The Blue Cliff Record, Case 95 – Ch’ang Ch’ing’s “Three Poisons”
Picking up where he left off from a previous Fusatsu talk on Right Speech (“Learning How to Speak” – 4/8/21), Shugen Roshi investigates storied examples of practitioners using language to express the ordinary and the extraordinary. Master Dogen says, “Words are neither different nor not different from our fundamental nature. But if a person becomes attached to words and their everyday meaning, they can become attached to views.” We tend to use words very casually, but language has power and views can imprison.
Master Dogen, in his fascicle “The Ten Directions,” comments on the Buddha’s words on form and emptiness: “In the ten directions means I just know the essence. So does Shakyamuni Buddha. It is I form, know form, this form, all form, ten directions form, Saha Land form, Shakyamuni Buddha form.” Shugen Roshi asks the sangha during this Dharma Encounter: How do you reconcile, on one hand, the essential, absolute nature of reality and, on the other hand, our everyday dualistic world?
(Note: 3 minutes are missing at the 45 minute mark.)
The True Dharma Eye, Case 11 – Zhaozhou’s “Losing the Mind in Confusion”
In the same way that we use physical maps, mental maps help us to navigate our everyday experiences. Risking being stuck and bonded to cherished opinions, trying to force reality to fit the maps, we can remember to practice right understanding and use our skills such as humility to find ourselves.
“Shakyamuni Buddha said to the assembly, ‘In the Buddha Land of the ten directions, there is only the dharma of the One Vehicle.’ The ten directions spoken of here have taken up the Buddha Land and made it what it is. Thus, without taking it up, there can be no Buddha Land. Because it is the Buddha Land, the Buddha is its host.”
What is a Buddha Field? Where is the Buddha Land? This is not abstract, as Dogen, Vimalakirti and the Lotus Sutra attest. Shugen Roshi explains that by practicing skillfully in the midst of suffering—with our patience, generosity, awareness, morality, resolve—by taking responsibility for our life right here in each moment, the Buddha Field becomes joyfully alive. When we realize self and other as one, the Buddha Land is where we are.
Shugen Roshi begins by leading us through a Loving Kindness Metta invocation for the victims of last week’s tragedy in Atlanta and those affected beyond. He asks, how can we hold the suffering of the world, acknowledging that it is integral to life? Even in our heartbreak, we are not irrevocably broken, and even in our impossible Bodhisattva vows, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and not up to the task of putting an end to suffering. In this, nothing is forsaken, and we are not alone.
For this first Ango Fusatsu, this special invocation was included during the service which preceded this talk, drawn from Dogen’s writings about the Ango Practice Period:
As we reflect quietly, fragrant winds drift across the fields, and the Spring deity opens her arms in all directions. At this time, the Buddha Shakyamuni calls students of the Way to gather together within the Sangha Treasure, and invoke the Earth-protecting divine beings. We express deep reverence for all guardians of the Earth – human and beyond human, sentient and insentient – and are inspired by their myriad virtues, as we dedicate offerings to beings everywhere. We pray for their protection and for the fruition of their beneficial actions.
Master Hongzhi Zhengjue said, “Study the Buddha and research his lineage’s subtlety. You must clarify your heart, dive into the spirit, and silently wander in contemplation, apprehending the dharma’s source.”
With this teisho, Shugen Roshi begins a series of talks on the concept and actualization of transmission in the Zen tradition. While it is said to be a “mind-to-mind” transmission, it is at least equally important to point out that the student-teacher relationship requires some degree of face-to-face interaction.
This week, the Monastery and MRO sangha honored the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with a special Sunday service. We’ll be making Sunday’s Awakening Justice program available online next week. For now, you can view Shugen Roshi’s pre-recorded address for the occasion, or listen to the audio above.
On Thursday evening, we tuned in to Brave Together. This conversation panel was moderated by MRO sangha member Tanya Bonner and featured author Pamela Ayo Yetunde, co-editor of Black and Buddhist, and MRO sangha members Degna Chikei Levister and Yama Faye.
The four panelists took up questions related to how they encountered Buddhism and connected with the Dharma, and their experiences as Black practitioners entering different sangha communities. This lively discussion is followed by a brief Q&A.
Book of Serenity, Case 3: “The Invitation of the Ancestor to Eastern India”
“A raja invited the twenty-seventh Buddhist ancestor Prajnatara to a feast. The raja asked Prajnatara, “Why don’t you read scriptures?” The ancestor said, “This poor wayfarer doesn’t dwell in the realms of the body or mind when breathing in, doesn’t get involved in myriad circumstances when breathing out—I always reiterate such a scripture, hundreds, thousands, millions of scrolls.”
At the end of a difficult year, Shugen Roshi offers a thoughtful and compassionate teaching on wholehearted-continuous practice. Beginning with a story of the very first ZMM New Year’s Eve in 1980, Roshi goes on to examine what it means to not “dwell in the realms of the body or mind when breathing in.” Pointing out that we, as practitioners, can become attached to forms, even though our inherent nature is without restriction. Holding tightly to our conceptions, we might mistake the forms of practice for practice. Going deeper into the heart of being, we’re able to use the forms as structure and skillful means.