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The Thirteenth Gate

Posted on Jan 31 , 2012 in Blog

By Tim Lerch JDPSN. Lerch Poep Sa Nim will be leading Kyol Che here at PZC from February 5th – 18th.

 

Student: I don’t like this kong-an that I have been working on. Every time I think about it I get angry and frustrated.

Tim Lerch JDPSN: Why are you dragging your corpse around?

Student: I don’t understand. I asked you about not liking my kong-an.

Tim Lerch JDPSN: Your kong-an is already teaching you that if you approach it using your habitual like and dislike thinking, the inevitable result is frustration and confusion, even anger. You also experience this in your everyday life, right?

Student: I guess so. Yes.

Tim Lerch JDPSN: Then you’re already dead! If you’re correctly working on your kong-an, then you aren’t in the realm of like or dislike. To work on a kong-an means to return to your don’t know mind. Don’t know is before like and dislike, before working or not working on a kong-an, before any opposites at all, even life and death.

When you are asked a kong-an and you hit the floor, at that moment you become one with the kong-an. You actually become one with the whole universe. That doesn’t have correct or incorrect, like or dislike. It’s already complete. There is incredible power in that moment of complete not knowing. When we return to don’t know, our job is always right in front of us. In fact our whole life is just that moment! But if we immediately re-enter the realm of like or dislike, then we can never find our job.

The “Mind Meal” of our school has 12 courses, 12 gates. These 12 gates are actually no different than our everyday life. This is what I call the 13th gate! That’s your moment-to-moment life. How do you respond to that kong-an? Do you like it? Do you dislike it? Do you dodge difficult situations? Do you try to create comfortable situations? Practicing helps us to see that the 13th gate is always right in front of us, but with this gate there isn’t a Zen master sitting across from us to verify whether or not we are correct. That’s when kong-an practice takes root, becomes real and is not just an exercise in how clever we can be. If we are willing to respond directly out of our intuition, our innate wisdom, then any kong-an is no problem. We may even become elated when we respond and really nail it. But on the other hand when we can’t answer clearly, how do we respond to that? Are we willing to completely not know?

Suppose someone you love is dying. That is a very difficult kong-an that we all face in our lives. There’s no one you can go to and say, “I’m sorry. but I really don’t like this kong-an that I have been given. My father is dying, but I think I would like to try another one. This one is too uncomfortable.” No one can take that kong-an away from you. You are working on it whether you like it or not. That is the real meaning of kong-an, whether you like it or not… it’s yours!

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The Dogs of India

Posted on Jan 31 , 2012 in Blog

I went to India with members of the KUSZ for The Whole World Is a Single Flower Conference 2011, but what I remember most about the trip were the dogs. They were not like the dogs from back home.  They were gaunt and wary.  They did not run up to us, tails wagging, begging for attention and handouts.  They lived off the leavings of humanity, scavenging the piles of garbage on the street, sleeping in the alleyways and avoiding human contact, and ignored by humanity.  These were not dogs that were selectively bred by people to meet our needs or whims.  Their colors varied, but they were uniformly long legged and tailed with narrow heads and bodies and they resembled each other. Some of the dogs were nursing females, some had untreated mange, none of them looked directly at me, even though I tried to make eye contact.  They shared the same space, but not as companions or pets.

I remember sitting on a bench on the grounds of the Red Fort.  Near the bench was a half-opened bag, probably the remains of someone’s lunch.  A scrawny, black and white, nursing female, her liter hidden elsewhere, inched her way toward the bag, her eyes riveted on me.   I watched as she looked at me, her eyes tentative as if on high alert to avoid a kick.  There was no aggression in them, only caution.  I wondered where her liter was, and a feeling of sadness overwhelmed me as I imagined six, sausage-shaped puppies, waiting for their mother to return to feed them after her day of scavenging.

When we went to one of the many religious sites, another emaciated dog walked near us.  A uniformed guard kicked the dog off the stone walkway.  Several of the women in the group hovered around the dog petting it while others said “Leave it alone!  Leave it alone!” as though we might be somehow contaminated by its existence.  It would appear that dogs wander around, breeding randomly, asking no quarter and expecting none.  But not at the monasteries.  There it was different.

