Posts Tagged ‘Dharma’

Just sayin

July 9th, 2009    -    9 Comments


“I often see those who are trying to study Buddhism just use their worldly intelligence to sift among the verbal teachings of the buddhas and ancestral teachers, trying to pick out especially wondrous sayings to use as conversation pieces to display their ability and understanding. This is not the correct view of the matter. You must abandon your worldly mentality and sit quietly with mind silent. Forget entangling causes and investigate with your whole being. When you are thoroughly clear then whatever you bring forth from your own inexhaustible treasure of priceless jewels is sure to be genuine and real.”

Zen Letters: Teaching of Yuanwu (1063-1135)

A practice without a practice is not a practice.

To settle the matter, settle the matter.

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No teacher here

June 23rd, 2009    -    No Comments


Obaku said, “I do not say that there is no Zen, but that there is no Zen teacher.”

This is a living teaching by one of the most influential Zen teachers you’ll ever encounter, even though he lived 1,100 years ago. Obaku (d. 850) was the teacher of Rinzai, founder of the school of Zen that bears his name and still flourishes, particularly in the West. His words are useful and relevant because they point out the obvious. The Dharma, or the teaching, is self-realized and self-actualized, and you have to see it for yourself. No one can do it for you.

That being said, you really need to have a teacher, the kind that keeps telling you to open your eyes and see it for yourself.

I am not a teacher, and I don’t say that with humility, because I’m not yet that humble. I practice in a lineage center, a practice place that some people might find old-school and irrelevant, where the teaching is transmitted, so to speak, from teacher to student, one at a time. My training is in the Rinzai style, through koan practice, and until I finish the 750 koans in our collection, I am nowhere near done. Even then, I will be a teacher only when my teacher tells me I am a teacher. I could find more wiggle room away from the tradition – it’s easy to find – but why would I want to do that? And whom would it serve? I’d be uncomfortable in my own skin in a hurry.

Read the rest and comment on “The Laundry Line”
my blog at Shambhala SunSpace

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One more thing I can live without

June 4th, 2009    -    18 Comments


My daughter comes to me after watching TV.

“Mom, I know what I want to save my money for. A laptop or a cell phone.”

She’s nine years old, and the money she’s talking about is her weekly allowance. As long as I’m her mother, she won’t be fulfilling either desire any time soon, but that doesn’t resolve the problem for me. I perceive it as something far bigger, more menacing and upsetting. Something not right.

Those insidious commercials! Our consumer-driven culture! Our insatiable kids! Those inexhaustible desires! How I want to put an end to them! Specifically, how I want to put an end to hers!

Or so we chant in the Four Bodhisattva Vows:

Desires are inexhaustible
I vow to put an end to them

What exactly do we mean by that? Have no desires? Want nothing? Is that what we really want? After all, it is desire that brings us to the Dharma, desire for truth, and desire that brings us back to practice again and again.

Maezumi Roshi once responded to a student who professed to having no desires.

“Your practice is wrong!” Maezumi replied.

Continue reading on “The Laundry Line”
my new blog on Shambhala SunSpace

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Quietly study this

January 15th, 2009    -    21 Comments


The deadlines are past, the chance has run out, but you should quietly study this. The dinner is cold, the time has gone, but you should quietly study this. The bills are due, the check is late, but you should quietly study this. The clothes have shrunk, the socks have holes, but you should quietly study this. The market has tanked, the airplane has sunk, the world’s come undone, but you should quietly study this. The day is done, the year barely here and yet gone, everything yes everything disappears, but you should quietly study this.

Quietly study this and let go.

What a brilliant sky.

The teaching of the grandmother sycamores in my backyard.

Lame ducks and tailfeathers

December 4th, 2008    -    3 Comments


Every day seems like one more past due the time for lame ducks to fly south. And north and east and west. To all the lucky ducks who know what I’m flapping about, your webbed feats are now finally in flight.

And speaking of bills coming due, it’s time for me to give great thanks to the hosts of my most recent layovers.

To the gracious parents and staff at Palos Verdes Hills Nursery School: You gave me such a warm howdy-do to the feathered nest where I was hatched! Thank you for an evening encircled in love and attention.

To the good people of Kansas City’s Rime Buddhist Center: You must be the very kindest and open-hearted flock of Buddhists I’ve ever come across. This makes two times I’ve touched down in your lotus pond. And as sure as we warm-blooded breeds migrate, I’ll be back.

To the sweet circle of women gathered by this newfound soul sister: We shared ourselves and our stories over candlelight and tea (while the kids mattress surfed upstairs, no less!) We are indeed birds of a feather.

Thank you all for reassuring me, once again, that when we put ourselves in motion, we can’t help but fly.

Feather originally uploaded by erynnchelsey.

The way out is out of my way

November 12th, 2008    -    13 Comments


Since I’ve come home from sitting so much has appeared. Thousands of words flew out by themselves. I wrote a piece this week that amazed me so and reminded me that writing – and everything – is not a thought process, but its own process. We do not write words but the words write us, and then we can read them along with everyone else and learn something.

