Thursday, December 27, 2018

Being at Peace 12/16/18

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Just This

by Elihu Genmyo Smith


This is enough. Nothing more to say.

Yet we need to be reminded. Just this; Being just this.
Dogen begins Fukanzazengi stating, “The Way is originally perfect and all pervading.” Hakuin begins Zazen Wasan by reminding us, “Sentient beings are primarily all Buddhas.”

Dogen’s statement is enough. Hakuin’s statement is enough. Yet, it does not seem so in our life, just as the Buddha saying “All beings are the wisdom and perfection of the Tathagata” (Avatamsaka Sutra) is not enough for us – witness what we do and how we live. As the Buddha continues, “because of delusion and attachment they do not realize this and suffer.”

Yes, we find that throughout the day we are missing this. In fact, much of the time we are missing this, missing being this that we are. What are we doing instead? Are we in conflict or opposition with aspects of life as it is? If so, we need to be reminded that “life as it is” is our ongoing teaching – is our opportunity to be revealed as what is so, to reveal what is so. This is seeing how and where “to practice”, to manifest this.

Unfortunately, we often do not see what practice requires of us, what this universe requires of us. So we must clarify the needs for practice and the forms of practice. And in fact, soon after their introductory statements, both Dogen and Hakuin clarify the need for practice effort and what practice effort is.

Similarly, the Third Chinese Ancestor Sengcan begins the verses of Trust in Mind (Xinxin Ming), “The Perfect Way is not difficult, just refuses picking and choosing…” and then states, “if you are off by a hairsbreadth, heaven and earth are set apart.”

Our almost pervasive habits of self-centeredness mean we must attend to practice, our life practice, at many times in the day, in the week. I want, I do not want, she has, she does not have, he should, he should not, I need, they do not need, he gained, she lost – these and many variations of them, when arising and believed, when attached to rather than simply passing, rather than noticing-experiencing, when caught in, entangled in and acted out, lead to many difficulties, suffering and harming.

We may even fight this moment because it seems to be changing from what we believed it was or should be. We become angry, greedy or simply confused, are overwhelmed by sadness or enraptured by our specialness - and more. What we know cognitively, even emotionally, slips away and reactive habits seem to take over.

This is how and where ongoing zazening is required, this is our practice, this is when the consequences of our formal and informal zazen comes to the fore.

This is why we must do zazen in the many moments of life, despite the truth that from the beginning, there is no need to do zazen, there is nothing lacking this moment, nothing extra right here now.
This extends in many directions. The many directions are past, future, present. The many directions are physical and other realms, self and others, all just this. If we believe that this is more because it “also” extends in many directions, many so called past present future, if we hold onto this extending in many directions, including so-called others, then this holding onto can be a trap. All of this is right here. And this all right here is just this.

If this excludes the myriad directions, myriad beings, then this is a trap. This includes not-this, though not-this is not excludable. If this is not encountered intimacy, if this here is not others, then we have been trapped by “not other.”

This is doing this, being this, arising this, passing this, experiencing this, responding this, excluding this, embracing this, deluding this, liberating this, awakening this. This is beyond this, this is not other than this.

This. Just this.

Though I say this, the word may not be of much use to me or you, not worth much in the face of the moment reactive habits of not being present, in the face of seemingly long-standing tendencies of seeing life only through the lens of the reactive habits of belief and tendencies, and therefore refuse the universe of right now as is, refuse this.

We must notice when greed self-centeredness arises, when anger self-centeredness arises, when delusionary self-centeredness arises. The delusions are the stories about this universe life, just this – yet in holding to delusions as other than stories, the holding justifies and maintains self-centeredness reactive habits, justifies clinging. Then delusions are the stories which generate and justify anger and greed in myriad reactive forms.
Which this do you resist, which this do you deny?

In noticing, we can allow the natural arising-passing; allow the holding to open so that arising can pass in awakening to this as is, in being experiencing life this moment, in compassionately taking care of and responding - and even improving this.

This. Just this.

Each of us gets to embrace the whole universe in our own way, live this in our own way. Therefore, it is for each of us to take care of the universal zazening life we are, as best we can, as compassionately supportive we can make our life circumstances. What do you do?

