Friday, June 17, 2011

Melbourne Zen Centre: "To Dogen Zenji"

) -
Estimated Time:
Calculating ...
Global Preferences

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Zendo Closing for Sesshin

The Empty Seat Zendo will be closed Monday May 30 through Monday June 6, 2011 for Sesshin.

Morning sittings will resume Tuesday June 7th at 7:00 AM.

Gassho _/|\_


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Universal Recommendations for Zazen Practice

Fukan Zazen-gi
The Way of Zazen Recommended Universally

Written by Shaman Dogen
At Kannon-Dori-Kosho-Horinji

1. Originally, the Way is complete and universal. How can we distinguish practice from enlightenment? The Vehicle of Reality is in the Self. Why should we waste our efforts trying to attain it? Still more, the Whole Body is free from dust. Why should we believe in a means to sweep it away? On the whole, the way is never separated from where we are now. Why should we wander here and there to practice? Yet, if there is the slightest deviation, you will be as far from the Way as heaven is from earth. If adverse or favorable conditions arise to even a small degree, you will lose your mind in confusion. Even if you are proud of your understanding, are enlightened in abundance, and obtain the power of wisdom to glimpse the ground of Buddhahood; even if you gain the Way, clarify the mind, resolve to pierce heaven, that is only strolling on the border of the Buddha Way. You are still, almost always, lacking the vivid path of emancipation. Moreover, consider the Shakyamuni Buddha who was enlightened from birth, to this day you can see the traces of his sitting in straight posture for six years. And Bodhidharma who transmitted the mind-seal; even now you can hear of the fame of his facing the wall for nine years. These ancient sages practiced in this way. Why can we people of today, refrain from practice! Therefore, cease studying words and following letters. Learn to withdraw, turning the light inwards, illuminating the Self. Your body and mind will drop off naturally, and original-self will manifest of itself. If you wish to attain Suchness, practice Suchness immediately.

2. Now, for sanzen(zazen), a quiet room is best. Eat and drink moderately. Let go of all associations, and put all affairs aside. Do not think of either good or evil. Do not be concerned with either right and wrong. Put aside the operation of your intellect, volition, and consciousness. Stop considering things with your memory, imagination, and contemplation. Do not seek to become Buddha. To be Buddha has nothing to do with the forms of sitting or lying down. Usually, a thick square mat is put on the floor where you sit, and a round cushion is placed on it. You may sit full lotus position or half lotus position. In full lotus position, first put your right foot on your left thigh, and then you left foot on your right thigh. In half lotus position, just put your right foot on your left thigh. Your clothing should be loose but neat. Then your right hand palm up on your left foot, and your left hand palm up on your right palm. The tips of your thumbs should be lightly touching. Sit upright, leaning neither to the left or right, neither forward or backward. Your ears should be in line with your shoulders; your nose should be in line with your navel. Place your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Close your lips and jaws. Always keep your eyes open. Breathe quietly through your nose. After having regulated your posture, exhale completely and take a breath. Sway your body from left to right a few times. Sit stably in samadhi. Think of not-thinking. How do you think of not-thinking? Beyond thinking. This is the essential way of zazen.

3. The zazen I am talking about is not learning (step by step) meditation. It is simply the Dharma gate of ease and joy (nirvana). It is the practice enlightenment of the ultimate awakening (bodhi). In doing zazen, the koan manifests itself; it cannot be ensnared. When you grasp this, you are like a dragon with water, or a tiger in the mountain. You must know that true dharma manifests itself in zazen, and that, first of all, dullness and distraction are struck down. When you rise from sitting, move your body slowly and stand up calmly. Do not move abruptly. You should see that to transcend both ordinary people and sages, and to die sitting or standing, depends on the power of zazen. Moreover, Buddhas and Ancestors taught their students with a finger, a pole, a needle or a mallet, and they transmitted the Way with a whisk, a fist, a staff or a shout. These actions cannot be understood by thinking or discrimination; nor known by practice to attain superhuman powers. These are the dignified conducts that are outside sound and form; these are none other than the standard which is prior to knowing and seeing. therefore, do not consider whether you are clever or stupid, and do not think of whether you are superior or inferior. When you practice wholeheartedly, it is truly the practice of the Way. Practice-Enlightenment cannot be defiled. Making the effort to obtain the Way, is itself, the manifestation of the Way in your daily life.

