The desire for a more beautiful life is ancient and enduring. In medieval times it meant dressing in bright silks and having long and colorful processions; the desire was poured into objects, too, into paintings and cathedrals with stained glass windows. Inside the desire for a more beautiful life is the desire for a more beautiful character.
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.
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.
You know how somebody’s always planning, there is this thing underneath it that’s quite beautiful and interesting. It’s like a message from the universe to you, a message from yourself to you about: this is what I’m afraid of, this is how I hold the world off. So you can just go towards that…
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.
David’s dharma talk during Bare Bones retreat about falling down a well. “How does the fully enlightened person fall into a well?” The koan brought to mind an old Maquire sisters song that goes, “Wella, Wella, Wella waiting for the Bella to go ding dong, ding dong…” We all fall into our own personal wells of suffering. David lends a hand to pull us out by sharing his own well stories.
“We all have the urge to be better people, and behind all our self-improvement there is a profound impulse. Self-improvement is a gateway, the first step in a quest, a clue to a deeper life. The most beautiful form of the beautiful life is inner freedom, the awakening taught in the ancient spiritual traditions.” Published Shambhala Sun Magazine, September 2013.
Physicist and Physics professor Chris Gaffney gave a talk in Santa Rosa on a Monday evening in July 2013, and this is what he said about it:
Roshi John Tarrant gives the third of three koans for Bare Bones retreat. The head of the koan is: “What is the sharpest sword or the sword which will cut even the finest piece of hair in two?” The response to the question is, “Each branch of coral holds up the moon.” February 22, 2013.
On the second day of retreat, John Tarrant talks about the second koan of the triptych, “How does an enlightened person fall into a well?” How do we as practitioners handle major issues in our lives which cause us to fall into darkness or depression? When things are bleak or difficult, the opportunity is to turn toward our practice and the teachings or our community. January 21, 2013.
Allison Atwill Sensei describes the making of her amazing art piece inspired by the koan, “Each Branch of Coral Holds Up the Moon.” January 24, 2013.
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.