When someone passes away, in addition to a funeral service that usually occurs three or seven days after the death, we have a ceremony on the 49th day. Traditionally, the period of 49 days after someone dies is seen as a time for that person to check their consciousness and digest their karma. According to Buddhist teaching the bodhisattva Ji Jang Bosal helps the deceased during these 49 days to perceive their karma so when they return they are reborn to help this world, rather than continue in the cycle of birth and death. Religious Buddhism teachers that there is a life in this body, then a time of investigation or consideration, and then a new life in a new body.
But the truth is, we don’t know what happens when we die. The Buddhist teaching about death can be helpful in that it gives us a good feeling, some sense of comfort in this mystery. This framework that can be helpful in the grieving process, but the Buddha taught that originally there is no life or death. Our true self is infinite in time and space. Don’t Know Mind doesn’t have a beginning or an ending. Zen Master Seung Sahn’s teaching is to wake up in this moment and attain our true nature. When we keep a Don’t Know Mind we are addressing the big question of life and death moment to moment. The big meaning of a 49-day ceremony is to wake up just now. Actually, whenever anybody dies, they are teaching us that we must wake up, because our lives only occur in this moment [snaps fingers]. Just that.
Koan practice means pulling the rug out from under your thinking. When you do this, it becomes starkly clear that thinking has nothing to do with your true nature. Your true nature is before thinking. Kong-ans can’t be approached with your thinking, they must be approached with your confidence. This means asking, “Do I believe in myself? Can I trust life’s experience this very moment?”
We may think that confidence is an encyclopedia salesperson ringing a doorbell, confident in what she’s selling. This isn’t confidence, this is selling yourself something, selling yourself an idea and making it so strong, you can’t be open to the universe. True confidence is completely accepting your not-knowing. It’s accepting that no one knows and understanding that this is okay. When you do this, your universe becomes bigger. But when you take one idea, formulate something, and become attached to it, your universe shrinks. So let your universe become large. Let your sitting be without boundaries, and a good answer will appear all by itself.
“Enlightenment is only a name,” replied Zen Master Sueng Sahn. “If you make enlightenment, then enlightenment exists. But if enlightenment exists, then ignorance exists, too. And that already makes an opposites-world. Good and bad, right and wrong, enlightened and ignorant—all of these are opposites.
All opposites are just your own thinking. But truth is absolute, and is before any thinking or opposites appear. So if you make something, you will get something, and that something will be a hindrance. But if you don’t make anything, you will get everything, OK?”
Here’s a video about Zen practice from a Korean Buddhist TV network that includes some great footage of the Zen Center, clips of Do Am Sunim, JDPS and many other teachers in our school, including our Co-Guiding Teacher Nancy Hedgpeth, JDPSN. There’s a short interview with former PZC resident, Senior Dharma Teacher and Managing Editor of Primary Point, Tamarind Jordan where she talk about her experience with Zen and how being able to ask the question, “What am I?” is much more valuable than any answer she has found.
Bowing practice means that your body and your mind become one very quickly. Also, it is a very good way to take away lazy mind, desire mind and angry mind.
When you’re sleeping, your body’s lying in your bed, but your mind flies around and goes somewhere. Maybe you go to Las Vegas or you go to the ocean or you go to New York, or some monster is chasing you. Your body’s in bed, but your consciousness already went somewhere. When we wake up, many times, our consciousness and our body don’t quickly connect. So you wander around your house, and drink coffee, you bump into things.
Then slowly, slowly your consciousness and your body again come together. So that’s why, first thing in the morning, we do one hundred and eight bows. Through these one hundred and eight bows, your body and your consciousness become one very quickly. In this way, being clear and functioning clearly is possible.
We always bow one hundred and eight times. One hundred and eight is a number from Hinduism and Buddhism. That means there are one hundred and eight defilements in the mind. Or, sometimes they say one hundred and eight compartments in the mind. Each bow takes away one defilement, cleans one compartment in your mind. So our bowing practice is like a repentance ceremony every morning. In the daytime, in our sleep, our consciousness flies around somewhere. Also, we make something, we make many things in our consciousness. Then, we repent! So we do one hundred and eight bows; that’s already repenting our foolish thinking, taking away our foolish thinking.
Some people cannot sit. Sometimes due to health limitations or they have too much thinking, and if they sit, they cannot control their consciousness. Then, bowing is very good. Using your body in this way is very important.
