THOUGHTS on the last day of July

So much comes up at this time, hard to keep track.

I wish the last two Dharma talks (Sunday, 7/21 “Extreme Views” and Sunday, 7/28 “Dongshan”) had posted, but the recording device did not work. Tried to fix the problem, but no success so far. Sorry about that!

The main theme I am grappling with these days is one I have been talking about in the past: The nonduality of relative and absolute aspects of reality. It’s not only the subject of the upcoming Jewel Mirror Sesshin (see calendar), which Dokai Georgesen, Daigaku Rumme and I will be presenting at Hokyoji, but also the foundational teaching of our Soto Zen School. This came home to me in a powerful way during the three weeks of Dharma Transmission. Sekito Kisen(Shitou)’s Harmony of Difference and Unity and Tozan Ryokai(Dongshan)’s Jewel Mirror Samadhi are deep philosophical texts, whose importance may be overlooked since they are written as relatively short poems.

As they are dealing with ideas that cannot be grasped by the rational mind, we need to find a practice that takes us to a level where consciousness opens up to another dimension. Of course, zazen is our main practice, but also devotional practices, creating art, being in nature, and even the use of certain drugs can open access to deeper awareness. (The last one I have not tried myself, but know their efficacy from credible sources.) In the end, it is necessary to let go of the sense of self that keeps us prisoner.

Demitra Copoulos, one of our sangha friends and local artist, is showing her work at the Grove Gallery in Milwaukee: Demitra Copoulos Imaginary Experiences - takes an unserious examination of metaphysics through a visual approach to questions of space and possibility.

Ben Connelly, Soto Zen Priest in Dainin Katagiri’s lineage, takes a group of practitioners on a week-long silent hike in Montana.

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee explores devotional practices of different faith traditions by visiting places of worship in various communities.

These and many more are examples of ways to get in touch with what we may call truth, and how to incorporate it into our lives.

Recently I listened to a podcast with Jonathan Rowson (Krista Tippett interview, which has brought the underlying issues into a new focus: How do we live with very different aspects of reality in our daily lives? How can the inner work inform how we are dealing with society issues, politics, justice etc?

Already, in my very first all-day sitting I had an awakening that put my practice in a different perspective, when the head student suddenly reminded the practitioners: “Remember, we are not sitting here for ourselves, but for the benefit of all beings.” The boredom that I had been struggling with suddenly disappeared, and new energy and determination arose that has kept me going for almost 30 years.

Enough for today, but I am sure I will come back to it. Please, share your ideas!