Skip to main content

It Works Both Ways!

More from the Bendowa:

“After the initial meeting with a [good] counselor we never again need to burn incense, to do prostrations, to recite Buddha’s name, to practice confession, or to read sutras. Just sit and get the state which is free of body and mind. If a human being even for a single moment, manifests the Buddha’s posture in the three forms of conduct, while [that person] sits up straight in samadhi, the entire world of Dharma assumes the Buddha’s posture and the whole of space becomes the state of realization.”

I met with a so-called Zen teacher 5 or 6 years ago who creeped me out. I’ve stopped trying to figure out why, because eventually I met another Zen teacher who fit this quote from Dōgen pretty well. He sort of annoyed me in the beginning, but I never got that creepy feeling. I have since read in several different places that any good Zen teacher is going to be annoying. It’s kind of the whole point.

Anyway, the thing I keep on noticing is that it really isn’t about what my teacher says. I’ve learned mostly from listening to other students and observing what happens in a room full of people all pondering and talking about Zen.

One time a student was asking Sensei a question about how to stop doing things that he didn’t want to do. I got the idea that he was talking about losing his temper and saying things that he regretted saying. Sensei really listened; but then his only answer was, “Keep practicing.” But here’s the thing— my lesson came from the way the student who asked the question responded, along with the way the whole room full of people responded. When he heard the answer to his question, the student blew out his lips, slumped back in his seat, rolled his eyes in surrender, and laughed. Everyone in the room laughed too, in a commiserating sort of way. We all got it, and I felt a sort of swell of commonality pass through us. This is the wordless Zen that Dōgen meant when he said, a little earlier in the text, “…it became clear that [the Dharma] is beyond literary expression.”

There is another thing that I hope that I understood while reading this passage: that the enlightenment that arises when someone “sits up straight in samadhi” is somehow unlimited.
“…..myriad things each put their Buddhist body into practice; in an instant they totally transcend the limits of experience and understanding; they sit erect as kings of the Bodhi tree; in one moment, they turn the great Dharma wheel which is in the unequaled state of equilibrium; and they expound the ultimate, unadorned, and profound state of prajñā. These balanced and right states of realization also work the other way, following paths of intimate and mystical cooperation, (…..) At this time, everything in the Universe in ten directions—soil, earth, grass, and trees; fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles—performs the Buddha’s work."

It works both ways!

I’m working backwards now. The other day I had the thought that all of the resisting we do in response to our perception that the world has gone wrong, and our belief that this wrongness expresses itself in our environment through circumstances like pollution, global warming, predatory marketing, economic injustice, abuses of authority, and so on— that this resistance in us is just another form of delusion. It’s based on nothing more than our own notions of how things are ‘supposed to be’.

What if I just stopped feeding that idea? What if I just stopped zip-tying my plain perceptions to my preconceptions?

Well, I tried it! Here’s what happened: My resistances did just exactly what that student did— flopped back in their seats, rolled their eyes, and laughed. My narrow-minded notions did exactly what the room full of fellow students did— snickered compassionately and got the point.

(And Old Man Zen over in the corner takes his hat off from over his eyes, winks, and puts the hat back.)

The world is 

just ugly. 



No matter what I think.

Zen is


the KISS principle

in action—

It .




Popular posts from this blog

Heigh Ho

Psalm 142
By the road that I am walking
they have hidden a snare for me.

Numbers 24: 1-13
“I summoned you to curse my enemies. But here, you have done nothing but bless them — three times already!"

Romans 8: 12-17
15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to bring you back again into fear...

Matthew 22: 15-22

“You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trap me?

The Way:
Snares, contrariness, fear, and traps. That’s samsara, is what that is. The literal meaning of “samsara” is “continuous flow.” If you want a synonym for ‘samsara’ maybe “flux” would do.

Necks in a noose, getting the opposite of what we expect, being betrayed by freedom, and hearing our own double-dealing words echo in our ears. There’s no escaping it, until we stop trying to escape it. That’s when all the sticky tangles just dissolve without even a sizzle. Where did they go? Who cares?
There are so many clues embedded in our language that tell us what we already know:
“There ya go.” —  “It is what it is.” — “Even so.” — “Can’…

The Time That Is Given Us

Readings from Sunday 8-19-2018
Proverbs 9:1-6
To those without sense she says,
“Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.

I’m all over the map today. At first I thought my role might be that of Wisdom, building a house and calling to “those without sense” to come in. Then vertigo set in, the world whirled sideways, and there I was standing there stupidly trying to figure out where the voice came from that was calling to me. How about this?— “Without sense” might mean someone “who’s got no sense” but it might just as well mean someone who just can’t make sense of anything. How many times have we heard someone say that “nothing makes sense anymore”? Hello.

Psalm 34:9-14
13 Keep your tongue from evil-speaking *
and your lips from lying words.

But what if my words aren’t a lie? What if my words are not evil in intent, but instead lay bare the truth of an evil? Is that what I’ve been doing, shutting my teeth on honest words for no better reason than because I do…

Apples and Carts

Acts 11:1-18 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
11 The emissaries and the brothers throughout Y’hudah heard that the Goyim had received the word of God; 2 but when Kefa went up to Yerushalayim, the members of the Circumcision faction criticized him, 3 saying, “You went into the homes of uncircumcised men and even ate with them!” 4 In reply, Kefa began explaining in detail what had actually happened: 5 “I was in the city of Yafo, praying; and in a trance I had a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners from heaven, and it came down to me. 6 I looked inside and saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, crawling creatures and wild birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Kefa, slaughter and eat!’ 8 I said, ‘No, sir! Absolutely not! Nothing unclean or treif has ever entered my mouth!’ 9 But the voice spoke again from heaven: ‘Stop treating as unclean what God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then everything was pulled back up into hea…