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F E A T U R E D

May 26 Sunday Zen: with John Tarrant & Friends

June 3 Zen Luminaries: Poet Marie Howe in Conversation with Jon Joseph & Friends

June 10–16 Great Summer Sesshin: Meeting the Inconceivable with John Tarrant & PZI Teachers

 

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THURSDAY ZEN with David Parks: Garden with No Path and No Borders

May 16 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Free – $10

REGISTER


A student asked Jiashan, “What if you sweep away the dust and see the Buddha?” Jiashan said, “You have to wield your sword. If you don’t, you’ll be like a fisherman stuck in a tangle of reeds, unable to catch a single fish.”

The student then asked Shishuang, “What if you sweep away the dust and see the Buddha?” Shishuang said, “The Buddha has no country. Where will you meet her?”

The student reported this to Jiashan. Jiashan stepped up to the rostrum and said, “As far as gardening tools go, Shishuang is inferior to me, but for discourse on the deepest reality, he’s a hundred steps ahead of me.”

—Book of Serenity Case 68

In the koan I hear echoes of the poetic duel between Huineng and the head monk of 5th ancestor Homgren’s monastery—the winner was to become the 6th ancestor. The head monk posts this poem:

The body is the Bodhi-tree
T
he mind is a bright mirror on a stand
Clean it carefully, moment by moment
And let no dust alight.

No other monk dares compete with the head monk. Huineng, a rice pounder in the kitchen, cannot read and hears someone reciting the head monk’s poem. He asks them to write a verse on the wall, next to the head monk’s:

Bodhi really has no tree
Nor is the bright mirror a stand
Originally there is no thing.
So where can the dust collect? 

Homgren, hearing Huineng’s verse, passes the robe and bowl to Huineng.

In our koan a student is shopping their question around to Jiashan and Shishuang. “What if you sweep away the dust and see the Buddha?” they ask. “What if, through practice, I have a deep awakening?”

Jiashan, echoing Linji and Wumen, suggests the student wield the sword to cut away the delusion of attainment. Sounds a bit like the head monk’s “Clean it carefully, moment by moment.” When Shishuang says, “The Buddha has no country. Where will you meet her?” It sounds like Huineng’s “Originally there is no thing.”

When practicing with my first koan, “NO,” I did my best to follow Wumen’s instructions: “Exhaust all your life energy on this one word, NO.” I put great energy into NO, an effort beyond what I thought possible.

I remember tending the sweet potatoes last year. At first it was a huge effort keeping ahead of the weeds. Then the sweet potato vines blocked out the weeds—they took care of themselves until harvest: thirty pounds from five plants.

A dog, Buddha-nature—the whole
kit-and-caboodle revealed in a flash. 

—Wumen’s Verse on the Koan NO (transl. David Hinton)

I expended effort on NO until I allowed the koan to care for itself. With that, the whole kit-and-caboodle was revealed in a flash. These garden tools, this great effort are helpful and not a bad thing. And yet.

Gathering in Santa Rosa in the time before the pandemic, in some sort of workshop gathering—I don’t remember the koan or the purpose of our gathering, but I remember this thought, like a revelation: “I am interested in a Christianity without belief.” Thirty plus years in the Christian ministry and it had come to this. That was then. Now I might say it like this: “There is nothing to hold onto, no belief, no technique, no savior, no guru—nothing.”

I like this from Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho:

The temple bell
stops ringing —
but the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers.

Buddha has no country. Where will you meet her?

—David Parks


David Parks Roshi

 

COME JOIN US on Thursdays for koan meditation, dharma talk and conversation. All are welcome. Register to participate.

David Parks Roshi, Director of Bluegrass Zen

Details

Date:
May 16
Time:
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Cost:
Free – $10
Event Category:

Organizer

David Parks Roshi
Email:
dparksbluegrasszen@gmail.com
Register here to attend:
https://www.pacificzen.org/product/thursday-zen-may-16th-with-david-parks/