John Tarrant in Fall Sesshin 2019. Being lost or between places is a fundamental human predicament. Being lost delivers you to yourself with an unknown outcome. The teacher takes away the student’s need to know what’s unfolding on their pilgrimage. Zen likes predicaments as signs that things want to change.
PZI Zen Online Audio: Sarah Bender Roshi reflects on the intimacy of not knowing, the nearness of all of us in this dreamy emergent time. Wandering and not knowing are allies now. Includes Sarah’s intro & dharma talk, silent meditation segments, and sharing. As recorded April 3 2020.
John Tarrant in Fall Sesshin 2019. Zen likes predicaments, uncertainty allows us to enter life more fully. The koans are allies in this. The unexpected questions are often those that help the most. To all the strategies that defend against life, a Zen entreaty: “Become more lost.” John Tarrant in Fall Sesshin 2019.
Using the koans Not Knowing is Most Intimate and Taking the Form of Guan Yin Find Shelter for the Homeless Person, John Tarrant talks about the intimacy that comes when we turn toward vulnerability and no longer need to defend against life.
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.
I’m getting used to the thought that many things that seem as if they belong in the realm of the body are also influenced by the mind. Placebo studies indicate that even surgery can be a placebo. In medical school the faculty will sometimes say to students that they should use a drug a lot when it first comes out while people still believe in it. There is a Zen koan that goes “The whole world is medicine,” and the joke is that it could go, “The whole world is placebo.”
Part 4: I vow to live the Great Buddha Way. Michelle Riddle takes up the 4th of the 4 Vows. What seems impossible may not be possible to ignore! Koans and sutras give many instructions on how to live, but you must live the Great Buddha Way as you. Like great art, it is an intimate and particular expression, but speaks to something we all feel, and something we all must do: realizing we are here! Excerpt from the Sunday session recorded August 1, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Zenosaurus Curriculum 13: The link between the koan and the transformation of your life is real, but since the process isn’t linear you might not notice it at first. The link might seem to be in a black box—invisible.
Zenosaurus Curriculum 16: There is a very old idea that the human body is itself a map of the cosmos, the fragment that contains the whole.
Zenosaurus: Kevin Diminyatz, an artist and long time friend of PZI, told me today that Albert Saijo just died in the volcano on the Big Island. Kevin is doing his funeral.
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 10: Why do people sit around the camp fire with flashlights under their chins telling ghost stories? As well as the shudder that takes us to another realm, ghosts bring romance and yearning—they account for incompleteness, the person you loved but who died or changed her mind, the uncontrollable residue of everything we do.
There was a teacher called Luopu, a Chinese teacher, and he said this interesting thing. He said, “You have to directly realize the source outside of the teachings.” That’s the whole thing about it. That’s Bodhidharma’s thing, the direct realization outside of scriptures. The scriptures are nice and the teachings are nice, but really, the direct understanding—the direct meeting with life—the direct meeting with awakening is the thing.
Just at this moment, the whole universe is holding us up. It’s nice for it to have a good job like that. That’s the thing that Master Ma said, the great master Mazu, “At a certain stage you have to make yourself a raft and a ferry for others if you want to go forward from the place you cannot go forward from.” This letting yourself feel—feel the moment and how it spreads out. There is no other moment. There is this, this, this, the Blue Dragon moment. It goes out through the galaxies.
The Heart Sutra in the context of its relationship to koans and what koans are. I want to pursue that line a little bit. And the first thing to say about – probably the first attitude people have to koans is that they are a sort of tool, a gadget of some kind, and you use them and you concentrate on them, and you use them – a can opener for the mind
The Heart Sutra, like any koan, contains the universe, and so you have to go in somewhere. I want to go in through the “Mantra of Great Magic.” Even the word “mantra” is, in a certain way, a reference to magic, a sort of portable access to reality that you can carry around with you. And the word “magic” is also used for the word “mantra,” so where we use “mantra” to produce magic, there’s a transformative quality about the mantra so that, when you repeat it, when you keep company with it, you end up in its world.
Sarah Bender Roshi reflects on a koan: Wisdom has no knowledge, but there is nothing it does not know. Therefore, purity pervades with abundance. This is a purity of inclusion and intimacy, not exclusion and definition. That’s abundance. You are this abundance. As written April 17 2020.
The whole thing about Chan is that it’s an improvisational culture. Because we love it? No, because that’s what life is! That’s the good day. Not-knowing is intimately tied to the good day. It’s not an achievement—it’s the gift of the universe, and you are in the universe having received the gift. Poetry, dreams, Linji’s death, and more. As recorded in Winter Sesshin 2020.
Allison relays the story of the encounter between Manjushri and Vimalakirti. Manjushri, among the 32,000 Bodhisattvas sent by Buddha to Vimalakirti’s , and asks him on his sick bed: ‘How do the Bodhisattvas enter the gate of non-duality?’ The response is an intimate silence. Allison’s story includes the karmic path that his daughter, Moon Like Beauty bore on her way to enlightenment.
Two swords are crossed (like in the movies, which actually I don’t think happens in real life, but it’s very popular in the movies. It was popular in the movies like 1200 years ago.) Two swords are crossed. There’s no way to retreat. You’re a lotus in the fire. You can’t help it. You’re determined to go higher. Farther, higher, up , further, more. So two swords are crossed. There’s no way to retreat. You’re a lotus in the fire. You can’t help it. You’re determined to go higher.
John: So you want to say anything? Say something ordinary.
Hakuin would paint that as a demon. This is demon number three. Which number demon is that? And the other things is that thing about how the thing we thought was the problem can transform, there is that real sense of what’s wrong with being a demon? If I think there’s a demon obviously I’m it.
This is from an old Chinese poet, and koans and poems were always, poems, koans, koans, poems, they’re always somewhat intertwined in their history. And so often poems were used as koans and vice versa. This is a series of five poems by an old Chinese teacher called Dongshan, who kind of did a map of the Way in five stages, because everybody knows there are five stages for the Way [laughter].
And so the certain categories of koans are designed to help us see the implications. We’ve been playing with a few this week, and the one I’d like to do today is “Stop the war.” It’s kind of succinct. Cut it out! Stop the war, or can you stop the war?