Wednesday, December 20, 2017

End of Year 12/17/17

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bodhisattva Shift

by Elihu Genmyo Smith
"When I a student of the Way look at the real form of the Universe, all is the never failing manifestation of the mysterious truth of the Awakened life. In any event, in any moment, and in any place, none can be other than the marvelous revelation of its glorious light." (Bodhissattva's Vow by Torei Zenji)

No more than this is needed.

Unfortunately, much of the time, life is perceived and sensed as if through a veil of thoughts, emotions and words, of habits and reactions; life is not clear, is not seen clearly as is.

If this is not glorious light - what are you seeing? What are you believing ? Do you notice this “believing”? What is this?

This moment you are joy, you are the capacity of joyousness – and you can be the joyousness you are.

When it does not seem so for you, if it does not seem so for you, there are simple efforts you can make to reveal and sense what is so, sense what is called for, be your life.

We all can do what is called for right now - in accord with our particular ability and present moment circumstances – no need to compare, judge or hold to ideas about this.

Noticing emotion-thought arising, we can do what is called for - noticing skillfully and appropriately right now in accord with our life and experiencing body-mind, this moment.

Of course, what we notice and perceive right now as emotion-thought varies. It is the noticing that is important, the experiencing that is important. There is not a “better” noticing than what you do now, though there is clarifying and a developing of this skill, there is the willingness and capacity to do so, there is the refusal to do so. Doing this is simple – noticing and being whole body listening; this is not-knowing, body-mind dropping away.

At the same time, as you engage in practice there may seem to be “improvements”, facets that you discover that were not previously sensed, seen or appreciated. And while these variations might lead us to judge “better” or “worse”, this judging and comparing are themselves to be noticed.

Our practice, our effort, our life, is to do as I can right now – not as some ideal or as someone else can or even as I should. You are fine as you are now.

What I can do right now, the skillful and appropriate noticing and experiencing of life - this is the perfection of life, this is the opportunity of our life.

"When I a student of the Way" - what are we implying about being a student of the Way?

A practitioner of the Way, a practitioner of the Dharma, a life practitioner, is one who is present in this particular moment, being this varied-functions life. Being present as we are, this body-mind functioning, this particular combination of arising universe, includes this moment emotion-thought beliefs about life circumstances, conditions.

For much of the time this means noticing-experiencing when believing or clinging, this mean seeing, attending to this moments thoughts, emotions, storms; noticing the arising beliefs of self-other perspectives and the like-dislike perspectives that we hold to in the midst of bodily breathing, the bodily listening moment-moment life.
So, being a practitioner of the Way means this moment experiencing, attending to and being aware of arising-passing emotion-thought when we believe, attach to or act out of that emotion-thought.

Until we can see this little edge of caught-up reactive habits life for what it is, we are just caught in trying to fix problems based on our inaccurate perception of what the problems are, what the cause is, what needs “fixing” and what will fix it.
As we practice and begin to notice, we "Look at the real form of the Universe."

"Look" is being aware, being experiencing, this various aspects life that we are. Whole body listening, whole body experiencing, whole body looking; this awareness is our life, this life sensing experiencing that manifests the Universe - life as it is, real form of the Universe.

Being the real form of life, the life of the Universe, then we sense for our self and know for our self that all is the never failing manifestation of this awakened life, this mysterious truth of the awakened life. And we can say and know it is every event, this event, this moment, this place. None is other, none can be other than this life revealing itself, revealing itself as this we here call “glorious light.”

Joko said: "When we sit and do zazen we more clearly perceive our self-centered thoughts and demands" or what she sometimes calls "false thoughts, demands, emotions" - false because it is based on deluded assumptions about events, people, thoughts, beliefs, especially ways we are sure life should be. The results are the problems of living that grow out of what we want, don't want, like, don't like - out of self/not-self dualism.

Doing zazen, being a life practice, is being a student of the Way, the opportunity to experience the bodily tension which invariably accompanies these demands. As Joko reminds us, when we patiently observe thoughts and are experiencing, bodily seeing and allowing all to be as it is, not trying to improve even as we respond, “there will come a moment when the contraction will let go and we can suddenly see our life in a fresh and creative way.” Which is seeing all is the never failing manifestation of the mysterious truth of the Awakened Way.

“After the shift is the time for practical action and speech; only then is there a chance that our words and actions will unify rather than separate”. Nevertheless, at each moment there is the possibility and potential of a “moment shift”, momentary shift, whenever we notice-experience, even if we resume almost immediately attaching to beliefs.

This “moment shift” is Bodhisattva's Vow "this realization" – “this shift”, in whatever form is takes in our life, is the ceasing to hold onto these demands of persons and events, ceasing to perceive out of self-centered thoughts and emotions. Whether momentarily, or for more and more “time” as our way of being in the world, we, “bearing witness to Self-nature that is no-nature, go beyond mere words.” (Hakuin Zenji, Song of Zazen), This is Bodhisattva manifesting of the marvelous revelation of its glorious light – “Going and coming, we are never astray;” we naturally extend tender care with respectful hearts, respond to circumstances and conditions out of being this life universe that we are, out of being with whoever we encounter, intimately embracing this awakened life moment. As Hakuin states, “This very place, Pure Lotus Land, This very body, Buddha Body.” Please take good care of this Buddha Body Universe.

