Diamond shards tap the glass
and wind whistles through cracks
in the window panes
as I resentfully pull on my boots
to shovel snow.
I call my 9 year old son,
“want to help me?”
“No thanks,” he says,
wandering to his room
to draw a treehouse
build an electric circuit
read Captain Underpants.
I wish I were so free.
But as I zip my puff daddy coat,
my father with his crooked back
steps forth from the darkened room where he sat,
looks into my eyes
for the first time this visit and says,
“Son, I wish I could join you. I wish I could.” …
A hard rain falls in the courtyard,
Pours off the roof of the cathedral.
Divine statues stare at each other,
Argue about who is most real.
Nothing compared to my mother’s white hair
That set the sky on fire.
When her chariot came, she just disappeared,
What’s real turned into a dream.
Mary seems frozen in stained glass windows,
But silence is a host.
She lives where my mother once was,
Where life has come and gone.
Where breath once seemed impossible
I find wind entering in.
She brings cricket songs in the evening
And enters me through my skin.
I wander dark paths of…
When we align with our Buddha-nature, we can appreciate our life, just as it is. Our Buddha-nature, or true nature, is amazing beyond description. The word “Buddha-nature” is a pointer to the nondual realization that we are not separate from the universe.
When we lose touch with our Buddha-nature, we are driven by craving in ways that cause ourselves and others endless suffering. To realize our true nature is one way to weaken a cycle of consumerism and exploitation that causes terrible harm and that will otherwise likely be our demise.
There’s a difference between needing to have our basic needs met, which our society can and should do for all, and craving — which is driven by a persistent sense of inadequacy and longing. I just finished reading David Loy’s Ecodharma: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis. He reminds us that a cause of this persistent craving is our underlying awareness that we are ever-changing, mortal beings. We long for stability and security, and what we find is impermanence. …
In her book, Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out, Ruth King writes:
It would be wholesome for all of humanity if white people, as a collective, were to see themselves as racial individuals and to recognize whiteness as a racial constellation with roots, history, power, and privilege that negatively impact other races, and then to organize themselves to dismantle racial constellations of harm.
I love Ruth King’s book. In Boundless Way Zen, we are reading it in our recently formed Racial Justice Group. We also discuss race openly in Morning Star Zen Sangha.
Not everyone is entirely comfortable with this direction. One sangha member suggested that raising questions about race in a Zen sangha is unwise. I understand his concern. This is not an easy topic. I do worry sometimes that we may unintentionally harm one another in this fraught territory, particularly as a mixed-race, mixed-ethnicity group. There is risk involved. …
Dear Boundless Way Zen Sangha and friends,
We, the Guiding Teachers of Boundless Way Zen, grieve the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks. We also grieve the disproportionate suffering and death of people of color due to the coronavirus, which has exposed underlying inequities in our society. We recognize the deeply embedded and often violent ways systemic racism and white privilege deprive Black people of the justice, respect, and equal rights we have vowed to co-create with all beings.
We vow to practice the humility that is essential to listening deeply and that is the beginning of real and lasting change. We vow to investigate and transform our deluded views and blindnesses that maintain overt and systemic racism. We commit to continually awaken and grow on this journey toward liberation for all. …
Black Lives Matter
Based on a talk I gave at Morning Star Zen Sangha.
On May 26, I saw the video of George Floyd’s murder. A policeman casually kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck, hands in his pockets, while Mr. Floyd pleaded for his life. I don’t know how many of you watched it. It is horrifying.
Such dehumanizing, racist brutality is not uncommon in the US. We are a country founded on systemic racism. The United States was built on the backs of slaves, and we can never fully compensate for that injustice, but we never even tried. Instead, we enacted racist policies that oppress Black people — Jim Crow, segregation, lack of access to lending and housing, unequal access and treatment in health care, unequal educational opportunities, greater pollution in communities of color, disproportionate enforcement of the law, and many more forms of systemic racism. The average white family in the Boston area has $247,500 in savings, and the average black family has $8, not because Black people are less capable but because white people oppressed them. …
What follows is a teisho, a Zen dharma talk, offered by Melissa Blacker, Roshi and me, Michael Fieleke, Sensei, during 2019’s Summer Sesshin at the Boundless Way Temple. It is followed by a dharma dialogue, which includes sangha members and Guiding Teachers Bob Waldinger, Sensei and David Rynick, Roshi. This is the first in a series of talks on the Gateless Gate’s Case 23, “Think Neither Good Nor Evil,” and on Huineng’s Platform Sutra. This talk set the scene for the talks that followed and launched our sesshin.
