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This Trivial Tail

Posted on Nov 01 , 2011 in Blog

By Nancy Hedgpeth JDPSN

Oh Jo said, “It’s like a water buffalo passing through a window. Its head, horns, and four legs have already passed through. Why is it that its tail cannot?”

Commentary:
If it passes through, it falls into a ditch;
If it turns back, it is destroyed.
This trivial tail,
Just this is very weird.

This water buffalo is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It is at a slaughter house which is surrounded by a ditch. If it escapes it falls into the ditch and will be caught. If it stays it will be slaughtered. So here it finds itself-all but through the window. Why is it that its tail cannot pass through?

Zen Master Seung Sahn gave us many succinct teaching phrases. One is “A good situation is a bad situation; a bad situation is a good situation.” When our situation is always smooth and with good feeling then we can grow complacent. Keeping an alert and awake mind, fresh with inquiry, isn’t always so easy then. When we find ourselves stuck, suffering, wishing things to be other than they are, then this difficult situation often has us looking for some way to resolve it. Questioning arises. And what a gift this is! As we keep asking — going past the complaints and protests of how unfair life can be, seeing that we’re not completely satisfied by intellectual understanding — then we can address the root of suffering. We can address the questions that we all share as human beings: What is this life and death business? What is my job in this life? What is suffering, and what is this that suffers? What is this I? What is other than I?

What we call practice is exactly this act of questioning and of doing it again and again moment to moment — returning to our “Don’t Know” mind that is before assumptions and preconceptions. So every situation — bad, good or neutral — offers an opportunity to see clearly, without attachment, and act with the compassion that is a natural result.

“This trivial tail, just this is very weird” — and very wonderful. Why is it that its tail cannot pass through?

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Original Face

Posted on Oct 25 , 2011 in Blog

Poem by Zen Master Seung Sahn

Your true self is always shining and free.
Human beings make something
and enter the ocean of suffering.
Only without thinking can you return to your true self.
The high mountain is always blue,
white clouds coming and going.

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The Life Of The Buddha, BBC Documentary

Posted on Oct 22 , 2011 in Blog

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zFbjDcz_CbU

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What is Zen?

Posted on Oct 11 , 2011 in Blog

In this whole world everyone searches for happiness outside, but nobody understands their true self inside.

Everybody says, “I” – “I want this, I am like that…” But nobody understands this “I.” Before you were born, where did your I come from? When you die, where will your I go? If you sincerely ask, “what am I?” sooner or later you will run into a wall where all thinking is cut off. We call this “don’t know.”

Zen is keeping this “don’t know” mind always and everywhere.

 

When walking, standing, sitting,
lying down, speaking, being
silent, moving, being still.
At all times, in all places, without
interruption – what is this?
One mind is infinite kalpas.

Meditation in Zen means keeping don’t-know mind when bowing, chanting and sitting Zen. This is formal Zen practice. And when doing something, just do it. When driving, just drive; when eating, just eat; when working, just work.

Finally, your don’t-know mind will become clear. Then you can see the sky, only blue. You can see the tree, only green. Your mind is like a clear mirror. Red comes, the mirror is red; white comes the mirror is white. A hungry person comes, you can give him food; a thirsty person comes, you can give her something to drink. There is no desire for myself, only for all beings. That mind is already enlightenment, what we call Great Love, Great Compassion, the Great Bodhisattva Way. It’s very simple, not difficult!

So Buddha said that all beings have Buddha-nature (enlightenment nature). But Zen Master Joju said that a dog has no Buddha-nature. Which one is right? Which one is wrong? If you find that, you find the true way.

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Chinese Calligraphy Class

Posted on Oct 05 , 2011 in Blog & Upcoming Events

Chinese Calligraphy Class

Sunday August 26, 12-1PM – Our kitchen master Chong Yew, has been teaching a series of calligraphy classes here at the Zen Center. Below are some examples of his work which are available to purchase through the Pagoda Gift Shop.

