Sangha Resources

 May 30, 2020 – Saturday
Being Compassionate Towards…
Helmut Schatz

One of the nice things about the current Situation is that people are out and about being actually nicer to each other and waving, smiling, allowing, even slightly bowing and generally being more courteous. This is how compassion is made real.

Compassion is mostly seen as being a good ‘feeling’ that one generates and then sends towards others, which in and of itself is a good thing, but my observation is that real compassion is an activity of how one ‘is’ towards others; and most importantly how one ‘is’ towards ones Self.

The word compassion basically means to ‘be at one with one’s passions’, which is also a workable baseline description of meditation as an activity and a reasonable way of approaching daily life.

So, for me to be compassionate to myself is to look at and investigate, while being still; the whence, wherefore and the why of the passions as they arise, and where do they go when I don’t act on them.

This is time well spent. Promotes being a productive member of society and everything that may  entail.

Bored, looking for something to do, I
Investigate myself quietly and hope to
See what is in it for me to know and be.

May 29, 2020 – Friday
Broken But Blooming – Eric Alan
This virus has not only brought an illness; it has brought to light other illnesses of society and spirit.

Everything is spinning these days. What seemed like solid societal ground is no longer underfoot, as a virus too small to see becomes too vast to deny. Here in the rural Oregon territories, its direct effects aren’t as focused as in the urban hotspots (so far). Yet the rural safety nets were already far thinner than most in the cities see. There are few doctors out here; the one remaining rural hospital is endangered. Other social services are also vanishing, and many already struggled to keep a roof overhead. Another common name for “essential” work is “poorly paid,” and much work is suddenly gone, most of it essential to someone.  The lilacs are as beautiful as ever, however—no matter that last year’s extreme storms broke their spines. The one I successfully propped up with metal supports is radiant in vibrant purple. The other, whose supports failed to hold, is horizontal and grounded. Yet it’s sending out new vertical shoots through each segment of every broken branch, finding life in new conditions without pause or complaint.

Beyond the essential nature of doing, though, is also the essential nature of being. To become better within and with each other is equally essential now.

The lilacs help me notice another aspect of essential work, as I feel my own spine tested by the recent pressures of living. Yes, I too celebrate the essential work of doctors, nurses, caregivers, grocery store clerks, on down the line. Beyond the essential nature of doing, though, is also the essential nature of being. To become better within and with each other is equally essential now. This virus has not only brought an illness; it has brought to light other illnesses of society and spirit. More than ever, healing will be a multi-faceted pursuit: not just physical, but emotional, spiritual, relational, environmental and systemic.

How to bloom now, and how to better support each other in blooming? It’s a pressing personal and collective question. For me, the intense stress of recent times—including guiding my mother’s dying process during lockdown—has challenged my strength in all I am and give to others. Others’ stresses have affected what they’ve given and been as well. Apologies and healings, new strategies of kindness and compassion and growth, are vital for all of us.

With parts of the world on pause, there is more room for inner voices to be heard. I know I’ll find my essential work’s direction in the stillness of being before doing begins. So I sit on the porch at dawn, listening to the strange mix of songbirds and chainsaws, marveling that clearcuts but not haircuts have been deemed essential here. Between the songs of tanagers and loggers, I listen carefully to the silence of the lilacs.

Caregiving is an act of celebration, which nurtures each other’s best traits while healing our worst.

I hear again that we’re all caregivers, for ourselves and each other. We’re all essential workers, in that way. Caregiving is an act of celebration, which nurtures each other’s best traits while healing our worst. It’s a remembrance that others’ shortcomings may mirror our own. It’s knowing that communication is more listening than speaking. It’s giving and receiving cleaner, clearer expressions of love in its limitless forms. Caregiving is long peace work. It is not a fight. It’s a practice, never over. It is not political. It is not a protest. It transcends skin color, nationality, wealth, gender, age. Caregiving does not destroy. Discarding the flawed would mean discarding all of us. Caring often means doing less, but being more.

Wildlife’s reemergence has frequently been noted, in this time when city dwellers are cloistered. I notice that our better inner nature is wildlife too, also free to come back out if we let it. “Normal” has had its own spine broken; but normal was gravely ill anyway. If together we birth a more loving normal, its life will become that of another essential caregiver to celebrate.

