Wednesday, April 25, 2018

In the Midst 4/22/18

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sesshin Dharma Talks: Opening Remarks 3/8/18; Hindrance and Fear 3/9/18; Life, Death 3/10/18; Closing Remarks 3/11/18

This Moment

by Elihu Genmyo Smith

This moment is your life, your opportunity.

This moment is the whole universe - just now. You call it various names, may imagine encountering self or other; if not believing or holding to those names and stories you can use them freely without hindrance or fear.

This moment is the only time when-where fear might arise. Despite the Heart Sutra stating “no hindrance and therefore no fear” – it may be that in your life fear arises, hindrance seems to occur. What is your fear practice?

Living ongoing changing, naturally we know life; nevertheless we may discover ways we insist life is not-Ok, likewise seemingly “naturally.” We may fear believed things, forms, dharmas - names we call this life and reactions we cling to “about” this moment circumstances. “Fear” may arise, but often, covering this fear is anger, greed or confusions reactiveness. The anger, fear and confusions may be the results of “bumping” into changing conditions, conditions which seem to be unsatisfactory, suffering. These perceptions, beliefs and judgments can distance us and keep us from experiencing, even from experiencing visceral fear.

Do you notice “bumping” into “conditions”? What are reactions to the conditions you “don’t like”, or even do “like”? How do you face, embrace or practice with this reactiveness?

There is no general “hindrance” – there are only specific moments when we are hindered in the midst of ongoing changing. And yet, there may certainly be areas and tendencies of “being hindered.” What is being hindered? Who is being hindered? Is something we want or do not want hindering intimacy, functioning? What hinders seeing life clearly, what hinders being-responding this moment? Of course we can say that greed, anger, ignorance, self-centeredness attachment in many forms hinders – but it is always in the specifics manifesting, reactiveness arising, this moment – and right here is our practice opportunity.

Fortunately, we can discover zazening , the practice of embodying intimacy this moment, even this moment so-called hindrance; without holding to this moment, embody this changing that is life - thereby even embodying fear.

Fear can be seen as a form of arising Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to which we are all subject. This arises “from” unknown, sometimes as so-called “pasts”, which manifest as this body-mind moment, this samskara tendency. Some unknowns, “pasts”, are genetic, biological, psychological etc. tendencies manifesting in the midst of arising conditions; for some we may have “stories.”

Experiencing, zazening, is our opportunity to viscerally be this “fear PTSD” - to the extent that we can tolerate it, to the extent that the forms of experiencing and insight practice support us in being arising and skillfully responding - rather than entangling in reactive habits such as greed, anger. The fear PTSD may not be pleasant or easy. Unfortunately, some of us cannot tolerate even a little of this, being overwhelmed by sensations and forms of pain suffering, even overwhelmed by out-of-control reactiveness. Nevertheless, life-death is this great matter, the opportunity of awakening – and this requires our appropriate practice effort.

In one sense, sitting, zazening, is experiencing fear. And zazening can be an “antidote” for arising fear entangling, allowing arising-passing and non-entangling. There can develop the capacity for the fear to arise and pass, to be revealed as no-fear; for the fear to not elicit harmful suffering reactions.

And yet, self-centered tendencies and reactive habits “keep” arising. At times we “buy into them” - maybe because we believe it is easier than embodying this not-knowing intimacy fear. This moment fear may be beyond our tolerance; if so, do
what is necessary and skillful.

Fear manifests as many facets – at times we notice the visceral, at times the emotional, at times thoughts. These are interconnected; no matter on what we focus, “other” aspects are there, are effected, though possibly not noticed. Fear may manifest related to conditions right now or to dreams about what was or will be. However this is, this is our practice realm.

Fear does not have to “make sense;” often it does not. Therefore, the rational conviction about what will arise, or the precautions to prevent it, are of limited use and may themselves create suffering and fear.