© 2018 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Bernie Glassman Memorial Sesshin 11/8/18; Not Knowing 11/9/18; Bearing Witness, Loving Action 11/10/18; Closing Remarks 11/11/18

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Past, Future, Present 9/9/18

Simple by Elihu Genmyo Smith

We are simple.

Even when life seems complex and entangled, it is a simple moment; simple moments together into a complexity that may seem difficult to embrace. When we are not open to this put-together story it seems, and therefore is, unsatisfying and even a source of suffering. It is only the unwillingness to embrace this simple moment that makes for unsatisfactory, suffering.

Right now this universe is our opportunity. This, here, is where responding is our opportunity of joy and satisfaction; even this that is hard to let in. We can knock on closed mindedness, be open mindedly closed minded, be open heartedly closed hearted. This experiencing, this life, is ours to allow to flow through us, to seemingly flow through, in each simple moment facet. This is zazening.

Do conditions of the world feel like a threat – maybe as a result of being bound up in thoughts, judgments, beliefs or emotions? What hinders (for us) this moment open heartedness, this seeing what is and responding?

Sometimes, changing conditions feel like a personal attack. Does body, mind, words of others or circumstances of this universe feel like a personal attack? Please notice if and when this seems so. It is a good reminder, a good practice support if we attend to this. How is it to embrace bodily, experientially, “personal attacks”? When this arises, can you notice this? What are appropriate efforts when changes manifests in these “disagreeable” ways? What is skillful responding? We live in a time of connections in many forms. These myriad connections, including virtual connections, seem to result in limited tolerance of differences, with potentially divisive relating. What is our practice?

Holding onto thoughts, believing thoughts, about how others should be or should not be, makes this undefilable life seem to us to be defiled.

This is so whether the “others” are those we live with, the weather outside, the buildings, the drivers on the road, those in the distant media or the rest of the world. All are this moment universe of our zazen, our zazening - this nothing special, not-two. When we can not, will not, be present as this moment, are not at peace as this moment, even including the thoughts of should be, should not be, we miss this unmissable we are, we deny this joyousness, this life.

If you believe your story about another, your labels and judgments of them, you miss the Buddhas all around you. You do not allow them as they are, and believing judgment, you close your heart, close your mind. This is the poison of hatred and greed that nurtures ignorance delusions and makes suffering and harming flower throughout the universe. Please do not indulge in this, please be skillful practice when this arises.

Being joyous zazen does not require anything extra or special other than being as you are, experiencing right now; does not require “our” body-mind nor the body-mind of others to be a particular way. This does not hinder you from taking care of this moment as skillfully appropriate, including experiencing and serving the circumstances that “should be”, the circumstances that “should not be.” This is zazening, being at peace as this universal moment, even being at peace with not being peaceful, with others not being peaceful as we believe they “need to” be – your moment to live this universe.

Body zazening, mind zazening, universe zazening - with nothing to fix, with no need to go looking for fixing, no need to go looking for not-Ok, not holding to beliefs of how should or should not - then as this undefilable moment you can appropriately - fix body, fix mind, fix universe with no-fixing, improve what is perfect as is. You can fix “should be”, “should not be”, in the myriad forms this clinging arises, this suffering hinders and blinds.

We seem to want to make “special truths” and rules; to hold onto all sorts of thoughts, beliefs, even self-images, about how life should be, or should not be, for me or for others. Do we notice this happening in daily life? Do we notice physical, emotional and mental holding – and the consequences of this?

When we are present, experiencing, we can sense holding when this arises, when habitual reactions to circumstances arise. An example is reactions, thoughts, beliefs, to things that others say, things we feel that they should or should not say. Please notice what you believe, feel, as result? What are the actions we take as a result? Do we suffer as a result?

When we believe that the world of others is not in accord with our truth, what occurs? What is our practice effort? When things occur, or I believe are occurring, despite my thoughts, what happens when I react to that? How do I practice in the midst of this so that it nurtures this life universe, nurtures compassionate responding?

