. It's very welcoming. I’ll be arriving 30 minutes early to set up, moving chairs and arranging our zafus, zabutons and altar. All are welcome to come early and help.
Sanctuary in the Morning Light
Unitarian Universalist Community of El Paso
4475 Byron Street in Central / NE El Paso

Last Tuesday night our sangha had our first services in the sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Community of El Paso. Janet Kincaid, the president of the UUCEP Board, served as our welcoming host. She gave me a key, helped us set up and showed us all the little odds and ends of our new surroundings so that we will feel welcome in our new practice hall. She was very generous and helpful. Four of us were in attendance, and others have said the time is right for them. We expect attendance to grow. Janet has said members of the UUCEP may be interested. Herself included.

The sanctuary is a big room made cozy by the hand-labor and love that the UUCEP community put into creating it back in the 70s. We are honored to sit there, but it will take some getting used to. The new space, the new time. It throws a little chaos into our lives and into our practice. That’s good. It’s not supposed to be easy. The acoustics are very different. The room swallows up the sound so I’m glad we have the big bell and our big mukugyo, the wooden fish, its eyes always open, as we beat upon it, chanting the Heart Sutra—form is emptiness, emptiness form. And we’ll need to be more attentive. Chairs have to be moved before services, and they need to be returned afterwards. We’ll need to be responsible for the altar and the flowers and the candles and all the chores of our service that John Fortunato did for us in offering us his home for our practice. I am personally thankful for his work for our sangha. And now we move on.

Gone, gone, gone to the other world, having never left.

That’s what the Heart Sutra says. But how does that happen?

The bell and the fish and the flowers and the candle and the zafus and our voices and our silence. Especially our silence. Being upright in our silence.

So we sit down and shut up.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Clear Mind Zen Temple in Las Cruces opens August 27th

Clear Mind Zen Temple
642 South Alameda Boulevard, Suite E
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88005

Clear Mind Zen Temple in Las Cruces, NM, Opens August 27th

The Order of Clear Mind Zen will officially open its Temple and dedicate it to serve southern New Mexico on Friday, August 27th, from 4:00 to 6:00 PM.  Please come, see our new Temple located at 642 South Alameda, Suite E, meet the Abbot, and help us in the Temple’s dedication.  Light refreshments will be served.

The Temple offers Zen meditation Monday through Friday at 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM. The Temple also offers a full Zen service on Sunday at 9:00 AM and a Zen discussion group on Fridays at 4:00 PM.  T’ai Chi Chih is offered on Wednesdays at 4:00 PM and Yoga will be offered on Thursdays from 4:30 PM to 5:15 PM (beginning in September). We practice Zen in the Park on Mondays and Fridays at 9:00 AM.

Clear Mind Zen Temple is the headquarters Temple for the Order of Clear Mind Zen, an Engaged Zen Buddhist Order with affiliates in Texas and California.  Please visit our website at for additional information or call Rev. Harvey Daiho Hilbert-roshi at 575-680-6680.

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Digs for Both Sides / No Sides Zen Community of El Paso and Juarez

The Unitarian Universalist Community of El Paso has graciously offered our sangha the use of their sanctuary at 4425 Byron. The bell will ring tomorrow night, Tuesday August 17th, at 7:15pm. We will pay the UUCEP a monthly stipend, which we will settle on tomorrow. In the first few months, there may be a disruption on one or two Tuesday nights until our schedule and that of the UUCEP are both 100% in sync, so remember to check the emails and/or the blog.

To get there, follow this google link.

I hope to see you tomorrow night.

Monday, August 9, 2010

We're moving our digs

We change, everything (dukkha) changes, our creations change.

It was decided last Saturday that the No Sides / Both Sides Zen Community will be moving to new digs and we will also change our schedule. We have not decided as yet where we will be, nor what time we will sit together to stare at a wall in silence.

The Saturday 3:30pm schedule was not working. Saturday is a day scrambled together with home chores and family responsibilities, so it was difficult for folks to get there. I thank all those who have been able to work their schedules around the Saturday time and come sit with us. If you have a preferred time, please contact me, and I will throw that into the mix. My preferred time is Monday evening because Lee has a weekly engagement 6-9pm. Other nights may also work. And, if at all possible, we will try to throw a morning sit into the mix.