Many people discover a basic fear of death, or fear of ceasing to be, ceasing to matter. Often this is “under the surface” of awareness and of self-centered entanglements. To support ongoing practice, we often chant, “life-death is of great importance (this great matter),…aspire to awaken, be aware…”

Practice is being real, being really what is so – even this moment entangling in dreams. What is “real” this moment? Is anything needed? Anything lacking?

What added judgments, beliefs and reactive likes and dislikes are you caught in this moment?

Do not be trapped even by “real.” Zazening is “going beyond” real – right here – in the midst of this, “like a dream, a flash of lightening, a bubble” - being real.

And so – “no-fear” - and in the midst of this, even as fear arises, exactly this moment zazening. “No-hindrance”, and all sorts of samskara hindrances arise, and with this, zazening experiencing, Bodhisattva responding opportunities.

Nagarjuna says, “The mind that solely sees the impermanence of this world of ongoing change is called bodhi-mind. …. Truly, when you see impermanence, self-centered mind does not arise, neither does desire for fame and profit, … practice the Way as if extinguishing a fire from your head; reflecting on the transiency of bodily life, practice diligently.” (Dogen in Gakudo-Yojinshu)

To adapt an ancient saying - because “all these thoughts-fears are not thoughts-fears, therefore they are called thoughts-fears. Why, Subhuti? Because past thoughts-fears are intangible, present thoughts-fears are intangible, future thoughts-fears are intangible.” Therefore, the Tathagata says “Abiding nowhere, heart-mind comes forth”

Be the Bodhisattva you are, being-seeing emptiness wisdom; without holding hindering oppositions, in this moment, relieving suffering; not-holding to fear, not-bound by delusionary thought, right here is nirvana.”

© 2018 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

January 2018 Sesshin Dharma Talks: Non-Abiding 1/11/18 Ungraspable 1/12/18 Not Wind, Not Flag, Not Mind 1/13/18 Wisdom and Compassion 1/14/18


by Elihu Genmyo Smith
Seeing the morning star light the Buddha awakened. In the Sutra he states “I and all beings together awakened as the way”. What is the awakening of seeing morning star light?
What is light awakening?

What is together awakening?

Master Yunmen states “Everyone is light. When you look for it you don’t see it, it is dark, obscure. What is the light?”

He answered on behalf of the assembled, “the kitchen pantry and the main gate.” He later said, “a good thing is not as good as no-thing.” (Case 86, Pi Yen Lu/Blue Cliff Record)

Everyone is light, in the midst of light - always, this brightness. Unfortunately, looking for a fixed thing or a fixed idea, especially in how I should be, how others should be, how the universe should be, gets us in trouble.

What of facing cancer or a stroke? Conceptually, one can say moving-waves light, moving-waves non-self, interdependent interbeing. If I treat illness or ageing losing of abilities as something separate and a cause of upset, treat encountering others whom we find “difficult” as not my life and a fault in how it should be, much less reacting with anger or fear, this dualistically limits life and creates problems. Darkening unclear vision, unable to hear sounds, weakness – when these arise can we embrace this moment as is, this light wave? What of the “unreasonable” or “nasty” person, events at a distance we do not “like”, believe are “wrong” or “evil”? This life is our opportunity and yet, believed ideas about conditions and events inside-outside, and reactions based on them, especially anger and depression, may cut this boundless life and hinder compassionate responding. Do you notice this in your life? What are your reactions to changing circumstances, to others? What do you do when you notice this?

Because of our tendency of believing reactions and fear, the Tathagata states, “Abiding nowhere, heart-mind comes forth” (Diamond Sutra); produce heart-mind without abiding anywhere. Therefore, when there is abiding, holding, believing good or bad, this moment requires practice effort. How can discovering abiding make possible non-abiding? What is experiencing/zazening abiding nowhere?

The 6th Ancestor asks, “Thinking neither good nor bad, what is your original face (before your parents were born)?”What is your practice with reactions to changes? What to do when believing good or bad? What is experiencing thinking neither good nor bad? Does abiding of itself cease abiding, maybe even ceasing and desisting?