Melissa Blacker, Roshi:
This is the first of our series of dharma talks for this summer sesshin. The four teachers, David Roshi, Bob Sensei, Mike Sensei and I, will be sharing these talks each day. A different pair will present our understanding of the topic that we’ve chosen for the sesshin. And today Mike Sensei and I will be presenting our understanding of a koan that is a very fundamental story in our Zen tradition. It’s found in at least three different places in Zen literature. …
Love in a Time of Coronavirus
What follows is a dharma talk I offered to Morning Star Zen Sangha via Zoom on the evening of March 18, 2020. I explored Yunmen’s “Medicine and Disease,” from the Blue Cliff Record, as COVID-19 spread around the world.
For the clear-eyed person there are no holes to fall into.
Sometimes on the summit of a lonely peak the grass grows in profusion;
Sometimes in the middle of the bustling marketplace he is naked and exposed.
Suddenly the angry Nada reveals his three heads and six arms;
Suddenly Sun-face Buddha and Moon-face Buddha release their all-embracing merciful light.
The entire body is revealed in a speck of dust.
Becoming ordinary people, one blends with mud and mixes with water.
If one were suddenly to reveal the opening of the highest realization,
even the eye of a Buddha could not see it.
Even if a thousand sages were to appear, they would have to retreat three thousand miles.
Is there anyone who has attained and realized to this state? …
Boundless Way Zen’s priest lineage has its roots in the Japanese Soto tradition through Peggy Jiyu Kennett, Roshi, the first woman to be authorized to teach by the Soto school in Japan, and her dharma heir and founder of Boundless Way Zen, James Myoun Ford, Roshi. Boundless Way Zen has a carefully considered set of expectations and hopes for our priests. Most essentially, becoming a priest is a call of the heart to live by the precepts, serve others, and embody our tradition for all beings.
In BoWZ, to be ordained, priest candidates must demonstrate a number of competencies. To review in general terms, these competencies include: pastoral skills; an ability to perform Zen ceremonies and forms; an understanding of Soto and Linji Zen; a capacity to meet people as they are; self awareness; leadership; public speaking; a priestly presence (hard to articulate but easy to recognize); and a means to support themselves with right livelihood. BoWZ also requires some retreat experience in other traditions and, to become an unsui priest, a minimum of 100 full days of sesshin. An ordination committee reviews the candidate’s performance, holds the candidate’s feet to the fire, and offers support along the way. Ordination is conferred by a BoWZ senior priest through the authority of her or his own ordination and precepts transmission, in consultation with the ordination committee and the Boundless Way Zen Guiding Teachers Council. Unsui priests are supervised by, and serve under the authority of, their ordaining teachers and therefore must remain in a shoken relationship with their ordaining teachers or another BoWZ senior priest in order to continue to serve as priests. …
In the first case of the Blue Cliff Record, Bodhidharma, who at least mythologically is credited with bringing Buddhism from India to China, was asked by the Emperor of China, “Who are you?” Bodhidharma responded, “I don’t know.”
In Case 20 from The Book of Equanimity, Dizang asked Fayan, “What do you think of wandering?” Fayan answered, “I don’t know.” Dizang said, “Not knowing is most intimate.”
Seung Sahn also used to encourage his students, “Only don’t know!”
What is this “no knowing” that is so celebrated in Zen?
As an English, philosophy, and Zen teacher, I have a hearty appreciation of language, definitions, and concepts. Indeed, each is an important aspect of the Dharma, the Buddha’s teachings. …