We are looking for a place to hold services. I will be contacting the Unitarian Community on Byron Street about the possibility of holding our services there. They did, at one time, have a Zen group practicing there on Tuesday night. There are other possibilities. We’ll see what happens. I think it’s important that there is some reciprocity involved--that we pay rent.

Finally, I want to thank John Fortunato for the years he has allowed the Sangha to use his house as our practice hall. We’ve spent many hours in that spacious back room, the light from the windows, the white floor and walls, the smell of incense, the bell ringing, our voices, our silence. Not too long ago I was ordained there. It was a glorious event, and John covered the altar with flowers.

But really our lives--our homes and our places of work, the marketplace--this is our practice hall.

Do good.
Avoid evil.
Bring about abundant good for all beings.

If you have questions or suggestions, please contact me at or 915-241-3140
Many thanks for your continued practice.
--Bobby Byrd, aka Kankin

Monday, August 2, 2010

Walt Whitman meets Hotei the Happy Buddha in El Paso

For whatever reasons, this week Hotei and Walt Whitman popped into my head. Like they were holding hands and whispering into my ear about the same thing. So I posted something about them below. But before that, here's this week's schedule. Please come to our Sangha meeting. It would be good to see you. Thank you for your continuing practice.
--Bobby / aka Kankin

Wednesday morning, August 4, 6am. Basic zazen. No chanting, no services, simply sitting.

Saturday afternoon, August 7, 3:30pm. Formal sitting with services, zazen, tea and dharma talk.

NOTE: This Saturday, instead of a dharma talk and discussion, we will have a Sangha meeting. We want to discuss ways to bring new members to our sangha, our current schedule, scheduling sesshins and zazenkais, our finances, chores to help, etcetera. All are welcome.

Anyone walking about Chinatowns in America will observe statues of a stout fellow carrying a linen sack. Chinese merchants call him Happy Chinaman or Laughing Buddha. This Hotei, aka Budai.  He lived in the T'ang dynasty. He had no desire to call himself a Zen master or to gather many disciples around him. Instead he walked the streets with a big sack into which he would put gifts of candy, fruit, or doughnuts. These he would give to children who gathered around him in play. He established a kindergarten of the streets.

Whenever he met a Zen devotee he would extend his hand and say: "Give me one penny."

Once as he was about to play-work another Zen master happened along and inquired: "What is the significance of Zen?"

Hotei immediately plopped his sack down on the ground in silent answer.

"Then," asked the other, "what is the actualization of Zen?"

 At once the Happy Chinaman swung the sack over his shoulder and continued on his way.

Walt Whitman

This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
Despise riches,
Give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others,
Hate tyrants,
Argue not concerning God,
Have patience and indulgence toward the people
Take off your hat to nothing known or unknown
Or to any man or number of men—
Go freely with powerful uneducated persons,
And with the young, and with the mothers or families
Re-examine all that you have been told at school or church or in any book,
Dismiss what insults your very own soul,
And your very flesh shall be a great poem;
And [it shall] have the richest fluency,
Not only in [your] words,
But in the silent lines of [your] lips and face,
And between the lashes of your eyes,
And in every motion and joint of your body.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Time Passes Quickly: Zen Buddhism in El Paso and Juarez

Yes, Saturday July 31, 3:30pm we'll be having our services at 711 Robinson. Also, the following week after services and during tea Approximately (4:45pm), we'll have a general Sangha meeting to discuss general concerns. Anything that can be done better or differently, what we need to do, times for services, how we can attract new members--all this basic stuff will be up for discussion. Please make plans to be there. Your input is valuable.
Han at Upaya

Every morning at a Soto Zen Monastery a practitioner beats on the han to call her colleagues to the zendo for services and zazen. Below are the words on a han in the Soto lineage.


