PZI Teacher Archives
What is this?
—PZI Inquiry Koan
Note: See also Xuefeng’s What’s This (BCR51)
“What is this?” asked the eccentric Zen teacher Budai, holding up odd objects to a crowd. The universe is an intimate net, its jeweled facets contain everything, including the smell of fresh toast. All living beings must turn toward the ultimate. This is deeper than any sorrow, horror, disgrace. The strangeness and beauty of now, of life, is beyond explanation. And this moment has always been here.
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.
There is a restlessness in the question, “What is Buddha?” If we look beyond what we think we know of as Buddha, the answer can be anything. A Zen master answered this question with, “dried shit stick!” Nothing is excluded; the jewel can be anywhere. Complete Sunday Zen session, with poems from Li Bai and John Tarrant. April 28, 2023.
The salt and sauce is the invisible component of practice, of life, the place where we are held when disaster strikes or you find yourself at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. You might not need what you think you do to get by. We can be at peace in the midst of the madness of events—this is our main work in Zen. Complete Sunday Zen session from March 12, 2023.
“Feeling the time,” is a line from the poet Du Fu—the time is always with us. And it’s always too early to despair. We’re just here. Not wanting anything to be different. Objections are full of knowing! You step out of the way you are perceiving the world, the dream of who you are, you turn the light backward. Recorded February 26, 2023.
What is this? is an ancient question—it holds our whole lives. That wondering is the essence of what it is to be human. If you allow wonder into a hard time, it will change it. The attempt to discover something is where the question or problem will change.
When we meet, as in sesshin, we create and participate in a field of knowledge. There is a necessity of being lost on the path. Yunmen wants your descent—the better to allow the whole of life in. He asks, What is your light? He trusts the field to help people find their own way. Complete talk from Winter Sesshin 2023.
Part 1 of the January Silence series. What falls away at year’s end? Beginnings and endings are linked to uncertainty. If we can allow it, we learn to rest in that and find beauty in that mystery. In this season there is often a deep internal retreat, followed by the stirring of the new. What is it that is unfolding? Who am I? Can I hold the paradox of emptiness and form as I experience what is unfolding in my life? Where am I in my life? The not-knowing is always available. Dreams, poems and comments. Jordan McConnell plays music for meditation. January 8 2023.
Michael Wilding’s improv on flute, recorded Sunday, May 2022, during John Tarrant’s What Is This? Sunday Session. 5 minutes.
Shopping for enlightenment. What is this? Things come at us and over us during an enlightenment experience—sometimes quite unusual. You are being carried by the Dao; it doesn’t care what else you’ve got going on. Music for meditation from Jordan McConnell and Micheal Wilding. Recorded May 15, 2022.
The Rhinoceros has a suggested shopping list for John. Among the items, like hay and jam, is enlightenment. Yes, you really can find all of these things at the market, right in the middle of your busy life. 15-minute excerpt from the Sunday Session: Enlightenment While Shopping for Jam, recorded May 15, 2022.
Everyone is assailed by demons right now. Demons have a long history in the culture. If you’ve got demons, you’re alive! But you don’t have to get on board with them. Demons come out of your own heart, just like enlightenment. Tess Beasley reads from James Hillman’s “Dreams & the Blood Soul.” Michelle Riddle & Jon Joseph chant a Zen spell for dispelling demons, the Sho Sai Myo Kichijo Dharani. John reads Keats and Coleridge.
The Lilies of New Life: It is spring and John reads poetry of the season. Original music performed by Jordan McConnell, as recorded Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. PZI Zen Online.
John Tarrant shares his interest in investigating reality through inquiry koans, koan types, the huatou of koans, stories, and more. As recorded in Winter Sesshin, January 14, 2020.
The whole thing about Chan is that it’s an improvisational culture. Because we love it? No, because that’s what life is! That’s the good day. Not-knowing is intimately tied to the good day. It’s not an achievement—it’s the gift of the universe, and you are in the universe having received the gift. Poetry, dreams, Linji’s death, and more. As recorded in Winter Sesshin 2020.
David Weinstein talks about the great Dahui and his teaching that “Great doubt leads to great awakening.” Nothing wrong with the little daily awakenings, either. How great faith allows for great doubt, which leads to great awakening. David talks about his journey with his teachers and “Making your mind a question mark!”
Revisiting the big koans – What is this? Who is hearing? Who am I ? and others on his personal path: What is being a teacher? What is succession? Jon talks about Linji’s path to enlightenment – His teachers Huangbo and Daiyu conspire to help him. Our ancestors in the Chan lineage. Jon reflects on his recent visit to Japan and the Chan zendo in Kamakura, his warmth and gratitude for Yamada and his teachings.
John Tarrant walks us through the ancient forests he knew as a child. Fire sirens, the Queensland Magpie singing, and Linji’s Solitary Brightness. How do we live the life we have, in the face of vast change? Audio recording from Winter Sesshin 2020.