Bellevue Dharma, Zen Practice, 1st and 3rd Tuesdays, April 5 and 19. 6:50pm. Online

Contact Bill for more information and the Zoom link. We join at 6:50pm and begin zazen (meditation) at 7pm for a 25 minute session. Then we have walking meditation, and a dharma related discussion. We keep it friendly; newcomers are welcome.

We end at 8pm with the Four Bodhisattva Vows:

Beings are numberless, I vow to free them. Delusions are inexhaustible I vow to end them. Dharma gate are boundless, I vow to enter them. The Buddha Way is unsurpassable, I vow to realize it.

Spring Precepts Sesshin STO

Silent Thunder Order Spring Precepts Sesshin

May 11 – 15, 2022

Please join STO and Mission Mountain Zen for a 5 day Spring Precepts Zen meditation retreat which is being offered both in-person and via Zoom.  A Sesshin (literally, gathering/clarifying heart & mind), offers us time to intensify and mature our meditation practice.  It affords a unique opportunity to clarify your life.  The Sesshin will be led by Zen Priest Zenku Jerry Smyers.  We will study the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts, (cultivating right zen practice) and their implications during the retreat Dharma Talks.  While, we hope you can join for the entire Sesshin, the schedule is designed to permit you to partake in as much of the retreat as you can.  Dokusan, private interviews with the teacher, will be offered.   Suggested fee for in-person participation is $200, and for Zoom participation $100 for the entire sesshin or $30 per day.  See the following retreat schedule, all times are Mountain Time. 

WednesdayMay 11 6:00PM until    7:00PM 7:00PM until    7:30PM 7:30PM until    8:30PMZazen (25 X 2) + Heart & Metta SutraOrientation & Dharma DiscussionZazen (25 X 2) + Tissarana
Thursday,Friday, &Saturday  May 12May 13May 14 6:00AM until   8:30AM 8:30AM until 10:30AM10:30AM until 12:30PM12:30PM until    2:40PM  2:40PM until    3:30PM  3:30PM until    4:20PM  4:20PM until    5:20PM  5:20PM until    6:00PM   6:00PM until   7:30PM   7:30PM until  9:00PMZazen & Morning Service (40 X 3)Breakfast BreakZazen & Midday Service (30 X 3) Lunch Break & CleaningZazen (40 X 1)Dharma Talk & TeaBreak Period Zazen (40 X 1)Dinner BreakZazen (40 X 2) + Tissarana
SundayMay 15  6:00AM until   8:30AM  8:30AM until 10:00AM 10:00AM until    Noon   NoonZazen & Morning Service (40 X 3)Breakfast BreakZazen & Midday Service (40 X 2) Lunch & End Sesshin

Everyone is welcome.  Please contact Zenku at the email below for further information and registration.  Mission Mountain Zen Group meets weekly for meditation at 6pm on Wednesday’s via Zoom

For more information: www.missionmountainzen.org, email Jerry.Smyers@gmail.com

Embracing Our Ancestors, Finding Our Way

Embracing our Ancestors, Finding our Way

Tuesday, September 28, 2021 – Sunday October 3, 2021

The 2021 Silent Thunder Order Fall Retreat & Conference will be held online Tuesday, September 28 – Sunday, October 3, 2021.  This year’s theme is “ Exploring the Original Frontier, Embracing our Ancestors, Finding our Way”. We invite you to join us in Zen practice and dharma discussions, while getting to know each other.  For additional information see this link.

Register

The Original Frontier

Taiun Michael Elliston has written an inspiring handbook for modern Zen practice. The book is filled with short accessible teachings that are engaging and often personal. Taiun Elliston roshi was a student of Matsuoka roshi. He says, “I am not a Zen master. We don’t master Zen; Zen masters us.” On page 63 of the book he writes, “The Zen life, especially zazen itself, is best conducted as an open-ended experiment. We are, after all, exploring a new frontier, the oldest one in existence.”

Beginning Zen

For several months I’ve been practicing with the Atlanta Soto Zen Center and Mission Mountain Zen in Montana. They are offering good opportunities to learn about Zen meditation, often called zazen.

WEDNESDAY INTRODUCTION TO ZEN MEDITATION Host: Atlanta Soto Zen Center. Learn basics of Zen meditation Time: 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM EST Where: Online via Zoom. For details visit aszc.org or contact aszcinfo@gmail.com

WEDNESDAY EVENING MEDITATION & DHARMA TALKMeditation instruction, practice, and Q&A discussion.Host: Mission Mountain Zen SanghaTime: 8 PM – 9:30 PM EST. Online via Zoom. For details contact – jerry.Smyers@gmail.com

Four Vows, continued

Let’s continue looking at the four vows. Again, they are: 

Beings are numberless, I vow to free them.

Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them.

Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them.

The Buddha way is unsurpassable, I vow to realize it.

