Suzuki Roshi says the essence of Buddhism is that "Everything changes." It was much easier for me to ignore that fact when I was young.
It wasn’t quite so spring-like yesterday here in Northern Michigan, back to slightly more “normal” temperatures. It’s spring break week around here, which may account for a smaller group for meditation last night.
The weather here in northern Michigan is amazing! Scary but amazing. We should have several feet of snow, still, but hyacinths are pushing up, trees budding and starting to leaf, peepers going crazy in the smaller lakes. Today should be in the 80s again. It’s no wonder we had only about nine at our weekly meditation and discussion. I hope everyone else was having a good time . . . . .
I left off last week’s post quoting Joseph Goldstein, where he says that some people think the recognition of suffering makes for pessimism. Then he says: “Actually, it is quite the reverse.” I guess that sounds as if we’ll be all joyful if we only see our suffering. My teacher, Sokuzan Bob Brown nudged me on this.
Our local sangha wasn’t able to have our four-hour sitting yesterday because of a huge snowstorm, which knocked out power at the Unitarian church where we meet.
We had a class in Eastern Religions from the local college our sangha yesterday. It was a treat to have these newbies to the practice get a sense of what it is to sit and to participate in a sangha. Thanks to their teacher, Misty, for bringing them.
It was an interesting time to have guests, since we got into talking about rebirth—the subject that leaves many people confused about Buddhism. What does rebirth mean?
Yesterday our local meditation group read together a pitifully small portion of our book, One Dharma, because we got so interested in the topic and kept talking instead of reading. The section is “Attachment to Self.” What is “self?”, Goldstein asks. If we go into the body with a tiny video camera and look at the organs, what part of that is “self”?
This is my arrangement of a transcription of the conversation/dharma talk with Zen priest Sokuzan Bob Brown last Sunday at our local meditation group.
Our local sangha had our four-hour block meditation yesterday--people coming and going, with a number of us staying and sitting the whole time. Plus our 30-minute snack time afterward, which is gradually creeping into the realm of an actual meal, so much food!
Since we had no discussion group to tell you about, I thought for today I’d offer a few more poems you may not know. Here are two from Ryokan (1758-1831), a Japanese Buddhist hermit who spent much of his time writing poetry and doing calligraphy. His poetry is simple and inspired by nature. He loved children, and supposedly sometimes forgot to beg for food because he was playing with the children of the nearby village. Ryōkan refused to accept any position as a priest or even as a "poet."
We had a small group in our local sangha for our discussion last time, but a larger one when it was time for meditation, with a light and dry snow drifting down outside, which is what it’s doing now. I’m thinking of Billy Collins’s poem, “Shoveling Snow with the Buddha,” You can hear him read it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCrDVIfoKYY
We read and discussed the chapter, “Liberation Through Nonclinging,” in One Dharma.
Goldstein touches somewhat lightly on the skandas, or aggregates that form consciousness out of “direct cognizing of the object itself,” as he puts it, and then goes on to explain how our minds get clouded with ignorance. What does he mean by “ignorance,” you ask? Here are his words:
“It is when we are caught up in wanting, attachment, fear, or aversion, when we are lost in thoughts of past and future.” Notice his words CAUGHT UP IN and LOST IN. Of course we do want, and dislike, and think of the past and future. The ignorance comes in when we don’t REALIZE what’s going on. But when there is that little gap of awareness, that we’re free from the being caught up in, free from the lostness.
Goldstein quotes the Buddha: “Nothing whatsoever is to be clung to as ‘I’ or ‘mine.’ Whoever has heard this truth has heard all the Teachings, whoever practices this truth has realized all the Teachings.” Goldstein calls this the essential unifying experience of freedom.
“Suffering is rope burn,” says Goldstein. We try to hold on, and it hurts.
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