The Heart Sutra says, “Form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form. There are no walls in the mind.” We are the world unfolding.
Evening dharma talk by John Tarrant in Summer Sesshin. As recorded June 15, 2018.
Green Glade of Meditation: Our culture needs to renew its dreams. We are still held by vastness, and it is good when the bottom falls out: our job is to work in harmony with the universe. Take the role of host for everything that appears. Allow “not knowing.” If you know who you are, you can not take a step! Nothing before us, and only a wake behind. The empathic nature of emptiness, blessings of the goddess. PZI Zen Online, as recorded July 26th, 2020.
Green Glade of Meditation: There is a framework in our practice for relying on emptiness and freedom, not holding pre-set views. Blessing things beyond approval and disapproval. I am you = emptiness. In Zen we shift to “before” the demons grabbed our ankles. You can’t rely on what you believe. We accord with the Dao, we can’t fall out of the dream. PZI Zen online, as recorded July 19, 2020.
Class 6 Curriculum Notes: Vast Emptiness – Call & Response Koans. Please do not share, this is core curriculum. July 25 2020.
John Tarrant gives a talk on Friday evening of the 2018 Summer Sesshin. June 15, 2018.
Once you really have a good connection with spirit, it will always be available to you if you turn towards it in a dark time. I’m not saying spirit is a false promise. It’s a true promise, but it doesn’t do our living for us. That living is the part we have to do for ourselves. And when we do that, then the soul comes in.
“You must in the destructive element immerse…” You have to go through it otherwise you can’t have real resolution. Not fleeing the difficulty of things, and orienting yourself to the infinite. “A person on a raft flows on the stream by throwing themselves away.” The importance of the smallest things in the this-is-it dream.
In forty years, the earth itself, beyond our control, and human violence, also beyond our control, will have changed all our assumptions. Even so, what do I want the teachings to be?
It’s easy to forget to be curious, and to grab an off-the-shelf knowledge, something like “This is awful.” Not reaching for off-the-shelf understandings, though, is an important skill.
What is the gift of the universe? We receive unexpected help when we are “living down a level,” living things before we construct them. Not constantly consulting your “me,” you open to the invitations and gifts that appear; trusting in the Dao.
The small self is always trying to hold off the world. But we are really a kind of flow. We feel the warm empathy at the bottom of all things. All things have Buddha nature. Not opposing reality is the beginning of all awakenings.
Meditation offers a path out of the burning house, without abandoning the promise and good-heartedness of being human. Practice is the last best hope of living up to that good-heartedness, the only thing that never hurts and usually helps. And even at the beginning of the meditation path, on a good day it’s exciting. It actually makes you happy.
John Tarrant’s Sunday morning Meditation & Talk: “So we rely on the spaciousness, we rely on not what we’ve already planned and schemed but we rely on what’s been opened up in our hearts. So even a time of torpor or a time when plans come apart, or we thought the culture was going in one way and it’s going in another. We can rely on that.” Transcript from PZI Zen Online recording from June 21, 2020.
Roshi Jon Joseph assembled a panel of 4 PZI meditators, who deal with various experiences of chronic and severe pain. Koan meditation has helped all of them to find a way to allow the pain in – not to exclude it, and to see it as a profound teacher and ally. As recorded May 31, 2021.
What is the journey for? What is it to have this life? We’re in it—it’s so marvelous, so overwhelming and so incomprehensible. You’ll find, I think, that you can’t stand back from it and answer that question. So the “good day” is just how it is. It’s like the gift of the universe, and you’re in the universe, having received the gift. Transcript of John Tarrant’s dharma talk in Winter Sesshin 2020.
“In even the simplest life, pain and disappointment accumulate—and at some moment everyone longs to walk through a gate and leave the past behind, perhaps for an earlier time when the colors were bright and the heart carried no weight. The quest for a fresh start is so fundamental that it defines the shape of the stories we tell each other.” Article by John Tarrant published in Lion’s Roar magazine on July 1, 2007.
