The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Thursday, May 14, 2015

May Scenes from LeTort Spring Sangha

One night before meditation, I came into the Zendo to find that one of the sangha members had done a beautiful drawing in the incense bowl.  It reminded me that hearts abound!  Each of us contributes to the essence of love by giving and receiving love.

At our humble Hanamatsuri celebration last week, the flower offerings included everything from tulips to dandelions.  In the Buddha's eyes, all flowers are a blessing, even the humble violet with leaves of grass trailing, pulled from the yard outside the Zendo.

Happy Birthday Buddha!  And the baby Buddha there in front of the cake?  He ended up in the incense bowl/ sandbox.  The reason was simple: what child doesn't love to play in the sand?

This was the first time we celebrated our own Hanamatsuri as a sangha--because we are often a small group this time of year, we usually join Hanamatsuri at the House of Meditation in Harrisburg. But I wanted to begin the tradition here in Carlisle.  
Our usual Dickinson students were all taking exams and finishing up final papers, so our group consisted of community members this time. We sent our students blessings and good luck, then ate the whole cake!

As we sat around enjoying sweet tea and treats this lovely spring evening, no one was in any hurry to rush off.  It was the perfect time to consider the birth of the Buddha and the wonderful teaching around his first words: 

"This is the last birth.  There is now no more coming to be."


Mind can never be intelligent--only no mind is intelligent.  Only no mind is original and radical.  Only no mind is revolutionary--revolution in action.  

The mind gives you a sort of stupor.  Burdened by the memories of the past, burdened by the projections of the future, you go on living--at the minimum.  You don't live at the maximum.

Your flame remains very dim.  Once you start dropping thoughts, the dust that you have collected in the past, the flame arises--clean, clear, alive, young.  Your whole life becomes a flame, and a flame without any smoke.  That is what awareness is.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Compassion is not logical.  It's basically spacious and generous.  A compassionate person might not be sure whether he is being compassionate to you or whether you are being compassionate to him, because compassion creates a total environment of generosity.  Generosity is implied; it just happens, rather than you making it happen.  It's just there, without direction, without me, without "for them".  It's full of joy, a spontaneously existing grin of joy, constant joy.

from Mindfulness in Action: Making Friends with Yourself through Meditation and Everyday Awareness by Chogyam Trungpa

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hanamatsuri 20

Hanamatsuri, the Flower Festival, the celebration of Shakyamuni Buddha's birthday, was celebrated last Saturday at the House of Meditation in Harrisburg, PA with the usual abundant sunshine, gentle breezes and wonderful dharma friends and ceremony. 
It never ceases to amaze me that in the 16 years that the Blue Mountain Lotus Society has honored the Buddha with flowers, water offering and delicious food, it has never once been rainy and cold.

For my first ordination as Shuso 10 years ago, the skies threatened with storm clouds and high winds.  I was in the middle of the 3 Questions on the Mountain Seat, a tumultuous, nerve wracking  process of accepting any and all questions from the senior priests and the Sangha, and I was beginning to think I could get through these moments, when someone asked, "How do you know you are on the right path?"

I recall looking up at the crazy, dark clouds piling up and listening to the winds flap the canopy of the tent we were all under, and thinking, "Uh-Oh, how do I answer that one?"  I must not have been silent for very long, though it felt like minutes, before I said, "When you are knocked down, blown over, rained on, and you get back up and start again, even if the wind is still howling and the rain is still falling and you just keep going, that's the path…."

Later, when I was thinking over my Mountain Seat ceremony, I heard nothing but the voice of judgement mocking my answer: Oh Puh-lease!?  Really?  That's it? What the hell sort of answer is that?  It's not even an answer, it doesn't make any sense at all.  Dumb!
And on, for awhile….recreating the answer in a million different ways.

These days that voice no longer directs me, and in fact is all but mute, the beauty of a Buddhist practice and the words of my incredible teachers having tamed with compassion that place of self-harm and recrimination.  
If our practice does not stem from and draw upon the ground of our compassionate Buddha being, the fountain of healing and wisdom for ourselves and all others, then we need to look deeper at what it is we are actually practicing.

Over the years, this fountain of equanimity has changed in so many ordinary and extraordinary ways, and this is the Way of Zen--if I talk about a fountain, it is a gate-less gate, and the concept of ordinary/ extraordinary is simply empty.  

Each Spring there is yet another conscious reason to renew my vows as a priest.  Still, I look for, but can never find an answer that is in plain sight, just here, in one breath that leads to another as seamlessly as the beads on a mala: perhaps I renew my vows with each inhalation and exhalation, through the ordinary and the extraordinary, the vow natural and unconscious, an expression of living in gratitude. 

In deep gratitude for my teachers!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

After the Storm

After a Rainstorm

Because I have come to the fence at night,
the horses arrive also from their ancient stable.
They let me stroke their long faces, and I note
in the light of the now-merging moon

how they, a Morgan and a Quarter, have been
by shake-guttered raindrops
spotted around their rumps and thus made
Appaloosas, the ancestral horses of this place.

Maybe because it is night, they are nervous,
or maybe because they too sense
what they have become, they seem
to be waiting for me to say something

to whatever ancient spirits might still abide here,
that they might awaken from this strange dream,
in which there are fences and stables and a man
who doesn't know a single word they understand.

--from Beautiful Country, by Robert Wrigley