PZI Teacher Archives
There are 25 pieces here.
A Dog’s Life
John tells a story about dogs and Buddha nature upon the death of a beloved dog: Animals have their own large awareness in which we can share. Meditation is one way to do this. It resets the mind to zero and we stop waving our arms about so much, and we enter a communion with the universe.
Like trees and giraffes, delusions appear to be the opposite of emptiness. But when you really settle into being lost and uncertain, that is an open gate. It comes to be called “here.”
Falling with the Koan NO
John Tarrant gives a talk on Zhaozhou’s NO: This koan is often offered as a first “gate,” but I think you need to already be in trouble and falling before it’s useful. Life is always offering us that cliff—that door of falling. When you’re falling, you can’t screw it up because actually there’s not a lot you can do. But what you do will be very free and won’t be constrained by the usual. From a recording made in Fall Sesshin 2022.
A Donkey Sees a Well, a Well Sees a Donkey
On thing you realize when you’ve been walking along for thirty lifetimes, is that the journey itself is home. There’s no flaw in what you’re doing. And in the journey you encounter peach blossoms, and you can feel that it changes you. There could be many forms of peach blossoms in your life.
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.
Yuanwu & the Great Masters of the Blue Cliff
The subject is the Dharma, the deepest matters, our own true face. One way to look at these matters is through the Blue Cliff Record, a compilation of occasions for revealing who you are.
A Blue Cliff Record Journey of Not Picking & Choosing
It’s remarkable that the Picking & Choosing koan appears four times in the Blue Cliff Record, which contains only one hundred cases. So, what to do with it? Whatever you see is going to be true, it’s going to belong to you.
Peach Blossom Journey
A guided meditation from John Tarrant: You’re walking along, and you’re kind of in the middle of your life—which you always are, no matter how old you are, you are in the middle of it—and you’re sort of just thinking and noticing, and then you have this idea: Why don’t I treat my whole life as a pilgrimage? That’s it. That’s what I’ll do.
A Great Current Carries Us
The Daoist idea that came into Chan and Zen is that we harmonize with things. We don’t try and subdue them, although that’s a very strong human impulse. The great koan masters pointed out that the heart has a place of ease, and that there’s an inner freedom and a path we can walk no matter what we’ve suffered or are afraid of or are afraid might happen.
The Lion with the Golden Hair
The tip of each hair on the golden-haired lion is itself a whole world, an image of all the galaxies, all piled together. This lion is warm-hearted, delighted with everything, having a generally good time no matter what kind of time we’re having.
The Great Collaborators of the Blue Cliff Record
Deep in Summer Sesshin, we are in the middle of the Blue Cliff Record. We, ourselves, are under the Blue Cliff, with Yunmen and Yunmen’s friends. We are all those people. The Blue Cliff is still being written, and we’re helping out with that project.
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.
Awakenings of Linji & the Great Chan Teachers
John revisits the awakenings and koans of the great teachers, among them Yunmen and Linji. The love, and attention, and faithfulness at the heart of the stories and teachings of the Chan ancestors is their gift to us. And everything we bring to it is an addition into this great heritage, and is part of the layering. Transcript from a video talk in Fall Sesshin 2019.
Enter Here, Step Through
Day two of 2018 Winter Sesshin. John Tarrant introduces the great koan “No,” a gift from the ancestors. The gift is what happens when we hang out with the koan. “No” as the purest gate. When we step through, we find out we’re here! It’s not personal, you’re harmonizing with the universe. Transcript from a recording on January 17, 2018.
How to Get Lost (& What to Do When You Are There)
Getting lost is a way to get beyond your fear of getting lost. Getting lost is also way to get somewhere. Where? The sounds of night and rain. The the gleam of goodness in what frightens you, the peace that has always been here, and runs through everything.
Solstice, Juneteenth, a Butterfly Flies Up!
Even a time of torpor, or a time when plans come apart, or we thought the culture was going in one way and it’s going in another—we rely on the spaciousness, we rely on not what we’ve planned and schemed, but we rely on what’s been opened up in our hearts. Transcript from the PZI Zen Online recording from Sunday, June 21, 2020.
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.
Koans in Your Life
To turn toward the difficult thing is usually a move of compassion. We think it’ll be a fierce warrior move, but it’s not, actually. And when we turn toward what’s difficult, it becomes mysterious and unknown and strange and interesting. Whatever it is, your dilemma—if you turn toward that, it’s to let the koan be there. So we stop trying to flee. And suddenly we’re at peace, and instead of it being the thing that we don’t want to do, it’s the gateway into freedom.
Freely I Watch the Tracks of the Flying Birds
Everybody, every time, has its own difficulty and crisis. This is ours. We can trust our own lives that brought us here, and perhaps we have something to do here. And we don’t know what that is but we’ll find it as we keep walking. The thing about the meditation path is, I don’t have to think a lot about what’s mine to do. You just give yourself to the meditation, and it’s produced for you. It’s given to you. The path opens by itself, you know. Transcript of PZI Zen Online Sunday Talk with John Tarrant, recorded March 29 2020.
A True Person of No Rank, No Color, No Gender: Seeing Through All Distinctions
I was thinking about history and beauty and what an old old thing human suffering is, and how intrinsic it is. And we keep making things better and then they keep getting worse, and we’re making them better and they get worse. I guess I just wanted to say that it’s really good to have a practice at any time. Meditate—it will help. You will come from a position of peace rather than just fighting yourself. Being yourself, the true person, no rank. Transcript of PZI Zen Online Sunday Dharma Talk with John Tarrant Roshi, recorded June 7, 2020.
The Everlasting Body Runs Deepest Indigo: Meditation for Troubled Times
It’s a very strong thing to be human, you can be subjected to all sorts of great forces. And sometimes you can win through, and sometimes you die. But we’re all of us doing that, all the time. So I was thinking about how good it is to love each other, to meet each other, and to make peace in our hearts. Sunday talk with John Tarrant, recorded June 14 2020.
How Many Times Have I Gone There for You?
Just at this moment, the whole universe is holding us up. It’s nice for it to have a good job like that. That’s the thing that Master Ma said, the great master Mazu, “At a certain stage you have to make yourself a raft and a ferry for others if you want to go forward from the place you cannot go forward from.” This letting yourself feel—feel the moment and how it spreads out. There is no other moment. There is this, this, this, the Blue Dragon moment. It goes out through the galaxies.
Your Life Is Right Here
John Tarrant talks about the great koan “NO,” and other koans that Hakuin and Hakuin’s friends have handed down to us. “They are a treasure for you, and they’ll keep you company. Don’t worry about how you’re doing it. It doesn’t actually matter how you’re doing it. It is doing you, and the koan world is doing you, and the light is doing you. It’s going to be okay, and the light will appear and dawn in your own heart.” Transcript of an excerpt from Fall Retreat 2018.
The Story of the Well Painting
I want to describe the process that I went through, over the last year of making the painting, and I want to do that in the spirit of “when something arises, don’t believe it, and shine your light on it.” So in a year a lot of things can arise not to believe, and they did. But even if you’re in the meditation hall, five minutes is probably long enough for plenty to arrive not to believe in.
Moonlight on the Path
There is another point of view here; it goes something like this: when you really step into the now, when you really meet today, all the ideas about should have, could have, would have, disappear, and we‘re all participating in this universe.