Conversation is itself a kind of meditation, a way we can accompany each other through life. We can share errors, painful mistakes, dreams, losses, discoveries, or just the ordinary glowing things. That’s a good day. Article by John Tarrant published in Lion’s Roar magazine February 18, 2014.
John revisits the awakenings and koans of the great teachers, among them Yunmen and his teachings. In the layered quality of the teachings there is a common thread in our lineage: we are all in it together, all held by this great path, we put ourselves in the vessel and see what happens. Each of us holds a piece of the story—trust the piece you hold. As recorded Fall Sesshin 2019.
“No merit whatsoever!” Bodhidharma responds to Emperor Wu in Case 2, in the Book of Serenity. David follows Bodhidharma’s path, and the process of practice.
A curation of Winter Sesshin dharma talks on a single page, for easy finding and listening. A sesshin is always more than the sum of its parts or its recorded talks. There are morning rituals, greetings, incense passed magically through the screen, the changing light, rich silences, moments of humor, tech gremlins, tears, synchronicities, dogs barking, dreams, and awakenings that we share. It is the timeless play of the universe. As recorded in the PZI Digital Temple, February 1-6, 2022.
As recorded Monday, November 1st, 2021, as part of a series of conversations with important Zen (Chan) voices: translators, writers, scholars, and practitioners.
SUTRA: Shitou Xiqian’s ancient Sandokai translated by Joan Sutherland and John Tarrant, entitled Taking Part in the Gathering.
Text of the Great Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra (short version.) Musical score by PZI’s Richie Dominge, 2007, is in a separate post.
John revisits the awakenings and koans of the great teachers, among them Yunmen and Linji. The love, and attention, and faithfulness at the heart of the stories and teachings of the Chan ancestors is their gift to us. And everything we bring to it is an addition into this great heritage, and is part of the layering. Transcript from a video talk in Fall Sesshin 2019.
Everyone is assailed by demons right now. Demons have a long history in the culture. If you’ve got demons, you’re alive! But you don’t have to get on board with them. Demons come out of your own heart, just like enlightenment. Tess Beasley reads from James Hillman’s “Dreams & the Blood Soul.” Michelle Riddle & Jon Joseph chant a Zen spell for dispelling demons, the Sho Sai Myo Kichijo Dharani. John reads Keats and Coleridge.
“I like to find instances of Zen in pop culture where people have never heard of Zen. Along these lines, it’s always nice to have what you think is going on, turn out to be not what is going on. This is particularly so when what you think is going on is embarrassing or sad. This is the basic Buddhist enlightenment story: that what is going on is more interesting than you think.”
Jung’s journey is interesting, harrowing, ridiculous, pompous, incomprehensible, amusing, sad, frightening, wise—the whole range of the human is there. Jung’s point of meeting with Buddhism is that, at a time when darkness seemed and was near, he offered the example of a trust in the deepest possibility of transformation, and in the involuntary processes that we contain, and in the depths of what it is to be human.
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.
When we are not bound by the story of our lives—the fictions, really—and not bound by the effort of knowing what everything is and where it’s going and what it should be, then a new kind of freedom appears. The body feels that and becomes at ease. You experience the wonder and beauty of just being here in the world of consciousness.
Distraction can have a long arc, and until the end of the story, you can’t say what’s a distraction and what’s a calling.
“Mostly, if a method for achieving happiness is not successful, people think something like, She should have loved me more. Or, I wasn’t trying hard enough. Or, I wasn’t holding my mouth right. Whether the needle on the blame meter points to yourself or to others, that particular machine will always seem to be malfunctioning. You try to do the method better, rather than looking at whether the method works. So let’s look at the method.”
Love is an enlightenment story available to everyone, and that story includes being attacked by demons as well as being showered with roses. If we widen our gaze, in love, we discover what we like about ourselves and how we want to live our lives.
Meetings in Zen can feel risky just like meeting a “tyger” or a mountain lion on a footpath. And yet that is the open gate, the place where we become available to the gifts of the universe. When barriers to experience are down, anything can happen. Guishan’s enlightenment did not stop his travels, and a tiger helped him think twice about leaving his monastery.
Day two of 2018 Winter Sesshin. John Tarrant introduces the great koan “No,” a gift from the ancestors. The gift is what happens when we hang out with the koan. “No” as the purest gate. When we step through, we find out we’re here! It’s not personal, you’re harmonizing with the universe. Transcript from a recording on January 17, 2018.
Transmission happens when we let our hearts open. It comes from a free heart. Babies are transmission devices! Taking up the koan you are given—a little temple to live in. Koans do what they do without consulting anyone. The work reveals a wonderful quality, of the world coming to meet us. The great lesson: It’s not outside of you, and you can’t legislate your own enlightenment! 4 Vows: Jordan McConnell. As recorded March 21, 2021.
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.
John Tarrant begins with a wild Daoist story from the Zhuangzi, about a giant fish named Kun. The freedom is in your own breast and the koan path opens the way. Includes meditation segments, music from Michael Wilding, vows from Jordan McConnell & Amaryllis Fletcher, Cantor. PZI Zen Online. As recorded May 2, 2021.
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.