Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy New Year, Everybody

Happy New Year, Everybody! Our New Year at Both Sides / No Sides began with chanting from our newly modified sutra sheets and the Fusatsu Ceremony, a renewal of our Zen Buddhist vows. All of that was of course was punctuated by wall-staring and bell ringing and tea. During tea, I talked about "beginnings," using as texts a poem by Denise Levertov (thanks to Susan Feeney) and one of the Buddha's parables. These are below, with some found images to celebrate the imagination.
--Bobby Kankin Byrd

Doomed Star Eta Carinae 
Image Credit: J. Morse (Arizona State U.), K. Davidson (U. Minnesota) et al., WFPC2HSTNASA

By Denise Levertov

But we have only begun to love the earth. We have only begun to imagine the fullness of life.
How could we tire of hope!—so much is in the bud.

How can desire fail?—we have only begun to imagine justice and mercy,
Only begun to envision how it might be to live as siblings with beast and flower, not as oppressors.

Surely our river cannot already be hastening into the sea of nonbeing?
Surely it cannot drag, in the silt, all that is innocent!

Not yet, not yet—there is too much broken that must be mended,
Too much hurt that we have done to each other that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know the power that is in us if we would join our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
So much is unfolding that must complete its gesture, so much is in the bud.

Strawberries by Ginny McComb 
A Parable
from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

Buddha told a parable in a sutra:

A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.

Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Cold, Snow and Zazen

When donning clothes [ordinary men] only understand that they are donning clothes; when eating they only understand that they are eating; in all activities they are deceived by appearances. Hence they use the sublime functioning of the mind every day but do not realize it; it’s right there before their eyes but they are not aware of it.
--Korean Zen teacher Chinule,via Stephen Batchelor’s Living with the Devil, page 104. 
Snow yesterday all day long. Maybe 4 inches at home. Cold and sunless. Last night it was supposed to go down to 24, and so we worried about freezing pipes and cold bodies. We remembered the terrible cold of a few years ago and so did our cold weather chores. This morning, waking up, I dreaded going out to the zendo to sit. It’s a stone building with only a wood stove (I didn't want to do that!) and a radiant heater, and it holds the cold. I decided to do my zazen inside. But as I got my zafu ready to sit inside, something in me pushed me outside to the zendo. It’s so beautiful and quiet out there with the snow blanketing the yard, the houses and the mountains. Seems the older I get and the more zazen I do, the more ready I am not to listen to the monkey mind which has so many excuses why I should take the easier way with my zazen. So I put on warm socks, warm pants and my hoodie and headed outside. I was glad I did. Although cold, the room felt comfortable and ready for me. I looked out the window to a beautiful sight of snow and light. I lit the candle and incense, rang the bells—so clear in the cold stone room, did my morning chants and sat 40 minutes of zazen. My little and very quiet radiant heater was just enough heat. As I chanted the Four Great Vows to end my little morning ceremony, I could feel the cold had entered my body. That was okay though. The birds were chattering outside, delighted to have some birdseed that I had poured into the feeder. Again I marveled at the morning light, filtered by the clouds as it lit up the snow on the trees and yard. Little bits of snow were still fluttering down from the sky. It was nothing without me. Simply nothing.