John Tarrant, Roshi, Director of PZI and author, talks about the mystery of meditation as he first experienced it in the ancient forests of Queensland; about transformation on the ancient koan path we follow, and the evolution of Pacific Zen Institute as a community, and koan school with a new online resource center, the KALPA (Koans and Liberation Project Archive) Library. Your support helps produce PZI’s ongoing retreats and dharma talks, John’s writing projects, and spreads the teachings.
Rachel Boughton, Director of the PZI Santa Rosa Center, how-to talk on working with zen koans.
A Zen ancestor was gathering wood and heard a line being recited that struck him. “What was that again?” he asked. “Oh, it was just something I heard up north in a temple.” So he went to study up north.
David Weinstein Roshi continues the conversation during retreat regarding the ancient Koan about the buffalo passing through a lattice window. How can the buffalo get through the lattice window – all but the tail? What is it that is difficult for me to let in? Can we be compassionate with ourselves when we find the place on our life where there is a no trespassing sign?
John opens the evening with the koan “The True Person of No Rank.” It goes something like this: “There is a true person of no rank who is always coming and going from the portals of your face.” Who is that person of no rank? Linji was a great teacher and the ancestor of most of the koan lines of Zen and this is a koan of his. It has been used since ancient times as a meditation both for beginners and advanced students. Probably the best way to work with it is to play with it. Don’t rank how you are doing. Just let it keep you company, like an animal would. You forget about it, but every time you look, there it is! And after a while it doesn’t go away. October 17, 2013.
On the second day of Bare Bones retreat John brings to light the many ways in which we find ourselves in situations where we feel hopelessly trapped. Often we are not even aware that we are living in the stone crypt; the door closes and we can’t remember we were ever somewhere else. Working with a koan might just be the way to open the door. January 20, 2014.
“John had us work with a series of miscellaneous Koans during retreat. Stop the war was one of my favorite talks. Looking at how I/we are at war within ourselves and how that internal war becomes a battle with those around us. A cold war or a war of words, fists or weapons. By practicing meditation we can mediate a truce with our fears.” – A participant. January 22, 2014.
Allison presents a talk on another miscellaneous Koan, “Stop the fire across the river.” This is like stopping the war within ourselves: where does this fire arise within us and what form does it take? Passion, anger, demons, delusions all take form within us.
Allison demonstrates the possibility of working with the fire of anger through humor and diligent practice and attention to what flares up within the body. January 22, 2014.
John Tarrant Roshi completes our week-long Sesshin retreat with the miscellaneous koan, “The storehouse of treasures opens by itself; you can take it and use it any way you wish.” January 23, 2014.
After the talk we did a writing exercise with these questions, “what storehouse treasure is closed to you, what is a problem that is not resolved and what is a treasure?
John opens the first evening at summer retreat talking about the spirit of a koan. We were nestled in the lovely redwood mountains of Land of the Medicine Buddha in Soquel California. We were meditating, walking and diving into the great koan, Sickness and Medicine. It is based on a koan which goes like this, “Sickness and Medicine are in accord with each other. The whole world is medicine, what am I?” July 14, 2014.
“It’s passed midnight, the moon has not risen, in the thick, deep dark, you meet a face from long ago: but you don’t recognize them. No need to be surprised by this.”
John Discusses koan tradition, the “five steps” of enlightenment, and communication between student and teacher.
“Not deciding it is or it isn’t, do you have the courage to be at peace with this? Everyone wants to leave the endless changes, but when we finish bending and fitting our lives, we come back to sit by the charcoal fire.”
During the final night of the 2015 January sesshin, the teachers have a conversation about identity, art, intimacy, and the nature of koan study.
Rachel Boughton, at the June-July sesshin held at Land of Medicine Buddha, talks hackers, privacy, and zen koans in an age of technology.
“We go to wild places in search of our self nature. Looking in the darkness of the tall grasses of abandoned places. Now, honored ones, where is your self nature, when you are searching for your self nature?”
David Weinstein talks about culture and ideas, and recounts stories of enlightening adventure.