Other MRO Teachings

Lost and Found

·

Robert Rakusan Ricci, Senior Monastic

Zen Mountain Monastery, 03/25/2020

What does it mean to be lost? With the help of Master Kakuan, Leonard Cohen, and some of his own poetry, Rakusan speaks of the spiritual search, eloquently describing the literal and metaphorical wandering which often precedes insigh, and invoking Daido Roshi’s first encounter with the monastery building forty years ago. Being completely lost, he notes, can be a “joyful predicament,” a deep not-knowing in which we are truly at home.

Be Careful What You Ask For

·
Yukon

Michael Yukon Grody, Senior Monastic

Zen Center of New York City, 03/01/2020

Senior Monastic Yukon makes us a gift of his perspective on practice after 37 years, focused on the skillful means we employ to maintain our practice. Be careful what you ask for, he says: This is a constant practice of releasing what we cling to, and we cling to everything. Practice dismantles both hopes for the future and thoughts about the past, and to have peace we have to open up to the gifts of the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and all that helps us release the anxiety of not knowing who we are.

Great Faith, Great Doubt

·

Patrick Yunen Kelly, Senior Lay Student

Zen Center of New York City, 02/09/2020

Senior Lay Student Yunen invokes Mother Teresa’s struggles with the crisis of faith and the last words of Jesus, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” to explore Great Faith and Great Doubt in Zen practice. The encounter with darkness in spiritual life is not a problem that requires a solution, he says, for where there is emptiness and darkness, there is just emptiness and darkness. There is no need to turn away or disconnect: you do not need to be saved.

The Great Way Is Not Difficult

·

Bear Gokan Bonebakker, Senior Monastic

Zen Mountain Monastery, 02/09/2020

“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences,” is the opening line from the Faith Mind poem taken up by senior monastic Gokan. Exploring how picking and choosing hinders our practice, often masking our underlying fear of discomfort, he emphasizes the importance of learning to tolerate the very discomfort we fear. In turning towards a difficulty we can just let it be, and recognize our fears as nothing but ideas about ourselves that are an impediment to living in the Way. The real question becomes, Who are we when our minds are quiet?

Non-grasping in the Bardo of this present life

·

ShoanDanica Shoan Ankele, Senior Monastic

Zen Mountain Monastery, 01/24/2020

Using teachings from the Faith-Mind poem by the third Zen ancestor, senior monastic Shoan explores why we persist in our delusion if, indeed, “The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.” She explores delusion and non-grasping as the basis of practice, and as the bardo or “inbetween place” of the ungraspable present moment. Within nongrasping in zazen is awareness, our natural mysterious capacity to be able to see our own minds. Zazen and particularly sesshin are potent training ground for the bardo of this life where we practice loosening and soften, easing our grip on all the causes of suffering.

The Circle Of Wonder

·

Robert Rakusan Ricci, Senior Monastic

Zen Mountain Monastery, 01/23/2020

While the fires burn in the Australian continent, destroying much in their paths, facing reality brings us face to face with the fires of samsara, calling for our courage, perseverance and tenderness. In this moving, poetic talk, monastic Rakusan invokes the stark realities of dukkha along with the guiding light of bodhicitta and aspiration on the path of awakening, calling on great teachers Shantideva and Zen Master Hongzhi.

Learning To Love What Is Not For Our Keeping

·
Yukon

Michael Yukon Grody, Senior Monastic

Zen Center of New York City, 01/05/2020

Senior monastic Yukon invokes Thomas Merton on the 50th anniversary of his death, drawing on his insights into the place of monastic life in the modern world. Merton said, “In a world of noise, confusion and conflict, is is necessary that there be a place of silence, inner discipline and peace.” Silence and stillness in our practice is what nurtures the arising of compassion which needs no justification outside itself.

Bodhicitta

·

ShoanDanica Shoan Ankele, Senior Monastic

Zen Mountain Monastery, 12/29/2019

In this talk from Rohatsu Sesshin, Mn. Shoan reflects on a commonly used intention-setting invocation from Tibetan Buddhism:

“May the precious bodhicitta arise where it has not yet arisen, and where it has arisen, may it not diminish.” This kind of directed aspiration also pervades Zen liturgy.  When we look, we see it everywhere. That desire for awakening fuels our capacity to notice habitual patterns, commit to the path and stay the course.

Living By Vow

·

Bear Gokan Bonebakker, Senior Monastic

Zen Center of New York City, 12/29/2019

In the spirit of the New Year, senior monastic Gokan encourages us to be inspired by Zen teacher Okumura Roshi’s definition of a bodhisattva as a person who lives by vow instead of karma. Our karma is the habit energy of our conditioning, but a true vow—whether public or personal—is a compass that helps us turn in the right direction. In living our lives based on vow we can continuously shift the direction of our karma towards the Buddha Way.

