Category Archives: Overcome Difficulties

Returning ‘Home’

Note from Mugo: Thank you folks for your patience. It has been about a month since I last posted on Jade Mountains. I’ve stopped counting how many places I have stayed at since leaving England 11th July, I’ve certainly been contemplating the meaning of ‘home’. I landing initially in Seattle then moved over to Victoria Vancouver Island for two weeks, then a brief trip to Vancouver, (as it turned out it was an aborted trip to the interior of British Columbia). Returning then to Victoria for another two weeks and more emergency dental work! Thanks to everybody who hosted me and supported me with Dana, food, and transport (and much MUCH more). Words fail. Such kindness and generosity.

Now at Shasta Abbey in Northern California preparing to help out on a retreat titled The Teaching of Our Tradition. On Monday I’m kicking off with a talk on Zen Master Dogen’s Fukanzazengi. What an honour!

Why leave behind your proper place, which exists right in your own home, and wander aimlessly off to the dusty realms of other lands? If you make even a single misstep, you stray from the Great Way lying directly before you.

The above is taken from a translation of the Fukanzazengi written by Zen Master Dogen and is an allusion to the parable of the lost son from the Lotus Sutra:
An only son left his home and family to live in a distant land. He experienced great hardship, totally unaware of the increasing wealth his father was accumulating in the meantime. Many years later, the son returned home and inherited the great treasure that was his original birthright.
Importantly the son had to prove himself before his father recognized him as the one to inherit what was his true birthright. Here below is a longer version of the story.

THE PRODIGAL SON – a Story from “the Lotus Sutra”
This parable was told by one of Buddha’s senior disciple Maha-Kasyapa:
Once upon a time, there was a man who had a son. As a teenage, the son took his father’s money and ran away from home to lead an extravagant life. After he had spent all his money, he became very poor, and had to wonder from town to town, begging for a living.
Many years had passed and the father had been looking for him but failed to find him. As time went by, the father became very rich, having a big house with numerous treasures, gold and silver, a large herd of cattle and goat, a group of servants and employees, and a large fleet of elephant and horse drawn wagons.
One day, the son was wondering into his hometown and begging for a living as usual. He came across a fleet of luxurious wagons, accompanied by a group of servants. When he saw the procession, he thought, “he must be a king or some noble knight. Well, I should not have come here. It is difficult to approach someone very high in society to ask for help.”
As he was turning around and going away, the father recognized him and ordered his security officers to get him. As the son was approached by the security officers, he cried out in despair, “I had not committed any crime. Why do you want to arrest me?” The security officers became suspicious. They tied him up and brought him to see the father.
The father looked at him carefully to make sure that he indeed was his son. He knew that his son had a very strong will and it would not work if he tried to lure him back with money or riches alone. So, without saying a word, he ordered his release and let him go. The son was glad that he was free, but he returned to the ghetto and continued to beg for a living.
The next day, the father sent two of his senior employees to the ghetto to look for his son. The two employees found him and said, “our boss is operating a big business and he is looking for someone who is trustworthy to work as a janitor. We will offer you a good salary and benefits. Are you interested in taking the job?” Having been wandering from town to town looking for work, the son was happy that someone offered him a job. He accepted it immediately.
As the son took on a low ranking job as a janitor, the father did not say anything about their relationship to any other employees, customers, suppliers, friends or relatives. However, the son proved himself to be a good worker and soon earned the respect of his fellow employees. As time went by he was promoted to a senior position.
One day, his father got sick, and, knowing that his days were soon over, his gathered every employee, friends and relatives to announce his will. He disclosed the father-and-son relationship to everybody and announced that his son would inherit his business. The son, by this time, a fairly senior employee, had proven his ability to take over his father’s business operation.
Maha-Kasyapa (Buddha’s senior disciple) concluded that the father represented the Lord Buddha and the son represented the followers.
NOTE: Although a similar story appears in the Christian Bible (Luke Chapter 15, 12 to 32), there is a very significant philosophical difference between Buddhism and Christianity. In the Christian Bible, the father forgave the son immediately and gave him all his heritage as soon as the son admitted his sin – that means: you have sinned, therefore, success is a grace from God. Here in the Lotus Sutra, after the reunion, the son proved his ability to take over his father’s heritage – that is, success is largely a result of your own effort. However, the reader is free to interpret the story in anyway he/she wants.
Copied from a .pdf from the following book. The Heart of Dogen’s Shobogenzo, by Norman Waddell (Translator), Masao Abe (Translator)

