Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One Day Sitting

One Day Sitting
Originally uploaded by Peg Syverson.

Sunday Ordinary Mind offered a one-day sitting. Following the Sunday morning program, we shared tea, work practice, zazen, lunch, and a talk about the Buddha's family. The talk was based on an essay by John S. Strong, "A Family Quest: The Buddha, Yasodhara, and Rahula in the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya." This essay, published in the book Sacred Biography in the Buddhist Traditions of South and Southeast Asia, provides a very different account of the Buddha's home-leaving, based on the ancient Sanskrit texts, rather than the stories that grew up around the Pali canon. If you are interested in reading the essay, I have posted it on the wiki in the "Readings" folder here: http://ordinarymind.pbwiki.com. One-day sitting participants did a great job during work practice pulling weeds, dusting, brushing cushions, and mopping the floor in the Zendo. We appreciate all of their efforts!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Suzuki and me

Shunryu Suzuki once famously said, “In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.” I can hardly claim Suzuki’s attainment or background with Zen, but if he is correct my own experience seems upside down. I started my Zen practice with very clear, singleminded ideas about practice drawn from my reading. I could have given you definitions and descriptions for dharma, satori, samadhi, shikantaza, karma, no-mind, zazen, samsara, enlightenment, and emptiness. I could clearly explain the four noble truths, the eightfold path, the 12-fold chain of causation.

Each of these concepts seemed well-defined, simple, and direct. There was only the straightforward matter of sitting in zazen until I became enlightened. And it was very clear that enlightened somehow meant whatever I was not. Zen masters were in short supply, but it was no problem: the important thing was to apply yourself wholeheartedly to the project of awakening—without, of course, any gaining idea.

The clarity and simplicity of what I knew about Zen was so compelling compared to the messy, confused, complex, and hapless life I was otherwise living. There was a single-mindedness about the discipline of zazen, and the path had a clear direction and goal. If only I could transcend the messiness of this human body, these unpredictable emotional storms, the incomprehensible tangle of relationships, and the tedious clutter of work in my life! As a novice, I was drawn to the single possibility offered by Zen, the “leap beyond the many and the one,” the single moment of liberation that would suddenly and magically transport me into the bliss of belonging, the wisdom beyond critique, the compassion that could save the world.

Forty-three years later I can only say, expert or no, that the practice has utterly confounded me with its myriad possibilities, its timeless unfolding as “branching streams,” its endless variety and openness. It is more and more obvious to me that dharma gates truly are boundless, that the dream of awakening is just that—a dream, that there is literally nothing whatsoever that is not part of this path, a path without any clear direction beyond the very next step. There is nothing except awakening being realizing itself—in a moment or over aeons, no real difference.

As the Buddha put it in the Lotus Sutra, “Now I am revealing a deeper truth—that the path, the teachings, the practice, is much larger than I indicated before—in fact it is infinite in scope, limitless, because beings are infinite and limitless. Although I defined it before, in truth the path cannot be defined. No ordinary person could possibly know it, for it is beyond all knowing.”

Beings are infinite and limitless: the possibilities are boundless. Is this a beginner's view?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

May 2009 Practice Intensive

The forms for the May 25-29 Ordinary Mind Practice Intensive have been uploaded to the wiki here. Please let me know if you have any difficulty downloading the forms. The application forms and the additional information packet with maps are both on the wiki page. If you are not able to download and print the forms, please let me know and I'll print a copy for you. We are looking forward to this opportunity to deepen our practice individually and as a sangha!

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Originally uploaded by Peg Syverson.

The Bodhisattva of compassion, Kuan-yin, as she is known in Chinese Buddhist tradition, is known as Kannon or Kanzeon in Japanese Buddhism. Her name means "the one who hears the cries of the world." Kuan-yin, also spelled Guanyin, originated as Avolokiteshvara, the Sanskrit name for this Bodhisattva, originally a male figure. The Heart Sutra, chanted daily in Zen temples and monasteries, originates from Avolokiteshvara as a teaching given to Sariputra. This beautiful new statue, now residing in the practice discussion room, is a gift from Flint.