Looking Up Towards the Sky

In an interview on his 115th birthday, Mr Kimura said he was not sure why he was able to live so long. “Maybe it’s all thanks to the sun above me,” he said. “I am always looking up towards the sky, that is how I am.”
See interview with Mr. Kimura.

The will to live waxes and wanes especially in the face of chronic pain. In such circumstances it is not so easy to remember where the sky is. However it is always there even when obscured by clouds. The sun is there also, adding brightness to the whole scene.

My looking up and your looking up helps others more than we ever realize. Several of us visited an elderly sangha member last afternoon. This post is for her, with love.

Thanks to Julius for this link.

Let a Long Breath Be Long….

There is an instruction for meditation regarding the breath which goes, Let a long breath be long and a short breath be short. But can I find where that is mentioned in the edition of the Eihei Koroku I have! Anyway the gist is that Zen Master Dogen recommends that breathing during formal meditation be allowed to be natural and to not interfere in any way with breath, including counting. He is actually rather strong on the subject of counting the breath during meditation. He simply does not hold with applying methods and practices to help calm the mind. And rather scathing of those schools that do! We very occasionally give instruction on counting the breath with the warning that like any tool it will need to be put down eventually. Sooner rather than later.

Allowing the breath to be natural one sometimes feels that breathing has stopped all together! But it is important to breathe and not hold it which is a habit some people have developed. At other times the breathing seems rough, noticing is all that is needed. Noticing is letting it go, if that is your basic intention.

In daily life situations though, say when emotions such as anger or frustration are in the ascendency, it is helpful to deliberately slow down the breathing which inevitably becomes elevated with such emotions.

Seeds Don’t Grow In The Packet

This is word for word from the translation of the Eihei Koroku mentioned yesterday. All credit goes to the publisher and translator.

There is nowhere that the great Way of the enlightened ones is not present, no thing that does not contain it.
However, only people who have previously planted seeds of wisdom can sustain it.
That is why it is said, It cannot be seen in form or sought in sound.

The wind is still throughout the world;
birds cry, the mountains are quiet.
The crossroads are bright as daybreak,
the doors of the senses cool as autumn.
Half sitting where there is no doubt,
one sees illusions in a floating reflection.

Many people catch a glimpse of the true nature of existence. That’s to know training and enlightenment are not separate. To sustain (to live) that glimpse comes about through open handed giving.

Wisdom grows, when taken out of the packet. The koan (problem) of daily life is sowing skillfully.

One Calls One Answers

A 'Queen Conch' - Lobatus gigas
A ‘Queen Conch’ – Lobatus gigas

This shell was given me by a Canadian monk and I treasure it greatly. Such shells are used during a number of Buddhist ceremonies in this tradition of Buddhism. It is blown like a trumpet and has a piercing sound. This shell, being quite small, is high pitched other larger shells are low and deep in sound. Hearing a long and sustained note and especially when out of doors has the effect of bringing one up short. The sound cuts through to ones center and its all pervading, all embracing nature in turn calls back from all directions. It is said to be the sound of the Unborn.

Last year at this time I was on retreat in the mountains of Northern California. Every morning after meditation and singing scriptures the conch would be blown and the sound would echo around the mountain tops. Now I am back from two weeks of quiet time and gradually getting on with my monastic responsibilities. I’m making a note to myself to build into my day, when possible, not only formal meditation but also quiet time. Time to simply sit still, do nothing and reflect/read/listen.

These past couple of weeks have been really good in many ways. The aspect of our practice, perhaps the whole of our practice, that has come to the fore is listening/following. That’s at the very heart of meditation both formal meditation and everyday going along meditation. You might asking, Listening to who? or Following what? We have a saying; One calls One answers.

I’m looking at Rational Zen, The Mind of Dogen Zenji translated and edited by Thomas Cleary and published Shambhala. My intention is to draw on, for the purpose of contemplation, sections of Dogen’s Eihei KorokuUniversal Book of Eternal Peace.

Note added 27th June: There is a translation of Dogen’s Eihei Koroku by Taigen Dan Leighton and Shohaku Okumura which I will be working from. You can download a free extensive and detailed index not appearing in the hardcover edition. The link is at the bottom of this page.

Photographs In The Evening Light

This set of photographs were first published 25th June, 2009. That’s four years ago today! Now on the 10th June near Preston I’m making a one night stop before heading to West Wales. The the evening light is inviting me outside. But not for me this evening unfortunately. Hope you have enjoyed revisiting past posts.

At this time of year the sun is still up after evening meditation ends at around 9.00 pm. Traditionally silence is maintained until after morning service. Walking around this evening with my camera, catching the last warm rays as the sun slipped behind clouds, the sense of repose in the place was palpable. A guest taking a breath of air, enjoying the evening. The kitchen monk closing the windows and checking the water boiler in preparation for making tea for breakfast. And out of sight the monks and guests getting ready for bed.

From the library window…wait a moment…where did that cat come from?
Grazing rabbits and the end of the monks meditation hall and main house

Double doors open to air the ceremony hall ready for guests to sleep

Plants in the yard flourish, as do the clouds of bugs

It’s the end of another day. A good day. Thanks to those I met in person, those I met on the phone and those I exchanged emails with…and those of you who come here and read. Thanks one and all.