4. The Buddhas and Ancestors, both in this world and other worlds, in India and China, preserved the Buddha-seal in the same way and vigorously generated the wind of truth. They just practiced sitting and were protected by zazen. Although their characters were diverse, each of them just practiced the way of zazen wholeheartedly. There is no reason to leave your own seat at home and take a meaningless trip to the dusty places of other countries. If you make a false step, then you will miss the Way, even though it is before your eyes. You have already been given a human body which is functional essence, so do not spend your time wastefully. Since you are endowed with the essential functioning of the Buddha Way, why pursue worthless pleasures that are like sparks from a flint? Furthermore, your body is like a drop of dew on a blade of grass; your life is like a flash of lightning. Your body will disappear soon; your life will be lost in an instant. You, honored practitioner, after learning in a partial way like the blind people who touched the various parts of the elephant, please do not be scared by the real dragon. Point yourself to the Way which manifests Reality directly. Be in accord with the Buddhas’ awakening. Succeed to the Ancestors’ samadhi. If you practice continuously , you will be Suchness. The treasure house will open of itself, and you will be able to use it at will.

Fukan Zazen-gi

Translated by Shohaku Okumura

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Actualization of the open mystery

When all things are buddha-dharma, there is delusion and realization, practice, birth and death, buddhas and sentient beings. When the myriad things are without a self, there is no delusion and realization, no buddhas and sentient beings, no birth and death. The buddha way is, basically, leaping clear of the many and the one; thus there are birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and buddhas. Yet in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread, and that is all.

To carry yourself forward and actualize the myriad things through practice is delusion. That myriad things come forth and actualize yourself through practiceis awakening. Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas. Those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings. Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization, who are in delusion throughout delusion. When buddhas are truly buddhas they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas. However, they are actualized buddhas, who go on actualizing buddhas.

When you see forms or hear sounds fully engaging body-and-mind, you grasp things directly. Unlike things and their reflections in the mirror, and unlike the moon and its reflection in the water. When one side is illumined the other side is dark.

To penetrate the buddha way is to penetrate yourself. To penetrate yourself is to forget yourself. To forget yourself is to be actualized by myriad things. To be actualized by myriad things is the dropping away of your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace-realization continues endlessly.

When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. But dharma is already correctly transmitted; you are immediately your original self.

When you ride in a boat and watch the shore, you might assume that the shore is moving. But when you keep your eyes closely on the boat, you can see that it is the boat that moves. Similarly, if you examine myriad things with a confused body and mind you might suppose that your mind and nature are permanent. When you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that nothing at all has a self.

Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is future and the firewood past. You should understand that firewood abides in the phenomenal expression of firewood, which fully includes past and future and is independent of past and future. Ash abides in the phenomenal expression of ash, which fully includes future and past. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death. This being so, it is an established way in buddha-dharma to deny that birth turns into death. Accordingly, birth is understood as no-birth. It is an unshakable teaching in Buddha's discourse that death does not turn into birth. Accordingly, death is understood as no-death. Birth is an expression complete this moment. Death is an expression complete this moment. They are like winter and spring. You can not say that winter becomes spring, or that spring becomes summer.

Awakening is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water. Awakening does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder awakening, just as a drop of water does not hinder the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.

When dharma does not fill your whole body and mind, you think it is already sufficient. When the dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is missing.

For example, when you sail out in a boat to the middle of an ocean where no land is in sight, and view the four directions, the ocean looks circular, and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round or square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as far as you can see at that time. All things are like this. Though there are many features in the dusty world and the world beyond conditions, you see and understand only what your eye of practice can reach. In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.