The Courage To Meet Reality

·

Patrick Yunen Kelly, Senior Lay Student

Zen Mountain Monastery, 12/28/2019

“Humankind cannot bear much reality,” noted the poet TS Eliot. From this vantage point senior lay student Yunen considers the role of courage and whole-heartedness in a life of practice. What is is that I think that I personally cannot bear? In practice we learn to just take the next step, facing the realities we think we cannot bear with wholeheartedness for the benefit of all beings, giving rise to joy and the freedom to love.

The Four Mind Changings

·

Bear Gokan Bonebakker, Senior Monastic

Zen Center of New York City, 12/01/2019

Senior monastic Gokan, reflecting on cultivating appreciation and giving thanks, brings up the Four Mind Changings as as ways to help our understanding of the Dharma. Sometimes referred to as the Four Remembrances, these are thought of as preliminaries in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, preparing our minds to receive further teachings. These four are: appreciating the human life we have, understanding impermanence, understanding karma, and understanding samsara. Developing a deeper awareness of these can serve to change our narrow, self-grasping view and support us on the path of practice.

Avalanche

·

Robert Rakusan Ricci, Senior Monastic

Zen Center of New York City, 11/24/2019

In this rousing and poetic talk senior monastic Rakusan uses Leonard Cohen’s song “Avalanche” as the framework for a journey into Buddhist teaching and practice. Hearing the voices of Cohen, James Joyce, Bob Dylan and the Vimalakirti Sutra, we range from the emergence of a sense of self through form and emptiness to the flowering of Bodhicitta. Rakusan reminds us, “It is indeed our turn, Noble Friends, to realize the Dharma…..It is our turn to smile on the subway.”

Listen To Silence

·

Michelle Seigei Spark, Lay Senior

Zen Mountain Monastery, 11/22/2019

We encounter ourselves in the quiet atmosphere of zazen. Senior lay student Seigei takes us through the experience of listening to silence, reminding us that silence is the refuge we find in zazen, where we are awakend by silence. In listening to silence we can encounter the power of aloneness, bringing with it challenges and difficulty as well as the opportunity for the quiet receptivity to hear what is true.

We Should Remember

·

Prabu Gikon Vasan, Senior Lay Practitioner

Zen Center of New York City, 11/17/2019

Senior lay student Gikon discusses a Pali text, the Mahanama Sutra, to offer insight into overcoming obstacles for practitioners who are trying to maintain a vibrant and meaningful practice outside of a full time Monastic setting. We begin in whatever small ways we can to bring ourselves into accord with the teachings by degrees by using whatever helps us—as the Buddha urges in this sutra—to remember the Three Treasures, our own virtues, our own generosity and the example of the gods and devas.

Two Kinds of Thought and The Four Endeavors

·

Bear Gokan Bonebakker, Senior Monastic

Zen Center of New York City, 10/27/2019

 

Coming Into Focus

·

Robert Rakusan Ricci, Senior Monastic

Zen Mountain Monastery, 10/20/2019

With the easy grace of a life-long poet, monastic Rakusan delves in to the instructions of the Buddha’s path—to calm the mind, open the heart—for the purpose of bringing reality in to focus. He looks at ways to awaken our energy, finding the inspiring ways we can “fill the dull corners” of our minds and light up our world.

Humility and Reverence

·

Patrick Yunen Kelly, Senior Lay Student

Zen Center of New York City, 10/20/2019

 

The Persistent Illusion Of Time

·
Yukon

Michael Yukon Grody, Senior Monastic

Zen Center of New York City, 10/06/2019

Seeking the Dharma is an unusual way to find peace and healing, but the Buddha was very clear that the Way is available in every moment and in every action, and with others we find support and guidance which we need to let ourselves be vulnerable. In this talk, monastic Yukon encourages us to take every opportunity to explore the nature of reality, and thereby how we can develop a true compassionate heart—not separating self, other, objects and the entire world.

 

To Study The Self

·

ShoanDanica Shoan Ankele, Senior Monastic

Zen Center of New York City, 09/29/2019

Realization, Zen practice and everyday life, how are these all related? To study the self, a fundamental teaching from Dogen Zenji, opens many doors as it profoundly disrupts our ability to grasp at fixed definitions or to put ourselves in a box, giving us ways to develop and experience our own liberation.

Transformation

·

ShoanDanica Shoan Ankele, Monastic

Zen Center of New York City, 09/01/2019

How does the magic of transformation happen? We may all secretly wish to transform what we don’t like, but how open are we to transformations we can’t even imagine? And to do this not just for ourselves, but for the betterment of all beings? Monastic Shoan explores how wisdom grows through the willingness to blossom, and to wake up, in this very life.