Turning your thoughts upside down is almost always progress, especially with conflicts that seem old and full of certainty. Article by John Tarrant published in Lion’s Roar magazine June 9, 2009.
Jon Joseph Roshi, Director of San Mateo Zen, considers the 8th Ox-herding picture along with a verse from 12th century poet Kuon Shihyuan. What happens if Ox and Self disappear? PZI Zen Online. As recorded May 3, 2021.
Peach blossoms can turn up anywhere, and the Valley Spirit appears. Depending on what is larger than us—even the reaching for it has it! PZI Digital Temple. Audio as recorded April 21, 2021.
Australia’s ancient forests were burning in September 2020. In the face of unfathomable loss John Tarrant writes, “It’s too early to despair, it’s always too early to despair. The world itself is a mystery school and teaches us what it needs. It gives us impossible tasks and impossible journeys, and all we can say is that we love the world without knowing outcomes, because it is the only world we have, and because we never do know outcomes.” Article for Lion’s Roar magazine, published September 14, 2020.
Everybody, every time, has its own difficulty and crisis. This is ours. We can trust our own lives that brought us here, and perhaps we have something to do here. And we don’t know what that is but we’ll find it as we keep walking. The thing about the meditation path is, I don’t have to think a lot about what’s mine to do. You just give yourself to the meditation, and it’s produced for you. It’s given to you. The path opens by itself, you know. Transcript of PZI Zen Online Sunday Talk with John Tarrant, recorded March 29 2020.
I was thinking about history and beauty and what an old old thing human suffering is, and how intrinsic it is. And we keep making things better and then they keep getting worse, and we’re making them better and they get worse. I guess I just wanted to say that it’s really good to have a practice at any time. Meditate—it will help. You will come from a position of peace rather than just fighting yourself. Being yourself, the true person, no rank. Transcript of PZI Zen Online Sunday Dharma Talk with John Tarrant Roshi, recorded June 7, 2020.
PZI Zen Online Transcript: It’s a very strong thing to be human, you can be subjected to all sorts of great forces. And sometimes you can win through, and sometimes you die. But we’re all of us doing that, all the time. So I was thinking about friendship and how good it is to love each other and how good it is to have friends and to make peace in our hearts to meet each other. Sunday talk with John Tarrant, recorded June 14 2020.
PZI Zen Online: Excerpt from The Journey Into Awakening. A talk for Thanksgiving in this unusual time of covid lockdown. The benefits of doing something difficult and the “palace of solitude.” Within emptiness intimacy is always available, so we can touch what is beautiful and hear the voices that always accompany us. Mazu: “Your current circumstance, where you are now, is the meaning of your existence.” As recorded Nov. 22, 2020. 9:23 minutes.
Practice. The notion of practice, as something you embody, and you walk through, and you are—rather than something you add, like something added to gasoline. There’s also a sense of moving in the dark, in some way that’s positive. So that in a practice, “not knowing” is on your side.
PZI Fall Sesshin: Gathering in the Valley of Our Time – John Tarrant’s evening words. Why did we come here? “Not for anything else.” Huangbo’s response on his arrival. Trusting your own experience in sesshin. Any moment of noticing is oneness with emptiness. The Valley Spirit holds us. Whatever arises in meditation is for you, and not wrong. October 1, 2020.
Zenosaurus Curriculum 14: The dark, charged moments endure in us and they bless us. “This,” they announce, “is your life—here it is.” What you have always longed for has arrived.
Zenosaurus Curriculum 8: Most problems come from “knowing” things that might not be true. If we stop insisting on certainty we might feel anxiety at first, but then an exhilarating freedom might arrive.
So, there’s a spaciousness inside all situations, is what I’m saying. We’re walking through them, and underneath our feet there’s space and light around us—and we’re walking through space and light. And knowing that then is the source, I think, of empathy and love—but we accompany each other. And we don’t have to take ourselves or each other so seriously. We don’t have to advocate for the direness of the human condition, which is something we find a lot of. [laughs]