Sometimes, maybe for things to be OK and safe, I make this or that belief, emotion, thought, into the truth. We may do this because we hold to a hope that these likes, dislikes, this specialness, will make my life, and maybe the life of others (or at least so I tell myself), as I want it to be. Unfortunately what experience shows, and what the Buddha and Ancestors teach, is that holding onto life being “a certain way” insures suffering for me and others in the midst of this ongoing changing that is our life.

Can life be other than this ongoing flowing, ongoing changing?

When we make life experiencing into mine or not mine – it is therefore a basis for upsets, anger, greed - a basis of what must be in order for happiness, joy, satisfactoriness, for simply being at peace. Instead of peace, satisfaction and joy – circumstances may become a reason to not be at peace but rather are a basis to be agitated, a reason not to be joyous, but rather a reason to suffer, to act angrily.

If you cling to judgments, then any name you call, even Buddha, is false. If you do not cling to judgments, then all names are true names.

So please be this zazening, this peace experiencing, this joyousness intimacy. This is your open heart, your open mind.

© 2018 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


Elihu Genmyo Smith

Immediacy - this is the whole of our life. Immediacy is natural intimacy, the Buddha teaching – this joyous life. And yet we may find all sorts ways this is not so for us.

We might find that we are acting out clinging of habits and beliefs that seem to get in the way of living joyously. Are we this moment, ongoing-changing, or do we hold to self-centeredness and reactions, to fixedness of self-other, and miss this? Do we abide non-clinging, abide non-abiding? Please notice what is so for you; this noticing enables practice effort, supports and nurtures this immediacy right here life.
Shakyamuni Buddha was asked, “In what way, Lord, can it be briefly explained how a monk becomes liberated by the elimination of craving?” The Buddha replied “…..Here, Moggallāna, a monk has learned this: ‘Nothing is fit to be clung to!’ When a monk has learnt that nothing is fit to be clung to, he directly knows everything… whatever feeling he experiences, be it pleasant, painful, or neutral, he abides contemplating impermanence in these feelings, contemplating dispassion, contemplating cessation, contemplating relinquishment. When thus abiding, he does not cling to anything in the world; without clinging he is not agitated; and without agitation he personally attains the complete extinction of defilements. (AnguttaraNikiya 7:58)

Despite being this immediacy, we avoid this. Despite listening to someone - even as they speak - we may not be hearing, listening, being that person speaking to me. We are interpreting what they say, reacting to it, thinking about what we need to say or not say - our reasons, excuses, explanations, responses. We cling. Even if we know cognitively, conceptually, that nothing is fit to be clung to, even if we decided not to cling, we find clinging occurring for us. And thus we miss the immediacy of hearing, of opening to words, thoughts, feelings, life of the universe. This is all the more so when we hold to and feed anger, greed or delusions.

Though we may know that all things are impermanent, we may “get” conceptually that nothing is fit to be clung to, most of us much of the time for-get this. We cling to things, emotion-thought, beliefs about things and circumstances, often as a result of various forms of self-centeredness arising.

Moment, moment, we must respond to clinging in a skillful way – this is our practice effort; our practice effort when we note that clinging arises, occurs, entangles. Of course, clinging, attachment, being caught, is the indulging arising reactions of greed, anger and delusions. And this reactiveness clinging arises not just “with” people. Even while eating we may be not-tasting, not-feeling, not-chewing; eating without experiencing. This moment walking - and because we already know and are caught up in where we are going or have been, what needs to be done, we may miss this step, this breeze, these blowing branches and leaves, the birds and insects singing the sutras.

Notice that the Buddha begins with “Nothing is fit to be clung to!” and only later states, “When a monk has learnt that nothing is fit to be clung to, he directly knows everything… whatever feeling he experiences, be it pleasant, painful, or neutral, he abides contemplating impermanence in these feelings.” It might seem that one should ponder and clarify impermanence and from that knowledge one would know to cease to cling. Unfortunately, though we might “know” impermanence cognitively, the habits of clinging, attaching, reacting, are much deeper than that. It is only when we notice self-centered thinking and attaching, self-centered reacting, and opening-shifting from the “holding, attaching and reacting” to experiencing, to this moment experiencing, that this “knowing impermanence” may be so for us. We do practice, “noticing” over and over as is skillful - and at some point we get this in our bones and marrow, bones marrow body-mind gets the clarification, experiencing “Nothing is fit to be clung to”- and thereby “abide contemplating impermanence.”

