412 Food Rescue

I’m excited about this and wanted to share—I just discovered a great app-based food rescue service in Pittsburgh, “412 Food Rescue”. It basically works like a rideshare app, but you volunteer to go pick up food that would otherwise go to waste, and then drop it off at a service site that can use it. I tried it this morning—picked up what felt like 20 lbs of day old bagels at Bruegger’s and dropped them off at a residential addiction recovery treatment center. It took like 15-20 minutes extra when I was out running errands anyway, super easy! Whoever set it up is a genius.

When I was training at the monastery, almost every meal we ate included produce from a local grocer that was past prime and couldn’t be sold. Their name was Maruko-san. After every meal the tenzo announced each vegetable they had given that was used in that meal.

There’s also the traditional story (though I can’t remember the names) about a monk that was going to visit a master at a training temple. Alongside the road was a stream that flowed away from the temple. He noticed perfectly good whole spinach leaves floating down the stream away from the temple. He turned around and went away, not wanting to visit a place that wasted food.

And there are many many more stories and examples about the inherent value to our training in being intentional and deliberate about the use of food. And I’d add, another aspect I personally find motivating is that the scientists at Project Drawdown have identified reducing food waste as one of the top actions individuals can take to impact Climate Change.

So please check them out if it sounds interesting!

Huineng’s “Non Thought”

Here are the passages from the The Platform Sutra by Dajian Huineng 638-713. (Jp: Daikan Eno) that I mentioned this past Sunday:

“Good friends, since the past this teaching of ours has first taken non-thought as it’s central doctrine, the formless as it’s essence, and non abiding as it’s fundamental. The formless is to transcend characteristics within the context of characteristics. Non thought is to be without thought in the context of thoughts. Non abiding is to consider in one’s fundamental nature that all worldly things are empty, with no consideration of retaliation—whether good or evil, pleasant or ugly, and enemy or friend, etc., during times of words, fights, and disputation.”

…he later goes on to say…

“Good friends, what is negated by the ‘non’ (wu)? What kind of thing is ‘thought’? ‘Non’ means to be without the characteristic of duality, so to be without the mind of enervating defilements. ‘Thought’ is to think of the fundamental nature of suchness. Suchness is the essence of thought, thought is the function of suchness…”

I was saying that this passage is pointing out how to practice—it’s the same thing that Shido Bunan is talking about: “In direct seeing there is no seeing. In direct hearing there is no hearing. This is possible when you naturally become one piece, with no in and no out.” Compare this with Huineng: “non thought is to be without thought in the context of thoughts. […] What is negated by the ‘non’ (wu)? […] ‘Non’ means to be without the characteristic of duality, to be without the mind of the enervating defilements.” In other words, to “naturally become one piece, with no in and no out.”

Carving the Divine Review by Meido Roshi

This is an excellent interview with Meido Moore Roshi giving his impressions of the upcoming documentary ”Carving the Divine”, which is about the traditional Japanese art of carving Buddhist images. He discusses how the student-teacher relationship functions in zen practice in the same way as the master-apprentice relationships shown in the documentary. He also talks about the important role of Buddhist images in encoding and transmitting both physical body usages of practice as well as an energetic quality of being. This important film is currently in crowd-funding for distribution. There is a link to its Indiegogo page in the video description. You can contribute there and be one of the first to see it when it’s released.

Doshin Daii Zenji

I found this passage from the fourth patriarch Doshin Daii Zenji (580-651) particularly remarkable as it echos almost exactly the instructions I received nearly 1400 years later.

It is from Doshin’s “Instructions for Novices” in Masters of the Lanka, translated by Sam Van Schaik in his book “The Spirit of Zen”.

“To begin, sit with your body upright, in comfortable clothes without a belt. Relax your body and loosen your arms and legs by rubbing them seven or eight times. Allow your mind to come to rest in your abdomen, and let your breath out completely. [from the footnotes: in some versions of the text the word xin or “mind” is missing and this passage can be translated “force all the air out of your abdomen.”] You will suddenly realize your nature to be pure and lucid, calm and clear, with body and mind in harmony.