©2017 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Dharma Talks fro Sesshin - Opening Remarks, 11/9/17 Yunmen Part 1, 11/10/17 Yunmen Part 2 11/11/17

Friday, September 15, 2017

Awakened Life: Comments on Genjo Koan

by  Elihu Genmyo Smith

This moment lacks nothing; nothing is extra, no special effort is needed. And yet, we must balance different efforts. Sometimes these efforts (or non-efforts) may seem conflicting, so I will clarify this to help us with the seeming conflicts and contradictions.

To sit regularly, zazening our daily life, requires efforts to set aside time and space. Sitting upright, adjusting body, focusing body-mind - whether just sitting, breath counting, clarifying a phrase, listening, experiencing - begins as an effort. It is a directed effort, attending to this, and a skillful setting aside of arising emotion-thought attachment or reactions. And yet, zazening, continuing practice effort, leads almost inevitably to something quite different from what “doing effort” is.

Dogen Zenji writes, “To study the Buddha way is to study self. To study self is to forget self.”

Practice begins as self-effort. As we practice, at some point practice shifts and is revealed as forgetting self; at least momentarily, it is zazen zazening, practice doing practice, practice practicing, breath breathing. Now this shift is often a back-and-forth process, with “self-effort” reasserting with self-concerns, self-judgments and self-distractions resulting in “you” doing practice and making practice effort. 

Practice, whether in formal sitting or throughout life, is experiencing and, as necessary and appropriate, noticing what is getting in the way; just awareness - and noticing what “extra” physically, emotionally, in thought or reactiveness we are bringing along, attaching, entangling as this moment functioning, this moment doing. And this noticing effort entails responsive practice which allows dropping away of self-effort.

Self-forgetting arises as continued ongoing practice. As Dogen goes on, “Forgetting self is being awakened by myriad dharmas. Being awakened by myriad dharmas is freeing one's body and mind and those of others. No trace of awakening remains, and this traceless awakening continues forever.”

It is not that we need to get rid of self, or even that there is a self to get rid of (if we believe and try to do that it is like trying to get rid of what we never had, and only makes more difficulties); only arising-passing moment – not some burden or heavy hindrance. Self, self-centeredness, is a problem if and when we stick to it in the face of circumstances and conditions, even simply in the face of our sitting practice – it becomes a blinding self-attachment and self-entanglement.

This is not a step-by-step continuous process, but rather more like a circling spiral moment moment or a net with connections in all directions.

“Gaining enlightenment is like the moon reflecting in the water.

The moon does not get wet, nor is the water disturbed. Although its light is extensive and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch across. The whole moon and whole sky are reflected in a dew-drop in the grass, in one drop of water.

Enlightenment does not disturb the person, just as the moon does not disturb the water. A person does not hinder enlightenment, just as a dew-drop does not hinder the moon in the sky.” (Dogen)

Our life is awareness – just this. Our life is ongoing arising koan – the arising thoughts and feelings opportunity, what we might believe as being other than what they are, with resulting attachment entanglements that we discover arising and being clung to; we discover this in the enchantments and blinders that distort this moment of no-form form.

Just this moment is clarifying this life koan, manifesting this life, allowing this life to come forth. So, what is your koan? What is your practice effort?

Part B

“Carrying self forward and realizing myriad dharmas is delusion. Myriad dharmas advancing and realizing self is awakening.” (Dogen)

Here is an analogy: our life as a fruiting body of reality, a visible and sensed aspect – just as mushrooms are visible and tangible fruiting of life unseen underground.

Most of us understand the fungi mycelium life relationships between a fruiting body and the underground mycelium in only a minimal way. Instead, carrying self-forward, for the most part we treat mushroom as separate and distinct from the underground mycelium.

Fruiting bodies are ephemeral, while the underground mycelium extends and continue comparatively far. The fruiting aspects pop-up and disappear, sometimes in one or two days; they age and dry up quickly, disappearing almost overnight.

We enjoy human life fruit this moment, even as connections between “our life” and this moment “life of the universe” may be invisible and unsensed by us, unknown and even unimaginable.

In fungi, the unseen mycelium connect with “other” mycelium and roots under the earth, exchanging substances, transforming and digesting them. The underground structure is the body functioning of fungi, interacting cause-effect in many realms – and invisible to us. We value and attach to the fruiting mushrooms while avoiding and even detesting mushrooms that are harmful. 

Human life is interconnected interbeing, a sharing in many realms; as you discover in your practice, we often even miss much of this moment sensed universe, confining our self to what we self-centeredly select and believe. We know, though may forget, “our body-mind” is the hormonal functioning, neurological activity, intestinal biomes, “environmental forces” etc. as this experiencing here-now fruiting.

Zazening, this moment experiencing, is beyond the limits of knowing and believing. Zazening includes doing what is appropriate and skillful as best we can, and serves and is served by many realms universe, cause-effect interelatedness. This enables us, enables the universe, to be the awakened life we are. Our not being willing to be not-knowing when we truly are not-knowing makes endless problems. 

Like mushroom harvesters, we hypothesize about where, what, when and how. If we do not see that these are merely guesses but believe this self-centeredness as truth, harm results. 