A fish swims in the ocean, and no matter how far it swims there is no end to the water. A bird flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies there is no end to the air. However, the fish and the bird have never left their elements. When their activity is large their field is large. When their need is small their field is small. Thus, each of them totally covers its full range, and each of them totally experiences its realm. If the bird leaves the air it will die at once. If the fish leaves the water it will die at once. Know that water is life and air is life. The bird is life and the fish is life. Life must be the bird and life must be the fish. It is possible to illustrate this with more analogies. Practice, enlightenment, and people are like this. Now if a bird or a fish tries to reach the end of its element before moving in it, this bird or this fish will not find its way or its place.

When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the open mystery. When you find your way at this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the open mystery. For the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others'. The place, the way, has not carried over from the past and it is not merely arising now. Accordingly, in the practice-realization of the buddha way, meeting one thing is mastering it - doing one practice is practicing completely. Here is the place - here the way unfolds.

The boundary of realization is not distinct, for the realization comes forth simultaneously with the mastery of buddha-dharma. Do not suppose that what you realize becomes your knowledge and is grasped by your consciousness. Although actualized immediately, the inconceivable may not be apparent. Its appearance is beyond your knowledge.

Zen master Baoche of Mt. Mayu was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, "Master, the nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. Why, then, do you fan yourself?" "Although you understand that the nature of the wind is permanent," Baoche replied, "you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere." "What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?" asked the monk again. The master just kept fanning himself. The monk bowed deeply.

The actualization of the buddha-dharma, the vital path of its correct transmission, is like this. If you say that you do not need to fan yourself because the nature of wind is permanent and you can have wind without fanning, you will understand neither permanence nor the nature of wind.
The nature of wind is permanent; because of that, the wind of the buddha's house brings forth the gold of the earth and makes fragrant the cream of the long river.

Genjôkôan, the first fascicle of the Shôbôgenzô.

This was written in mid-autumn of the year 1233 and given to the lay student Yô Kôshû from Chinzei.

Edited in 1253.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Refuge - Aspiration - Dedication - Vow

With the wish to free all beings
until we reach full awakening,
I will always go for refuge
to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

Today, in the presence of the Enlightened Ones,
inspired by Wisdom, Compassion, and Joyous Effort,
I generate the mind aspiring to full awakening
for the wellbeing of sentient beings.

For as long as space endures,
And as long as sentient beings remain,
May I continue to abide
and dispel the misery of the world.

I hereby dedicate all merit generated by this practice
To the liberation of all sentient beings.

Sentient beings are numberless,
I vow to liberate them.
Delusions are inexhaustible,
I vow to uproot them.
Dharma gates are infinite,
I vow to enter them.
The Great Way is unsurpassable,
I vow to embody it truly

Gassho _/|\_

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Affirming Faith In Mind

Hsin Hsin Ming - Seng Tsan

The Great Way is not difficult
for those who do not pick and choose.
When preferences are cast aside,
the Way stands clear and undisguised.

But even slight distinctions made
set earth and heaven far apart.
If you would clearly see the truth,
discard opinions pro and con.

To founder in dislike and like
is nothing but the mind’s disease.
And not to see the Way’s deep truth
disturbs the mind’s essential peace.

The Way is perfect like vast space,
where there’s no lack and no excess.
Our choice to choose and to reject
prevents our seeing this simple truth.

Both striving for the outer world
as well as for the inner void
condemn us to entangled lives.
Just calmly see that all is One,
and by themselves false views will go.

Attempts to stop activity
will fill you with activity.
Remaining in duality,
you’ll never know of unity.
And not to know this unity
lets conflict lead you far astray.

When you assert that things are real,
you miss their true reality.
But to assert that things are void
also misses reality.

The more you talk and think on this
the further from the truth you’ll be.
Cut off all useless thoughts and words,
and there’s nowhere you cannot go.

Returning to the root itself,
you’ll find the meaning of all things.
If you pursue appearances,
you overlook the primal source.

Awakening is to go beyond
both emptiness as well as form.
All changes in this empty world
seem real because of ignorance.

Do not go searching for the truth,
just let those fond opinions go.
Abide not in duality ;
refrain from all pursuit of it.