We walked on the grounds of a Vietnamese monastery and there were dogs, well fed and sleek, lying in the sun.  When we approached they looked directly at us with curiosity, not at all like the dogs on the streets that avoided eye contact while being very conscious of our presence. And in Dharmasala it was very different too. from the other places we had visited.  The dogs on the streets were well fed.  I saw Tibetan refugees  putting food out for them, and they would approach us without fear.  There were also little, fluffy dogs that were selectively bred, were pets and carried by Tibetan women in their colorful skirts and aprons.

Robin Hoffman, Ann Miller and I attended a Puja at a Tibetan Convent.  There were several dogs wandering on the grounds, friendly and well fed.  We were invited into the office as two of the dogs followed us though the open door.  No attempt was  made by the nuns to shoo the dogs out and the animals apparently were quite used to being there. One of the nuns announced proudly that the dogs were “ brothers”.  The compassion of the monastics spilled out onto the grounds and spread over the stray dogs living nearby.  I continued to be awed by the monks and nuns who had dedicated their lives to the spiritual path.  They have my unbounded respect and gratitude.

When I returned home I was met at the door by Misha, my son’s 60-pound Shepherd mix and Ocean, my little Corgi/Dachshund puppy.  They barked, jumped up tails wagging  frantically, trying to push each other out of the way to gain my attention.  As I stroked Ocean’s sleek coat and rubbed her round, little belly my thoughts wandered back to the Red Fort and the black and white dog with the wary eyes.  I wondered how she and her liter were faring.  Kwan Seum Bosal.

- Diana Starr Daniels, PZC Member

 

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Kong-an: Don’t Know

Posted on Jan 28 , 2012 in Blog

Don’t Know  

Knowing is originally knowing Don’t Know
Don’t Know knowing is knowing
Today we transfer this Don’t Know
Four times five is twenty

1.  What is “Don’t Know?
2. “Know” and Don’t Know,” are they one  or two?
3. “Four times five is twenty.”  What does this mean?

Commentary:

Knowing Don’t Know- just that is seeing true nature.  Human beings know too much, and are thus hindered by what they know.  As the saying goes, ” Many people all over the world know, but how many truly understand?”  If you can put down your views, opinions, and understanding,then the truth just appears right in front of you.

From ww.buddhism.org

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Vulture Peak Dharma Talk by Zen Master Bon Haeng

Posted on Jan 20 , 2012 in Blog

Climbing up to Vulture Peak before sunrise visiting the famous place where the Buddha taught and Zen has its origin. Dharma talk from Zen Master Bon Haeng. From The Whole World is a Single Flower Tour, India 2011 (Part 5: Rajgir, Vulture Peak)

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The Farmer and the Horse

Posted on Jan 17 , 2012 in Blog

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the  neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

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Dharma Talk by Zen Master Seung Sahn

Posted on Jan 13 , 2012 in Blog

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Cookies and Compassion

Posted on Jan 10 , 2012 in Blog

A woman who goes into a cafe one morning to have a cup of coffee. She’s glad that she brought her bag of cookies along with her. She gets a newspaper, sits down, and starts enjoying the morning. Reading the paper. Picking up a cookie and eating it. Having a sip of coffee. There’s a guy at the counter next to her doing the same thing: having a cup of coffee, reading the paper. He reaches over and takes one of her cookies out of the bag, and she thinks, “That’s kind of strange—he didn’t even ask.” She takes another cookie, and soon he takes another cookie too. They don’t say anything to each other; they just keep reading their papers. Now she’s get­ting kind of annoyed because she really wanted to enjoy her bag of cookies, but every time she takes one, he also takes one shortly afterwards. She’s get­ting more and more annoyed; she can’t believe he doesn’t even say anything. She can’t say anything at this point either, it’s actually become too weird.

Finally it gets down to only one cookie left, and he quite casually, while still not looking up from his newspaper, breaks the cookie in half, eats half, and gently pushes the remaining half toward her. She’s totally enraged at this point and can’t believe somebody could do such a thing. She eats the remaining half cookie, finishes her coffee, throws down the newspaper and leaves the cafe. She gets in her car, reaches in her purse for her glasses, and there’s a bag of cookies there. The same kind she was just eating, in an unopened bag! She’s stunned. Her angry mind totally dissolves and she feels completely silly that, not only was she getting upset about this guy eating her cookies, but she was eating his cookies! And he was even so kind as to split the last one with her!

