Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Winter Sesshin Highlights

"Drop mind, intellect and consciousness, 
leave memory, thinking, and observing alone. 
Don't try to fabricate Buddha. 
Don't be concerned with how well or how poorly 
you think you are doing; 
just understand that time is as precious 
as if you were putting out a fire on your head." 


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fox Zen and Hound Zen

by Richard Collins
One law for the lion and the ox is oppression. — William Blake
If you have ever played Fox and Hounds, you know what I mean. All you need to play is a checkerboard and five checkers, four black for the Hounds and one red for the Fox. The Fox can move diagonally in any direction, while the Hounds can move only diagonally forward. For the Hounds, the object is to corner the Fox. To win, the Hounds must be methodical and stick to their patterned behavior. They run in packs, so any variation can trip up their coordinated effort. Any slipup will be capitalized upon by the Fox whose sole object is to evade the methodical Hounds and break through to the other side.

This game is a good parable for two types of Zen. Hound Zen moves in one direction, bound strictly by the rules of the game. It follows the precepts straightforwardly. Hounds shave their heads, eat no meat, abstain from all alcohol and sex, etc. Often they bark at others who don’t follow their regimen, such as the Fox. In Fox Zen there is no path that’s straight and narrow. Fox Zen moves backward and forward and sideways, bound by a single precept: get to the other side. Fox Zen lays low and often outside the kennels where Hound Zen is penned. Foxes are invisible to the naked eye and nose. Their musky odor cloaks them; they don’t stink of Zen. You might glimpse Foxes in public, but they don’t heel to the command of hunters as Hounds do. They are ghosts.

Fox Zen and Hound Zen are not two, though. Fox Zen and Hound Zen are in each of us. While the drama between the two can sometimes play out between different individuals in a sangha or between sanghas, the real game is played by two sides of the same person. We all have a Fox and many Hounds within us. The Fox roams freely and sometimes fearfully. The Hounds gravitate to groups and find a nervous solace there. Our Hound nature sees the Fox as dangerous and disruptive to the greater order. The Fox sees the Hounds as lickspittles and slaves. But it is not the iconoclastic practitioner or teacher who is the threat to the Hounds; it is the Hounds’ own inner Fox that they fear and that they hope to subdue by sticking strictly to ritual, precepts, and institutional structures. The more the Fox bobs and weaves, the more the Hounds will howl to box him in, demanding that he too must play by their rules and limitations. The more the Hounds slaver and drool with their noses to the ground in pursuit of the invisible Fox at the sound of the hunter’s horn, the more the Fox will leap and dance to music only the Fox can hear.

Observe, though, the Fox and Hounds in their original state. At the beginning of the game there is no Fox and there are no Hounds. There are only checkers sitting on their black squares. There is no Fox Zen and no Hound Zen. There is only Zazen.

Richard Collins

Monday, September 16, 2013

Weekly Zazen - Wednesdays at Noon, CSUB

CSUB Dojo, Fine Arts 201
GIVE YOUR BRAIN A BREAK in the middle of the week in the middle of the day, Wednesdays – 12:10 am – 12:40 pm, beginning September 25, 2013.

Fine Arts 201 (the student gallery, aka the “stilt” building), California State University, Bakersfield (map).

All equipment (cushions, benches, chairs) supplied.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Tathata: The The - Sweeping Zen

Q: What is Tathata?
A: The The.
By Sebass10,
"Old Broom" -
There used to be a TV show in the late ‘50s, early ‘60s, called This Is Your Life. They would bring in a celebrity and surprise them with a spotlight on their life. They would bring in people from their past who would give anecdotes, stories about the person, creating a documentary on the celebrity.

Sometimes we think this kind of narrative really is our life. We think that the narrative others have created for us, or even the one we create for ourselves, is who we are. The story becomes us, our biography becomes us, our autobiography becomes us. It takes our place, and instead of a life we have literature—or caricature.

But that isn’t your life. This is your life, what’s happening right now, here and now, always here and now. It’s not the sum total of your experience: it’s not your curriculum vitae. That’s your karma, not your life.

There’s a wonderful poem by Wislawa Szymborska, the Nobel Prize winning Polish poet, called “Writing a Curriculum Vitae.” It talks about how when we write a CV we only put those things in that will sell us, so that when we are applying for a job, for example, we put in only the loves that resulted in marriage, the children that were born, destinations not journeys, and so on. “Write as if you never talked with yourself, / as if you looked at yourself from afar.” We put down what creates the impression of “the one you are supposed to be.” What is the sound of the totality of this portrait, the totality of this life of yours? Szymborska says: it’s the sound of a machine shredding paper.

When we do zazen that is the sound we hear: the sound of shredding paper. We shred the paper of our curriculum vitae. We deconstruct all that and allow it to drop away into the garbage bin, into the trash.

Read the rest of Richard's Sweeping Zen blog entry, "Tathata: The The."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

You Should Know

From Dogen's BendowaTrans. by Shohaku Okumura and Taigen Daniel Leighton in The Wholehearted Way

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Mondo Text for July 2013 - KUSEN: Oral Teaching Number 1, by Robert Livingston Roshi

The discussion text for July is Robert Livingston Roshi's KUSEN: Oral Teaching Number 1 (New Year Sesshin 1997 at the New Orleans Zen Temple). 26 pages. Copies are available for purchase ($5) or for loan.