What seems distinct above ground may be a single entity or numerous interconnections below ground beyond our senses and knowing. Because this is so, we can be this moment, experiencing what is “fruited” and experiencing beyond-knowing, letting go of believing attachment so as to include the cause effect “below the ground,” seemingly invisible. An important part of your practice, my practice, is being not-knowing this moment. This not-knowing openness, this intimacy moment, is called beginner’s mind. Experiencing is doing just this moment life, this no-name no-form moment, “known” and “unknown.” What is being not-knowing for you? How do you maintain this well?

Experiencing is this moment functioning, as if being permeated by dark energy and dark matter of this moment, this dark energy matter that seems to be the major portion of this life universe myriad dharmas right now.

“Carrying self” means looking for (and believing in) something outside of “self,” which has aspects of dualism, dichotomy. In the midst of our practice accomplishments, separation of self-others arises, is believed. Please notice when this occurs. “Myriad dharmas advancing” is being this world of myriad realms, objective and otherwise; this moment; experiencing this moment universe. In the midst of delusion, delusions within delusions, our life practice is actualizing this boundless dharma universe. 

Analogies are just analogies, no need to believe them or make anything of them; please do not hold to or build more about my words. Being just this moment, take good care of this life.

© 2017 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Monday, July 31, 2017


by Elihu Genmyo Smith

Gatha of Atonement:

All harmful actions ever committed by me since of old,
All harmful actions ever committed to me since of old,
On account of beginingless greed, anger and ignorance,
Born of body, mouth and thought,
Now I acknowledge and am at-one with them all.

Doing the Gatha of Atonement, we can reflect on this “harm.” Most people much of the time do not intend to harm. And when we feel harmed by others, much of the time it is likely the others do not intend to harm us.

“Harm” is one way of translating the original kanji/ideogram, which can also be translated as “evil” or “evil karma” - “all evil karma ever committed by me.” For various reasons the phrase “evil karma” is not as useful for us because of cultural and language connotations, even confusions, about “evil” and “karma.”

What is harm, what is harming? Where does harming come from? Harm is important to clarify, since most of us, most humans most of the time, do not intend to harm. Yet harm occurs.

Harm and harming are the consequence of “I want,” “I don’t want,” “I like”, “I don’t like.” While we often use like and dislikes, want and don’t want, as a way to enhance and enrich our self, to protect or add to our life, there are effects from holding and entangling in them that inevitably arise - and those effects are often disastrous to our well-being and to that of all with whom we share life. It is not the likes, dislikes, want, don’t want that are the issue but our sticking to them, our reacting out of them, or what follows along when they do or do not get “fulfilled.” Out of sticking to self-centeredness like, dislike, want, don’t want in the midst of ongoing change, in holding to that and entangling in that, comes frustration, disappointment, blindness, anger, greed and fear in self-centered actions and reactions. Holding to this is suffering harming. The practice principles refer to this in the phrases “caught in self-centered dream, holding to self-centered thought.”

As Dogen Zenji says, “Self advancing and confirming the ten thousand things is delusion.” This “self advancing” is harm arising - and this is why “non-harming”, “not doing evil,” is the first of the pure precepts.

In working with harming as a practice opportunity, in doing the Gatha of Atonement, doing atonement with body-mouth-thought, there can be transmuting from the habit of “I want”, from trying to make someone something into something “else”, from trying to change something to fit our wants. Experiencing supports and nurtures transforming these habits of “following reactions” into experiencing right here perfection, being “all-right” here as is, and “then”, so-to-speak, doing what is appropriate, even skillfully “improving” perfection.

Being this universe - this moment universe confirming self - is enlightenment, to paraphrase Dogen; experiencing, even experiencing frustration disappointment. Even experiencing “having harmed” or “having been harmed” – which is the doing atonement opportunity. This is acknowledging being “at-one”, being not-two. Experientially digesting this moment reveals the wisdom of the present at-one moment universe that is our life. And this allows us to reveal our life as wisdom, functioning this moment, manifesting compassion life this moment.

Atoning allows and supports us in noticing how and where we believe and hold beliefs that we have harmed, that we are or have been harmed. And this sensitizes us to our actions and reactions which might harm, which have harmed. What to do when we discover this? What to do when we notice this? This is our zazening opportunity, our practice effort. Please reflect upon this, please work with this as your life.

Because this moment is so, including the “having been harmed” and even “having harmed,” this is the opportunity effort of atoning, of at-oneing – experiencing and working with thoughts emotions of wanting, not wanting, and all the sequela of that, all the consequences of that for “self” and “other.” This is transforming and revealing this universe at-one-moment arising-passing – and discovering that wanting, not-wanting, do not have to become a cudgel for us to bang self and others with suffering and harming.

“Now” is the arising passing of harming and being harmed, from beginningless past - and now is the opportunity of atoning in acknowledging and being at-one with harming and having been harmed, of doing atonement and being done by atonement.

Being, experiencing this moment, includes experiencing frustration, experiencing pain and suffering, when those arise - the willingness to experience whatever arises, whether so-called what we want or so-called what we don’t want. This is our life-entrance, body-mind willingness to be fear, be what we fear makes us vulnerable.