If there’s a trace of right and wrong,
True-mind is lost, confused, distraught.
From One-mind comes duality,
but cling not even to this One.

When this One-mind rests undisturbed,
then nothing in the world offends.
And when no thing can give offense,
then all obstructions cease to be.

If all thought-objects disappear,
the thinking subject drops away.
For things are things because of mind,
as mind is mind because of things.
These two are merely relative,
and both at source are Emptiness.

In Emptiness these are not two,
yet in each are contained all forms.
Once coarse and fine are seen no more,
then how can there be taking sides ?

The Great Way is without limit,
beyond the easy and the hard.
But those who hold to narrow views
are fearful and irresolute ;
their frantic haste just slows them down.

If you’re attached to anything,
you surely will go far astray.
Just let go now of clinging mind,
and all things are just as they are :

In essence nothing goes or stays.
See into the true self of things,
and you’re in step with the Great Way,
thus walking freely, undisturbed.

But live in bondage to your thoughts,
and you will be confused, unclear.
This heavy burden weighs you down—
so why keep judging good and bad ?

If you would walk the highest Way,
do not reject the sense domain.
For as it is, whole and complete,
this sense world is Enlightenment.

The wise do not strive after goals ;
while fools themselves in bondage put.
The One Way knows no differences ;
the foolish cling to this and that.

To seek Great Mind with thinking mind
is certainly a grave mistake.
From small mind come rest and unrest,
but mind awakened transcends both.

Delusion spawns dualities—
these dreams are merely flowers of air—
why work so hard at grasping them ?
Both gain and loss, and right and wrong—
once and for all get rid of them.

When you no longer are asleep,
all dreams will vanish by themselves.
If mind does not discriminate,
all things are as they are, as One.
To go to this mysterious Source
frees us from all entanglements.

When all is seen with ‘equal mind,’
to our Self-nature we return.
This single mind goes right beyond
all reasons and comparison.

Seek movement and there's no movement;
see rest and no rest comes instead.
When rest and movement cease to be,
then even oneness disappears.

This ultimate finality,
beyond all laws, can’t be described.
With single mind one with the Way,
all ego-centered strivings cease ;

Doubts and confusion disappear,
and so true faith pervades our life.
There is no thing that clings to us,
and nothing that is left behind.

All’s self-revealing, void and clear,
without exerting power of mind.
Thought cannot reach this state of truth,
here feelings are of no avail.

In this true world of Emptiness,
both self and other are no more.
To enter this true empty world,
immediately affirm ‘not-two.’

In this ‘not-two’ all is the same,
with nothing separate or outside.
The wise in all times and places
awaken to this primal truth.

The Way’s beyond all space, all time ;
one instant is ten thousand years.
Not only here, not only there,
truth’s right before your very eyes.

Distinctions such as large and small
have relevance for you no more.
The largest is the smallest too—
here limitations have no place.

What is is not, what is not is—
if this is not yet clear to you,
you’re still far from the inner truth.
One thing is all, all things are one—
know this and all’s whole and complete.

When faith and Mind are not separate,
and not separate are Mind and faith,
this is beyond all words, all thought.
For here there is no yesterday,
no tomorrow,
no today.

Uchiyama Roshi on Zazen

On Zazen

Uchiyama Kosho Roshi

In short, doing zazen is to stop doing anything, to face the wall, and to sit, just being yourself that is only the Self. While doing zazen we should refrain from doing anything, yet, being human, we begin to think; we engage in a dialogue with the thoughts in our minds. “I should have sold it that time; no, I should have bought it,” or, “I should have waited for a while.”

If you are a stockbroker you will think like this. If you are a young lover, you may find that your girlfriend inevitably appears all the time. If you are a mother-in-law who doesn’t get along with your daughter-in-law, you will think only of your son’s wife. Whatever situation you are involved, thoughts will arise of their own accord while you are doing zazen.

Once you realize that you are thinking when you are supposed to be doing nothing, and return to zazen, the thoughts which appeared as clearly before you as if they were pictures on the T.V. screen, disappear as suddenly as if you had switched off the T.V. Only the wall is left in front of you.