I admire the lilacs’ grace in striving to be beautiful without need for acknowledgement. I rise from the porch seeking to be the same. We’re all broken but blooming. The lilacs are another brilliant mirror of who we can grow to be, and already are.

May 28, 2020 – Thursday
Listening to Dharma talks is different from listening to talk-radio or a TED talk. Rev. Master Meian Elbert gives her insights on How to Listen to a Dharma Talk that you might find helpful.

May 27, 2020 – Wednesday
In her Dharma Talk See Buddha’s Light in Every Hour of Your Day, Rev. Master Leandra Robertshaw describes how Buddhists take morality and ethics seriously and we do our best not to cause harm. As we continue to live a preceptual life we begin to realise the depths of the Precepts, the subtlety of what they call forth.  When good and bad are in balance then Dharma’s nature is not good or bad. We need to find our own stability – our own still point.  Not doing evil is hearing the Buddha’s true dharma. Then one moves from the aspiration of not doing evil to the practice of not doing evil.  Past, present and future are present in this moment, yet each moment must have the freedom to express its individual flavour. Thus we are not trapped by past unskillful behaviour.

May 26, 2020 – Tuesday
Rev. Master Serena Seidner offers her insightful teaching on The Middle Way, a Dharma Talk she gave at Shasta Abbey in 2017.

Cultivating Equanimity
Whatever you intend, whatever you plan, and whatever you have a tendency toward will become the basis upon which your mind is established. (SN 12.40) Develop meditation on equanimity, for when you develop meditation on equanimity, all aversion is abandoned. (MN 62)

The function of equanimity is to see equality in beings. (Vm 9.93) Having heard a sound with the ear, one is neither glad-minded nor sad-minded but abides with equanimity, mindful and fully aware. (AN 6.1)

Equanimity is the active ingredient in mindfulness practice. Here we see it as the fourth of the brahma-viharas. Equanimity means an evenly balanced mind, like a plate on a stick that inclines neither toward nor away from an object of experience. It is the middle point between greed (attraction) and hatred (aversion), and is therefore a state in which the mind can be free from the influence of both.

Nicholas and Nadia in balance

May 25, 2020 – Monday
Right Action
The classical teachings list three modes of action (body, speech, and mind), not four. Social action is not a category in the ancient texts, but it is an important aspect of our modern world, and the Buddha had plenty to say about how to act among others. The same principles apply: Reflect carefully on how you interact with others and learn to behave in ways that are healthy and bring about healthy relationships.

However the seed is planted, in that way the fruit is gathered. Good things come from doing good deeds, bad things come from doing bad deeds. (SN 11.10)

What is the purpose of a mirror? For the purpose of reflection. So too social action is to be done with repeated reflection. (MN 61)

One reflects thus: “A person who acts in hurtful ways is displeasing and disagreeable to me. If I were to act in hurtful ways, I  would be displeasing and disagreeable to others. Therefore, I will undertake a commitment to not act in hurtful ways.” (MN 15)

One of the best things we can learn from others is how not to act. Whenever we see something in others that is disagreeable to us, we can take the opportunity to refrain from acting the same way ourselves. Instead of blaming others or feeling insulted by them, or putting our energy into rebuking them or trying to change them, none of which is useful or likely to be successful, let’s learn instead what not to do ourselves.

May 24, 2020 – Sunday
Today as part of our Memorial Day Ceremony we sang General Simha’s Questions. The text tells the story of the Buddha’s encounter with a respected military leader of his time.

(Music:  Finlandia – Jean Sibelius  Text:  Rev. Helen Cummings)

1.  The General came and bowed before the Buddha.
Then asked of warfare, struggle, and of strife.
What is the karma of this conquering spirit?
What is the burden of defending might? 
What is the karma of this grasping spirit?
What is the burden of defending mind?

2.  The Buddha, once the warrior prince Gautama,
Well trained in arts of military might,
Answered in words that spoke of self surrender;
Answered in verse that showed a gentler way:
 Answered in words that spoke of true surrender;
Answered in verse that showed The Nobler Way.

3.  Who goes to battle, even though ‘tis righteous,
Must be prepared for karmic destiny.
So free your mind from holds of fierce delusion.
So yield your fears to great compassion pure.
So free your heart from cru’lty and illusion.
So yield revenge to gratitude, and peace.