The direction of bowing is very important. I want to put down my small I, see my true nature and help all beings. So, any kind of exercise can help your body and mind become one, but with just exercise, the direction is often not clear. Sometimes it’s for my health, sometimes it’s for my good looks, sometimes it’s to win a competition, but in Buddhism, everything’s direction is the same point – how to perceive my true nature and save all beings from suffering.
Our bowing takes away our karma mind, our thinking mind, and return to this moment very clearly, want to find my true nature and save all beings from suffering. This is why bowing practice is so important. If somebody has much anger, or much desire, or lazy mind, then every day, 300 bows, or 500 bows, even 1,000 bows, every day. Then their center will become very strong, they can control their karma, take away their karma, and become clear. This helps the practitioner and this world.
The practicer of Buddhism is the never-ending humbling of the ego. Humbling yourself before the world, by lowering your body you realize that you are one with everything. performing 108 prostrations is yet another path towards the realization of the True Self.
Everything in this world – the sun, the moon, the stars, mountain, rivers, and trees – everything is constantly moving. But there is one thing that never moves. It never comes or goes. It is never born and it never dies. What is this not-moving thing? Can you tell me? If you find that, you will find your true self and attain universal substance. But understanding cannot help you find that point. Even one hundred Ph.D.’s will not show you your true nature. If you were to read all eighty-four thousand sutras, learn all Buddha’s speech, and earnestly study all the teachings of all eminent Zen masters, you would never attain your true self through understanding. None of the struggle and toil that gets you this knowledge can help you as much as one moment of insight into your true nature.
Our true nature cannot be found in books and academic studies because our true nature is before speech and words. It is before thinking. If you find your before-thinking point, then it is possible to attain your true self. So, a long time ago, Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” This is where philosophy begins. But if you are not thinking, what? This is where Zen practice begins.
Kyol Che has been running smooth up at Diamond Hill Zen Monastery for about a month now. Tomorrow morning we have Tim Lerch, JDPSN entering to lead the retreat for the next two weeks, including the intensive week, which begins February 12, includes nightly midnight practice, and is limited to those who have previously sat retreats or who have entered this retreat earlier.
Bodhisattva Teacher and blogger Barry Briggs, has an on going series of Kyol Che related posts on his blog Ox Herding. He recently sat three weeks of retreat and will be coming back for more before the Winter is over. In his most recent post titled “Revelation” he says,
…meditation reveals ourselves to ourselves. When we sit down in meditation, we have an opportunity to meet that person. When we do a retreat, the odds of meeting that person increase. And the longer the retreat, the better the odds.
2012 Summer Dzogchen Retreat – Rinpoche will commence the retreat by bestowing the Energy of Intrinsic Awareness empowerment (rigpai tsel wang). This will be followed by instructions on Tsa-Lung practices related with tantra but particularly beneficial for inducing recognition of intrinsic awareness. Rinpoche will then give teachings on cutting through (trekchö) and leaping over (tögal) practices based on the direct instructions from his Gurus and his own meditative experiences. Finally, the enhancement techniques for exchanging samsara and nirvana (khorde rushen) will be imparted.
Rinpoche would like to add depth to the Summer Retreat by having the participants live together and interact together for the retreat, allowing Rinpoche to teach higher and more in depth. Rinpoche has requested that the students attend the full retreat. If a participant can only come for 5 days that is acceptable to Rinpoche but they must pay the full retreat amount. No one will be allowed to come and go for the retreat.
Each person is guaranteed a bed. The first 10 people to register and complete payment in full will get first choice on single rooms. All others will share a double room.
Three vegetarian meals a day are included in the fee for the retreat. Meals will be provided by the Providence Zen Center staff. We will eat together as a group in the dining hall.
Please notify us if you have any health conditions, food allergies or food restrictions. The kitchen will try and accommodate these but please only mention true dietary needs since the kitchen needs to keep meals as simple as possible in order to accommodate such a large crowd.
Center will provide all cushions for practicing.
Not permitted on the grounds: meat, including fish and poultry; alcoholic beverages and illegal drugs; firearms. Pets are not allowed.
$900 for the week which includes: Housing, use of the grounds, 3 meals a day, Rinpoche’s fees, Tenzin’s fees, everything needed for retreat. Teaching gifts are separate but optional.
People can pay full amount $900 (preferred) or 3 increments ($400, $250, $250). As this retreat includes room and board we regret that we can not offer any discounts. Rinpoche has decided there can be no exceptions.
Initial deposit ($400) must be made by May 1st; Final deposit is due by June 1st.
To pay by check:
Please make checks payable to Rime Shedrub Ling and mail your registration to:
Rime Shedrub Ling PO Box 5113
Burlington, VT 05402
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!