Branches On The Same Tree

Mount Shasta with tree

If what I say resonates with you, it is merely
because we are both branches on the same tree.
– W.. B . Yeats

Speak Of Trees – That Subtle Something

Trees under Mount Shasta

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon
our hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that
emanates from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews
a weary spirit.
– Robert Louis Stevenson

Here starts Tree Fortnight – two weeks of pictures with poems and quotes about our trusty friend, the tree.

The Power of Repetition

Morning Service. That’s a ceremony. It happens after morning meditation. It happens every day of the year. And it is more or less the same, every single day of the year. For people new to our practice who maybe come for an introductory retreat ceremonial can be a bit of a challenge. It was for me when I first started going to Throssel as a lay woman.

To cut a potentially long post short the answer to the challenge is simple. Firstly one is not required to adopt a particular attitude of mind, or feel a certain way while taking part in a ceremony. For example it is not a requirement to be devotional while singing or grateful when bowing or feel wonderful or uplifted. Or even like it. Morning service, any ceremony, is an overtly religious activity within which one sits still and acts in concert with others. Singing, bowing, chanting, turning, sitting, standing. Doing the best one can.

As with participating in overtly religious activities such as morning service so it is with seemingly mundane daily activities. The inner aspect or quality of mind (sitting still) is exactly the same what ever is happening. That quality of mind is not a practice or quality as such it is simply our True Nature which does not come or go, nor does it need perfecting. The deeper challenge of ceremonial (or whatever) is to accept that. Deeply. Trouble is we imagine there is something lost to find and something broken to fix or improve upon. Tah!

There is a certain something in repetition, a blessing really, that propels one through to acceptance. You could call that faith I guess.

New Beginnings

This morning we celebrated the Festival of the Autumn Equinox. This is a time when we remember and make food offerings for those who have died. And also for those, alive or dead, who my be traveling in disquiet. Typically the disquiet is because there is an aspect that’s not getting what is longed for, which is Truth. It is that aspect one can see in oneself where one wants, wants wants but can’t seem to get enough to satisfy. So the want want want keeps on wanting. Terrible state to be in. The ceremony is about helping this aspect to wake up to what is really wanted. And to eat it. Some times this ceremony is called Segaki or The Feeding of the Hungry Ghosts. It is basically a massive offering of spiritual merit to help the hungry get what they really want.

Spiritual merit, and offering ‘it’, is hard enough to get ones head around and Segaki can be a particular challenge for westerners to appreciate since we are talking about ‘feeding’ ‘ghosts’. This ceremony was the first big one I attended when I came to Shasta to be a monk. Interestingly I was not phased by it and seemed to be able to embrace the intent behind it without much desire to understand it rationally. I guess I had faith that something good was happening. In Chinese and Japanese Buddhism Segaki is colourful, loud and very elaborate. Ours is that way too however a bit less so I suspect.

After the ceremony the Abbess gave a dharma talk titled New Beginnings.

I do so appreciate Rev. Master Meian’s refreshingly direct and simple way of talking about training. There are lessons in this talk for all of us.

Thoughts On Teaching

I have been pondering the matter of teaching. That’s with respect to teaching about practice as well as about general life circumstance teaching. What I have come up with is that the best of teaching in the widest possible meaning, from formal talks to so called obsticles on the path, is the drawing out of that which is already there. But what makes that drawing out happen?

I was at a ceremony yesterday where each resident monk is asked, formally, if they will fulfill a certain monastic responsibility for this training term. Since I’m not a resident I don’t have a job so when my name came around I was Rev. Master Mugo; honored and esteemed guest. Honored and esteemed! Esteemed? To hold in high regard. I was touched. And it seems to me that holding oneself and all things in high esteem/regard, to elevate rather than pull down, is to draw out the very best teaching in all circumstances, including within oneself and others.

For some crazy reason grooming cats, dogs and horses comes to mind. One simple cannot groom an animal successfully if they are not esteemed. Held with proper regard. I’m not talking about being sickly sentimental and cooing to them. Far from it. More about…drawing out the best in them through ones own simple actions. Taking care, honoring them, and oneself, for being. Just that.

As is so often the case I don’t know where a post is going or what it is really going to be about. What point or teaching I am going to get to. It would seem however that the process of writing (as an example of an activity) draws out that which is within and it is so often a surprise as to what ones expression ends up being.

I guess that’s the beauty of it. One is teaching self and other, at the same time, while not trying to!