4.  Go then courageously and fight the battle,
Living each day the Noble Eightfold Way.
Victory is won in bowing to anicca.
Victory is conquering all the greeds of self.
Victory is won in patiently enduring.
Victory is conquering all the fears of self.

Sunday Dharma Talk : The Noble Eightfold Path
Tomorrow we celebrate Memorial Day – a holiday that honors the men and women, and the animals, who died while serving in the U.S. military. We sang General Simha’s Questions in our ceremony.  The last verse starts
      Go then courageously and fight the battle
      Living each day the Noble Eightfold Way.
The Noble Eightfold Path had relevance to General Simha.  And it has relevance for us today, especially as we’re seeing things opening up in stages.

Inherent in the teaching of the Eightfold Path is the core teaching of the Four Noble Truths:
1.  Suffering – dukkha – exists, and the range of suffering.  “Suffering” encompasses the range from extraordinary trauma to un-nameable dissatisfaction
2.  Suffering has a cause.  It is not something that is something unchanging and irrevocable.  Because it has a cause, it has an end
3.  Suffering’s cause is grasping, attachment, holding on, not seeing clearly.  It is what happens when we don’t see clearly, when we insist on ignoring the Three Characteristics:  dukkha, anicca, anatta
4.  The way to lessen our hold on things is the Noble Eightfold Path – 
the Middle Way

Let me repeat this fundamental definition:  The Noble Eightfold Path is the way to lessen our hold onto our fears, hatreds, judgments, expectations – and to lessen our hold on that highest of delusions, the self.
Our practice is the practice of “…going, going, going on…” so it is not a surprise that the initial description of Buddhist practice was The Middle Way or The Path.

Why “noble”?   The Pali term ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo is typically translated in English as “Noble Eightfold Path”. The phrase does not mean the path is noble, rather that the path is of the noble people (Paliarya meaning ‘enlightened, noble, precious people’).  

“Noble” is like our monastic names.  It is both that which defines who we are AND how we are constantly practicing to bring the Buddha’s Teaching to life.  We ARE the Buddha Nature, or as Rev. Master Jiyu would say, “…we are not God, and there is nothing in us that is not of God.”  And as we keep the Precepts “…we vow to try to restrain ourselves from…”.  Or to put it another way, “…you are fine just as you are and you could always improve…”

When we come to the actual list of the eight elements of the Path, they all begin with the word sammā (Pāli) which means “right, proper, as it ought to be, best”.

The Buddha himself spoke of the importance of the Noble Eightfold Path.  He says in the Nagara Sutta:
…I followed that path. 
Following it, I came to direct knowledge of aging & death, 
direct knowledge of the origination of aging & death, 
direct knowledge of the cessation of aging & death, 
direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of aging & death. 
I followed that path. 
Following it, I came to direct knowledge of birth… of becoming… of clinging… 
of craving… of feeling… of contact… of the six sense media… of name-&-form… 
of consciousness, of direct knowledge of the origination of consciousness, 
of direct knowledge of the cessation of consciousness, of direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of consciousness. I followed that path.   
— The Buddha, Nagara Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya ii.124

And how did he come to know through direct knowledge?  By living, by walking, the Eightfold Path, built as it is on the Three Foundations.  These foundations are the basics of Buddhist practice into which the Noble 8-fold Path is divided – and they remind us that wepractice in ALL conditions, whether easy, gentle, traumatic, non-traumatic.

The Three Foundations include SamadhiSilaPrajna
 –Wisdom and our expression of “Right Dharma”
Right View                                       
Right Resolve (Right Intention)                
Samadhi – Meditation and how we express the “Right Mind of Meditation” Right Effort                             
Right Mindfulness
Right Concentration
Sila –the Precepts, ethics and our expression of “Right Living”
Right Speech
Right Action 
Right Livelihood

The Eightfold Path is our roadmap through this human realm, the realm of samsara.  You can get in I-5 anywhere in Washington, Oregon and California and get to your destination.  You can get on the Eightfold Path at any of “the Rights”.  But there is a certain logic or flow to them.