The piece I’m referring to won’t be visible for a few months, and when it is on paper it will be brand new to you and me both.

What I want to say is how inextricable stillness is from motion and motion is from stillness. Either one, when unlatched from the hindrance of our repetitive critical thinking, makes things happen! When I am stuck, I go for a walk and get unstuck. When I am going nowhere, I sit still in meditation, open my mind and get somewhere.

I hope that you try it for yourself. Getting out of your own way is the way out!

Soon I’ll be in motion again near and far. I’m always inspired by the chance to meet and speak with practicing parents and/or practicing Buddhists, and if you are anywhere in the neighborhood, please go out of your way and come along:

Thurs., Nov. 20, 7 p.m.
Palos Verdes Hills Nursery School

Sun., Nov. 30, 10:30 a.m.
Rime Buddhist Center
Kansas City

Goodbye to everything else

October 6th, 2008    -    19 Comments

This year,
My sister broke her fall
My dog broke her knee
And through it all, there was one good thing
My deal disappeared
My words dried up
And through it all, there was one good thing
My other sister lost her job
My hopes took a hit
And through it all, there was one good thing
My bank failed
My future all but vanished in a day
And through it all, there was one good thing
My country collapsed
My happy ending kaput
And through it all, there was one good thing
A good so good it cannot be called good.
A thing so vast it cannot be called a thing.
A one so many it can only be called one.

Life keeps proving it cannot be grasped.
May you be safe
May we all be safe here forever
as One.

Photo by Kevin Carden

Life is suffering

September 29th, 2008    -    12 Comments


There’s nothing new about the news.
It’s always time to practice, she reminds herself.
Things change, she knows for sure.
Let go, she intones.

And still, there’s nothing new about the news.
Must we always fail our children?
I’m afraid I know the answer.

You won’t believe what I don’t believe

September 5th, 2008    -    17 Comments


From time to time I’m asked this question: What do Buddhists believe? I like to respond that Buddhism requires no beliefs, but that’s rather hard to believe. And so I offer this.

I believe in love. Not the love that is the enemy of hate, but the love that has no enemies or rivals, no end and no beginning, no justification and no reason at all. Love and hate are completely unrelated and incomparable. Hate is born of human fear. Love is never born, which is to say, it is eternal and absolutely fearless. This love does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in truth. Not the truth that is investigated or exposed, interpreted or debated. But the truth that is revealed, inevitably and without a doubt, right in front of my eyes. All truth is self-revealed; it just doesn’t always appear as quickly or emphatically as I’d like it to. This truth does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in freedom. Not the freedom that is confined or decreed by ideology, but the freedom that is free of all confining impositions, definitions, expectations and doctrines. Not the freedom in whose name we tremble and fight, but the freedom that needs no defense. This freedom does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in justice. Not the justice that is deliberated or prosecuted; not that is weighed or measured or meted by my own corruptible self-interest. I believe in the unfailing precision of cause and effect, the universal and inviolable law of interdependence. It shows itself to me in my own suffering every single time I act with a savage hand, a greedy mind or a selfish thought. It shows itself in the state of the world, and the state of the mind, we each inhabit. This justice does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in peace. Not the peace that is a prize. Not the peace that can be won. There is no peace in victory; there is only lasting resentment, recrimination and pain. The peace I seek is the peace that surpasses all understanding. It is the peace that is always at hand when I empty my hand. No matter what you believe, this peace does not require belief, it requires practice.

I believe in wisdom. Not the wisdom that is imparted or achieved; not the wisdom sought or the wisdom gained. But the wisdom that we each already own as our birthright. The wisdom that manifests in our own clear minds and selfless hearts, and that we embody as love, truth, freedom, justice and peace. The wisdom that is practice.

***

I invite you, once again, to join me at another one-day beginner’s meditation retreat at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 21. I know it is too far, too much, too long, too impossible to ask, and I understand. I just believe in asking.

So not me and other music to drown by

August 31st, 2008    -    23 Comments


The drowning man is not troubled by rain.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what sent me underwater a mere twelve hours after our seven-hour drive home from six days of vacation. The parking ticket on the car we left behind? The opaque algae bloom in the fishtank? The stinking carload to unpack and sort? That assault awake at dawn? No food in the house? No milk in the fridge? No cream for the coffee? The dog’s persistent whine to eat, to chase, to go outside? My daughter’s breathless urgency to make French Toast for breakfast? Then open her own restaurant? Write the menu? Make a flyer? Charge premium admission for patrons seated in the backyard? Have a lemonade stand? Have a bake sale? Have a Labor Day party for the neighborhood?

And all in the first 45 minutes of the day.

By the time my husband wakes I’m already over my head in dread. I’ve remembered what it’s like now to be home. A ranch manager. A playground supervisor. An animal handler. A carnival barker. So not me.

What’s the one thing I could do for you so you have a better day, he asks when I’ve sunken from view, just a telltale bubble on the surface. So not me.

