You go to visit a family crypt. It is a stone mausoleum in the cemetery. You go at night when there is no moon. You decide to open the gate and go in to be nearer your ancestors. It is pitch black. A fierce gust of wind blows your candle out and you hear the heavy gate slam shut behind you. There is no one around. There are no windows and the door is locked from the outside—how will you get out?
– PZI Miscellaneous Koans, Case 20
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.
PZI Zen Online Audio: Michelle Riddle Sensei on what we do when we feel trapped —whether from the Covid 19 lockdown, or our own expectations and beliefs. How do we escape? As recorded April 24 2020.
This is John Tarrant’s dharma talk on the Stone Grave koan; a shorter version of the complete session for this date in 2014. So you are thinking about your loved ones, your ancestors and decide to take a trip out to the cemetery. You find your family vault and with a key open the stone door and step inside. You won’t stay long, you just want to pay your respects. But a gust of wind comes up and…
And so you go out to the cemetery and you find your family vault. It looks a little bit overgrown; you haven’t been there for a long time. But you’ve got a key and you put it in and you pull the big stone door and it opens, just like that. It’s great. So you walk in just to kind of pay your respects; you haven’t been here for ages. And a sudden gust of wind….
John Tarrant Roshi leads a conversation on koans that reveal themselves through predicaments. “I might find myself imprisoned in a crypt, or hanging from a branch by my teeth. Or trapped in a job or relationship I think I cannot escape.” A lively exploration follows. July 11, 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.
“Late one night, you decide to visit the family graveside, where (as a point of somewhat snobbish pride) your family’s personal tomb resides…” During the 2015 summer Sesshin at Land of Medicine Buddha in Southern California, John Tarrant talks friends, the feverish scheming and planning of the mind, and the predicaments faced in life.