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.
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.
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.
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.
Everyone knows happiness is A Good Thing, more desirable than say, vacuum cleaners or eye shadow. The founding fathers of the United States offered happiness as part of a mission statement for a people coming together in a nation, encouraging you to pursue, and perhaps to go so far as to chase, harry, hunt down, subdue and corral happiness. Even the Dalai Lama has said that happiness is the point of Buddhism.
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.
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“How to meet the times we are in is a real question, and everybody feels the force of it. It is an ancient question. It comes with being human.” Article by John Tarrant published in Lion’s Roar magazine, November 2, 2016.
“I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the beginning of November and here is what I’ve noticed.” February 21, 2006.