The Buddha Way

Here is the text of the passage we read and discussed at our Saturday, 8/19 practice. It is from the newly released and very highly recommended book “Throw Yourself Into the House of the Buddha: The Life & Zen Teachings of Tangen Harada Roshi” translated by Belinda Attaway Yamakawa, edited by Kogen Czarnik.

“The Buddha Way

Even while living lost in ignorance, there remains hidden in the belly of life itself—in your belly—the one who cannot help but seek to know true nature. Dont forget this one, who never lets you forget. This true one is always close by, urging you on, calling upon you to open your eyes. This one prompts you toward a way of being that is genuine, urging you to walk the Buddha Way. The genuine seeks to awaken to the genuine.

There are people who say that it is greedy or wrong to desire the realization of our inherent nature. They say that Shakyamuni Buddha has awakened for us and that is enough, or that our state of mind is not important as long as we physically sit zazen, so there is no need for realization. Those beliefs make the Buddha’s teaching small and insignificant. The passionate desire to know true nature is inherent in all human beings. It is life’s very working. So if you desire to awaken, please never think that is wrong. “I will without fail awaken to true nature”—with this mindset, we walk the Buddha Path. The belief that you cannot attain awakening is a refusal to fulfill the reason for being alive, to repay your gratitude. If you do not practice, you will not awaken to reality, to your very own reality. No one can do it for you. No one can see into truth for you. It is your world, solely your world.

Do you want to continue to live in delusion? If we spend this lifetime only seeking pleasure,singing and dancing, drinking and making merry, when the end comes, we will know that we didn’t resolve this one important matter. It is necessary to clearly resolve and determine to wake up to original life, your true nature.

In our temple, each morning we chant the lineage of buddhas and great teachers who guide us in our practice. Thanks to their great vow, to the great noble intention of each and every one of them, and thanks to their diligent practice, each one was able to hit the mark, to attain the Way. Each of them received the teaching and directly experienced this same truth, just as water is poured directly from one cup to another.

Everyone is able to do the same; no one is left out. Freedom is our essence. If the Dharma weren’t universal, what would be the value in it? If the Dharma were only for the chosen few, where would be the value in pursuing it? If the Dharma could be obtained and lost, I would not be here urging you to deepen your faith beyond all doubt and to let go of body and mind; I would not be here begging you to give it your all. The Dharma is absolute, perfect, all-pervading, all inclusive, all-embracing. Liberation is yours from the beginning. We are altogether in essence free; all-being abides in the radiance of buddha-nature. All-being is the radiant light of buddha. “Together with al beings, sentient or insentient, with grasses and trees, together with the great earth, I attain the Buddha Way, uttered Shakyamuni Buddha. With his great enlightenment, Shakyamuni, the World-Honored One, attained perfect liberation. He came to life, to true life, to liberation—which is our birthright, our essence.

Yet how easily we doubt, how quickly we forget. “I don’t know if I have what it takes to awaken. Maybe I am not ready. Maybe I can’t do it.” Those doubts are utterly unfounded. This one truth is just as true for you as it is for all the buddhas. In the Buddha Way, in reality, there are no exceptions. Each of you now receiving these words is blessed with this sacred reality. It might sound even too good to be true to you. “How can it be that I am so blessed when I don’t even feel good about myself?” I could repeat it for you a million more times, and it would still not even begin to express the absolute perfection with which we are blessed.

Because of upside-down false perceptions, we fail to see this inherent buddha-nature. We are just looking off at the play of our discriminating mind, and that is taken to be the host. For once, realize the true host! Become one with who you really are, and all is well. What a shame for you not to awaken to this wonder, not to prostrate yourself before it, before everything in the universe—not to come to appreciate, to celebrate real life.

For that we are doing our practice. We start with what we have got to do, right here, right now. The aim is to come to awaken, to know yourself, to see what life is really about, and this one-way path is the universal Way, which includes all beings. It is not only for our own small liberation; it is for the liberation of all beings. We start out with this as our aim.”

Work Party

This Saturday, August 5th, after zazen and chanting we will have an opportunity for samu, or work practice starting at 10:30 instead of our usual tea, talk and discussion. We will be scraping and repainting the peeling foundation on the front of the building, and sanding and staining the wooden accessibility ramp on the side walkway. All are welcome to participate! Please wear or bring some clothes you won’t mind getting messy. There will be some snacks and drinks, but feel free to bring any refreshments you’d like to share. If you can’t stay for the work party, but would still like to participate in our usual schedule starting at 9, that’s perfectly alright too! Thank you all for your participation and support!

About That Word “Embodied”…

This short talk was given by Meido Moore Roshi at the April 2023 Dai-Sesshin that I attended at Korinji last month. This one is open for viewing on Korinji’s Patreon page without a paid membership. This was one of my favorite talks from the sesshin. It makes clear the meaning and importance of embodied practice–specifically the centrality of breath work and how it informs all aspects of our practice. Please give it a listen!

New Talk on Sussokukan from Meido Roshi

This is a great talk and Q&A where Meido Moore Roshi makes some very important points about unified breath counting (sussokukan), it’s relation to koan work and other practices, as well as integration into daily life. I’d highly recommend it, especially for anyone who has received instruction with us at ICR as he makes clear many points we’ve touched on as they’ve come up on Sundays.

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.”