Shou ji ji dai
Mu jou jin soku
Kou in oshimu beshi
Toki hitowo matazu

Great is the matter of Birth and death;
Life slips quickly by;
To waste time is a great shame;
Time waits for no one; 

Thanks to Brad Warner for the calligraphy and the translation. As he says, others use different translations. The point is always the same: You won't be here long.

Han at Tassajara

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Obon Sesshin

The Both Sides / No Sides Zen Buddhist Community of El Paso and Juarez will be having our services Saturday, July 17, at 711 Robinson in the Kern Place Neighborhood of El Paso. Our weekly schedule also includes Wednesday morning sits (no chanting, only sitting) at 6am to 7am. All are welcome. Below are my comments about the Obon sesshin which I attended in Las Cruces this last weekend.

Lifted from Ken Ireland's Spiritually Incorrect Blog

This last weekend I participated with nine others in the Obon Sesshin. Our host was Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi and the Order of Clear Mind Zen in Las Cruces. The Obon celebration in the heat of the summer is the time to feed the hungry ghosts. These beings reside in hell. They have tiny mouths and pencil thin necks perched like grotesque one-legged birds over huge ravenous bellies. The ghosts cannot stuff enough food and drink through those mouths and necks to ever fill those bellies hanging slack over their belts and starving for nourishment. To prepare for the Obon ceremony at the end of sesshin the cook (tenzo) bakes a small cake and cuts it into equal pieces. Each helping of cake is then gift wrapped for the ceremony and placed on the altar.

Before the final ceremony one of our Sangha members spoke to the rest of us. She is a recovering addict, and she understands deeply the nature of hungry ghosts. She indeed understands that she was, and is, a hungry ghost. She never could get enough drugs to satisfy her craving. She asked us to think about addiction and addicts and her own practice during the ceremony. So at the appropriate time, the bells rang and we took turns approaching the altar. Each of us bowed to the Buddha, took a package of cake, offered the cake to the Buddha and to the hungry ghosts, saying our own private prayers as we did so. The recovering addict did likewise but she crumpled her piece of cake into pieces inside the wrapping. She wanted to make sure the hungry ghosts could nibble at the food and swallow it. She wanted to save them, she wanted to save too herself and the rest of us. She wanted to save all sentient beings. We are all hungry ghosts in one way or another. After services, the pieces of cake are unwrapped and scattered in the desert.

I brought a package home. Monday morning, remembering all of this, I wondered what happened to my package. So much confusion and family stuff when I got home, I had forgotten it. But happily I found it in my car. Like my friend taught me I broke up the cake into thousands of small pieces and scattered them through my yard, feeding the hungry ghosts, praying for my family, the sangha, my friends, the people of Juárez, for all sentient beings. Of course, Zen is not magic, the hungry ghosts are not real beings, hell can only be found in our own delusions and so feeding the hungry ghosts is only an exercise, a way of remembering. The only way to feed the hungry ghosts is to take our practice out into our worlds—our families, our sangha, our places of work, our neighborhoods. This is our practice hall. Right now.

--Bobby, Kankin
Los Sesshinistas after the concluding ceremony
A flowering datura plant (jimson weed) in the early sunlight
that Reba Montera and I saw on our way back to sesshin 
after our morning sit in the city park.
Beware the datura. It's poisonous but beautiful.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What Practice Is: Charlotte Joko Beck

Photo from an interview "Life is Not a Problem" 
with Amy Gross in Tricycle Review. 
I recommend the interview wholeheartedly.


Practice is about experiencing the truth of who we really are.
Practice is about being with our life as it is, not as we would like it to be.
Practice is about the clash between what we want and what is.
Practice is about the transformation of our unnecessary suffering.
Practice is about attending to, [and] experiencing, wherever we are stuck, whatever we’re holding, whatever blocks us from our true nature.
Practice is about turning away from constantly seeking comfort and from trying to avoid pain.
Practice ultimately deals with just one thing: the fear at the base of human existence—the fear that I am not.
Practice is about willingly residing in whatever life presents to us.
Practice is about seeing through our belief systems; so even if they remain, they no longer run us.
Practice is about turning from a self-centered view to a life-centered view.
Practice is about learning to be happy, but we will never be happy until we truly experience our unhappiness.
Practice is about slowly increasing our awareness of who we are and how we relate to life.
Practice is about moving from a life of drama to a life of no drama.
Practice is about finally understanding the paradox that although everything is a mess, all is well.
Practice is about learning to say “Yes” to everything, even when we hate it.
Practice always comes back to just the willingness to be.