The steps that are rooted in ethics, morality and the Precepts (sīlainclude       Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood.  The word śīla translated by English writers as “morals or ethics”, states Bhikkhu Bodhi, is in ancient Buddhist commentaries closer to the concept of “discipline and disposition” that “leads to harmony at several levels – social, psychological, karmic and contemplative”. Such harmony creates an environment to pursue the meditative steps in the Noble Eightfold Path by reducing social disorder, preventing inner conflict that result from transgressions, favoring future karma-triggered movement through better rebirths, and purifying the mind. 

The meditation group (samadhi) of the path progresses from moral restraints to training the mind. This group includes Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and
Right Concentration. The goal in this group of the Noble Eightfold Path is to develop clarity and insight into the nature of reality – dukkhaanicca and anatta, discard negative states and dispel greed, ultimately attaining nirvana

The wisdom group (prajna) is presented as the culmination of the path, AND as its end point.  This group includes Right View and Right Resolve (Right Intention) The path starts with correct knowledge or insight, which is needed to understand why this path should be followed in the first place. 

To choose to follow the Eightfold Path is an expression of Buddha Nature, whether we know it or not, whether we trust it or not.  Following the Eightfold Path is being in “right relationship” with it.  Indeed, our practice is about Right Relationship.  

In Buddhist symbolism, the Noble Eightfold Path is often represented by means of the dharma wheel (dharmachakra), in which its eight spokes represent the eight elements of the path.  May we turn the Wheel of the Dharma in our every thought, word, and deed.

May 23, 2020 – Saturday
You may find the Faith Community Guidelines for faith communities in Shasta County that have been issued recently by Shasta county officials of interest.  Dr. Stephan Campbell reminds us that:
1. We are still in stage 2
2. We don’t know when we will be moving into stage 3
3. These guidelines are to help you begin to prepare for when we can move into stage 3.
4. Stage 3 will start with lower group number recommendations and involve a stepped increase process.

You may also find the Visitation Guidelines from Shasta Regional Medical Center of interest as well.

May 22, 2020 – Friday
We were delighted to have Professor Daniel Veidlinger join us on Thursday evening in a conversation about the spread of Buddhism From Indra’s Net to the Internet.  Professor Veidlinger is on the faculty of Chico State’s Department of Comparative Religions and Humanities.  He has written numerous books on the spread of the Buddha Dharma in all the ways it has spread – throughout the world and over time. Here is a link to his conversation with Nancy Weigman on Nancy’s Bookshelf on NSPR on May 13, 2020:

May 21, 2020 – Thursday
We were delighted to have ProMay 20, 2020 -Wednesday
Below is the Invocation for the Shasta County Board of Supervisors Meeting I offered on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. I was grateful for the opportunity to offer this blessing for those in a leadership position in our County.

A traditional Zen blessing asks:  May every living being, our minds as one and radiant with light, Share the fruits of peace, with hearts of goodness, luminous and bright.  If people hear and see how hands and hearts can find, in giving, unity, May their minds awake to great compassion, wisdom, and to joy. May kindness find reward.  May all who sorrow leave their grief and pain.  May this boundless light break the darkness of their endless night. Because our hearts are one, this world of pain turns into paradise.  May all become compassionate and wise.  May all become compassionate and wise.

May each of us, as we come together today to guide Shasta County in these challenging times, be guided by far-reaching compassion and practical wisdom.  May we skillfully seek the good and welfare of all who live in, visit, and travel through Shasta County.  

May those infected with the coronavirus, as well as those caring for them, be in our hearts as we make decisions rooted in deepening patience.  May those facing economic difficulties be in our minds as we seek to make decisions based on wise discernment.

May we see clearly and do what needs to be done.
May all beings be at ease, peaceful, and free from suffering.
May all become compassionate and wise.  

May 20, 2020 – Wednesday
I WorriedMary Oliver
I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

Rev. Master Chosei was a Senior Disciple of Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett. He was ordained a monk in 1974 and was transmitted by Rev. Master Jiyu in 1976. He died on October 29, 2018, following an illness of many years. Here is his Dharma Talk on Change.

