Our Q’s & A’s of love and Zen, from The Ink Dark Moon Sunday session. In Zen nothing is excluded. Turning toward everything, even what doesn’t fit with our description of reality. We long to be seen as we truly are and are equally terrified of the possibility of being found. What your heart longs for is in your life now! Audio excerpt, as recorded Feb. 14 2021, PZI Zen Online.
Allison Atwill explores cases against life and love, the ways we block the universe’s gifts—and how we “abide somewhere” by clinging to lack. Or, we hang on to what we have like Deshan and his commentaries. We want to be included, “to feel beloved on earth.” Where is love in Zen? Included! Audio excerpt from The Ink Dark Moon. As recorded Feb. 14 2021, PZI Zen Online.
Atwill, Riddle & Beasley give us The Ink Dark Moon – stories of Zen and Love on Valentine’s Day. Complete session with music and The Four Boundless Vows. Jordan McConnell plays Love Me Tender. As recorded Feb. 14th 2021, PZI Zen Online. 59 minutes.
Music for meditation during Atwill, Riddle & Beasley’s The Ink Dark Moon. A Valentine’s Day day gift from musician Jordan McConnell. Audio excerpt as recorded Feb. 14 2021, PZI Zen Online.
Value a sort of play and see if you can break the koan—the koan will be amused. And see it and let it into your heart, and see what comes, or follow it around, or have it follow you. And finally you’ll realize, “Oh, I’m here. I’m free.”
John Tarrant gives a talk during Summer Retreat: July 14, 2014.
John opens the first evening at summer retreat talking about the spirit of a koan. We were nestled in the lovely redwood mountains of Land of the Medicine Buddha in Soquel California. We were meditating, walking and diving into the great koan, Sickness and Medicine. It is based on a koan which goes like this, “Sickness and Medicine are in accord with each other. The whole world is medicine, what am I?” July 14, 2014.
John Tarrant introduces a modern bodhisattva of compassion found in Mike Leigh’s latest film, Happy-Go-Lucky. How does the bodhisattva of great compassion use all those hands and eyes? It’s like reaching behind you for a pillow in the night.
Buddhism is based in reality. When we lose what we thought we had, our panic asks, “What will happen to little me?” and any answer to that question is likely to be overwhelming and shadowed. It is human to panic out of habit, without asking ourselves what is really going on and what our true, deep reaction is. But the gods in disguise show that sudden change can happen in a positive direction. The path out of suffering is closely related to accuracy, to noticing what really is, as opposed to what we first thought.
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 like finding features of popular culture that point the way out of the mind’s prison. It is as if a trail of breadcrumbs had been left where least expected.”
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.
The thusness of our reactions — the old teachers called all of these responses Buddha Nature. That’s what we recognize in each other.
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.
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?
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.
It is natural to look for the things you want outside of where you are now. That is the whole point of a journey. Yet this moment is all anyone has. So if freedom, love, beauty, grace, and whatever else is desirable are to appear, they must appear in a now.
The desire for a more beautiful life is ancient and enduring. In medieval times it meant dressing in bright silks and having long and colorful processions; the desire was poured into objects, too, into paintings and cathedrals with stained glass windows. Inside the desire for a more beautiful life is the desire for a more beautiful character.
“Gratitude is something that I haven’t planned on—either to receive or to give—it takes me by surprise. It arrives out of nowhere. It’s the part of happiness that is beyond selfishness. My gratitude doesn’t have a lot of discrimination, and I like that.”
“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.
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.
Part 2: I vow to set endless heartache to rest. Tess talks about the 2nd of the 4 Vows, the richness of heartache, and how we are drenched in tenderness and love for the world. Fearing drowning, we put up walls: “This shouldn’t be happening.” Seeing the endlessness of it allows it to move through, trusting the great river which carries us along. Setting heartache to rest is setting a kind of certainty to rest. Excerpt from the Sunday session on August 1, 2021.
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.
How does the bodhisattva of compassion use all those hands and eyes? In some way, through the vastness of hands and eyes, the koan speaks of the vast currents of the universe that carry and hold us. John Tarrant’s morning meditation & talk, Part 1 of this two-session Dragons of the Blue Cliff 1-Day Retreat. In the PZI Digital Temple, as recorded June 6, 2021.
Allison Atwill & Tess Beasley are guest hosts in John Tarrant’s Free & Easy Wandering Series. They each tell a story of being at a threshold—knocking on doors not knowing who would answer, and how the gifts of the universe appeared. PZI Zen Online, as recorded May 30, 2021. Vows with Jordan McConnell. Music for meditation from Michael Wilding archived separately.
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.
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.