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Thursday, 31 October 2019 19:02

The earliest image we have of dependent origination is Indra’s Net. It’s a beautiful image, yet implausibly tranquil. And it ignores time. Of course, if the inspiration was someone looking up at the star filled night sky, ironically that is seeing both space and time. But only from our perspective, now.

And for us, we might imagine dependent origination to be external to us, and our seeing of it to be impeded by the aches in this person’s body, the groans and gasps in this person’s mind.

But dependent origination isn’t tranquil or still. It is the exertion of all things. It is a great storm. And as you are sitting here, in the lull after the storm, this body is the debris of the storm. This mind is the echo of the storm. This body and mind is our dharma gate. The only one we will ever have.


Last Updated on Thursday, 31 October 2019 19:03
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Thursday, 31 October 2019 19:00

A famous passage in the Nirvana Sutra reads:

The Buddha’s True Dharma Body is just like space
Manifesting form according to circumstances
It is like the moon in water.

I think this is a description of our state in zazen.

“the moon in water” is a metaphor for emptiness. It isn’t that the reflection doesn’t exist, it’s that it isn’t separate. The reflection is the expression of all the different aspects of the whole of reality working together: the moon, the water, the clouds, the clouded water eyes of the person witnessing it into being.

Each line informs the other. The third line is a poetic instance of the general statement of interdependence in the second.

And the purpose of the first line is to convey that “space” and “expression” are not in conflict: our aim is not to nullify whatever arises: thoughts, noises inner and outer, feelings, but not to fixate on them either, and thus to allow vast compassionate space to manifest, a space which can hold all this expression, like a mother holds her baby.


Last Updated on Thursday, 31 October 2019 19:01
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Thursday, 31 October 2019 18:56

The quintessential zen form is the koan. Stripped of later literary embellishment, the koan is - or at least purports to be - the recording of an actual exchange between two sincere practitioners. And we imagine that one of the characters in the exchange has more wisdom, and they are correcting the other, who has less.

I don’t believe that. I think it is more like a conversation, where one is illuminating the imbalance of the other. But not from a position of balance, but from a position of imbalance. And both positions are part of the great wholeness, which is dynamic because it is imbalanced. And being imbalanced it, like a person, a great person, can walk through time, and neither freeze nor fall.

We can look at the tradition in the same way. Nagarjuna is correcting the imbalance of codification, but in turn creates an imbalance which can veer into nihilism. Chinese Buddhism in response emphasises the dharmakaya, but this can lead to an imbalanced fixation on devotional practice, so is balanced in turn by the imbalance of Zen’s Iconoclasm, and so on, down to this exchange now.

I don’t want you to be balanced. I want you to be completely yourself, in all your imbalance, because if we aspire to balance, then Buddhism will become a prison, a religion. And there will still be walking, obviously, but in samsara, and samsara only.


Last Updated on Thursday, 31 October 2019 18:58
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Thursday, 31 October 2019 18:45


Sometimes, when we are sitting together in this twelve foot square room, it is as if we are halfway between the individual and the universal: we are sitting on the same ground, breathing the same air; there is the same drone of karma for each of us, and the same opening into common vast spaciousness when that noise drops away.


It is as if this small room is a rock in the middle of a torrential stream: no one can jump from bank to bank, but we can land here.

And here we can understand that this rock is the whole world. And although it is tiny, all beings may stand


Last Updated on Thursday, 31 October 2019 18:55
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Thursday, 31 October 2019 18:24


This world of samsara is a stormy ocean
Sometimes we are drowning, clinging to the debris of the self
Sometimes we are ecstatic fish, thrown about like lumps of electricity
In the vast aliveness

In zazen, we are a high cliff, white as bone
The ocean’s push is a baby’s hand:
The Dharma is written everywhere
Like white ink on white paper


Last Updated on Thursday, 31 October 2019 18:45
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