Zazen, zazening, is the immediacy of being upright Buddha - being breathing, being thoughts coming-going, feelings coming-going. Unfortunately, often we miss this moment, we refuse the immediacy of coming-going. Instead, we build on thoughts, feelings, entangle in them, react to them. When noticing this, we can use various forms of practice effort such as to clarify “is this belief so?”, clarify “not fit for clinging”, looking “who” is clinging, noting the believed emotion-thought or do other skillful practice which supports and nurtures this moment experiencing, this moment as is – clarifying for our self that “whatever feeling he experiences, be it pleasant, painful, or neutral, he abides contemplating impermanence in these feelings.” So please release this refusing to be present, notice this held emotion-thought, this reactiveness, and do what is skillful - be right here.
Immediacy is form, immediacy is emptiness. Shiki Soku Ze Ku Ku Soku Ze Shiki in the Japanese version of the Heart Sutra - form immediacy is emptiness, emptiness immediacy is form. Soku Shin Ze Butsu, this immediacy mind-heart is Buddha; this immediacy mind-heart-life, immediacy Buddha.

Life “as is” the only teacher, the only expression, the only revelation - the awakened life, this universe moment. Life “as is” Buddha, this encountering intimacy. “Being just this moment, compassion’s way” - immediacy is compassion's way. Immediacy - nothing extra needed. Immediacy is birthright, this unborn face, not-dying face - just this. Saying this is extra, especially if we think and plan immediacy, how do I get to immediacy - we miss this un-miss-able. It is not a basis for judgment or thinking about, this is your face, your name, your life, your universe, this moment.

“Studying the Buddha Way is studying self; studying self is forgetting self; forgetting self is being awakened by myriad-things universe; being awakened by myriad-things universe is being freed from body-mind and that of others; no trace of awakening remains, and traceless awakening continues endlessly.” (Eihei Dogen, Genjokoan).

© 2018 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Friday, June 1, 2018


Elihu Genmyo Smith

Being awake - there is no need to say “being awake”, to make anything of being awake, much less about how to awaken - just being awake.

Immediacy – this universe is our life, this universe intimacy, this Awakened life. However, when dreaming and suffering, then please discover being awake, clarify being awake. When dreaming, because of dreams and inaccurate perceptions which we take as reality and as a basis for beliefs, feelings and acting, we do inappropriate harmful things. We miss this, miss life, this very Buddha moment. In the midst of troubling dreaming, when fearful and confused or in some other way struggling, we bump into things physically, emotionally, missing this moment – noticing this, we know something is necessary. Noticing this, there are practice efforts and actions to awaken, come out of the suffering dream, to cease holding to dreaming.

Believing being asleep is dreaming, believing dreaming is dreaming, believing being awake is dreaming.

I may find myself struggling and doing things to get away from what is painful, unpleasant and suffering. Body-mind efforts, ways of breathing and concentrations are intended to “encourage awakening”, to assist coming awake “from” troubling dreams of self-centeredness - self-other dreams manifested in like-dislike-hate, mine-not mine, and as greed, anger and fundamental delusion. Yet, even if we “have” a glimmer of awakening, are “partially” awake, some of what we do may not be skillful.

When fully asleep and comfortable, there is no effort to awake – we just sleep and dream. When troubled and noticing dreaming, noticing we are “caught up”, we want to do “something” to not be troubled by this dream and cease causing trouble; sometimes we even want to “go back to” sleep and dream comfortably. Even when troubled dreaming, I may not see practice that is skillful, or which I am willing to undertake, so as to awaken, to “end” troubles and difficulties.

It requires great courage and bravery to undertake a practice clarifying or challenging fundamental self-centeredness; this is especially so if many times during the day in the midst of troubling self-centered behavior I insist that I am not asleep, that I am not dreaming. Self-centeredness is strongly engrained and enticing. Holding on to likes and dislikes, want and do-not want, mine and not-mine, this insistence of “not-dreaming” is re-enforced; nevertheless, in holding to self-centered functioning troubling dreams and harming occurs.