For an instant… this is it. This is zazen. Yet again thoughts arise by themselves. Again you return to zazen and they disappear. We simply repeat this; this is called kakusoku (awareness of Reality). The most important point is to repeat this kakusoku billions of times. This is how we should practice zazen.

If we practice in this way we cannot help but realize that our thoughts are really nothing but secretions of the brain. Just as our salivary glands secrete saliva, or as our stomachs secrete gastric juices, so our thoughts are nothing but secretions of the brain.

Usually, however, people do not understand this. When we think “I hate him,” we hate the person, forgetting that the thought is merely a secretion. The hatred occupies our mind, tyrannizing it. By hating the person, we subordinate ourselves to this tyrant. When we love someone we are also swept away by our attachment to this person; we become enslaved by this love. In the end, all of us live as vassals to this lord, thought. This is the source of all our problems.

For example, our stomachs secrete gastric juices in order to digest food. More is not better in this case; if too much is secreted, we may develop an ulcer or even stomach cancer.

Our stomachs secrete gastric juices to keep us alive, but an excess is dangerous. Nowadays, people suffer from an excess of brain-secretions; and furthermore, they allow themselves to be tyrannized by these secretions. This is the cause of all our mistakes.

In Reality, the various thoughts which arise in our minds are nothing but the scenery of the Life of the Self. This scenery exists upon the ground of our Life. As I said earlier, we should not be blind to, or unconscious of, this scenery.

Zazen commands a view of everything as the scenery of the Life of the Self. In ancient Zen texts, this is referred to as “honchino faku” (the scenery of original ground).

It is not the case that we become the universal Life as a result of our practice. Each and every one of us receives and lives this universeful-Life. We are one with the whole universe, yet we do not manifest it as the universe in the real sense.

Since our minds are discriminating, we perceive only the tail of the secretions. When we do zazen, we let go of the thoughts, and then the thoughts drop off. That which arises in our minds disappears. There the universeful-Life manifests itself.

Dogen Zenji called it shojo-no-shu, (practice based on enlightenment). The universeful-Life is enlightenment. Based upon that, we practice being the whole universe. This is also called shusho-ichinyo (practice and enlightenment are one.)

We would all prefer happiness to misery, paradise to hell, survival to immediate death. We are thus ever bifurcating Reality, dividing it into something good and something bad, something we like and something we don’t. Similarly we discriminate between satori and delusion, and strive to attain satori.

But the reality of the universe is far beyond such an attitude of aversion and attachment. When our attitude is “whichever, whatever, wherever,” then we manifest the whole universe.

In the first place, the attitude of trying to gain something is itself unstable. When you strive to gain satori you are definitely deluded because you desire to escape from a state of delusion.

Dogen Zenji taught that our attitude should be one of practice and diligent work in any situation whatsoever. If we fall into hell, we go through hell; this is the most important attitude to have. If we encounter unhappiness, we should work through it sincerely.

Just sit in the Reality of Life seeing hell and paradise, misery and joy, life and death, all with the same eye. No matter what the situation, we live the life of the Self. We must sit immovably on that foundation. This is essential; this is what “becoming one with the universe” means.

If we divide this universe into two, striving to attain satori and to escape delusion, we are not the whole universe. Happiness and unhappiness, satori and delusion, life and death; see them with the same eye. In every situation the Self lives the life of the Self -- such a self must do itself by itself. This universal Life is the place to which we return.

Uchiyama Kosho Roshi (1912-1998) studied Western philosophy at Waseda University in Tokyo. He taught at the Miyazaki Theological School for a while before he became a zen monk under Sawaki Roshi in 1941. Uchiyama Roshi has published many books in Japanese on Zen. Two of them have been translated into English, Approach to Zen (Japan Publications, Inc.), and Refining Your Life (Weatherhill).

Shikantaza - an introduction to Zazen
Edited and translated by Shohaku Okumura
Kyoto Soto-Zen Center, 1985