What is Chinese Calligraphy?

Chinese Calligraphy is one of the oldest Oriental arts. Calligraphy is not only a practical technique for writing Chinese characters, but is also a unique way to develop spiritual values, clarity, discipline, strength and flexibility. It is a very good way to reflect ourselves in that very moment, just like Zen meditation. We will begin a series of six Chinese Calligraphy classes which will be offered every other Sunday after the scheduled long sitting or Dharma talk. The one hour long classes will be a suggested donation of $10 -$15 each. Paper, brush, old rag, newspaper, saucer plate, and ink can be provided for an additional $15 but feel free to bring your own. For more information and to register please email director@providencezen.org or call 401-658-1464.

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Don’t Know Is Your True Nature

Posted on Oct 04 , 2011 in Blog

By Zen Master Ko Bong

If you want to understand
You don’t understand
If you attain don’t know
That is your true nature

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Winter Kyol Che 2012

Posted on Oct 03 , 2011 in Blog

Winter Kyol Che 2012
  • Winter Kyol Che 2012 – Opening ceremony is Friday January 6 at 7:30PM. Kyol Che begins the following morning Saturday, January 7, 2012 and runs through Friday, March 30, 2012 – led by Zen Master Soeng HyangZen Master Bon ShimZen Master Bon HaengMyo Ji Sunim JDPSNancy Brown Hedgpeth JDPSN, and Tim Lerch JDPSN.
  • Entry is on Friday January 7, 2012 at 7:30pm, or any subsequent Saturday at 8:00am.
  • Exit is on Friday, March 30, 2012, or on any Saturday at 8:00am.
  • Minimum participation is one week.
  • 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.
  • Teaching Schedule:
    Jan. 7 - 14: Zen Master Soeng Hyang
    Jan. 14 - Feb. 5: Zen Master Bon Shim
    Feb. 5 - 18:  Tim Lerch. JDPSN
    Feb. 18 - Feb. 25:  Zen Master Soeng Hyang
    Feb. 25 - March 3:  Nancy Hedgpeth, JDPSN
    March 3 - 10:  Zen Master Bon Haeng
    March 10 - March 17:  Nancy Hedgpeth, JDPSN
    March 17 - 24:  Zen Master Bon Haeng
    March 24 - 30:  Zen Master Soeng Hyang

For more detailed information, download the Kyol Che Information Booklet (pdf format).

Retreat fees are:

$4500/entire retreat or $455/week for non-members and associate members;

$3000/entire retreat or $315/week for students, clergy and school members;

$2500/entire retreat or $245/week for Dharma Teachers and Dharma Teachers in training in the Kwan Um School of Zen.

Half price for Eastern Europeans who are members in good standing of their home zen centers (does not apply to Eastern Europeans living in the U.S.).

SEE YOUR GUIDING TEACHER FOR INFORMATION ON HOW TO OBTAIN A SCHOLARSHIP.

To register for your retreat online – fill out the retreat registration form.

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

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Leave Your Mind Alone

Posted on Sep 27 , 2011 in Blog

Excerpted from a dharma talk with Zen Master Wu Bong in September, 1991

Question: I have a friend who has amnesia. Could you explain this in Buddhist terms?

WBZM: In Buddhist psychology, we speak of eight kinds of consciousness. The first five are sensory-sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. The sixth is mind consciousness, which controls our body, and the seventh is “discriminating consciousness,” which enables us to distinguish white from black or good from bad. The eighth consciousness is that which controls memory.

 

Sometimes these last three consciousness are split apart and don’t function together. The result might be amnesia, or perhaps a split personality. In extreme cases one personality doesn’t know what the other personality is doing. If you are practicing, however, you return to “before thinking.” Before thinking there is no first, second, third consciousness, etc. It is before any consciousness. If you keep this “before consciousness,” then amnesia and even a more serious kind of dysfunction can heal. The sixth, seventh and eighth consciousness can work together.

