How does the bodhisattva of compassion use all those hands and eyes? How do I express Guanyin? How is Guanyin showing up in my life? John Tarrant’s afternoon meditation & talk, Part 2 of this two-session Dragons of the Blue Cliff 1-Day Retreat. In the PZI Digital Temple, as recorded June 6, 2021.
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.
“In even the simplest life, pain and disappointment accumulate—and at some moment everyone longs to walk through a gate and leave the past behind, perhaps for an earlier time when the colors were bright and the heart carried no weight. The quest for a fresh start is so fundamental that it defines the shape of the stories we tell each other.” Article by John Tarrant published in Lion’s Roar magazine on July 1, 2007.
You can trust that the thing that you are doing is going to work. It’s underground. There’s a growth happening in the dark. You don’t even have to see it. But, after a while, you start to notice it. It’s kind of a cool thing, actually. You think, “God, even me! Even I have some part in this.”
PZI Zen Online: Three threads: Anna Swier’ s poem: ‘There’s a Light in Me’. The light in us wholly unharmed even in extremes of suffering, a place for the Muses to meet us. ‘Terma’ – a Tibetan teaching hidden in physical objects or even concealed in your mind or memory- written in indecipherable Dakini script, to be found by you. Concealed in physical objects or even in your mind/memory, written texts or even email! little reminders that we are already awake. When we hold light and silence everyone can feel it it changes the field. As recorded June 16th 2020.
Audio: PZI Zen online Allison sits with Awakening. What is it? Awakening experience is outside of our control or will. It comes in a from a direction we don’t know about – a direction we have darkened. The sufficiency of the moment. Hakuin Ikkaku as a teacher and seeing into your essential nature. As recorded May 5, 2020.
The Heart Sutra, like any koan, contains the universe, and so you have to go in somewhere. I want to go in through the “Mantra of Great Magic.” Even the word “mantra” is, in a certain way, a reference to magic, a sort of portable access to reality that you can carry around with you. And the word “magic” is also used for the word “mantra,” so where we use “mantra” to produce magic, there’s a transformative quality about the mantra so that, when you repeat it, when you keep company with it, you end up in its world.
In the evening dharma talk John introduces us to an ancestor in the koan tradition, Dahui Zonggao 大慧宗杲 (Ta-hui Tsung-kao, Daie Soko), 1089-1163 and his disciple Wuzhuo Miaozong (無著妙宗; 1096–1170 CE), Miaozong lived during the Song dynasty and was one of the first nuns to be included in an imperially sanctioned Zen lineage history. The conversation between Dahui and Miaozong is instructive of his early method of using only the head of the koan and become one with it. His method was formulated for his culture like we are for ours.
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.
Yunmen said, “Before or after the full moon, every day is a good day!” The light of sesshin infuses us. In a “good day” the light is in you, just how it is—this is not an achievement, you are in the gift of the universe. The tenderness of the good day. Our whole lives opening to now. You can’t bully the Dao, it’s bigger than you! Not getting in the way of life. Also: Dreams, Linji’s death, and more. Video recorded in Winter Sesshin 2020.
The whole thing about Chan is that it’s an improvisational culture. Because we love it? No, because that’s what life is! That’s the good day. Not-knowing is intimately tied to the good day. It’s not an achievement—it’s the gift of the universe, and you are in the universe having received the gift. Poetry, dreams, Linji’s death, and more. As recorded in Winter Sesshin 2020.
Hakuin would paint that as a demon. This is demon number three. Which number demon is that? And the other things is that thing about how the thing we thought was the problem can transform, there is that real sense of what’s wrong with being a demon? If I think there’s a demon obviously I’m it.
In the evening dharma talk John introduces us to an ancestor in the koan tradition, Dahui Zonggao 大慧宗杲 (Ta-hui Tsung-kao, Daie Soko), 1089-1163 and his disciple Wuzhuo Miaozong (無著妙宗; 1096–1170 CE), Miaozong lived during the Song dynasty and was one of the first nuns to be included in an imperially sanctioned Zen lineage history. The conversation between Dahui and Miaozong is instructive of his early method of using only the ‘head of the koan’ and becoming one with it. His method was formulated for his culture.
Hakuin’s “Woman at the Inn,” the woman is unknown but kept the inn where pilgrims coming to study with Hakuin stayed. Hakuin’s dharma talk spoke of the pure land of mind and the buddha of light in your own body. When that buddha of light appears, everything glows with a great light. The woman meditated day and night and one day while washing a pot she has a breakthrough.
John’s evening talking is brief, yet poignant. There is a light and a joy and they are here now. It doesn’t wait until you improve yourself, your partner, enemy, or live in a different colored state.
A student asked Yunmen: ‘I don’t ask you about before the full moon, what about after the full moon teacher?’ Yunmen replied ‘Every day is a good day’. A side story to this koan is that Yunmen was ill when the student came to visit and he was asking him about his health. There is a light which shines through everything: the day, the moment, an illness, even our problems.
Eventually you come to a place where you can’t go on and you can’t go back. You have arrived at the base of cliffs; you can’t scale them, you can’t get around them, and there’s no handy tunnel through them. The Japanese teacher Hakuin called this the Silver Cliffs and Iron Mountains. It’s a daunting place—that’s the point of it. And when you arrive here your life and your journey can become your own.