May 19, 2020 – Tuesday
Dan Harris, practicing Buddhist, TV journalist and author of 10 Percent Happier, was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air program on Tuesday, May 19.  You may find it of interest:   Anxious? Meditation Can Help You ‘Relax Into The Uncertainty’ Of The Pandemic 

May 18, 2020 – Monday
Rev. Master Berwyn, vice Abbot at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey, offers his very helpful and relevant reflections Life and Death are Nothing More than Nirvana

May 17, 2020 – Sunday.
Sunday Dharma Talk – Living Harmoniously in a difficult time
The Buddha described Two Kinds of Assemblies:  the divided assembly and the harmonious assembly.

He asked:  What is the divided assembly? Here, the assembly in which we take to arguing and quarreling and fall into disputes, stabbing each other with piercing words, is called the divided assembly. 

What is the harmonious assembly? Here, the assembly in which we dwell in concord, harmoniously, without disputes, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with eyes of affection, is called the harmonious assembly. 

When we dwell in concord, harmoniously, without disputes, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with eyes of affection, on that occasion they generate much merit.  (…which is while I bring this up in a Transfer of Merit Ceremony…)  On that occasion the we dwell in a divine abode, that is, in the liberation of mind through altruistic joy. When one is joyful, rapture arises. For one with a rapturous mind, the body becomes tranquil. One tranquil in body feels pleasure. For one feeling pleasure, the mind becomes concentrated. 

Just as, when it is raining and the rain pours down in thick droplets on a mountain top, the water flows down along the slope and fills the cleft, gullies, and creeks; these, becoming full, fill up the pools; these, becoming full, fill up the lakes; these, becoming full, fill up the streams; these, becoming full, fill up the rivers; and these, becoming full, fill up the ocean; so too, when we dwell in concord, harmoniously, without disputes, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with eyes of affection, on that occasion they generate much merit. 

On that occasion we dwell in a divine abode, that is, in the liberation of mind through altruistic joy. When one is joyful, rapture arises. For one with a rapturous mind, the body becomes tranquil. One tranquil in body feels pleasure. For one feeling pleasure, the mind becomes concentrated… 

It bears repeating:  living in harmony is a means of generating and offering merit.

And in the spirit of joy that comes out of living harmoniously, I wanted to briefly review the Four Divine Abodes – the Brahma Viharas – the Four Immeasureables. When we are at home – or at least have a time-share – in them contribute to harmonious living. Gill Fronsdal called them the Four Faces of Love. This image of a four-faced heart is borrowed from the Buddhist myth of the god Brahma, who had four faces, one for each of the four kinds of unselfish love championed in Buddhism. In the language of the Buddha, these are metta, karunamudita, and upekkha. In English they are commonly known as loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity. Because the god Brahma is said to dwell (vihara) in these four forms of love, they are known as Brahmaviharas, translated in English as “divine abidings.”

We all have the potential to abide in loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity. 

In their simplest forms the Brahmaviharas are attitudes experienced in ordinary, everyday life. Seeing a small kitty can evoke loving-kindness: a feeling of appreciation, goodwill, and friendliness. If the kitty gets hurt we may feel compassion: a sense of kindness, caring, and a sincere wish for the kitty not to suffer. If the kitty is frolicking around, we may feel appreciative joy: delighting in the happiness the kitty feels. And when the kitty is overeager to run after a bird and then deflated when it can’t catch it, we can feel the Brahmavihara of equanimity: we can clearly love the kitty with a stability that keeps us from becoming elated or distressed by its ups and downs.

We talked about the Near Enemy and Far Enemy of equanimity at our Dharma Conversation this past Thursday.  It’s worth reviewing them here for all Four of the Divine Abodes – compassion, loving kindness, empathetic joy, and equanimity.  A quick review:  Far Enemies are the obvious direct opposite of each of these.  Near Enemies are those deceptive substitutes which we can settle for or confuse with the real thing. They can separate us from the true feeling, rather than connecting us to it, so we need mindfulness to avoid it.  The Near and Far enemies are listed below:

Far Enemy: Cruelty. Near Enemy:  Pity, grief
Loving kingness
Far Enemy:  Hatred, ill-will. Near Enemy:  attachment, greed
Empathetic Joy
Far Enemy:  Envy, jealousy. Near Enemy:  Joy tinged with insincerity or personal identification; schadenfreude, exuberance
Far Enemy:  Anxiety, restlessness, resentment,  Near Enemy:  indifference

So, on reflection, as we seek to Live Harmoniously in a difficult time, may I offer the following, with apologies to St. Francis:

Each day may we offer the Dharma to those we encounter in our daily life.