Excerpt from December 29, 1997, 3:30 pm ...

People think too much, have too many ideas, concepts in the brain. Always thinking about this, that and the other. True Zen, the satori of zazen, has nothing to do with concepts, nothing to do with words. These things are the fruits of man's complicated brain, thought patterns. If you hang on to ideas and definitions, you are taking a position, you are opposing the cosmic order.

You must understand that the basic law of the universe, of the entire cosmos, is mujo, constant change. From one moment to the next, nothing in the entire cosmos remains the same - nothing. So if there is constant change in the reality of the cosmos, what good is hanging on to some idea or definition or concept going to do you? If you hang on to anything, attach to anything, the result is going to be problems, pain and suffering.

Childcare during Zazen

If you would like to come to zazen on Saturday morning but need childcare, it will now be available in the adjacent building for kids 4-11.

Please let us know by 8:00 pm the Friday evening before so that we can make arrangements.

Text: 318-451-3418 or Email:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summer Sesshin - 28-30 June 2013

June 28-29 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Kern County
June 30 at the Bakersfield Museum of Art Sculpture Garden
Excerpts from Fukenzazengi (Universal Recommendation of Zazen)

The Way is originally perfect and all-pervading. What need is there for practice and realization?

The Dharma vehicle is rolling freely. Why should we exhaust our effort?

There is no speck of dust in the whole universe. How could we ever try to brush it clean?

Everything is manifest at this very place. Where are we supposed to direct the feet of our practice?

Now, if you make the slightest discrimination, you will create a gap like that between heaven and earth.

If you follow one thing while you resist the other, your mind will be shattered and lost.

Suppose you are confident in your understanding and rich in enlightenment, gaining the wisdom that knows at a glance, attaining the way and clarifying the mind, arousing an aspiration to reach for the heavens. Now your head is stuck in the entranceway, while your body has no clue how to get out.

Although Shakyamuni was wise at birth, can't you see the traces of his six years of upright sitting? Bodhidharma transmitted the mind-seal from India. Can't you hear the echo of the nine years he sat facing a wall?

If even the ancient sages were like this, how can we today dispense with wholehearted practice? Therefore, put aside the intellectual practice of investigating words and chasing phrases, and learn to take the backward step that turns the light and shines it inward.

Your body and mind will drop away of themselves, and your original face will manifest. If you want to get into touch with things as they are, you - right here and now - have to start being yourself, as you are.

Monday, July 1, 2013

June 2013 Ordination and Child Dedication

30 June 2013
Bakersfield Museum of Art Sculpture Garden
Excerpts from Japanese Master Daichi Sokei’s [14th century] teaching to the samurai Kikusi when ordained a bodhisattva. (See The Zen Way to the Martial Arts by Taisen Deshimaru.)
Photos by Cortnie Enns unless otherwise noted..
Summer sesshin culminated in ordination and child dedication ceremonies at the Bakersfield Museum of Art Sculpture Garden.

Photo by Patrick Blake

If you want to know, beyond any doubt, the truth about the fundamental problem of life and death, you must first put your faith in mujo bodai shin, the peerless wisdom of the Buddha.

What does bodai shin mean? It means the state of mind that has observed mujo (impermanence, constant change) and observed it to the full.

Photo by Bob Savage
Photo by Leigh Collins

Among all living things, not one escapes change and death. Mujo is hanging over your head at every instant, and may strike before you know.

Photo by Leigh Collins
Photo by Leigh Collins

That is why the sutra says, This day is ending and with it must end your life. Observe the innocent joy of the fish swimming in a puddle of water, precarious though that joy may be.”

Photo by Leigh Collins
You must concentrate and consecrate yourself wholly to each day, as if a fire were raging in your hair. You must always be prudent, remember mujo, and never weaken.

Photo by Leigh Collins

When you life receives a blow from mujo, you will go forward to death alone. There will be none to keep you company, not even family. Not even the palaces of kings or the royal crown can follow a dead body.

The one who seeks the true spiritual way of Buddhism must begin by planting mujo in her heart as solidly as an oak tree. Soon your death will come. Never forget that, from one moment of consciousness to the next, from breathing in to breathing out. If you do not live like this, you are not truly one that seeks the Way.

Now I will tell you the best way to solve the problem of life and death: practice zazen.

Zazen is sitting on a zafu in a quiet room, absolutely still, in the exact posture, without uttering a word, the mind empty of any thought, good or bad. And zazen is continuing to sit peacefully, facing a wall, and nothing more—every day.

In zazen there is no special mystery, but through zazen your life will surely prosper and flourish. So you must let go of every intention and give up the idea of achieving any goal through zazen.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Change is Balance - Sweeping Zen

When Shunryu Suzuki was asked for one word to describe Zen, he said, “Change.”

The word we use for this is mujo, constant change.

The word the Romantic poets liked to use was “Mutability,” the title of a poem by Shelley that begins:
We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;
How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly!–yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost forever.
Read the rest of Richard's Sweeping Zen blog entry, "Change is Balance."