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Friday, 28 April 2017 18:14

The first of the four bodhisattva vows that we chant after sitting is usually rendered as 'beings are numberless I vow to save them'. We sometimes abbreviate this to 'save all beings'.

What does this mean?

With Buddhism in India, the original emphasis was on personal salvation. When Buddhism fruitfully collided with Chinese culture, the emphasis changed to universal salvation. The pivotal person became the bodhisattva, the person who would save all beings. Hence the vow.

It fits in with a broader idea in Chinese culture of heroic, beneficent figures.

But I wonder if, in our age of rampant individualism, and consequent spiritual materialism, if the usual translation is helpful for us? Perhaps it would be better for us to say - although the grammar is problematic - Being numberless I vow to save (it).

Being rather than beings.

And Being 'being' numberless in two senses. Numberless because this full dynamic functioning (Zenki/ dependent origination) is infinitely faceted: me, you, the walls and the doors, the trees and the birds and the stars and so on. And numberless also because there's only this wholeness: there isn't one or two or three or four.

How do we save all Being? By not burying (it) underneath the self. 

So not an infinite number of beings to save over an infinite length of time, but an infinite number of moments, and always this moment, this moment of practice, in each of which everything can fully live.


Last Updated on Friday, 28 April 2017 18:18
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Sunday, 23 April 2017 16:19

Dogen said that the five skandas (form, sensation, perception, mental formation, consciousness) are five pieces of Prajna; before thinking.

It is easier to see with the first two. 

With the first skanda, when we sit, we don't think, I am a man, I am a woman, this is a wall and suchlike, we just sit, right in the middle of our raw experience.

Likewise with sensation. We just feel what is there. We don't label it.

With perception and mental formation, it's a little harder to see Dogen's point, but it's very important that we do.

We just need to see the incessant urge to understand this flood of experience. This constant 'What is this?'

It is as if we are in a room with a storyteller. The point is not to get caught up in the stories, nor to speculate if they're true, nor to get annoyed because they're not, but just to see the aliveness of the storyteller and, seeing this, the aliveness of everything.

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Wednesday, 19 April 2017 17:21


Sometimes we think of practice as developing equanimity. Quietening the mind.

But which mind? Certainly not the personal mind.

What is obvious when we start sitting is the incessant talking itself into existence, which the personal mind seems to engage in endlessly. Like an apprehended fraudster. Talking himself in. Talking himself out.

So if our aim is to have equanimity, it would be foolish to expect this mind to be silent, to drop away, and leave equanimity pristine behind it.. 

So what do we do?

This personal, karmic mind is occurring within the greater body-mind.

Do our thoughts extend to our felt bodily experience or not?

This bodymind is already sitting within vast space. Do our thoughts extend above our head or behind or in front of us?

Of course not. There is no boundary to this space. It extends everywhere, and holds everything. Practice like this.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 April 2017 17:27
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Wednesday, 19 April 2017 17:19

My first teacher said it was impossible to break the mirror of the self with the head.

It's true. Not because the mirror is unbreakable, but because the attempt to break it is still the activity of the self. And it's not necessary.

Self is momentary. Buddha is momentary. We wobble between this moment of Buddha and this moment of self. But one does not obstruct the other.

He is me but I am not him.

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Saturday, 15 April 2017 18:07

Master Dogen described our practice of shikantaza as dropping off body and mind. 

The Japanese which is rendered as 'dropping off' has two aspects. One is intentional, as we might drop off an article of clothing. The other is natural, like leaves falling in Autumn.

Dropping off mind, means dropping off that dualism between mind and world, and which is often prominent, although unacknowledged, in meditation.

So we don't think, "I must make my mind clear, my thoughts are an encumbrance to that". But rather, thoughts are just one more thing going on within unbroken experience, where there is not inner and outer, me and not-me.

And likewise dropping off body, we don't think "My body is experiencing these sensations and emotions", but rather, there is just this experiencing, which includes everything.

We can drop off Mind, in the sense that we can relocate the mind within the body, but we need to drop off both, otherwise the dualism remains.

So dropping off body and mind is, as it were, sitting within the body of the world. It is not to do with individual gain, or individual effort, and so it is the gateway to peace and joy.

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