The Buddha’s teaching is of awakening, of being Buddha, Awakened - which is truly who each of us is, who all that we meet are. When troubled by delusionary dreams we may need encouragement and assistance to clarify the sources of troubling, suffering, and to skillfully reveal this awakened life and the practice supports of how to awaken and stay awake.

Sila (Precepts), Samadhi (Meditation), Prajna (Wisdom) [Kai, Jo, E in Japanese] are 3 facets of Buddha Teaching Practice. They are our Awakened life. And they nurture each other as ongoing interrelated facets of this life - if this is not so for you then please work with them skillfully. They are united in zazen, in zazening, all manifested in zazen Buddha life.

As the 6th Ancestor clarifies, “without any wrong is the precepts of one's own nature…without disturbance is the meditation of one's own nature… without ignorance is the wisdom of one's own nature.”

Samadhi is experiencing without self-managing experiencing - bodily experiencing, being the Samadhi presence-ing without holding to self-centeredness directing and judging experiencing. Just this, abiding as non-abiding– this moment body-mind-universe functioning. Not sticking to habits of thoughts, likes-dislikes, wanting-not-wanting, self-other or mentally directing experiencing. If need be, we use various expedients like breath, centering, to enter and enable being this moment; enable and nurture zazen, being enabled and nurtured in zazen. This is not adding or special, it is ceasing the extra, the clinging, that we habitually believe – this is zazen.

This is not a thing, much less some extra thing, some special thing other than this life. Because it is so, we need not stick to such words – except as that might be skillful and useful. The 6th Ancestor clarifies that our life zazening is “without obstacle, without hindrance.”

Dualistic functioning misses this not-two, misses this life – even the concept “practice” misses, if we believe it as other than a provisional description.

Ok to miss, except that missing sometimes is an aspect of troubling suffering or harming – and therefore we must do our best in the midst of the opportunities life offers.

As reactive bodily habits arise, when we find that we are following them, then noticing emotion thought, noticing resistance to Sila Precepts guidelines, is called for.

Sila/Kai/precepts are the supports and reminders when habit reactions, such as greed, anger or delusions, arise; this is nurturing Samadhi zazening when samskara habits, karmic habits of body-mind, arise. At the same time, the support of our Sila life is zazen, this moment Samadhi experiencing which is zazening.

The intermingling of Sila and Samadhi manifests as Prajna, wisdom of clear seeing, experiencing, this moment life as is – which is Buddha Dharma. Each facet interpenetrates the others, is another side and name of the “others.”

The above words are intended as a support when in the midst of the troubling dreaming. Supporting awakening when we misconstrue life, the Tathagata reminds us (Diamond Sutra), “like a dewdrop, a bubble, a dream, a flash of lightening, thus should we consider this.”

“Without-characteristics (wu-xiang) is being free from characteristics in the midst of characteristics, non-thought (wu-nian) is not-thinking in regard to thoughts, non-abiding (wu-zhu) is a person’s original nature.” The 6th Ancestor further clarifies, “Zuo/Za/sitting is not giving rise to thought externally regarding any object, chan/zen/meditation is seeing nature without perturbation,” or he states elsewhere, “chan as externally free of characteristics, stillness is internally without confusion.”

Please excuse these too many words - being awake, there is truly no such need.

Row, row, row your boat,
gently on the stream,
merrily, joyfully, lovingly, compassionately,
life is just this dream.

© 2018 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Caught 5/20/18

Sesshin Dharma Talks - Opening Remarks 5/23/18; Fukanzazengi 1 5/24/18; Fukanzazengi 2 5/25/18; Fukanzazengi 3 5/26/18; Fukanzazengi 4 5/27/18

Fukan Zazengi

Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen by Dogen Zenji
Soto School Translation

The way is originally perfect and all-pervading. How could it be contingent on practice and realization? The true vehicle is self-sufficient. What need is there for special effort? Indeed, the whole body is free from dust. Who could believe in a means to brush it clean? It is never apart from this very place; what is the use of traveling around to practice? And yet, if there is a hairsbreadth deviation, it is like the gap between heaven and earth. If the least like or dislike arises, the mind is lost in confusion.