Note: These statements about practice I found in a little book JB Bryan gave me. I assume he published a small edition of the book, although he didn't add his imprint La Alameda Press. There's more where this comes from. The video is fun too, huh? We get to see how other people go about their business.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Remember our weekly schedule. Plus the Five Remembrances.

Remember our weekly schedule--

Wednesday Morning, 6am, 2 25 minute sits
no folderol, simply sitting (aka Zazen)

Saturday Afternoon, 330pm
all the folderol and the fun that goes with it

Below are the Buddha's Five Remembrances as Translated by Thich Nhat Hahn. Buddha would have his new disciples remember these and silently recite them as they were doing kinhin. The Five Remembrances have been very important to me for years. I recite them at least once a day, and in difficult times or times when I'm physically and emotionally exhausted, I likewise recite them, simply to keep my feet on the ground and my heart calm. [Note: Through the weeks that follow I will add what I think of as "Tools," like the Five Remembrances, and label them as such. Thus, you'll be able to find useful practice tools simply by clicking TOOLS in the list of labels on the right.]

I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.
I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sitting in the Summer Heat

In general, a quiet room is good for experiencing Zen balance, and food and drink are taken in moderation. Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. Do not aim to become a buddha. How could it be connected with sitting or lying down?

Yes, the best secret in the world--711 Robinson, the site of our Zendo, is air conditioned. Real AC. No better place to pull up a zafu and stare at a wall. Or a curtain, as the case may be. We chant, we bow and bow some more. Every week we do our dance steps in the silence. The incense is lit. We sit. Nothing happens. The bell will ring after 25 minutes of sitting. We stand, bow to the cushion, the Ino claps the han and we do our kinhin walk. How beautiful all of us doing the same thing, how beautiful all of us these different expressions of the dharma. Coming around the west corner we get a glimpse of the Wood Buddha at peace with himself. He doesn’t pay any attention to us. What would we expect? Keep on walking, doing the kinhin boogie, eyes lowered, back straight, slow sure steps, breath in, breath out, like the universe, all of us. Approaching the east wall, yes, there’s that little breeze coming from the vent. Smile. Don’t giggle. Simply enjoy. And not to worry--our Ino likes the two-circuit kinhin. Breath in, breath out. One step follows the one step. The han claps. And you get to sit again. But wait until the incense is lit and the bell rings. Bow to the Zafu, bow to the Sangha. Smile. Sit down. There's the wall (curtain) again. We sit. Nothing happens. Once again. We sit for 25 more minutes. The bell will ring, we'll offer incense to the Buddha (so who is this Buddha guy?), we sit and have some tea and talk the dharma talk.

Please come join us.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: WE NOW HAVE A WEDNESDAY MORNING SIT at 6am, same place--711 Robinson. Several Sangha members have asked for a weekday time to sit with the Sangha and John Fortunato has been generous enough to open his home where our Zendo resides. I call it "Fundamentalist Zazen." Two 25 minutes meditation periods. Only bells. No whistles. No words. No dancing. No chants. Between sits no kinhin. Simply a 5 minute break to enjoy in your own silence. Folks can leave and go about their lives. Folks can sip a quick cup of coffee they brought along with them. They can stretch and look at the morning. They can smile at each other. They can continue sitting. The bell will ring to gather us back together. A minute later the bell will ring again for the last sit. And the bell will ring again. Time to stack the zafus and skedaddle.

John Fortunato will need to close up the house and get to work.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Workshop for Survivors of Violence

Coming Home: 
A Day for Survivors of War and Violence
9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, June 19th
Unitarian Universalist Church 
2000 South Solano Drive, Las Cruces, NM.