The alternative to acknowledging at-one-ment is holding to and believing harming and being harmed. Believing harming and being harmed, we engage in volleys of harming-being-harmed with self and others, engage in this so easily and reactively when we and they volley “I want, I don’t want” (and all sorts of variations; “I want, I don’t want” is just a short hand, so don’t get stuck on want, don’t want, there are all sorts of other ways to articulate that). However we say it or act on it, the practice choice is whether we get caught in it, hold to it, or whether we notice it - and in experiencing this moment refrain from acting it out.

If we cling to and continue the beginingless harming and being harmed personally in our life moment-moment, then we know that harming will flourish, suffering will be nourished.

Even if the “harming” comes from someone else, we have the opportunity to not volley it back to them - and maybe even to transform both “my” harming and “their” harming. Zazening, responding out of experiencing, is allowing this moment wisdom that is the universe life right now, zazening - willingly noticing and experiencing arising of “I want, I don't want” and other variations such as, “I am, I am not, I shouldn't, I should, I was done to, I did.” If unnoticed, somehow harm trails these along, trails holding to likes, dislikes, wanting, not-wanting, should have, shouldn't have, they should, should not - even if we don't "want to harm".

Observing “desires” arising, in being non-knowing experiencing, we are able to clarify and not be at the effect of them. Experiencing digests experience – this is atoning at-one-ment.

© 2017 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Intimacy Practice by Elihu Genmyo Smith

Intimacy practice - though fundamentally not needed, yet there are undefiled efforts. Despite intimacy being the most close, being what ‘ought’ to be most comfortable because it is most close - it is our life – sometimes to us it seems not to be so. Sometimes, we have to make efforts, provisional efforts, to manifest what does not need extra effort. When we are blind to what we are, then what we do or believe in this blindness may compound delusive habits to cause harm suffering. Our nothing needed, nothing lacking life then requires provisional efforts, a “practice”, to relieve suffering harming, relieve delusions

Bodhisattva's Vow by Torei Zenji, begins "When I a student of the Way look at the real form of the Universe". The "Way", the "Dharma", is this Buddha life, this on-going changing that is Buddha’s teaching. Our life opportunity is being “students” of this Dharma Way life, manifesting this Dharma Way – though many of us do not know this and actually insist that our life, our Way, is something else. What does your life manifest? What is your life about?

Looking at the real form of the Universe is zazening. Zazening, being upright penetrating life, we see/be the real form of the Universe. Is this your life? Is this other than your life?

"All is the never failing manifestation of the mysterious truth of the Awakened life", of the Tathagatha, the "thus-come”, “thus-gone,” this thusness that we are. What is Tathagatha thusness? What is not Tathagatha thusness? What is “our” thusness?

What is this looking at real form? Not looking at something else, something outside. That kind of looking has inherent pitfalls, subject-object assumptions, and detours us. Looking at the real form of the Universe is zazening. What is zazening? Looking is not doing something extra, something special. It is this moment being human – nurturing and being nurtured.

We sometimes say, "I do zazen." That is not quite accurate, though when we begin formal practice, and for some while after, we often describe it as "I do zazen", just as much of our life is lived as if I do “things” to “others”, and “others” do things to me. At times we may even seemingly “do” to “internal self” in the form of doing to or with feelings, habits and reactions.

Some of this is a result of a dualistic language of subject-verb-object, which reflects these beliefs and assumptions and at the same time reinforces them. Using this language, believing this, becoming trapped by that language perspective, the language structure creates and maintains this way of subject-object believing functioning.

The more we enter zazen, the more zazen zazens us, the more zazen zazens zazen. Of course, saying “zazen zazens zazen” is clumsy, saying “more” is extra - and we may not quite get it, this may not be clear. Though there is effort, saying “more” may lead us to believe there is “more” or “less”, and that more or less is only dependent upon our effort. I would rather say zazening.

Zazening is this practice life; zazening isn't limited to sitting. Zazening, we zazen sitting, we zazen walking, we zazen talking to people, we zazen the difficulties we have with a car, reactions to and judgments about other drivers or co-workers, the conditions of the road and world. Zazening being caught up, zazening even fearing, angering, lusting and deluding.

Intimacy embracing of course includes difficulties of talking, difficulties of other’s behavior, difficulties of our behavior, “difficulties” experiencing - just this real form of the Universe. This real form of the Universe always is our life, no need to say “real” - except that we miss it when "caught in self-centeredness", miss this with all sorts of consequences.

As Dogen Zenji writes in Shobogenzo Immo, “If you think to attain thusness, you are already a person of thusness. Already being a person of thusness, why worry about thusness?”

At times it is necessary to make certain efforts because of arising circumstances, because of condition-universe arising, because of arising self-centered caught-up habits and reactions. Making provisional efforts is zazening our life practice and specifically when sitting Zen, specifically in penetrating Zen (sanzen) life; appropriate and skillful effort zazening. Zazening can be eating, cleaning, sleeping, physical or emotional pain, resistance to certain others or events, reactions to emotions or thoughts or the myriad forms manifesting, this dharma-universe that we live.

In sitting and throughout life practicing we know when something is hard to be, when reacting and even believing "I don't want this, this hurts me too much, I don't feel like this." Physical, mental, emotional, all sorts of states arise as present moment, as this many forms life.

