“What I do every day
Is nothing special:
I simply stumble around .
What I do is not thought out,
Where I go is unplanned.
No matter who triers to leave their mark,
The hills and dales are not impressed.
Collecting firewood and carrying water
Are prayers that reach the gods.”
– Layman P’ang
This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.
From Acccess To Insight
“Books about Buddhism always go on and on about ‘awareness’ and ‘mindfulness’. But these ideas are easily misunderstood. Being ‘mindful’ to most people, means bringing ‘me’ into the situation. ‘I’ am mindfully reading this book. This is a mistake… In real mindfulness, book and reader disappear completely. There is nothing to be aware of and no one to do it. Awareness pervades everything, awareness itself is people and books, and the smell of burning tar, the songs of birds, and all the rest.”
— Brad Warner, from ‘Hardcore Zen’
Or as Chinese poet Li Po puts it:
“The birds have vanished in the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.”
Zen has been called “the religion before religion”, which is to say that anyone can practice, including those committed to another faith. And the phrase evokes the natural religion of our early childhood, where heaven and a splendorous earth were one. But soon the child’s eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions and abstractions. Simple free being becomes encrusted with the burdensome armour of the ego. Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn. The sun glints through the pines, and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise.
After that day, at the bottom of each breath, there is a hollow place that is filled with longing. We become seekers without knowing what we seek, and at first, we long for something ‘greater’ than ourselves, something apart and far away. It is not a return to childhood, for childhood is not a truly enlightened state. Yet to seek one’s own true nature is, as one Zen master has said, “a way to lead you to your long lost home.”
To practice Zen means to realise one’s existence moment after moment, rather than letting life unravel in regret of the past and daydreaming of the future. To ‘rest in the present’ is a state of magical simplicity, although attainment of this state is not as simple as it sounds. At the very least, sitting Zen practice, called zazen, will bring about a strong sense of well-being, as the clutter of ideas and emotions falls away and body and mind return to natural harmony with all creation. Out of this emptiness can come a true insight into the nature of existence, which is no different from one’s Buddha nature. To travel this path, one need not be a ‘Zen Buddhist’ which is only another idea to discard like ‘enlightenment’ and like ‘the Buddha’ and like ‘God’.
Peter Muryo Matthiessen wrote The Snow Leopard along with many other books of both fiction and non-fiction. Nine-Headed Dragon River is a collection of his Zen journals. Muryo Roshi passed away on 5 April 2014.
Shikantaza, our zazen, is just to be ourselves. When we do not expect anything we can be ourselves. That is our way, to live fully in each moment of time. This practice continues forever.
We say, “each moment”, but in your actual practice a “moment” is too long because in that “moment” your mind is already involved in following the breath. So we say, “Even in a snap of your fingers there are millions of instants of time.” This way we emphasize the feeling of existing in each instant of time. Then your mind is very quiet.
So for a period of time each day, try to sit in shikantaza, without moving, without expecting anything, as if you were in your last instant. In each inhalation and each exhalation there are countless instants of time. Your intention is to live in each instant.
— from ‘Not Always So’ by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
Group meditation and discussion, broadly in the tradition of Sōtō Zen but open to anyone who wants to meditate with others in a relaxed environment. No need to believe anything. Leave your baggage at the door. Meditation cushions and tea provided.
No cost except for your time and presence.
Thursday evenings in Nonington
Contact Andy: 01304 842673 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are,
where else do you expect to find it?” — Eihei Dogen