Violence is a nasty business. On the battlefield, in the home--it doesn't matter where. It has a way of turning lives upside down, shattering our understanding of ourselves, and making home life difficult. So many survivors of violence suffer from symptoms of traumatic stress. These symptoms are normal responses to abnormal circumstances.  They are uncomfortable and can be crazy-making.

Coming Home is a one-day experience for survivors suffering from post-traumatic stress that will offer specific skills toward healing and recovery from the effects of violence. We will off practice skills that are based in the mindfulness practice of Zen.  Participants will learn Meditation Practice, Deep Listening Practice, Writing Practice, Mindful Speech Practice, Eating Practice, and Movement Practice in the context of their own experience through the day. Movement practice will include Yoga by Susie Citrin, RN Certified Yoga Instructor. Rev. Dalene Rogers of Ambercare Hospice will lead Deep Listening and Mindful Speech Sessions.

Coming Home Practice is a project offered by Zen monk, Rev. Dr. Harvey Daiho Hilbert-roshi, founder of the Order of Clear Mind Zen and a disabled Combat Veteran.  Daiho-roshi has worked with trauma survivors as a psychotherapist for nearly thirty years, was a consultant to the Veteran’s Administration, the Vietnam Veterans of America, and has written and published extensively on healing from the moral anguish of combat.

Come Home on June 19th at 9:00 AM at the Unitarian Universalist Church.   There is a minimal fee of $10.00 for food offered during this workshop, but no charge for the workshop itself. Donations will gratefully be welcomed, however.  The Order of Clear Mind Zen has applied to the State of New Mexico as a Non-Profit Religious Corporation.

For reservation and registration, call Rev. Daiho at Clear Mind Zen, 575-680-6680 or email at  For information about Harvey Daiho Hilbert and Clear Mind Zen, visit our website.

Tentative Agenda

08:30 AM Open Registration
09:00 AM Welcome
09:15 What is Wrong With Me?  Absolutely Nothing! Keys to understanding trauma and our response to it. (Rev. Daiho-roshi)
10:00 Meditation Practice / Walking Meditation Practice (Rev. Daiho-roshi)
11:00 Deep Listening Practice (how to listen to heal / Mindful Speech Practice (How to speak to heal) (Rev. Dalene Rogers)
12:00 Eating Meditation:  How do we nurture ourselves? (Staff)
01:00 Seated Meditation Practice / Walking Meditation Practice (Staff)
02:00 Writing Practice (Staff)
03:00 Movement Practice (Susie Citrin, RN)
04:00 Mindful Speech Practice (Questions, Comments, Dialogue) (Staff)
05:00 Close

Monday, June 7, 2010

Zazenkai in El Paso June 12th

Zazenkai this weekend. Zazenkai will begin at 9am and go through the day until our regular services. Then we will have our services and end up at our usual time around 530pm. We will have a vegetarian lunch, so if you plan to attend please notify either me or John Fortunato so we can make appropriate plans. We will have Samu (work-meditation). John suggests that for at least some of us, we will be cleaning the grout between tiles in the Zendo so he can seal it later on. Work on our knees and our butts. You might want to have something different to wear for the samu. Schedule will be posted later in the week.

John Fortunato has given to the Sangha a beautiful new Buddha to sit on our altar. And there he sits now, very peacefully. Mr. Wooden Buddha happily manifesting Buddhahood. The Buddha is handcarved by craftsmen  in Vietnam.  This makes our Buddha even more special for to John because John--like other members of our Sangha and our immediate lineage--is a Vietnam vet.