(Robe worn by Georgia O’Keeffe, Nevada Museum of Art.)

Last time I talked about the first vow, so this time I will go into the others. Our second vow is, Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them. Here again is an apparent contradiction; if delusions never end, how do we end them? 

The topic of ending reminds me of my first koan, which was how do you stop the temple bell? Or perhaps it was, stop the temple bell. Either way I was confused. It wasn’t until I began to understand that there’s very little stopping of anything that I set aside the literalness of the koan. Eventually I saw the question as how do I become the temple bell? 

The same goes for our delusions: greed, anger and ignorance.  They constantly arise. So first we have to see this arising, not try to stop or reject it, and then we can ask ourselves, how do I become selfish or angry? How do I ignorantly divide and separate myself from the world around me? Just looking this way and observing our suffering is a beginning to ending our delusions. 

With the third vow we have a more positive situation– Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them. Dharma in this case can have two meanings. One, it may refer to the endless teachings of the Buddha and the texts related to them. This is a literal understanding. We enter the gate of learning the Dharma, the texts, and teachings. 

The other way is to interpret Dharma gate as a metaphor inviting us to enter into each of our life circumstances as teachings, as Dharma. Our life fills with boundless Dharma gates. Seeing our life this way is to realize our numerous circumstances are not trivial. The Dharma is everywhere, it is timeless, always present, whether it be the annoying neighbor, Covid 19, or social unrest, we have boundless opportunities for practice.  We won’t always see things this way; this teaching goes against our selfish nature. And that is why we take the vow.

The Four Vows

Some context for Mahayana thinking: In Zen monasteries there is a long period of intensive practice called ango. At the end of ango the students leave the monastery to wander and visit other teachers. One time the Zen teacher instructed his departing students to go to the place where there are no grasses for ten thousand miles (grasses are a metaphor for our many entanglements in the world, in other words our problems). The teacher was telling them to find a place without entanglement. No one said a word as they left. 

What would you have said? 

Later when another teacher heard of this event he remarked, “I would have said, ‘There is no such place!’” There are weeds everywhere. 

So often we want to believe in a place where there are no problems. We might think if we just practice harder then we will find it. But Zen is about this present moment–no special place– sometimes we are entangled, sometimes we are not, either way we face and live the present moment. 

So now, onto the 4 Vows, often called the Bodhisattva Vows. When reciting the four vows we are adopting a Mahayana practice which developed a strong presence in the Buddhism of China, Tibet, Korea, Japan and later the rest of the world. 

Before going into each vow, I want to discuss the word vow, and how it’s actualized in Buddhism. Here, our vow is not intended as a promise we are making to something or someone. It’s not a commandment that we live in fear of breaking. Instead, we are aspiring to an attitude or state of mind that each vow addresses. The vows encourage us towards a mind that is benevolent, courageous, and most of all, persistent. 

In most Buddhist temples the vows are part of the service, and even first-time visitors with no understanding of Buddhism may say the vows. But I would like us to hold off on the rote recitation of the vows, and instead take some time to consider each one, ponder them, and perhaps develop the aspiration to fulfill them. Then, if we are inclined, we can include them as part of our practice. 

Here are the Four Vows according to Soto translation: 

Beings are numberless, I vow to free them

Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them

Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them

The Buddha way is unsurpassable, I vow to realize it

As you’ll notice, each vow is impossible to fulfill! Yet we vow to fulfill it. What’s going on? Let’s look at the first vow: Beings are numberless, I vow to free them. A few observations, if beings are numberless, then freeing them will take us forever. What does it mean to free them? Free them from what? And is there really a “them?”

Maybe we shouldn’t take this literally, and instead step back and see what we are being called to: A wholehearted practice which includes compassion and action which we never complete. Our practice includes our self and others, and like the boundless grasses it goes on forever. 

Sweeping

In Zen China, the legendary poet Han Shan is often seen in ancient paintings beside his friend, Shide, who usually has a broom and a wild grin. That broom tells us a lot about Shide; it displays his mind. 

Today as I was sweeping near my doorway, I remembered a scene from 30 years ago at a Zen center.  I was in retreat in downtown L.A. and for some reason I had a quiet room off the zendo, which I appreciated.  One morning, as I was leaving my room for the chore period, and feeling ambiguous about showing up, I stepped onto the porch and saw our teacher on his hands and knees sweeping the dust. I was surprised that a person of his position would have done such an ordinary task. But as I considered him, I was humbled by his generous duty to the center and his students. 

To return to the Zen person, Shide–I think his broom is a symbol of ordinary action, the ever-present possibility that action is close at hand. Shide’s sweeping is active participation in the dharma, and nothing is too ordinary to be overlooked. So, for Shide, there’s no sitting around. 

I’m sure Han Shan and Shide knew they were ordinary people in ordinary settings–like us. Yet, they are shown as awake and fully engaged, almost always finding nirvana in their situation.