The Tathagata says “all these thoughts are not thoughts. Therefore they are called thoughts. Why, Subhuti? Because past thoughts are intangible, present thoughts are intangible, and future thoughts are intangible.” Is this so for you? Is this not so – how? What is believed, made tangible and held to as thoughts? What are your practice efforts and supports when believing and making tangible thoughts? Though we may say “likes and dislikes are empty of fixed self, no point in anger, fear or disputes” - and yet, is there anger, disputes and desires for retaliation arising? How do you practice with this?

Zazening is intimacy this moment light, experiencing universe–paraphrasing a dedication, “myriad waves endless dimensions.” This breath, this experiencing life, is our non-abiding opportunity. Experiencing, non-abiding abiding, there can be noticing beliefs or reactions arising. We need not be blinded by the self-centered attachments or reactions to changing. What assists you in noticing held thoughts-beliefs about seeing in the midst of changing circumstances? When do you notice believing the forms you attach to life?

Inhabiting this intimacy is our ongoing practice. Thus, we live as this moment - not because of some idea about emptiness or interbeing interdependence but being this life. Form of non-form is exactly this life, and is the opportunity to manifest this. So the Tathagata states, “As far as ‘all dharmas’ are concerned, Subhuti, all of them are dharma-less. That is why they are called ‘all dharmas.’”

In the introduction to this Pi Yen Lu case Master Yuanwu comments about Yunmen, “he holds the world fast without the slightest leak, he holds the myriad flows without keeping a drop.” Not keeping a drop, not losing a drop, not sticking to even a drop. Usually we hold onto beliefs and habits of body mind, to various flows, and in holding miss this moment.

Master Tenkei Denson comments: “Simply not eating with your nose is everyone’s light.” Isn’t that nice? We all are so! Not something special or extra; yet so often we miss this life we are, we do not live this moment. Yunmen is straightforward - being the morning starlight, Buddha says, “All beings are wisdom and perfection of Tathagata.” “Everyone is brightness,” every one of us. Not because of doing something special like practicing. But when looking for it, making it this and not that, you may be in trouble, missing what cannot be missed. To paraphrase Master Dogen - because practice is in realization, ongoing practice effort is exactly this realization; in accord with circumstances we see this clearly.

Being this moment is taking care of this moment, cooking, listening, responding. Thinking, analyzing, are also this wonderful functioning. Life death is so. In this very life we are seemingly bound and in this very life we are seemingly liberated.

Master Changsha says “The whole universe …is everyday speech of a practitioner. The whole universe… is the whole body of a practitioner. The whole universe…is the brightness of self. The whole universe…exists within the brightness of self. In the whole universe…there is no one who is not themselves.” Reflect for a moment on conditions functioning – is there something that you are sure is not the brightness of self?

Trying to see, you don’t see, you can’t see. You can’t see the brightness, only brightness sees brightness! Only light sees light! Being light, it is easy to respond. Or, being darkness. Darkness isn’t “bad,” just be this light darkness.

Our practice is light; according to circumstances we awaken to this, as this light that we are. But don’t think light is out there, special or different from dark. What is light? Not my light, not your light - no one else’s. This is sitting here together, practicing together. The point is simple; yours to actualize.

Dogen says “Practicing and experiencing this brightness, we become Buddhas, sit as Buddhas, experience as Buddhas.” He also says, “The brightness of the hundred weeds is already their roots, stem, twigs, leaves, fruit, flowers, light, color; never something added on or taken away.” Living and dying is the going and coming of brightness, not more or less - no birth, no death. Being brightness, whether we “know it” or not, enables us to taste, see and realize this. And yet, the “more” that we do so, the “more” we manifest this.

Of course, expressions like “more” may make it seem like a matter of more and less. To paraphrase Dogen, practice and experiencing are not non-existent, they are brightness being tainted. Practice is always exactly where you are. Exactly where you are is the whole of the brightness, and there is ongoing practice effort – including seeing where you refuse to be brightness. Doing so, right here, ordinary functioning is brightness revealing itself, revealing our self.

© 2018 Elihu Genmyo Smith
(earlier version in Everything is the Way by EGS)