Please visit with the Buddha the next time you are at the Sangha. Bow to the Buddha in yourself. Pick up the statue of Buddha, smell the wood, feel its texture, laugh at his big ears. He's only a statue. An emblem. A piece of wood that used to a living tree. Then be like the Buddha and sit at peace and stare at the wall and practice good.  Bring about abundant good for all beings.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Practicing Street Zen

Zen Buddhist practice is alive and well in El Paso and Juárez. So, yes, we will be sitting this Saturday, May 30th, 330pm, at 711 Robinson. I hope you can be there. It’ll be Memorial Day Weekend. We’ll sit for peace for the city of Juárez. Below are some reworked journal notes from my first practicing of streetZen with Harvey Daiho Hilbert two months ago.
Zen Buddhist Priest
Practicing Zazen for Peace

Toward the end of March I drove up to Las Cruces to sit streetZen--the practice of doing zazen outside in a public place--with Harvey Hilbert at Veteran’s Park. I had never sat StreetZen with him before. Stuff always got in the way. I am always doing this and that and the two hour roundtrip drive is always a good excuse not to go sit outdoors in the world. But I needed to talk to Harvey about my Shukke Tokudo Ceremony, the Home-Leaving Ceremony that was happening in the next few weeks. I was to become a teacher in the Clear Mind lineage of Zen. I also needed to give him my brown rakusu. I had made my own black rakusu when I took the 16 vows of Jukai and had received the Buddhist name Hen Shin, meaning rebirth or transformation. But the brown I had purchased from, a Zen family-owned company. (I recommend stillsiting highly for a complete range of supplies for Zen practice.) Now, as my teacher, Harvey would once again write my Buddhist name on the white backing and the date of my ordination as a Zen priest. I learned also he had decided to give me a new Buddhist name, Kan Kin, aka Sutra Reader.

It was so good to see Harvey. I was the first time I had seen him since he separated from his wife Judy. Certainly it was a terribly difficult time for both of them. Still is for that matter. But he seemed relaxed and at peace. I hope so. I wish them both all the best. But I really wasn’t surprised. The practice of Zazen is a good, well-tested boat to navigate our particular journeys.

It was a beautiful spring morning in the desert. Harvey and his student Joe--an older man like Harvey and me--were waiting for me. As we prepared to sit, a road runner walked up and stared at us. He was maybe 12 feet from where we sat placed our zabutons and zafus. Then the bird walked off on his stiff legs, his head swinging back and forth. I was delighted. They laughed. That old bird comes every morning, Joe said. The bell rang. Three old farts sitting on a patch of concrete in the middle of the park. The air pure and cool, almost cold, a nice breeze blowing across my face. Time passed. Thoughts moved through me and drifted away. My attention always back to my breath. Bird twitter in the desert. The croaking of a crow, a mockingbird screaming somewhere off in the desert brush. Behind us men, maybe 40 feet away, practiced Tai Chi scuffling tennis shoes on the concrete. Turns out that they, like the road runner, are common witnesses to Harvey's practice of streetZen. In fact, they time their practice to the ringing of the bell. And the bell rang again, time for our kinhin boogie-woogie. The Tai Chi practitioners rested while we did our walking meditation. Then the next bell. We sat some more. Bird song, the breeze, the scuffling of feet. The minutes passed along with the breathing. The bell rang one last time and we were done. We sat there and talked. We watched a man who was playing with his remote control glider. He would hold the glider by its wingtip and swirl around like a dervish, throwing the glider into the sky. The glider, with the man at the remote, would catch hold of currents and lift higher and higher into the sky. Off in another part of the park a couple was walking with their daughter. The girl, maybe 12 years old, is disabled, a sufferer of cerebral palsy. She had very little control of her body, and her parents struggled beside her. The man pulled her along, sometimes roughly (not meanly) to get her up the steps, but that was okay with her. He was frustrated and sad, but he loved her. The way he touched her cheek and brushed back her head. The girl chanted some rhyme, some riddle, some song. Babbling really. I couldn’t make out any word. Buddha Nature. There it is. How do we bear witness to Buddha Nature, huh? How do we understand the presence of this little girl and her parents? Once when I was I was at the Bodhi Manda in Jemez Springs, old Joshu Sasaki Roshi was talking about enlightenment. Goofy little man. Smooth skin. Little bitty eyes that shone. He said, “There is no answer.” And he giggled and looked around the zendo. He added, “And there is no question.” So how do I understand that little girl and her parents? Daily life is full with these koans. And here I am, going about the practice of Zen in my home, with our sangha and out in the world.

