PZI Events Calendar
W E L C O M E to the PZI Events Calendar! Here you will find all upcoming events and registration links for PZI Zen Online retreats, sesshins, and weekly meditations & talks. Search by individual event, day, or month. Save to your Google Calendar or iCal Calendar. No experience required to participate. Questions? Contact [email protected].
F E A T U R E D
Sunday Zen: The Red Thread with Guest Host Tess Beasley
on March 26
Zen Luminaries: Shamanic Bones, Dark Gates with special guest Zenju Earthlyn Manuel on March 27
In Person! GREAT SUMMER SESSHIN coming soon, June 12–18
- This event has passed.
MONDAY ZEN: Inside Monkey, Outside Monkey with Jon Joseph
February 27 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pmFree – $10
Join us as we visit monkey stories about beginning a journey, getting lost, and finding our way.
Yangshan said, “How do you understand Buddha nature?”
Zhongyi said, “Well, let’s say there’s a room with six windows. Inside the room is a monkey. From the east side another monkey screeches through the window, ‘eeeh, eeeh!’ The monkey inside then responds, ‘eeeh, eeeh!’ The monkey outside screeches into each of the six windows and the monkey inside responds each time.”
Yangshan bowed and then said, “I understand everything in the metaphor you’ve presented, but there’s one more thing. What if the monkey inside is asleep and the monkey outside wants it to look at him? Then what?”
Zhongyi got off the platform, grabbed Yangshan’s hands, and did a dance, exclaiming, “Monkey! Monkey! Hello monkey!”
—The Book of Serenity, Case 72
When I first heard this koan, it immediately reminded me of a trip I took long ago with my family to Monkey Park Iwatayama, in Kyoto, Japan. On the mountainside across the Oi (Cormorant) River from Tenryu-ji, one of Kyoto’s most famous Zen temples, lives a colony of about 120 snow monkeys, also called Japanese macaques.
The monkeys, the same species that sits in Hokkaido hot springs with snow on their heads, mostly live off apple slices which tourists buy in shops at the foot of the slope. The monkeys are free-range and aggressive, and signs warn human visitors not to look them in the eye.
At the top of a hill is a concrete hut with wire mesh windows. The shelter is not for the monkeys. It is for the humans, who must duck in for protection if they wish to feed the animals. People stand inside the hut, passing apple bits through the wire mesh windows, while the monkeys swarm and screech around the outside, jostling each other for treats.
The “monkey of the mind” is an ancient Buddhist image of the way the mind moves restlessly. Lewis Hyde, in his book, Trickster Makes This World, uses as one of his many trickster examples the Chinese folk tale of the Monkey King, who as he ages becomes depressed about his own mortality and starts to make trouble for himself. He becomes an aimless wanderer. “Today he toured the east, and tomorrow he wandered west… he had no definite itinerary.”
Hearing of the monkey’s troubles, the Daoist Jade Emperor brings him up to heaven and puts him in charge of guarding the orchard of Peaches of Immortality. The monkey eats all the peaches, gets drunk on Laozi’s elixir, and the Buddha is forced to imprison him under a mountain. After half a millennium, the Monkey King is freed to travel to India and bring back the sacred Buddhist texts. The Monkey King’s dharma name is Wukong (悟空), Awakened to Emptiness.
The story of the Monkey King, first told 500 years ago in the Chinese classic, Journey to the West, is of course, our story. Obscured by clouds, whereabouts unknown, we set off on a journey to taste immortality—or if not, to at least better understand our own lives. The Zongyi-Yangshan koan above is also the story of our lives. Monkeys outside screeching, monkeys inside screeching. Monkey, monkey, hello monkey! How close, how close.
Monkeys clasping their young
return beyond the purple peaks.
Birds with flowers in their beaks
alight in front of the blue cliff.
—Jiashan Shanwui (d. 881)
(It is said that for a time Yuanwu Keqin lived in Jiashan’s temple, about 250 years after the master had died. Yuanwu took the last line from one of Jiashan’s poems as the title to his collection of koan commentaries.)
Join us for a koan, meditation, dharma talk and conversation.
Register to participate. All are welcome.