It is important for us to be clear on efforting practice, what sort of specific practice effort supports embracing, being this intimacy, embracing what is physically emotionally painful to see-be.

Whether aching, a pain, suffering, the moment condition is just this moment condition body, ‘my’ body-mind, whether an emotional state, a set of memories and feelings. Being so, at times it is as if we have to direct our energy to include it, open up to include it, despite this already being “included”, despite “we” are already “included” as this.

We of course can allow breathing to direct us, to include this; we could allow blood pumping, experiencing, to extend here where this already extends. Even though it is extending here, sometimes it isn't extending here. Whether fearful, rejecting, angering and the various other ways that it is difficult to be the intimacy of this; of knee-muscle-pain or this internal organ fear, this condition inside, outside, others saying or doing things - this hurt of someone said something to me, hasn't said something to me or has done something, this anger reaction, this greed need, this prideful reaction, this egoistic delusion.

Breathing can be one way to seemingly extend our self to what we always are. Of course we are not really extending “our” self but this is a provisional way of sensing, noticing and experiencing what we are, experiencing that is but is otherwise missed.

Fundamentally, experiencing - and there is nothing special or extra to do because experiencing is our life, you don't “do” experiencing; when "I'm experiencing" we are already adding a story of this "I" and making experiencing into some other object. Intimacy is just this, knowing intimacy, not knowing intimacy, avoiding intimacy, covering-up intimacy. And yet, we can miss this experiencing we are, so at times we must “do” experiencing to be experiencing.

No matter the abundance or scarcity of our life, please use it well responding to circumstances and conditions.

Responding to the 6th Ancestor’s question, “Does it depend upon practice and enlightenment?,” Nanyue said, “It is not that there is no practice and enlightenment. It is just that they cannot be defiled.”

The Sixth Ancestor said, “Just this nondefilement is what Buddhas have maintained and transmitted. You are thus. I am thus. Ancestors in India are thus.

Undefiled, to simplify, is this forgetting self life; practice–enlightenment is not self practice, self enlightenment – it is nondefilement practice, nondefilement enlightenment.

I've mentioned a few ways that we can provisionally see the need for and make the effort of presence, of zazening, of being the real form of the Universe, the real form life we are - which is exactly form, exactly empty. And yet, and yet, we find ways to avoid this - we avoid this, avoid thus-come/thus-gone, and miss the life that we are - which is why zazening is so vital. Please do not avoid your life, please do not miss your life – take good care of this life we share.

© 2017 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sunday, April 9, 2017

4/6/17 - The Talk Nobody Want's to Hear, Part One

"High Stakes as the Dalai Lama Hints at Being ‘Reborn’ Outside China. Beijing wants to pick the next Tibetan spiritual leader, but the Dalai Lama’s visit to a monastery town in India suggests that he has other plans."

The above quote is from a headline in the Wall Street Journal (link below though with only limited access to full article).

Following is a summation of an article in the NY Times concerning this matter:

"The Dalai Lama has been enigmatic about how his successor will be chosen.

In the past, monks have turned to visions and oracles to lead them to a child conceived just as the previous Dalai Lama died. Having identified a child, they administer tests seeking to confirm that he is the reincarnated lama, such as asking him to pick out objects belonging to his predecessor.

But that method would leave Tibetan Buddhism without a leader for at least a year, allowing China to identify and promote its own candidate. The Dalai Lama has hinted that he may instead opt for a nontraditional selection process, selecting a child or an adult to succeed him while he is still alive.

Aging Tibetan Buddhist lamas have, in some cases, visited places where they would later be reincarnated as babies, and the Dalai Lama’s visits to Tawang and Mongolia seemed to fall into that pattern, said Robert J. Barnett, a historian of modern Tibet at Columbia University.

“This is a way of getting under the skin of the Chinese, of probing them, and reminding them that they have no control over where the next reincarnation occurs,” he said.

As the Dalai Lama’s arrival in Tawang grew closer this week, Chinese statements grew increasingly bellicose, .....

...Though India is typically wary of provoking China, several officials have been unusually pugnacious in their responses. Pema Khandu, the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, took the unusual step this week of stating that an independent Tibet, not China, is India’s true northern neighbor.

“Let me get this straight,” Mr. Khandu told journalists. “China has no business telling us what to do and what not to do because it is not our next-door neighbor.”

The Dalai Lama, for his part, has been characteristically jovial to the crowd of journalists trailing after him, expounding cheerily on subjects from quantum physics to global warming. He hardly needs to do more, Mr. Barnett said.

“He doesn’t have to do anything except exist and be his usual beaming self to embarrass the Chinese,” he said. “He will be right on the border, he will be a complete free person, he will be only meters away from Chinese territory, but they cannot do anything about it.”

An interesting development in the ongoing Chinese attempt to control the future of Tibetan Buddhism. And a non-violent approach to a major international issue and conflict. 

Does this hold out hope for actual conflict resolution? Will the Chinese be willing to seriously negotiate with the Tibetans?

What can we learn from this?


Zazening Opportunity 4/2/17

Podcasts are also be available on iTunes (search podcasts prairie zen ) and soon on Google.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Not Limited

by  Elihu Genmyo Smith

We are not limited by fear nor hindered by fear, not limited by reactions to conditions, to circumstances.