StreetZen is about practicing out there in the world. You don't have to be sitting zazen, but zazen is the foundation of Zen practice. So why not drag your zabuton and zafu outside into a public place? Form is emptiness is form. Sometimes the weather is good, sometimes it's not.

Great Faith.
Great Doubt.
Great Effort.

I recommend sitting with Harvey during his streetZen. He practices Monday through Friday in Veteran’s Park in Las Cruces at 9am. To learn more about the StreetZen, click here. And we too can consider our own streetZen practice.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Zen in El Paso/Juarez: May 22

Yes, we will be sitting once again this Saturday, 711 Robinson, 330pm. I hope you're all well. John Fortunato will be leading our services. I'll return next week. I look very much to sitting with you guys.

Recently, Harvey Daiho Hilbert wrote about the Heart Sutra on his Clear Mind Zen blog and also in a list-serv I subscribe too. Maria Lopez, aka Makya, one of the correspondents on the list serve linked to this nice Spanish production of the Heart Sutra. It's from the Thich Nhat Hahn tradition, and it's done very differently from the way we do it on Saturday afternoons, but it's very nice to hear the Spanish and, for our English speakers, to read the subtitles. Also, below the video are the links to Daiho Hilbert's discussion of the Heart Sutra.

Heart Sutra, Part One by Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi
Heart Sutra, Part Two by Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi
Heart Sutra, Part Three by Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi
Heart Sutra, Part Four by Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi
Heart Sutra, Part Five by Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi
Heart Sutra, Last Section by Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Photographs from Bobby Byrd's, aka Kankin, Shukke Tokudo

For all photographs from this event go here. They are also on the Both Sides No Sides facebook page.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Zen Buddhism in El Paso / Juárez

Yes, we will be sitting this Saturday, 711 Robinson,  3:30pm in the Kern Place neighborhood of El Paso. Please join us. For more information, you can call me at 915-241-3140.--Bobby Byrd
I've had the luxury of late to be reading from The Gary Snyder Reader. When I was growing up, wanting to be a poet, learning the first few baby steps about Zen Buddhism, Gary Snyder was a hero. Still is, for that matter. I discovered this going through the reader this last month. His work seems just as wise to me now as it did then. While I read, I took notes in my journal. Below are some of the stuff I gleaned from reading "The East / West Interview." Peter Barry Chowka interviewed Snyder over a five-day period in April 1977 for the East West Journal.

The family is the practice hall.

In one of the Theravada scriptures, the Buddha says, “Be a light unto yourself. In this six-foot-long self is birth and death and the key to the liberation from birth and death.” 

Beware of anything that promises freedom or enlightenment—traps for eager and clever fools—three-quarters of philosophy and literature is the talk of people trying to convince themselves that they really like the cage they were tricked into entering.

To act responsibly in the world doesn’t mean that you always stand back and let things happen: you play an active part, which means making choices, running risks, and karmically dirtying your hands to some extent. That’s what the Bodhisattva ideal is all about.

Too quote my old teacher, Oda Sesso: “In Zen there are only two things: you sit and sweep the garden. It doesn’t matter how big the garden is.”

Find your place on the planet and dig in. 

And then the fundamental ethical precept: Whatever you do, try not to cause too much harm.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Zen Buddhism El Paso / Juarez (3/20/2010) y Upcoming Shukke Tokudo

Yes, we will be sitting Saturday, March 20, 330pm at 711 Robinson. I hope you can make it. Also, we are making plans for the Shukke Tokudo Ceremony on April 3rd. We will have a potluck celebrations afterwards. And, for those of you who wish to sit with us, the day's events will start with a modified Zazenkai beginning at 9am. John Fortunato is the man in charge of both events. If you plan to attend one, the other or both, please get in touch with John so he can make appropriate arrangements.

Shukke Tokudo

On Saturday April 3 at 3:30pm at a gathering of the Both Sides / No Sides Zen Community Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi will perform the Shukke Tokudo Ceremony to ordain me as teacher in the Order of Clear Mind Zen. I will receive the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts. These are the same precepts that I recited for the Jukai Ceremony but this time I receive them for a different reason. And I will exchange my black rakusu for a brown rakusu. I’m taking one little shortcut. I’m buying my new brown rakusu. The black I made myself.