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2012 Heart Kyol Che

Posted on Jan 04 , 2012 in Blog

The Heart Kyol Che is an opportunity for students who cannot sit the traditional Kyol Che, or who can sit only part of it, to participate by doing extra practice at home and practicing together with others as they are able. This will run concurrently with the traditional Kyol Che. By doing this Heart Kyol Che together, we will strengthen our own practices, and provide support to our fellow students who are able to sit the traditional Kyol Che. We in turn can draw inspiration and energy from their committment.

You can download and print the PDF here: 2012 Heart Kyol Che

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Broken Relationships

Posted on Jan 03 , 2012 in Blog

By Zen Master Seung Sahn

So everything is truth. But how much do you believe that? Every day we use truth, but we don’t understand truth. We are living in truth, but we don’t understand it. Why don’t you understand it? Because you don’t believe your eyes, ears, nose,, tongue, body, and mind. The sky is blue — nothing special. But you don’t believe that. “That’s the truth? I don’t know…”

So practicing means practicing believing in my true self. What am I? Don’t know. But everybody has their opinions. They also have their condition and situation. So they can’t believe their eyes. They only see their opinion. If you want to become clear, you must let go of everything in your mind. That is the first point. Then you can see clearly; you understand truth. Then you understand what is correct and what is not correct.

Nowadays, in the United States, many relationships are broken. Do you know the expression, “Blood is thicker than water”? That is not true now in America. Many people think, “I don’t like my brother. I don’t like my parents. I like my cat. I like my dog. My dog and cat are better than my parents.” That is not correct! This is a little crazy. Zen means finding your correct relationship and understanding your correct function and situation.

Once you believe in your true self, you can understand other people’s situations. Then you can help your family, then your friends, then your country, then all beings. If you cannot help your parents, how can you help the people in Cambodia? If your wisdom grows and your action is correct, then one action helps your parents, your friends, your country, and all beings. Never separate. That’s the point, O.K.?

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A Tale of Zen Masters Man Gong and Kyong Ho

Posted on Dec 27 , 2011 in Blog

Zen Master Man Gong was Seung Sahn Soen Sa’s Dharma grandfather. As a thirteen year old child, he was studying sutras at the temple Donghaksa in Korea. The day before vacation, everyone gathered to listen to some lectures.

The lecturer said, “All of you must study hard, learn Buddhism, and become as big trees, with which great temples are built, and as large bowls, able to hold many things. The verse says:

“Water becomes square or round according to the shape of the container in which it is placed. Likewise, people become good or bad according to the company they keep. Always keep your minds set on holiness and remain in good company. In this way, you will become great trees and containers of Wisdom. This I most sincerely wish.”

Everyone was greatly inspired by this lecture. At this point, the Sutra Master turned to Zen Master Kyong-Ho, who was visiting the temple, and said, “Please speak, Master Kyong Ho; everyone would like to hear your words of wisdom.”

The Master was quite a sight. He was always unshaven and wore robes that were tattered and worn. Although he at first refused, after being asked again and again, he reluctantly consented to speak.

“All of you are monks. You are to be great teachers, free of ego; you must live only to serve all people. Desiring to become a big tree or a great container of Wisdom prevents you from being a true teacher. Big trees have big uses; small trees have small uses. Good and bad bowls both have their uses. Nothing is to be discarded. Keep both good and bad friends; this is your responsibility. You must not reject any element; this is true Buddhism. My only wish is for you to be free from discriminating thoughts.”

Having completed his talk, the Master walked out the door, leaving the audience astonished. The young Man-Gong ran after him, and called out, “Please take me with you; I wish to become your student.”

The Master shouted at him to go away, but the child wouldn’t listen. So he asked, “If I take you with me, what will you do?”

“I will learn. You will teach me.”

“But you are only a child. How can you understand?”

“People are young and old, but does our True Self have youth or old age?”

“You are a very bad boy! You have killed and eaten the Buddha. Come along.”