Tonight's practice was dedicated to Chris Wilson, who was sorely missed, but who we learned sailed through his recent surgery.
Because Chris' surgery was on his heart, we chanted, for him, the Great Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra:
Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, Living in deep Prajnaparamita, Clearly saw all five
skandhas empty, Crossed beyond all suffering and misery. Listen, Shariputra, listen –
Form is emptiness, Emptiness is form. Form is exactly emptiness, Emptiness exactly
form. The same is true of feeling and perception. The same is true of memory and
consciousness. Listen, Shariputra, listen – All paths are marked by emptiness.
Not born, not destroyed, Not stained, not pure, Without loss, without gain.
In emptiness no form, no feeling, No perception, no memory, no consciousness.
No eye, no ear, no nose. No tongue, no body, no mind. No color, no sound, no smell.
No taste, no touch, no thought. No seeing and so on to no thinking. No ignorance, no end
of ignorance. No old age and no death. No ending of old age and death. No suffering, no
cause or end to suffering. No path, no wisdom and no gain. Since there is nothing to gain,
The bodhisattva lives in Prajnaparamita. Since there are no walls in the mind,
There is no fear. Far beyond all delusion, Nirvana is already here. All past, present and
future buddhas, Taking shelter in Prajnaparamita, Awaken to perfect enlightenment.
Therefore know the sacred and bright mantra, The mantra of Prajnaparamita,
The supreme and unsurpassed mantra, By which all suffering is healed, Is truth not
deception. The mantra in Prajnaparamita Is spoken like this:
Gate gate paragate parasangate bodhi svaha!
[We chanted because 1) we have a nice fish drum that we seldom use and 2) I cannot recall how the singing melody goes. No matter.]
So, we recited, then we opened the floor. What did people notice? Where was their attention drawn.
Several people commented on the emptiness, how that seemed lonely and perhaps frightening. There were several people who noticed the many contradictions in the sutra. They posited, "well, of course I have memories, and of course I have a nose, and of course there is feeling, but maybe, maybe that doesn't matter as much as I thought."
We talked about walls in the mind, their absence and the freedom that brings. We wrestled a little bit with the concept of skandas and how they could be empty.
In the end, of perhaps in the beggining, the discussion slowed. Its a lot to bite off for an evening. Instead, I threw in the room how we hold our hands in kinhin (walking meditation). The soto zen school, apparently, teaches right hand covering the left in a soft first. The Rinzai school, the left covers the right. In Buddhist tradition, the right is, apparently, associated with the active, the left, the passive.
So what then does that mean about our practice? Are we doing something (active), or are we not doing something (passive), when we sit?
Well, its not that easy.
A said that in her practice, she rotates. Sometimes she watches her breath, sometimes, feels her body, sometimes sits with a koan. She said she just knew when she sat down which one was right.
B said that he often finds his mind wandering off, and brings it, actively, back to center with breath counting.
C mentioned that she felt a reluctance when she went to sit, that she engaged while sitting.
Most people mentioned that it had, for them, both aspects.
Then the conversation opened up, and people talked about their practices. People shared from their experiences.
A mentioned that she has a timer next to a calendar at home, and that when she sees it, she finds joy in finding 15 minutes to sit.
B mentioned that she finds it hard to make the time in the day, and that with that comes guilt and a desire to be on the cushion.
C mentioned that he has found a desire to sit, and that recently when on a beach, found that when he had 30 minutes, there was nothing more he wanted to do.
D mentioned that sitting was at first, painful and hard, accompanies by panic attacks. And that sitting was seldom accompanied by calm or peace, but that there was something even in that that was sitting and was worth while and was worth coming back to.
E mentioned that she noticed that she strove to find peace and calm and to still her mind and that she found that her mind still wanted to go there.
F gave a nice recital about her sitting, that, counter intuitively, she found that even tired and short on time, its where she wanted to be.
There was a lot more said, and I hope the 7 who came tonight use this blog to offer some comments, anything, but it was special and wonderful and I thank you all.
Heal quickly Chris.
“A Course on Koans” is the delusion-riddled work of Chris Kufu (“Wind in the Void”) Wilson, who began practicing Zen in 1967. He regards Taizan Maezumi, Robert Aitken, and David Weinstein as his root teachers. Each of them pecked at his shell until he “completed” the never-ending koan curriculum of the Harada-Yasutani lineage.
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