Where there is cruelty, let me offer compassion
Where there is hatred, loving-kindness
Where there is jealousy, joy
Where there is anxiety, equanimity
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, acceptance

May the Buddhas and Ancestors point the way
So that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be accepted as to accept
To be secure as to let go
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in letting go that we see the truth of the Noble Eightfold PathAnd know an end to suffering.

May 16, 2020 – Saturday
A Painter’s Thoughts – John Yau

I want to paint in a way that the “I” disappears into the sky and trees
The idea of a slowed down, slowly unfolding image held my attention

Variations on a theme are of no interest. A bowl and cup are not ideas.
I want my painting to be what it contains: it should speak, not me

The idea of a slowed down, slowly unfolding image held my attention
I paint things made of clay, just as the pigments I use come from the earth

I want my painting to be what it contains: it should speak, not me
Brown and ochre stoneware bowls beside a white porcelain pitcher

I paint things made of clay, just as the pigments I use come from the earth
I place the pale eggs on a dark, unadorned tabletop and let them roll into place

Brown and ochre stoneware bowls beside a white porcelain pitcher
The dusky red wall is not meant to symbolize anything but itself

I place the pale eggs on a dark unadorned tabletop and let them roll into place
I want to paint in a way that the “I” disappears into the sky and trees

The dusky red wall is not meant to symbolize anything but itself
Variations on a theme are of no interest. A bowl and cup are not ideas.

May 15, 2020 – Friday
We talked about Near Enemies and Far Enemies of the Brahma Viharas in our Dharma Conversation Thursday evening, May 13.   Far Enemies are the obvious direct opposite of the Four Immeasurables – compassion, loving kindness, empathetic joy, and equanimity.  Near Enemies are the deceptive substitutes which we can settle for or confuse with the real thing. This can separate us from the true feeling, rather than connecting us to it, so we need mindfulness to avoid it.  The Near and Far Enemies of the Four Immeasurables are listed below:

Far Enemy: Cruelty
Near Enemy:  Pity, grief

Loving kingness
Far Enemy:  Hatred, ill-will
Near Enemy:  attachment, greed

Empathetic Joy
Far Enemy:  Envy, jealousy
Near Enemy:  Joy tinged with insincerity or personal identification; schadenfreude, exuberance

Far Enemy:  Anxiety, restlessness, resentment
Near Enemy:  indifference

May 14, 2020 – Thursday
Whatever you intend, whatever you plan, and whatever you have a tendency toward, that will become the basis upon which your mind is established. (SN 12.40) Develop meditation on equanimity, for when you develop meditation on equanimity, all aversion is abandoned. (MN 62) 

Equanimity fails when it produces the ordinary indifference of the uninformed. (Vm 9.96) Having thought a mental object with the mind, one is neither glad-minded nor sad-minded but abides with equanimity, mindful and fully aware. (AN 6.1)
Equanimity is often confounded with indifference or detachment, but this is far from accurate. These two are mild forms of aversion in which a person chooses to push their interest away from an object or deliberately remove awareness from attending to what is present. Equanimity is the opposite of these, engaging the object with heightened awareness but without being pulled by attraction or pushed away by aversion. 
See if you can cultivate the attitude of equanimity, so important to the practice of mindfulness, as a refined state of mind. Equanimity is not a lack of interest but a state of heightened curiosity. It does not mean that you don’t care about something but that your caring about it is not driven by likes and dislikes. As you regard the thoughts flowing through your mind, abide with equanimity, mindful and fully aware.