Yes, in life we encounter fear. Despite fears about specific circumstances, fears about the possible arising of various conditions, we are not limited or hindered by fear, not limited by reactions to conditions or circumstances - unless we believe the fears, solidify the fears in our reactions to the moment. When we believe fears as reality, as the truth of life, when we solidify fears in our reactions, this is holding and believing confusions, anger and greed - creating suffering and harming, creating hindrances in this boundless universe.

Look closely when fear arises for you. When and how do you notice fear? When do you feel trapped by fear? And what have you found yourself doing as a result? What is your skillful practice in the midst of anger, hatred and greed? What is your skillful practice in the midst of fear? Please reflect on this.

We are not other than conditions, even fear conditions – and we are not the beliefs about circumstances, beliefs about arising conditions; we are not limited by conditions or circumstances - despite our believing otherwise.

For the well-being of all, for our peace, and the peace of all beings, it would be good to inquire, how can we not be trapped by arising fear?

How can we not be trapped by reactive habits that arise? How can we not be trapped by our beliefs and attachment to conditions which are always changing? Or alternatively, how can we be willingly trapped when trapped?

Life calls us to experiencing; even experiencing fear when this arises. There is no need to go looking for circumstances which arouse fear, conditions that we will fear; no need to go looking for fear. Fear arises in the process of life – though at times we may not notice this. We may not notice fear but only notice the reactive habits to fear – at some point we may notice anger, greed and confusion that we are caught in, or the various sequella that we build on this. Have you unmindfully been caught up in reactive habits of anger and greed in the virtual realms, picking up and attaching to hatred in the virtual social media? Do you notice this? Do you indulge in this? 

These are our opportunities. In noticing believing and holding to fear-reactive habits, in experiencing habitually acting out with suffering harming, our practice opportunity is experiencing this moment we truly are, and responding skillfully, appropriately, as who we are. Who are you?

This moment experiencing is “bigger” than fears and reactive habits. We may have a foreboding, a belief and even a fear, that if we experience this - experience this moment life that we fear, experience this that we imagine or believe is terrible - if we experience this, we will be overcome by fear, overcome by “something”, and we will not survive.

In a way this is true - experiencing fearing, being present as fearing and as reactive habits, we, as we believe our self to be, will not “survive.” Having experienced fear, over and over experiencing fear reactive habits when this arises, we will not “survive”, will not be the way that we have been. Our life is transformed, revealed, in experiencing.

But this is not what we fear and expect. We may expect that we will be overwhelmed in a terrible or dangerous way - so that we will “have” irreparable harm from fear, or from circumstances and reactions that we fear.

Of course, a physically, mentally or emotionally dangerous circumstance needs to be dealt with appropriately. But that “dangerous” circumstance is often, at worst, only a small piece of fear; and indeed, the fear often prevents us from dealing with circumstances, even evaluating the feared conditions and circumstances in the best way.

All things, all conditions are this life we are [we can say are this one] ; this, this experiencing, is all things; this is each thing, this right now – which is our response-moment life, this moment practice opportunity.

Though there are many circumstances and conditions, many everyday encounters, that “can’t be helped”, sometimes we take this phrase or belief “can’t be helped” as negative, as resignation of an inevitable powerlessness or even a sense of hopelessness. As if “can’t be helped” is a problem. And this assumption about the “can’t be helped” moment is the believing thoughts entanglement that hinders life experiencing, hinders being who we are, hinders responding as we are.

It is important to clarify and see clearly that being responsible is awakening what “can’t be helped”, revealing “can’t be helped”, being “can’t be helped”. This is (and requires) experiencing this universe moment - beyond the seeming limits of reactive habits, beyond fearing – being present, being zazening, allowing our universe to manifest in skillful and appropriate responses, in compassionate wisdom. What would this be? Please look closely at your life.

Part Two

Are we conditioned by conditions? Are we conditions? Are we other than conditions?

Conditions are our life, our opportunity of responding and manifesting this life we are, this Bodhisattva living of prajna paramita – sometimes seemingly “as opposed to” harmful delusions, harmful habit reactions – despite the seeming impossibility, to us, of doing this.

This is helping the “can’t be helped”, the “can’t be helped” manifesting; as we say in the Four Great Vows, “Beings are numberless, I vow to save them; Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them.”

Of course these vows are themselves “can’t be helped” – the seeming impossibility of saving numberless, of putting an end to inexhaustible, and so forth for the other vows. And this is fine.

The impossibility of Vows is only a problem in the realm of possible-versus-impossible of saving numberless (notice the fundamental assumption that they are not saved and need saving; and the belief that vowing “unaccomplishable saving” because of the “numberless” is a hindrance to the vow, as if being “impossible” is a hindrance). Similarly, impossibility is only a problem in the realm of possible-versus-impossible of ending inexhaustible (as if being “impossible” is a problem or takes away from the vowing to “exhaust the inexhaustible”; as if delusions “have” beginning and ending).

We may believe that form cannot be empty if we hold to either-or form - nevertheless form is exactly emptiness, and form is exactly form; similarly we may believe that either-or emptiness means emptiness cannot be form - nevertheless emptiness is exactly form, emptiness exactly emptiness. As with the either-or conditionality of saving numberless, of ending inexhaustible and of the Four Great Vows, it is the unexamined beliefs that make for difficulties.

