In approaching a Zen koan, Hogen Sensei encourages us to let go of our passion to acquire understanding by grasping for answers. Rather, if we can let teaching stories begin to move us without grasping, our whole life can begin to unfold more clearly. Toward this end he explores Pablo Neruda’s famous poem “Keeping Quiet” and a koan, “Stop the Distant Temple Bell,” as both bringing fuller awareness to our lives and to the fundamental questions which bring us to spiritual practice: what is this life of ours, and how can we engage it in the wholeness of our being?
Where is the place where the absolute nature of reality meets the relative details of our lives? The place where each is identical to the other? The “teachings of a whole lifetime” referenced in this koan presented by Hogen Sensei comes down to the practice and realization of the Buddha, the “appropriate statement” perhaps when the self is seen and released and forgotten, when the absolute nature of reality is present in the relative aspects of our life, in every step of our practice.
On Sunday, December 8, Hogen Sensei gave the bodhisattva precepts to Donna Nicolino in a jukai ceremony after a week of training at Fire Lotus Temple. In addition to the hand-made rakusu and lineage chart of the ancestors, Donna received the dharma name Dojaku, meaning “Dynamic Tranquility.”
What does it mean to be ill, yet be free from illness? This may be one of the most difficult ways that we can encounter nonduality. Hogen Sensei reminds us that we should not pretend that our experience of sickness does not exist, even though there is no “I” that can ultimately be found. If our work is seeing into the emptiness of things, how do we offer the Dharma when someone, perhaps ourselves, is ill or suffering?
True Dharma Eye, Case 141. The Buddha is expected to give a talk, but, shortly after taking the teacher’s seat, abruptly gets up and leaves. His attendant, Mahākāśyapa, claims the dharma has been expounded – that is, that the talk has been given. How can this be? Hogen Sensei explains the wisdom teaching – the just sitting – in the Buddha’s silence.
What is the nourishment we need to sustain ourselves, to take a good look at our own actions, to awaken and live from a realized perspective? Delusion creates suffering for ourselves and all beings, so how do we leap free, like the golden fish, from the net? Or, is living in the net just fine as it is? Hogen Sensei explores awakening, realization, and practice in the “real thing” of our lives.
Ron Hogen Green, Sensei & Jody Hojin Kimmel, Sensei
Zen Center of New York City, 08/25/2019
Please note – the audio at the start is poor quality but improves during the mondo.
Co-directors of ZCNYC lead a sangha discussion about current events at the Temple, on-going repairs to the building, staff and monastic contributions, volunteer and residency opportunities as well as upcoming retreats and teachings in the Mountains & Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism.
In this talk, Hogen Sensei uses the dialogue of this koan to explore our fundamental sense of who we are and to remind us that practice is always our own, a journey of discovering and realizing our true nature. The answers to what we seek are within our own lives, aided by our own ability to listen, and our clear intention to be of benefit in the world, and to manifest realization in all aspects of our lives.
Starting from a section in the Diamond Sutra that examines the fact that truth is not found in letters, Hogen Sensei explores how zazen helps reveal answers to fundamental questions that cannot be found in scripture, words, or thoughts.