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Thursday, 27 June 2013 13:46

In zazen, do we rely on ourself, or do we rely on Buddha?


In some schools of Zen, there is a plain reliance on the self. Sitting is the means by which we accumulate the capacity to experience enlightenment. Equally, in other Japanese traditions, particularly Pure Land, reliance is on the other, on Buddha; faith, devotion, surrender feature prominently.


Dogen’s view is that we rely neither on self or other. We do not sit to become a Buddha and we do not sit in devotion to something other than ourself which we call Buddha. Sitting is Buddha.


We are lifted up by the same ground.


Last Updated on Thursday, 27 June 2013 13:54
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Monday, 24 June 2013 13:24


If all things have real form, then everything - particularly what we commonly regard as negations - has real form. Thus, 'No Self' exists just as much as 'Self' in the total Full Dynamic Functioning. So, 'Negation' is not a kind of absence, but a full presence. And if this is so, 'Not Self' can be obstructed by 'Self', just as easily as the other way around.


Things do not fall in and out of existence in a logically coherent world. Existence and Non Existence are two aspects of Full Dynamic Functioning, and are always present. Whether they are present to us doesn't matter.


So Death isn't the absence of Life. Winter isn't the absence of Spring.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 June 2013 14:19
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Monday, 24 June 2013 11:36


‘’Whosoever says that the Tathagata goes or comes, stands, sits or lies down, he does not understand the meaning of my teaching. And why? ‘Tathagata’ is called one who has not gone anywhere, nor came from anywhere’’ (Diamond Sutra, verse 29)

The Buddhist state is instantaneous, immediate and cuts off past and future.’Tathagata’ means ‘thus come’ or ‘thus gone’: the name itself is a description of reality, not ‘existence’ (because that would entail dualism), not ‘no existence’ (because that would entail nihilism) but something luminous hovering in the background, behind our conceptualisations.


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Monday, 24 June 2013 11:25


In Kuge Dogen comments on a passage from the Surangama Sutra, where the Buddha says:

‘’It is like a person who has clouded eyes

Seeing flowers in space

If the sickness of clouded eyes is cured,

Flowers vanish in space’’

In the chapter Dogen sometimes renders ‘Flowers in space’ as ‘Flowers of Emptiness’ and comments: ‘’When we have seen flowers in space (then) we can also see flowers vanish in space’’.

He takes a straightforward passage as delusion and turns it into a profound reflection on Emptiness.

It seems to me...

When we see the Flowers of Emptiness appear

Then we can see them disappear

When we see the Flowers of Emptiness disappear

Then we can see them appear.

‘Then’ is not one thing following another. ‘Then’ is this time. In this time we can see the Emptiness of all things, neither existent, nor non-existent, and this is instantaneous appearing/disappearing. Disappearing/appearing is one expression of the full dynamic functioning of Emptiness.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 June 2013 14:20
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Monday, 24 June 2013 11:24


My earlier teacher, Jean Baby, who died during our Winter Retreat, said to me once: ‘’ You can’t break the mirror of the self with the head’’.

What I took this to mean is that sitting isn’t a heroic activity. It is simply understanding where delusion and liberation are located.

We can see our delusive and endless tendency to conceptualise, to continually make a map of the world, thinking we need this to navigate our lives. But if we take Emptiness seriously the world is whole, immediate, inconceivable, alive. And it is always prepared to burst through the map we make of it, if we don’t lead with the head, if we just let ourselves fall backwards into reality.

So Liberation, Enlightenment isn’t hidden within ourselves, it is abundantly available if we care to see. We are saved by all beings.


Last Updated on Monday, 24 June 2013 15:53
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