Suppose you are confident in your understanding and rich in enlightenment, gaining the wisdom that knows at a glance, attaining the Way and clarifying the mind, arousing an aspiration to reach for the heavens. You are playing in the entranceway, but you are still short of the vital path of emancipation.

Consider the Buddha: although he was wise at birth, the traces of his six years of upright sitting can yet be seen. As for Bodhidharma, although he had received the mind-seal, his nine years of facing a wall is celebrated still. If even the ancient sages were like this, how can we today dispense with wholehearted practice?

Therefore, putaside the intellectual practice of investigating words and chasing phrases, and learn to take the backward step that turns the light and shines it inward. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will manifest. If you want to realize such, get to work on such right now.

For practicing Zen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. Put aside allinvolvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. Have no designs on becoming a buddha. How could that be limited to sitting or lying down?

At your sitting place, spread out a thick mat and put a cushion on it. Sit either in the full-lotus or half-lotus position. In the full-lotus position, first place your right foot on your left thigh, then your left foot on your right thigh. In the half-lotus, simply place your left foot on your right thigh. Tie your robes loosely and arrange them neatly. Then place your right hand on your left leg and your left hand on your right palm, thumb-tips lightly touching. Straighten your body and sit upright, leaning neither left nor right, neither forward nor backward. Align your ears with your shoulders and your nose with your navel. Rest the tip of your tongue against the front of the roof of your mouth, with teeth together and lips shut. Always keep your eyes open and breathe softly through your nose.

Once you have adjusted your posture, take a breath and exhale fully, rock your body right and left, and settle into steady, immovable sitting. Think of not thinking, "Not thinking --what kind of thinking is that?" Nonthinking. This is the essential art of zazen.

The zazen I speak of is not meditation practice. It is simply the dharma gate of joyful ease, the practice realization of totally culminated enlightenment. It is the koan realized; traps and snares can never reach it. If you grasp the point, you are like a dragon gaining the water, like a tiger taking to the mountains. For you must know that the true dharma appears of itself, so that from the start dullness and distraction are struck aside.

When you arise from sitting, move slowly and quietly, calmly and deliberately. Do not rise suddenly or abruptly. In surveying the past, we find that transcendence of both mundane and sacred, and dying while either sitting or standing, have all depended entirely on the power of zazen.

In addition, triggering awakening with a finger, a banner, a needle, or a mallet, and effecting realization with a whisk, a fist, a staff, or a shout --these cannot be understood by discriminative thinking; much less can they be known through the practice of supernatural power. They must represent conduct beyond seeing and hearing. Are they not a standard prior to knowledge and views?

This being the case, intelligence or lack of it is not an issue; make no distinction between the dull and the sharp-witted. If you concentrate your effort single-mindedly, that in itself is wholeheartedly engaging the way.

Practice-realization is naturally undefiled. Going forward is, after all, an everyday affair.

In general, in our world and others, in both India and China, all equally hold the buddha-seal. While each lineage expresses its own style, they are all simply devoted to sitting, totally blocked in resolute stability. Although they say that there are ten thousand distinctions and a thousand variations, they just wholeheartedly engage the way in zazen. Why leave behind the seat in your own home to wander in vain through the dusty realms of other lands? If you make one misstep, you stumble past what is directly in front of you.

You have gained the pivotal opportunity of human form. Do not pass your days and nights in vain. You are taking care of the essential activity of the buddha-way. Who would take wasteful delight in the spark from a flintstone? Besides, form and substance are like the dew on the grass, the fortunes of life like a dart of lightning --emptied in an instant, vanished in a flash.

Please, honored followers of Zen, long accustomed to groping for the elephant, do not doubt the true dragon. Devote your energies to the way of direct pointing at the real. Revere the one who has gone beyond learning and is free from effort. Accord with the enlightenment of all the buddhas; succeed to the samadhi of all the ancestors. Continue to live in such a way, and you will be such a person. The treasure store will open of itself, and you may enjoy it freely.

Opening Remarks   5/23/18                 
Fukanzazengi 1   5/24/18
Fukanzazengi 2   5/25/18
Fukanzazengi 3   5/26/18
Fukanzazengi 4   5/27/18

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)