Our Unconditional Freedom

The still point allows us not to be consumed by the craziness that surrounds us, not only in the extreme situations but in our everyday life. So much in our culture now seems designed to agitate, and, in certain ways, we buy into it. All of us are conditioned, from the moment we're born to the moment we die. We are conditioned by our parents, teachers, nation, and culture. We live much of our lives as if we had no more potential than Pavlov's dog. When someone rings a bell, we drool. We find ourselves unwittingly living out the script that others have written for us. Or we react compulsively and repetitiously against it, still slaves to the script, but it another way. There is an alternative, and the still point provides it - to realize our unconditional freedom.

- John Daido Loori in The Zen of Creativity

Filed in on March 6, 2013. 0 comments. Edit.

Zen in Daily Life

We must cultivate a good balance, a sense of proportion, at all times. If our zazen has no application in daily life, then we are simply indulging in cultist tricks. Unless the new bearings we find on our cushions govern our Sangha relations - both within our training center and in everyday contacts at home, at school, and at work - attainment on the cushions is only relative. In this case the dojo is merely a place where we restore ourselves after dealing with the exigencies of everyday life.

Those exigencies are tough. If you are working in the world, you know this can be a cruel, acquisitive society. But if you treat the dojo only as a sanctuary, then your delight, harmony, and tranquility are just a small fraction of your life. The Three Poisons of greed, hatred, and foolishness dominate the rest. The place where the true sons and daughters of the Buddha dwell is not like this. With all the comings and goings of our busy life, there is something that does not come or go, something that does not move. Make your greetings there.

- Robert Aitken Roshi in The Gateless Barrier

Filed in on August 12, 2012. 0 comments. Edit.


Trust is the nature of personal practice and of Sangha relations. It is based on the words of Hakuin Zenji, in effect, that all of us are trustworthy. As best we can, we live up to the trust of others and to our trust in ourselves.

Disorganization comes when we stop believing in our own Buddha nature, our own trustworthiness, and in the Buddha nature of others. That's when we start using excuses. That's when gossip and malicious criticisms enter in.

Practice trust.

- Robert Aitken Roshi in Encouraging Words

Filed in on March 20, 2012. 0 comments. Edit.

Not Indulging In Anger

Anger is incredibly debilitating. We come into practice searching, wanting to take care of our questions and doubts. But we carry into our practice all the baggage that has prevented our life from unfolding harmoniously. The baggage is our entangled conglomeration of ideas and positions that have worked together to cause our suffering. It is the deep-seated conditioning that has stifled us and impinged on the lives of others.

We cover the inherent perfection that is originally there with our self-created notion of separateness. When somebody get ahead of us in the dokusan line or moves ahead of us in their practice, we feel that we lose ground, and we get angry. But if we understand that there is no distinction between the two of us, we immediately return to accord with reality, and there is no anger. Yasutani Roshi said that in getting angry we actually break all three dimensions of the precepts - the literal, the compassionate, and the one-mind.

- John Daido Loori in The Heart of Being

Filed in on February 8, 2012. 0 comments. Edit.

Rohatsu Sesshin

A little late out the gate, but it I've been meaning to write something about Rohatsu.

Our Rohatsu Sesshin was a city based event, where you arrived every morning for the first block of zazen, stayed all day, then went home after the last. Aside from having to tackle the traffic and deal with your domestic and conjugal duties, one also had (well...) to master moving in and out of the great silence in order to obtain a quality cappuccino from the local cafe. This on top of the usual dokusan and leaders meetings and you quickly learn to either settle quickly or not at all.

I suppose having subjected myself to several retreats over the recent months paid off, because, for some reason, and perhaps the coffee did have something to do with it, I found myself in a joyous, open and playful space, a happy place that almost became a concern. I'm a young and relatively inexperienced practitioner, but I'm experienced enough to know that being cocky is one way to fall flat on your face.

I continued to sit with what was, respected the space I was rewarded with possibly the most enjoyable sesshin I've had the pleasure of participating in. My Jiki roll was more a delight than duty and I moved easily between the great emptiness and the empty forms that define it.

Now a great empty space, now the myriad forms of the Christmas period. "May we retain this mind and extend it throughout the world."

Filed in on December 19, 2011. 0 comments. Edit.

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