Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sesshin Highlights - 23-25 October

Fall Sesshin and Ordination, Ablin House, Bakersfield - 23-25 October 2015
Led by Richard Collins, Sensei
Sesshin means to touch the mind. But this does not mean the thinking mind, the thinking brain. … During sesshin it is the heart/mind, the body/mind that we get in touch with. Sesshin is for just this, nothing more. (No Fear Zen)

Sesshin Highlights Picasa Photo Album Direct Link

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Skeleton Sitting

"Skeleton Sitting" by Kelly Pankey. 16"x20" pastel drawing on art board.
"Skeleton Sitting" by Kelly Pankey. 16"x20" pastel drawing on art board.

Come to zazen, climb into your coffin. After zazen, 
climb out of your coffin. What's the difference? No fear.
- Robert Livingston Roshi qtd. in No Fear Zen

If a stone
Can be the memento
Of the dead,
Then the tombstone
Would be better as a lavatory.
Kelly Pankey is an artist living and working in the Kern Valley. Recently, she attended her first sesshin with the Zen Fellowship of Bakersfield. Promptly thereafter, she created this piece.

Friday, October 16, 2015

No butterflies

by Dana Wilde

Early September. The goldenrod and asters glow in the hazy afternoon sunlight. The maple leaves already show signs of dryness.

On this side of the chain link fence around the basketball court, two yellow butterflies chase each other like errant electrons. Dart and kiss, light, drop, skip along the goldenrod. There's hardly a breath of wind. Humid sunlight streams like gold through the grass. The two clouded sulphurs flit and separate, one goes east, the other west toward the field. The east-moving wings swoop up then down, then back, and suddenly the chaotic yellow tandem pops together again, nips and flutters on beyond the cattails as if they were tethered on a string.

Photo by Dana Wilde. Clouded sulphur butterfly on hawkweed blossom, Unity, Maine.

Are they mating? Or fighting? Or playing? Can butterflies play? What compels companionship airborne in minds so small?

It's not the wind blowing them in dancing tandem across the field. It might not be will exactly, either, since consciousness, according to many neuroscientists, doesn't even exist – your awareness is nothing more than biochemicals firing in not-yet-mapped, arcanely complex processes. You are not there.

And neither are the butterflies, when you come down to it. The humid air, the goldenrod, the asters, the smell of fallen acorns, the sulphurs are nothing more than momentary configurations of energy. The total amount of energy in the universe, some physicists calculate, is zero.

This whole September afternoon is a leaking illusion. None of it is real at all. No more real than a dream of butterflies, or a butterfly's dream of me. They're not playing, and there's no delight in what they're not doing. No will at work, no dance, no form, no consciousness, no idea, not even wind, dry grass, or goldenrod, or asters, not the mown field or cattails, not the other side of the fence, and not the sultry air of autumn because September is a fiction too.

The neuroscientists are wrong. None of this is there at all. I can see it's not there, like an image in a mirror.

Whatever is happening, it is not this. And it's big.

Dana Wilde, a longtime teacher of contemplative literature, has been a Fulbright lecturer in Shanghai and Xiamen, China. His revelations of the natural world around his house in Troy, Maine, can be found online in the Backyard Naturalist column of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel newspapers.

No Fear Zen a Notable Book on Buddhism

Richard Collins' No Fear Zen is featured on the "June 2015 Notable Books on Buddhism" list at Sweeping Zen.