Practicing means you don’t use your consciousness; you let it rest. When your arm is damaged, you put it in a sling and let it heal. Otherwise you will damage it more and more. It’s the same way with your mind; if you leave it alone, it will heal. Leaving it alone means returning to before thinking. This is the purpose of Zen meditation.

Q: I have trouble deciding things. Is there some way practicing can help?

WBZM: I have a secret technique which I’ve been teaching for several years now. Take a coin (laughter) and throw it up in the air. By the time you catch it, you usually know what way you want it to come up. You don’t even have to look. Just do it.

From the vantage point of distance, most decisions are not so important Either way will be OK. Why you do what you do is most important-is it for me or for others? If your direction is clear, then your choice is also clear. But sometimes you cannot decide what is helpful, so flip a coin. It’s OK.

Q: My desires seem to come in two varieties: low elm, like “I want that cheesecake” or “I want that woman in a bikini,” and high class, like I really want to see peace in this world” or “I want to see my family flourish.” Is this the difference you’re talking about?

WBZM: Not exactly. We talk about desire versus aspiration. Every morning at our Zen centers we recite “Sentient beings are numberless, we vow to save them all.” That vow’s direction is for others. That is aspiration.

Desire means “for me.” You said, for example, “my family will flourish.” Why only “my family?” That is desire mind. But, “May all families flourish.” Not only human families. Tree family, cat family, dog family … Then there is no I, my, me. Or someone says I want enlightenment” That, again, is desire mind.

But suppose someone says I don’t understand my true self, what is this “I”? That question takes away desire mind. If you cultivate desire, desire will grow. If you cultivate Great Question, thinking calms down and desires disappear. Thinking itself is not a problem, but if you let your desires and thinking control your actions, then you do have a problem. Let’s say a feeling or an idea appears, and you know it’s not correct to act on it. If you’re practicing, you’ve learned to let what appears in your consciousness pass. If you’re not practicing, it’s harder to control your actions. Even though you know something’s not correct, you still do it. Or something should be done, but you don’t do it. Later you say, “Why did I do that?’ But the next time is not any different. When I was a university student, I remember vowing after each exam that the next time my preparation would begin well ahead of time. I was never able to keep that vow, which means that my laziness thinking was quite strong. I wasn’t practicing hard enough, so this lazy mind controlled me.

Q: You said “don’t check yourself, don’t check others.” What does this mean?

WBZM: When you are practicing, uncomfortable thoughts and feelings often arise. We are accustomed to running away from these things. One way we try to escape when we’re alone on the cushion is to check ourselves: “Oh, I am no good. I should not be thinking. I am a lousy Zen student.” Thinking about thinking is like putting a head on top of your head. Another way of escaping is to look at and judge others. It is much more amusing than dealing with our own predicament

Q: I saw a book named “If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him.” What does this mean?

WBZM: Zen means becoming independent. That is the Buddha’s teaching. Many people, however, become attached to teachers, attached to ideas, attached to words. It can be a kind of sickness. I heard a story about two friends walking down the street. One friend fell down, and the other one started to laugh. So the one who fell down said, “Look, that’s not very nice. In the Bible it says that even if your enemy falls into adversity, you must not laugh, or rejoice. His friend responded, “Yes, of course I read that in the Bible, but it doesn’t say anything about laughing when your friend falls down.” That’s a joke of course, but sadly we do attach to words, usually missing what they point at.

To be independent means that you find for yourself what the truth is. Don’t just take someone’s word for it, no matter how famous a person it is. If you attach to someone, you attach to someone’s ideas, judgments, opinions. So if you meet the Buddha on the road you must kill him. Those are good words! However, even more importantly, when you meet your own 1, my, me, kill them. Think of your life as a kind of a laboratory. You hear of a good formula. Don’t accept it automatically. Test it in your fife. If it really works, then use it, and teach it to others. If it doesn’t, throw it out Kill the Buddha, because you are the most important authority. That means that you must become Buddha. That means that your practicing is most important

Q: Do you mean practicing, as you people do here in this room?

