So, value the sort of play, and as I said, see if you can break the koan—the koan will be amused. And see it, and let it—let it into your heart. And see what comes, or follow it around, or have it follow you. And finally you’ll find, you’ll realize, “Oh, I’m here. I’m free.”
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.
PZI 1 Day retreat – Part 1, Morning Session of On the Banks of the Ghost River with John Tarrant & Tess Beasley. John Reads the Ballad of Tam Lin in which a brave girl helps her lover, caught in the Faery Queens’s caterhaugh, transform. Dharma talk and comments from participants. Complete session as recorded Oct. 31 2020.
Audio Excerpt from PZI 1 Day retreat – Morning Session of On the Banks of the Ghost River with John Tarrant & Tess Beasley. John Reads the Ballad of Tam Lin in which a brave girl helps her lover, caught in the Faery Queens’s caterhaugh (boggy fen), transform. As recorded Oct. 31 2020. (complete session in 2 parts available)
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 Zen Online – Hanging Lanterns series – One treasure deep in the cosmos and in you. Seeing, feeling being inhabited by the one light in all things. The eternity in things. Treasure in the simplest things. Zhaozhou meets a practitioner. These are our times – love the treasure in them. Michelle Riddle – vows, Michael Wilding – sax, Amaryllis – violin. As recorded Oct 11 2020.
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 17: A variant of this discovery is that falling on the ground, while terrible, is also wonderful—the taste of dirt, blood, coffee, oranges, tears, sweat—the taste of life itself.
Zenosaurus: My Kaiser doc with solemn demeanor sent me to be scanned for cancer on the bone. I could tell the docs thought it was a likely outcome, and while I didn’t believe they were right, my mind did play the scenarios all by itself, without instruction from me.
Zenosaurus Curriculum 18: Gratitude comes with a feeling of openness, shyness, vulnerability. The person who is grateful can be hurt or rejected, she is taking a risk. With gratitude, there is more at stake, life is not small.
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 11: This koan offers offers the chance of finding that there is a home in traveling, in the smell of toast, the chill of the morning air and even in the feeling of being far from home.
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.
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.
Zenosaurus Curriculum 5: What’s it like when we don’t enter the worlds that come with the thoughts? Who owns my thoughts? They don’t have to be mine, they could be anyone’s.
Zenosaurus Curriculum 3: How is my hand like Buddha’s hand? This koan asks us to let the whole of our being fall into it, to love without reservation the experience of being made of flesh.
Zenosaurus Curriculum 4: War was a fact of life for those who invented the koan system, just as it is for us. The first step in stopping the war is noticing the war. It’s also good to notice what peace might be.
Zenosaurus Curriculum 1: When the Buddha was growing up, his father kept four sights from him. The forbidden sights were a sick person, an old person, a corpse, and a pilgrim dedicated to the meditation path.
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]
I think this is a time when things are kind of changing and incredibly uncertain, and that fidelity to what’s really true to us is important and valuable. And we don’t have to pretend that when difficulties are here, they’re not here. But also, we don’t have to pretend that they cancel the illumination, because nothing does, really. Even if we’re dying, the brightness of life is still there. And after we’re dead, we’ll worry about that later, [laughs] when the time comes in the bardos.
Transcription: Series 2 Class 6 – Vast Emptiness. The entire session as recorded July 25 2020. Please do not share this curriculum record.
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.
Rilke said, “Life is always right.” Whatever I think about that saying, this is the life I have, and I can’t have another life. And really, fundamentally I don’t want another one, because this one is so rich and compelling, no matter what’s going down right now.
So, rather than thinking a predicament is something we’ve got to get rid of, it’s just life—and it has its own dynamism. Maybe we have to walk through it, not run the other way. It’s all right to weep about it, or be frustrated and angry. You can’t be someone else, you are who you are. The gateway is yours, not someone else’s.
So, whatever your condition is, you can see the “I have joy.” Out of that emptiness, out of what seems unpromising—the dark material, the valley spirit, the enigma, out of the mystery, out of what I don’t understand—it just appears. The joy just appears.
Transcript: So. The storehouse of treasures opens by itself. You can take them and use them any way you wish. And there’s a certain kind of, I don’t know, as if we get ashamed for existing, ashamed for being ourselves, ashamed for feeling what we feel, ashamed for thinking what we think, and a lot of what meditation does is it allows us to look, well is that really right, is that what I want.
PZI Zen Online: Zhaozhou said, “Clay Buddhas cannot pass through water; metal Buddhas cannot pass through a furnace; wooden Buddhas cannot pass through fire.” Which Buddha survives? The mid loves its ideas, structures, concepts and so does society. Some of those constructs are always dissolving. Discomfort of change in society norms and our own personal norms. As recorded June 10, 2020.
PZI Zen Online – Living words come from the our hearts and the vastness of connection. We try to cut things up to manage our lives. Beliefs inhibit our natural responses and gets in the way of what the universe offers. If we avail ourselves of the mystery – it’s alive! The words love & trust are alive and so are the teachings in the koans.