The Shukke Tokudo ordination marks the passage from layperson to monk, nun or priest. I prefer to use the word “teacher.” Several years ago Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi asked that I take these vows. I treaded water. I didn’t want to be a priest. I enjoyed being a Zen layperson--staring at the wall and reading the books and participating in a Sangha. Of course I was happy with having received the precepts during the Jukai Ceremony. And I was happy with my Buddhist name Hen Shin, which he bestowed upon me on April 2, 2005. Ha! It will be five years minus one day. Hen Shin means transformation or rebirth. I liked that idea. For the occasion I made my black rakusu. I had sewed the thing together with my own hands. That was a task. In the evenings and on Saturdays I sat there at the dining room table and sweated and even bled over that rakusu. Nothing makes a man more mindful than jabbing a needle into his clumsy fingers. Lucky for me I had my wife Lee to give me advice with the pattern and even did some of the sewing for me when I thought I might weep. I was content with the black rakusu, I told Daiho. Besides, I said, I’m not comfortable with the robes or some of the language like disciple or master.

He smiled. “Words and robes, what are those?” he said.

In the meantime I started the Both Sides / No Sides Zen Community here in El Paso to give people interested in Zen and zazen here in our community a place to come together for practice. Time passed, as it always does. We collected dana in the dana bowl and we added zafus and zabutons. For a year plus some we sat at the Black Tortoise Acupuncture Clinic thanks to Richie Barajas and Briana Armendariz. Then we moved into our space on Robinson thanks to John Fortunato where we’ve been for two years. Many times we have sat with just two or three people, a couple of times it was just me, and now we are happy our little Sangha began to grow. Every week the bell rang, we chanted and beat on the wooden fish with its eyes that never close, we lit incense, we sat on zafus and practiced zazen, we did the silent kinhin dance, we sat some more, we chanted the Heart Sutra in Sino-Japanese (our voices so much stronger after sitting), and we had our tea. It was good. Then late last year, one of the men who has been practicing with us for some time told me that he wanted to receive the Jukai Precepts. I was delighted for him. But I said, “You’ll have to go find a teacher to practice with.” He looked at me and said, “I think I already have.” I was both startled and honored. After much thought I went up to Las Cruces. I told Harvey this story and asked him if he would ordain me.

“Of course,” he said, laughing so hard I wondered if he would fall off his zafu.

Tokudo means ceremony, and Shukke is leaving home. Thus, “The Leaving Home Ceremony” or “Home-leaver’s ceremony.” In the old days monks-to-be left home and went into the monastery. Not so much anymore. Especially for American Zen Buddhists. Here Zen is much more a householder practice. But “leaving home” is still a very important concept. I like to think of “leaving home” as leaving that comfortable place called home or the ego to serve something greater than ourselves. In a way we all leave home, we leave the ego, when we do our home practice, the wall in front of us, alone with our breath and the universe in which we live. No separation—the absolute, the universe, the breath, breathing together in and out. We do this too when we come together to sit and practice as a Sangha. And we do this when we climb off our zafus and take our practice out into the city, the place of our life. I now vow to practice and to teach others, if they so wish, the Way of the Dharma as I understand it. I commit my life and practice to the understanding and lineage that comes from Shakyamuni Buddha and Dogen that flows down through all the Ancestors through Harvey Daiho Roshi and his teacher Ken McGuire Roshi.

I vow to appreciate my whole life as the life of the Three Treasures—the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, and I vow to serve Family, Sangha and Community and to practice right livelihood. Daiho Hilbert Roshi has composed the vows of Clear Mind Zen as follows:

I take Refuge in Everything That Is (Buddha)
I take Refuge in Reality and its Teachings (Dharma)
I take Refuge in the Order (Sangha)
I vow to cease creating evil
I vow to do good
I vow to work to create abundant good for all beings,

These too are my vows. I hope you can join me on April 3rd.