Please remember the Heart Sutra stating,

“all dharmas are forms of emptiness…. thus the bodhisattva lives prajna paramita, with no hindrance in the mind, no hindrance, therefore no fear, far beyond deluded thoughts, this is nirvana.

If we believe form, believe sensation, and miss emptiness, then we miss our life. Form then becomes a source of suffering, sensation becomes a source of suffering, the five skhanda become fixed, separate - and this believing, even believing “emptiness”, thus blind us, blind reactive habits into harming and suffering.

Without “belief” hindrance, our fear is no-fear; even this experiencing fear is seeing clearly, is the living prajna paramita Bodhisattva life.

Master Yuanwu’s (Engo’s) comments in Biyan Lu (Blue Cliff Record) case 25, “Whenever you practice and clarify, there aren't so many things to be concerned with. (Concerns arise) because outside you perceive that mountains and rivers and the great earth exist; within you perceive that seeing, hearing, feeling, and knowing exist; above you see that there are various Buddhas that can be sought; and below you see that there are sentient beings who can be saved. You must simply spit them all out at once: afterwards, whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, twenty-four hours a day, you fuse everything into one.

Then, though you're on the tip of a hair, it's as broad as the universe; though you dwell in a boiling cauldron or in furnace embers, it's like being in the land of peace and happiness; though you dwell amidst gems and jewels in profusion, it's like being in a thatched hut. For this kind of thing, if you are a competent adept, you get to reality naturally, without wasting any effort.”

The fourth practice principles is “being just this moment, compassion’s way.”

So, as my teacher Maezumi Roshi used to say, “please, take good care of your life.”

© 2017 Elihu Genmyo Smith

"Ungraspable" of 3/18/17 and "Opening Remarks" of 3/16/17

Saturday, March 11, 2017

China's Space Weapons

Sadly, the potential for war in space seems to have grown - or at least I have now become aware of this in an email sent to me.

Below are the opening and closing paragraphs of this recent detailed, well-researched and sourced article, with a link to the full article. Military agencies have been aware of this for a while, so there is probably much more about this that the public does not know.

What we can we or should do with this information?

This issue and article is all the more significant with the recent escalation of tension between North Korea and the world as a result of nuclear testing, missile tests and assassinations, China's support of N. Korea against South Korean and US alliance activity, and especially China's escalation of trade war tactics against the new THAD defensive anti-missile technology.

"Light wars: space-based lasers among Beijing’s hi-tech arms...

China’s military is developing powerful lasers, electromagnetic railguns and high-power microwave weapons for use in a future “light war” involving space-based attacks on satellites.

Beijing’s push to produce so-called directed-energy weapons aims to neutralize America’s key strategic advantage: the web of intelligence, communication and navigation satellites enabling military strikes of unparalleled precision expeditionary warfare far from US shores.

The idea of a space-based laser gun was disclosed in the journal Chinese Optics in December 2013....

“In future wars, the development of ASAT [anti-satellite] weapons is very important,” they wrote. “Among those weapons, laser attack system enjoys significant advantages of fast response speed, robust counter-interference performance and a high target destruction rate, especially for a space-based ASAT system. So the space-based laser weapon system will be one of the major ASAT development projects.”

The researchers propose building a 5-ton chemical laser that will be stationed in low-earth orbit as a combat platform capable of destroying satellites in orbit. Given funding by the Chinese military, which is in charge of China’s space program, the satellite-killing laser could be deployed by 2023.

According to the article, an anti-satellite attack in space would employ a ground-based radar to identify a target satellite, a special camera to provide precision targeting and a deployable membrane telescope that would focus the laser beam on the target satellite....

The closing paragraph of the article does not bode well:

“As long as China demonstrates its willingness to exploit much of its space program for potential military missions, the US must possess options for at least neutralizing potential threats, preferably short of threatening lives,” Fisher says."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Attachment  by Elihu Genmyo Smith
Attachments to feelings, to body condition, to positions and events seem natural.

You receive a promotion with a significantly increased salary; your daughter has had a successful delivery and gives birth to a healthy baby; you run a full marathon and are finally among the top ten in the event - these are just three examples of events which can elicit joy, elation and happiness, among many emotions and reactions.

You find your month old parked car has been smashed and there is no evidence by whom. Your boss declares that your division is being closed and you are laid off. Your mother tells you that her illness has been diagnosed as aggressive cancer. You wake up and your legs ache so much that it is painful to get out of bed; simply standing is a pulsating shooting pain.

Our responses to these four events - sadness, loss, grief, anger, rage - can be intense. These are opportunities of attachment manifesting. And, this coming going attachment sometimes brings on further reactions, often without noticing this. We may be overwhelmed, almost taken over by these reactions, believing these reactions, acting out of reactions. Has this been so for you? What has resulted from that?

Being embodied is the possibility of physical emotional joy, physical emotional pain, as well as other forms of attachment. This is human life, our life. The seemingly automatic self-attachment, even as it is a fundamental strength of life, can also be a fundamental life hindrance.

In the midst of ongoing change life, attachment can be stressful and painful, pulling in many directions and ways of being.

Have you noticed attachment events like this recently in your life?

Holding to these reactions, attaching to them, attaching to the attaching, living out of them, can make entanglement and trouble for us. Has this been so for you?