Then as you pacify mind and spirit, subtle and profound, with calm, refreshing breathing, gradually turn the mind within. The spiritual path will become clear and sharp, the mind’s ground pure and luminous. When you examine this luminosity, you find both internal and external are empty and pure. This is mind’s natural stillness.

This stillness is the manifestation of the Buddha’s mind itself. Though it is formless in nature, it always has purity of intention. This spiritual energy is never exhausted; it is always present in its bright clarity. This is what we call the Buddha nature.”

Shido Bunan Zenji

Here is the quote mentioned this morning from Shido Bunan Zenji (1603-1676, who was Hakuin’s teacher’s teacher).

He often told his students, “There is no special doctrine for the study of Zen. All that is needed is to see it directly, hear it directly. In direct seeing there is no seeing. In direct hearing there is no hearing. This is possible when you naturally become one piece, with no in and no out.”

Impressions of Korinji

I recently got back from my first dai-sesshin at Korinji—all spattered with mud and okayu, feeling a bit stunned, impressed, and grateful. The fact that the place itself even exists is startling, it’s two buildings springing like giant mushrooms from a steep Wisconsin hillside. The wooded grounds are amazing, walking trails climb up and down the hills among enormous boulders, moss and ferns. The boulders were particularly incredible, dozens of them across the property. Ancient—tossed up before the last ice age when the glaciers missed scraping off this region—each with real presence and character, several flat and wide enough to sit zazen on. The vine maples reminded me of bamboo angling up among the bigger trees. One morning during a break I stood under the sanmon gate and watched a doe grazing up the valley in the misty rain for ten or fifteen minutes. Little birds flitting around, carrying caterpillars in their beaks without eating them, seemingly just to show off for one another. It’s a wonderfully serene, contemplative setting. Even within the relentless schedule of dai-sesshin, I found myself with a half hour here and there each day with nothing to do but soak into the surroundings—scheduled down time that almost never happens in my busy home life, which I appreciated immensely.

I’m not sure what I expected, but I was surprised to find a fully functioning sodo. All of the traditional monastic forms are faithfully maintained with nothing omitted or abbreviated—no notion that “modern westerners” can’t do it or wouldn’t benefit from it. During dai-sesshin there are about 10-12 hours of zazen a day, between 4-5 hours sleep, and sanzen 2-3 times a day—which was very familiar to me. There were some details of the form I hadn’t encountered before which I found helpful and supportive. Just a couple of examples: at wake up time when the lights are turned on with a shouted “kaijo!”, there is an immediate inkin ring down and you have to jump out of bed and be standing in line at the foot of the bed to bow all together. The effect is that you’re standing there bowing before you even know what’s going on, skipping entirely any sense of dragging yourself out of bed. And they do the full five-bowl jihatsu meals with handaikan servers, which was really cool. It’s complicated and difficult, the jikijitsu barks every time there’s a mess up. It forces you to basically be in your tanden with spread out awareness to be able to keep an eye on what’s going on, do all the things, and also eat (very quickly!). And when it’s working, it’s really beautiful—the whole group flowing together. It made me appreciate how these monastic forms aren’t just a “good opportunity” to apply our practice—these forms were specifically designed and refined over centuries to inform, support, integrate, and embody our practice. What a rare and precious thing!

In addition to the beautiful setting and the rigorous formal aspects, I really felt a general freshness, a vitality, and earnestness among the trainees. They are actually establishing the monastery grounds with their day to day work practice for everyone who comes after. And most impressively, they are hammering out a sincere culture of training in that place. I think none of them realize how that culture of training will echo for who knows how long—they’re setting a really high bar, and it’s great. I’m looking forward to the next time I can participate in the training there, and hope it will be sooner rather than later. And I would highly recommend the experience to anyone with the interest and motivation to go. Even for newer practitioners who might not be ready for a full dai-sesshin, there are Intro to Zen days offered at the monastery, as well as week long “Zen Life” retreats that would be ideal for beginners.