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Monday, 15 April 2019 16:21

Within our strand of Buddhism, the most important sutra, by some distance, is The Lotus Sutra.

The sutra depicts a universe of unimaginable extent and duration, within which a large group of characters ebb and flow through an unimaginable number of lifetimes. The central message of the sutra, which is gradually unfolded, is that each being, at some point in the unimaginably vast future, will become a Buddha.

Think about this. Within this perspective, you are the past life of a future Buddha. Not only that, each event, each thought, each feeling in your life, no matter how apparently painful or useless, is part of the vast karmic tapestry which leads to this future Buddha. Were any of it to disappear, everything would unravel, so everything matters. Matters more fundamentally than we can properly express.

This future Buddha is holding your present, karmic self like a mother would hold a fitfully sleeping baby, and each dream, each flicker of that baby matters. Matters.

It’s a mythical presentation of the classic question in Chinese Buddhism: if everything is perfect, why doesn’t it seem so? And in its answer, nothing is excluded, nothing is to be harried into nothingness. It evokes a feeling through the creation of a magical world. The feeling is the important thing, not the myth.

What if you kept it?


Last Updated on Monday, 15 April 2019 16:23
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Monday, 15 April 2019 16:12

Practice is not the suppression of noise. Neither is it the realisation of some pictured state of tranquility.

Rather, it is the actualisation of vast compassionate space. It is “vast” because it contains everything. All the noise and silence; all the pain and beauty.

At each moment of sincere practice we are within that realm of practice enlightenment. And so are all practitioners, in all times, and so this practice is beginningless and endless.



Last Updated on Monday, 15 April 2019 16:20
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Monday, 15 April 2019 16:09

If we practice from the perspective of the self, there are always two persons: the person who experiences and the person who judges and assesses that experience. The sense is of incompleteness, frustration and disappointment. It is as if the Master always wishes the Servant to go through a door to a new world, but the Servant is useless, and either wanders off to nowhere in particular, or is immobile. And the door is nowhere to be seen.

If we practice from the perspective of buddha, likewise there are two persons: self and buddha, but the sense is entirely different. There is nothing to get. There is nowhere to go. The sense is of spaciousness, warmth and intimacy.

I described this as like a parent holding their sleeping baby's head, but it's important not to fixate on any particular image. It is the function of these images to pierce the heart, not to gather in the head. The needle goes in first time, or not at all.


Last Updated on Monday, 15 April 2019 16:11
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Monday, 15 April 2019 16:05

Zazen is the Dharma Gate of ease and joy.

It is not effortful. We entrust our body and mind to zazen and let everything be.

Whether the mind is turbulent or peaceful we hold it like the earth under the ocean holds the weight of the water, maintaining it so it will not seep into nothingness. We hold it like we would hold a sleeping baby's head, whatever the baby is dreaming.

If you listen carefully when the bell is rung you hear two noises.

The first, very brief, is a dull sound, the striker hitting the bell.

The second is the bell's full expression.

If we thought the striking required to continue until it matched our idea of perfection, the expression of the bell would never be realised.

We need to understand perfection is a chimera.

Because all expression is a miracle.


Last Updated on Monday, 15 April 2019 16:07
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Monday, 15 April 2019 15:50

A monk asked Master Jisai - "How is the moon when not yet round?"

The master said, "swallowing three or four moons"

The monk said, "And when the moon is round?"

The master said, "vomiting seven or eight moons".

In this story the moon is a symbol of enlightenment, so the monk's question really is: what is the person like before and after enlightenment?

The Master's answer seems to be that before enlightenment the person is primarily conceptual. So, the various concrete moons the person experiences - the harvest moon, the waxing moon, the present moon and so on - all arise within [swallowed] the concept of 'moon', whereas for the enlightened person, the actual limitless manifestations of moon are - as it were-  liberated [vomited] from the concept of moon.

This interpretation isn't wrong but it can lead to a terrible literal Zen, where there is an unbalanced emphasis is on concrete reality and  a lot of banal and formulaic talk about the Here and Now. And in this block of concrete Zen, delusion is considered as the other: thoughts, dreams, imaginings, visions and so on.

In his commentary on this koan, Dogen says that the whole world is expressed in the act of swallowing and the whole world is expressed in the act of vomiting. We should swallow the self and the whole world. We should vomit the self and the whole world

Or, to put it slightly differently  - there is a dynamic folding and re-folding between wholeness-ising everything [swallowing], and releasing everything in its own vivid expression-ing [vomiting]

Which is our practice.


Last Updated on Monday, 15 April 2019 15:59
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