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Ikkyu’s Well & The Miscellaneous Koans
Images of water are deep in the meditation tradition. There is the notion that water nourishes us and holds us, and that the Dao flows like water and always finds the Way. Whatever blocks the river, the Dao dissolves it or will move around it. That’s the quality of meditation.
Unexpected Gifts: 10,000 Feet Down, The Stone
John Tarrant talks about living in an underworld time, in a descent as a culture and as a world, and as a planet. Accepting the descent, and accepting the quality of being lost when it appears, is profoundly important. And there’s a great, strange, and interesting mystery in that.
Placebo, Chronic Fatigue, & Dormitive Principles
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.”
Meet the Blue Dragon
In forty years, the earth itself, beyond our control, and human violence, also beyond our control, will have changed all our assumptions. Even so, what do I want the teachings to be?
You Don’t Have to Know
It’s easy to forget to be curious, and to grab an off-the-shelf knowledge, something like “This is awful.” Not reaching for off-the-shelf understandings, though, is an important skill.
Every Day Is a Good Day
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.
The Nature of Practice
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.
The Journey, the Reaching, & Luopu’s Last Words
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.
Predicament Koans – John Tarrant 2013
So, rather than thinking a predicament is something we’ve got to get rid of, it’s just life—and it has its own dynamism. Maybe we have to walk through it, not run the other way. It’s all right to weep about it, or be frustrated and angry. You can’t be someone else, you are who you are. The gateway is yours, not someone else’s. From recording at Summer Sesshin, July 11 2013, Santa Sabina.
Knock on Any Door – Daoist Masters & Zen Koans
Whatever your condition is, you can see the “I have joy.” Out of that emptiness, out of what seems unpromising—the dark material, the valley spirit, the enigma, out of the mystery, out of what I don’t understand—it just appears. The joy just appears.