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The ‘Road’ is Home

The infant has it’s own joy because the world is not a mere road but a home, of which it will have more and more as it grows up in wisdom. With our road the gain is at every step, for it is the road and the home in one; it leads us on yet gives us shelter.
Tagore

Thus I read to the elderly, and often confused, monk I’m seeing every day. She smiled at the truth of this. Smiled in recognition.

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‘Non-Doing’ Meditation?

If our practice is to simply notice natural awareness, a quality of mind that is already present right here and now within every moment, then it is counterproductive to try to make something special happen—even to bring about a meditation state (jhana) or meditative stability. Those practices, so prevalent in Buddhism, draw us toward thinking about a before and an after, pursuing special states of being.

Natural awareness has no before and after; it is already awake. It is already happening. It cannot happen later. There is no special event, other than noticing with increasing depth and intensity what is happening right now. Sometimes natural awareness is also called “ordinary awareness,” emphasizing that it is nothing exotic or special. It is ever-present and ordinary, a constant reality. And yet to witness something this subtle directly is extraordinary and the essence of awakening

Read the full article in Lions Roar
Amen to this.

All merit goes to a dog now in the Southern Lakes being prepared for major surgery to remove a large tumour from her lower jaw. Risky business. And for her devoted care person Gill.

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Mabel Sit!

Ah Mabel. Yesterday a photo call by the milky white waterfall in the aptly named Sourmilk Gill above Grasmere.

I’ve know Mabel since she was a wee pup. She just turned three years March 1st and is as lively as ever and loves the lakes almost as much as I do. Whatever the weather, wetter the better for her.

I’ve traveled this path about four times in the last year and as I walked this time memories swam in and out. In my mind walks jumbled together along with the different companions, the walking conditions, stops to snack etc.

Memory snap-shots all jumbled out of sequence. And it maybe the out-of-sequence nature of memories generally that has me wondering just how much of memory is made up, unconsciously. Imaging, imagining, visualizing events and conversations so as to make sense of the jumble. Brains are brilliant at keeping us safe mentally and emotionally. But not necessarily accurate. As we know to our cost sometimes.

So my thought now is on what my teacher taught us. To remember to think when in contention, ‘I could be wrong’, or alternatively ‘I could be right’! An aid to nurturing humility and confidence, depending. All relative though.

Thanks to friends who tolerate my leaky memory. Wars are made of this! Careers are lost and broken because of this.

Plain outright fibs are another story. Mabel! Did you roll in Fox poo? Who me!

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Memory Lost


A first for me on Saturday while walking up in the snow near Grasemere. Crampons! Wild looking devices and clearly they can do damage to both self and other when out of control. Not surprised to hear wearing them or not, needing them or not is a matter of debate when approaching snow. Perhaps that’s because they are ‘work’ to fix  onto the boot. Who knows. We watched a group making their way up to Fairfield, one chap used crampons a couple of others traction devices (mini spikes) and the majority stayed with ‘raw boot’!

I am reminded of being in Edmonton over ten years ago now. Snow, the sound of snow as boot lowers and raises. The quality of sound with varied ones according to the quality of snow and the temperature too. Do those memories sew my life together to make it a continuing story? Or are they simply snap shots stored away. A thread of a person moving through life. Yes, obviously. And in another sense she of five days ago, has died.

I’m thinking particularly about those who are suffering from memory loss, short-term memory loss which is so distressing and dimmed long-term memory too. I see on the face of those I visit the deep anguish in them as they struggle with, or give up on, their encounter with the outside world. Why is it you have come? she said. Are you giving a lecture here? Why are you here? No answer will satisfy because it’s forgotten instantly.

Errm, this reads a bit ‘random’. Happens to the best of us. Merit to those with random thoughts who are no longer able to string their life together. At all.

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