I’m dumbstruck by the question. One thing? For me? A better day? There’s not one thing that can be done for me, I think to myself, because I’m not even here. There’s no room for me here. This is all so not me.

I wish you could see it all with my eyes, I say, knowing the complete impossibility of that request. Because it’s all me.

***

One thing I’ve noticed since I installed the new bloglist down the right hand column, the one that shows the title of the latest posts from everyone, is how often we write about the same thing at the same time. Themes seem to dance among us like the waves of a desert mirage. We write about power one day, belief the next, hope, wish, and the eternally cherished first day of school.

You might call this coincidence. In Buddhism we call it no coincidence. There is only one mind, you see, and it is what you see. The mind that is always in front of you is the mind we all share, although the filters we perceive it with are uniquely our own.

We share one mind, and in that way we share one life, but we do not share the view of it. The judgment, the resentment, the desperation, the dread, the fear of drowning, is only me.

***

There are a lot of things you can find on vacation when you’ve temporarily lost sight of the crumbs, the weeds, the dog hair, the fish tank, the empty fridge, and the overdue registration on the car you left parked on the street outside your house.

On vacation, it can seem like you find yourself. But what you’ve really found is that vast field beyond yourself, beyond your limited views and habitual perspectives. You find mind, the mind so easily lost when all we see is the drudgery of a daily grind. And you wish you could live in that boundless space. In truth, you already do.

On my vacation I found an oasis in a tiny shop in Carmel, a shop oozing with rich comforts and colors and drenched in herbal fragrances. I bought two flavors of these delicious shower gels, the one thing I can give myself to wash away the dread of the day. No one else can do it for me, thanks honey.

Then I realized, because we share this vast mind and all things in it, one of these gifts is most certainly yours.

The better to drown with.

***

Leave a comment on this post anytime by the end of this Friday, September 5 and you could drown yourself in 8.4 fluid ounces of bathtime bliss.

Oh! And you’re all invited to our Labor Day lemonade stand and bake sale. It’s a party for the neighborhood, you see, to celebrate the drowning of me.

***
I just love when this happens! This giveaway was won by one of my dearest drowning buddies: Lisa at Sunset Pig.

Plus we made $20 at the lemonade and bake sale.

There is only one thing for you to do

August 24th, 2008    -    15 Comments

This is so staggeringly simple you’ll want to sit down and see how it works in real life.

Compassion = No judgment
Authenticity = No deception
Freedom = No thought
Fearlessness = No ego
Love = No self

Making more of it is making it up. No need to research or study, analyze or compare. No slideware, no book, no CDs, no subscriptions. No seminars, no webcasts. No invention or interpretation.

There is only one thing for you to do. Sit down and practice. Everything else happens by itself.

Presented in public service and courtesy of a wide-eyed teacher 2,500 years ago.

All in one load

August 17th, 2008    -    7 Comments


“Those who see worldly life as an obstacle to Dharma see no Dharma in everyday actions. They have not yet discovered that there are no everyday actions outside of Dharma.”

Dogen Zenji, 13th century

Winner: Not about Zen

August 10th, 2008    -    51 Comments

The winner of this giveaway is Sulo. Yes, this one is going all the way to Finland! And all under one roof.

A weekend full to the brink with laughter and tears, a season’s slow peak and steady slide, my dear hearts coming and going, and I am in an offering place. This week I have another giveaway for the taking, a copy of Lin Jensen’s new book, Together Under One Roof: Making a Home of the Buddha’s Household.

I don’t read Buddhist books very often. That is to say, I don’t read books about Buddhism. Books about Buddhism may be useful to some, but not for me. The problem is the “about.” When we conceptualize and intellectualize Buddhism, it dies. Buddhism is not about anything. It is the direct and vivid experience of your life, before you kill it by thinking about it.

To that end, I consistently confound people by insisting that Buddhism is a practice and not a philosophy. Most of us would probably prefer it to be a philosophy, something to think long and hard about, but here’s my point: What would you rather eat? A recipe or a meal? Where would you rather live? A home, or a blueprint for a home? If I were really a Buddhist, I would stop insisting anything and then there would be one less confounded person in the world! And so I practice.

This is what Jensen has so wisely done – stop insisting – and thus I was completely taken with this collection of perfect essays, his real mind and heart. Jensen is a teacher of writing and Zen but I can attest he doesn’t teach anyone “about” anything. These short essays, drawn from the ripeness of his life, stitch a seamless and sheltering whole, the one truth that we all share.

When I was sent an advance copy of this book, this is what I said in thanks, “Gently, humorously, humanely, Lin reminds each of us to keep the house we live in, the wide-open room we share as one. Treasure this book as a housewarming gift.” I really meant it.

This week it is my gift. Who will step forward to claim their treasure house? Leave a comment on this post anytime this week and I’ll name the new owner on Saturday, Aug. 16. (Be greedy! I’m only giving you back what is already yours.)

Fare thee well, and welcome home!

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