An aspect of the Buddha’s teaching can be stated as, ‘suffering, misery, arises not from loss but from attachment.’

This is important to clarify. Misery, suffering, are important and difficult human conditions. And I repeat, suffering and misery do not come from loss - though it often seems that way to us, especially in the midst of loss, in the midst of the various forms of loss which are an inevitable part of our life.

Believing attachment, holding to attachment of like or dislike, of wanting and repelling, of fear, greed and anger based on attachment, results in entanglements, troubles and harming. Please reflect on this for yourself.

Because attachments seem to be who we are, we “follow” attachments without even noticing this. We make self of arising-passing attaching, without perceiving an alternative to acting out of attachments. Do you believe attachment reactions as truth, as what is good and what should be? Do you follow them?

The Avatamsaka Sutra states that Buddha, upon Awakening, said, “All beings are endowed with wisdom and perfection of the Tathagata - but because of attachment and delusion they miss this and suffer.”

This Buddha Awakening is your Awakening, your life.Yet, we miss life when entangling in attachment. And this attachment believing, attachment attachment, keeps us from compassionate responding.

Varieties of attachment – “unconscious” attachment, “conscious” attachment – are what keep us from compassionate living.

The “4 Practice Principles” begin, “caught in self-centered dream”, caught in the attachment that is self-dream. Attachment is in form, sensation, conceptions – the seemingly natural tendencies of self-volition and experiencing, our very consciousness, awareness. Clarifying if and how this occurs in your life is zazening. Please be zazening life, please clarify this.

There is no other form of the universe than right here. You might wonder why in Bodhisattva’s Vow we say, “When I a student of the Way, look at the real form of the Universe”? We say “real form” because attachment distorts this life moment, blinds us to life, blinds us to this moment form. Thus Bodhisattva’s Vow needs to state skillfully that what we believe may not be the so-called “real form” because our attachments distort right here now for us.

There is no other “real form” elsewhere. And yes, we may miss this moment form - miss form is emptiness, miss emptiness is exactly form. So we are reminded in the Heart Sutra. And even as are reminded by the Heart Sutra, we must be clear - form is exactly form, emptiness exactly emptiness. No other real form.

Experiencing – bodily experiencing, body-mind experiencing, body-mind-universe experiencing – experiencing.

Do you fail to see this life because of holding to attachments about this moment, about this particular condition? Does attachment holding occur in your life? Please notice if and when this attachment holding occurs.

Because of attachment holding, the Bodhisattva’s Vow emphasizes – in any event (in this particular event), in any moment (in this very moment), in any place (this very place here), none is other than this Buddha Awakening life.

This right here now is the real form, your very life – no need to go looking elsewhere or else-how for some other real form.

And we must be supported by our Bodhisattva Vows, by being a practitioner of the way, in order to not be blinded or hindered by the natural tendency attachment holding. Not hindered, thus experiencing manifests in our compassionate responding.

Dogen states, “drop away body mind” – exactly dropping away this moment attachment. Right here is dropped away body mind.

You may discover that the attachment habit is strong, pervasive. At times manifesting attachment, noticing manifesting attachment and responding may be the necessary focus of our practice effort sitting, walking, throughout the day, when with others and when alone. Attachment holding can be bodily, thoughts, feelings, self, other.

Attachment to attachment, attachment self-centeredness, poisons life. The antidoting of attachment self-centered poisoning is experiencing. When we notice attachment arising, right at this moment is experiencing opportunity, which is experiencing holding; using this noticed opportunity is being this body-mind attachment, is experiencing holding, is releasing holding.

Attachment is no-thing. It is not other than this Buddha nature manifesting, our particular Buddha nature life. Experiencing is being just this – being free of just this.

In being blinded by attachment holding, we miss this here - by not allowing this light to permeate this moment. There is no need to continue reactive-habit distortions, the greed anger attachment harm that might otherwise result. Just make your practice effort when discovering attachment, allow attachment arising passing as your life, your moment experiencing.

So that we do not misunderstand, I repeat that attachment is just this human life. “(Though) the Buddha Way transcends being and non-being,…Nevertheless - flowers fall amid our longing, and weeds spring up amid our loathing – and that is all”(Dogen, Genjo Koan). This is our life practice.

Holding Mu lightly was Soen Roshi’s practice instruction and encouragement to Aitken Roshi. Being our life lightly is being awakened by the myriad dharmas, even being awakened by attachment dharmas. This is allowing the Universe living us.

Lightly being allows my life to be Dharma manifesting this life, this body-mind-world experiencing, rather than self-centered tightness controlling and hindering, the body mind holding-attaching blinding us.(Though this manifesting Dharma is not hindered yet for us blinding attaching-holding interferes; we miss this moment life we are, hindering compassionate responding.)

Our life practice is being transparent, being present, being lightly present -being transparently present, being transpresent.

Being just this – (is) being free of just this – this manifesting compassionate way.

© 2017 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Sesshin Dharma talks

Opening Remarks 1/11/17
Intimacy - Part 1   1/12/17
Intimacy - Part 2   1/13/17
Loving - Part 1  1/14/17
Loving - Part 2  1/15/17

Link to MLK Sermon "Loving Your Enemies"