WBZM: Earlier this morning I asked you “What are you?” You were stuck, and unable to answer. That is our practice. Formal practice, which is what we do twice a day in this room, is only a technique, albeit a very important one. We can easily talk about keeping a don’t know mind, but it is not always easy to actually do it. Even ten or fifteen minutes a day of formal practice can help us carry that practice into the rest of our life.

In your daily life, when you are doing something, do it one hundred percent. Then you are completely awake. If you are dreaming, wake up. Good dream or bad dream, dream of the past, the present, or the future, it does not matter. Become awake! Become an awakened one. Become Buddha.

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Understanding Human Nature

Posted on Sep 21 , 2011 in Blog

By Zen Master Dae Kwang

As soon as the war was over, Korea split into south and north. What everybody thought was going to bring happiness actually brought more conflicts and more suffering. It happened like that in Iraq. The war was supposed to bring peace, but what happened? So inside, Zen Master Seung Sahn had this big question: what can I do? Why is there so much suffering? He went to a temple and took some Western philosophy books with him, because he had an idea: he would read all these books, then he would understand what human beings are all about, and then he could help them.

For months, he read philosophy books. One day, an old monk who took care of the woods around the temple walked by his small hermitage. The monk saw this young man reading a book by Plato, the Greek philosopher, and was very surprised. So the monk asked him, “What are you doing?”

Zen Master Seung Sahn said, “I am reading these philosophy books so that I can understand what human beings are.”

The monk suddenly knocked the book out of Zen Master Seung Sahn’s hands and said, “That book will not help you understand human beings.”

But Zen Master Seung Sahn’s mind was very strong. He looked up at the old monk and asked, “Do you understand human beings?” Very clever. It is just like a story in the book by Plato. It was five hundred years before the modern era. A philosopher, Socrates, liked to ask everybody he met: do you understand yourself? One time a person asked him right back: Do you? And Socrates said, “No, I don’t. I don’t understand my self. But I understand this ‘don’t know’ very well.” Very interesting.

So, when Zen Master Seung Sahn asked the old monk, “Do you understand human beings?”, the old monk said, “No, I don’t, but I understand that the sky is blue and the trees are green.”

Then BOOM!

Zen Master Seung Sahn understood this man was not the usual style of monk. So he asked the old monk, “What should I do? What can I do to understand?” The old monk said, “You should do a hundred day solo retreat. Practice very hard and you will understand.” So it is just like the Buddha. He left his good situation and looked inside. Zen Master Seung Sahn did a long retreat and looked inside. You, too, can look inside. The outside situation is not so important. What is important is to look inside.

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Three Steps to the Left, Around the Front of the Car

Posted on Sep 13 , 2011 in Blog

by Zen Master Bon Haeng on Jan 1, 1992

A couple of years ago I was walking to to work, a walk which takes me through several busy intersections in Cambridge. My mind was filled with the day’s activities and plans. Consequently, my attention at that particular moment was not with the moment as it was unfolding.

I was crossing a particularly busy intersection; a blind man was walking beside me, waving his stick back and forth. As this man was walking, his stick hit a car parked right in the crosswalk. I glanced over and you could see an expression of “what is this?” on his face. He didn’t know how to overcome this obstacle in his path. Perhaps he thought he had lost his way or that he had not counted his steps correctly. As I watched, another man looked up and said: “Three steps to the left, around the front of the car.” And I said to myself, “That’s wonderful. But where was l?”

This is our practice. It is not some great, expanded commitment to the universe. It’s not some hope of how things can be in the future. It is not some longing for things to be as they were in the past. It is only in this moment, responding spontaneously: what can each one of us do that is of service?

Our task as we go through our daily lives is to cultivate this practice that we are already connected with. Only don’t know; how can I be of service? I often wish it were more complicated, but just can’t seem to find more to it. That’s all there is.