PZI Teacher Archives
What are the special properties of gifts? You can not force giving. And the Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao. Happiness is involuntary like the grass returning. Sorrow is involuntary like autumn leaves.
Takuan Soho, whose death poem was one character: dream, taught the dangers of a distracted mind. Son of a samurai he understood how to lose your life. Circumstances need not be extreme. We can lose our lives every moment when we rely on devices or install veils between us and the unfixed motion of reality. Recorded September 24, 2023.
Author and poet Ocean Vuong converses with Jon Joseph about his writing, his childhood in Vietnam and the US, and his first encounter with Buddhism and its influence on his work. From his writing: “As an artist, there has to be an allegiance to wonder and awe and mystery, and a willingness to quest beyond truth.” Recorded September 11, 2023.
John Tarrant retells the mythic story of Belinda and the Monster, Italo Calvino’s version of Beauty and the Beast. The archetypal forces personified in the story are present in all of us. Can we allow ourselves to feel all that we are? What is the monster? Where do you find yourself in the story? With comments from Allison Atwill, Tess Beasley, and PZI sangha members.
Even a delicious rest must end. The Dao suffers no plans but its own, and our bodhisattva path requires that we bring it back into the world. In Zen, the path goes on and on—we find more ways to grow the ways we love our lives. We are not trying to reach a place of endless tranquillity.
The care and feeding of a self is a 24/7 job. The burden of certainty constrains things and makes them heavy—even something as well-intentioned as undying love. Recorded August 20, 2023.
We carry so much in any given moment—what if we let it go? Would we still exist without our burdens and agendas? Part of us wants to hang on for dear life. Drinking the waters of forgetfulness might be deathly! Part 1 of 4 Sundays, August 2023.
We can resist rest when in the thrall of the busy mind. We may even try bringing an agenda to our meditation. Fortunately, the practice will undermine any agenda you may have. But something in us wants to let our tiredness catch up with us—it might be the universe intervening. Part 2 of 4 Sundays, August 2023.
It is part of being human to have complex, multiple views. We are always communing with what is here. There is no escape hatch out of this life into another one. Where would we go? The Dao takes its own time with our intractable problems and suffering. We already know we want to live the truest, most authentic life we can, before we think refuge.
In the mountains, the world goes about its life without us needing to do anything. At the same time, it’s happening within us as well as outside us. It’s a marvelous thing to feel this freedom. Jiashan’s state of mind includes everything, and his enlightenment story is one of a journey between Yeshang, Dahui and a wild teacher called the Boat Monk.
Refuge is a path that opens a way toward life and awakening. Life is paradoxical, and with refuge a new responsiveness emerges, which introduces more freedom into any given situation—it prompts a response that accords with all things. John and Tess discuss the nature of refuge, origin of rakusus, Zen names and more.
Love is a recognition of wonder; friendship, too, is a recognition of wonder. At the still center of our connections is a glimmer of the realization that we are all one seamless body. “You are beautiful,” I say to the rhinoceros, who dances and says, “Do tell me more!”
Buddha nature is the thing that you see in the modest places.The one who is disvalued and ignored, the simple one, might be close to the treasure. John Tarrant tells the story of the Golden Bird, and reads Hakuin’s Praise Song for Meditation.
On some level, we are not human beings! Zhaozhou’s dog koan often leads off sesshins. When you throw yourself in with the dog, you make your whole body a mass of doubt. Your eyebrows are entangled with the Zen ancestors.
Dongshan was still perplexed until he crossed a stream and saw his own reflection. He realized a great understanding: the end of self-consciousness. He wrote, “It now is me, I am not it.” All the impediments to inclusion fell away. Sentient or non-sentient teachings, he was included.
I’m a great buffalo. Why won’t my beautiful tail pass through the window with the rest of me? What is that wonderful tail? John Tarrant gives a dharma talk in Summer Sesshin.
In sesshin, we are fish moving in and out of the depths. The treasure lies in the realm you do not wish to investigate. If you can face your fear and go there, a great watery tenderness arises as the heart opens.
John Tarrant opens the Great Summer Sesshin – Creatures of the Summer Dawn. If you just don’t try to work things out, the universe will take over. Whatever appears, don’t believe it! Enjoy yourself.
What makes the old man in the koan stay and talk to Baizhang? What is that ‘turning’ in practice, in life? Allison Atwill explores questions of time and karma, forms of suffering, and more during Summer Sesshin.
Our fascination with the Titanic endures. Even the name of the ship was the beginning of its loss; the titans stand in the psyche for whatever is gigantic and careless and ignores the laws of fate. The ship had to sink because it was unsinkable.
Love is a recognition of wonder; friendship, too, is a recognition of wonder. At the still center of our connections is a glimmer of the realization that we are all one seamless body.
In one story about Guanyin, our patron saint of compassion, her head literally explodes when she tries to contemplate the suffering of all the beings left in hell. Fortunately, future-buddha Amitabha comes along and gives her more heads. But then when she tries to help, her arms explode too! So he gives her a thousand arms. Sunday Zen from June 19, 2023.
Meditation gets us away from reaching and grasping and winning and losing and honor and disgrace. This lack of ulterior motive makes meditation a friendly time. All our daily reaching and grasping and getting somehow sticks to us and when we meditate it unsticks and falls off. With music for meditation from Jordan McConnell & Michael Wilding.
The thickets in the mind are not so thorny and difficult, and they themselves become doors. We didn’t do anything clever, we just stopped tangling ourselves up. Even six hours at the DMV can drop away. Complete Sunday Zen from June 4, 2023, with music from Michael Wilding & Jordan McConnell.
We are lost many times in our lives. I suppose that is what suffering is: The feeling that we lost our wallet, the person we depended on, or the mind we are used to. These are all a matter of identity, and it’s nice to get them back, but who knows, maybe it’s a hindrance too. Complete session on May 28th, 2023, with music from Michael Wilding & Jordan McConnell.
A longtime Buddhist practitioner, Ruth was ordained in 2010 and is affiliated with the Brooklyn Zen Center and the Everyday Zen Foundation. She currently teaches creative writing at Smith College, where she is the Grace Jarcho Ross 1933 Professor of Humanities in the Department of English Language and Literature. Conversation with Jon Joseph and Ruth Ozeki recorded May 29th, 2023.
Tess reports on her pilgrimage along ancient temple paths in Kyoto, Japan. But one need not travel so far to meet the Buddha. Entering the garden of your own life is enough. Complete session recorded May 21, 2023, with music from Michael Wilding and Jordan McConnell.
It’s easy to see how we divide the world. The impossible task of koans is to just be here. When you realize that, a 7,000-pound stone will feel light as a feather, and all the world will be united. With musical vows from Jordan McConnell. Recorded May 14. 2023.
Jesse Cardin responds to the intimacy of intensely difficult moments, including frustration and delight with his son, while moving house from the mainland to Hawai’i. When everything is included, even the most difficult things, people, or events, then intimacy is possible and uncertainty is a friend. Complete Sunday Zen session recorded May 7, 2023.