May 13, 2020 – Wednesday
John O’Donohue
from Beauty – The Invisible Embrace
May the beauty of your life become more visible to you, that you may glimpse your wild divinity.
May the wonders of the earth call you forth from all your small, secret prisons and set your feet free in the pastures of possibilities.
May the light of dawn anoint your eyes that you may behold what a miracle a day is.
May the liturgy of twilight shelter all your fears and darkness within the circle of ease. May the angel of memory surprise you in bleak times with new gifts from the harvest of your vanished days.
May you allow no dark hand to quench the candle of hope in your heart.
May you discover a new generosity towards yourself, and encourage yourself to engage your life as a great adventure.
May the outside voices of fear and despair find no echo in you.
May you always trust the urgency and wisdom of your own spirit.
May the shelter and nourishment of all the good you have done, the love you have shown, the suffering you have carried, awaken around you to bless your life a thousand times.
And when love finds the path to your door may you open like the earth to the dawn, and trust your every hidden color towards its nourishment of light.
May you find enough stillness and silence to savor the kiss of God on your soul and delight in the eternity that shaped you, that holds you and calls you.
And may you know that despite confusion, anxiety and emptiness, your name is written in Heaven.
And may you come to see your life as a quiet sacrament of service, which awakens around you a rhythm where doubt gives way to the grace of wonder, where what is awkward and strained can find elegance, and where crippled hope can find wings, and torment enter at last unto the grace of serenity.
May Divine Beauty bless you.

VI – The Stare’s Nest By My Window
W.B. Yeats

The bees build in the crevices
Of loosening masonry, and there
The mother birds bring grubs and flies.
My wall is loosening, honey bees
Come build in the empty house of the stare.We are closed in, and the key is turned
On our uncertainty; somewhere
A man is killed, or a house burned,
Yet no clear fact to be discerned:
Come build in the empty house of the stareA barricade of stone or of wood;
Some fourteen days of civil war;
Last night they trundled down the road
That dead young soldier in his blood:
Come build in the empty house of the stare.We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare,
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love; oh, honey-bees
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

May 12, 2020 – Tuesday
Rev. Master Berwyn, vice Abbot at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey, offers his very helpful and relevant reflections Life and Death are Nothing More than Nirvana 

May 11, 2020 – Monday
Dogen’s Kyojukaimon 
and Commentary by Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett 

“The Great Precepts of the Buddhas are kept carefully by the Buddhas; Buddhas give them to Buddhas, Ancestors give them to Ancestors. The Transmission of the Precepts is beyond the three existences of past, present and future; enlightenment ranges from time eternal and is even now. Shakyamuni Buddha, our Lord, Transmitted the Precepts to Makakashyo and he Transmitted them to Ananda…thus the Precepts have been Transmitted to us.  This is the meaning of the Transmission of the Living Wisdom of the Buddhas 

 “Now, by the guidance of the Buddhas and Ancestors, we can discard and purify all our karma of body, mouth and will and obtain great immaculacy; this is by the power of confession. 

“You should now be converted to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. In the Three Treasures there are three merits; the first is the true source of the Three Treasures;”—there is an Unborn, Uncreated, Unformed, Undying, Indestructible, the Lord of the House, That which speaks in silence and in stillness, the ‘still, small voice.’ 

“The second merit is the presence in the past of Shakyamuni Buddha”— all Those Who have truly transmitted Buddhism throughout eternity. 

“The third is His presence at the present time,”—all Those Who transmit the Truth, Who live by the Precepts and make them Their blood and bones, the Sangha, the embodiment of the Preceptual Truth of the Buddhas. 

“The highest Truth is called the Buddha Treasure,”—the knowledge of That Which Is, the knowledge of the Unformed, Uncreated, Unborn, Undying, Indestructible; the certainty, without doubt, of Its existence, the knowledge of It within oneself, the Buddha living within oneself, the Lord of the House Who directs all things. If you study true Buddhism you will become as the water wherein the Dragon dwells; it is necessary to know the true Dragon; it is necessary to ask the Dragon, the Lord of the House, at all times to help and to teach. Only if you give all that is required of the price that the Dragon asks will He show you the jewel; you must accept the jewel from the Dragon without doubting its value or querying the price. 

“Immaculacy is called the Dharma Treasure,”—one must live with the roots of karma cut away. To do this we must indeed know the housebuilder of this house of ego, know all his tools, know all his building materials; there is no other way that we can know immaculacy. The housebuilder of the house of ego must be known absolutely, recognised at all times. It is not enough to have a kensho; one must go back to the source of the karmic stream; one must re- turn to that source to find out what set it going. Kensho shows the slate is clean; to find the source of karma cuts its roots and, with constant training, keeps evil karma at a minimum but, since there is nothing from the first, there is nothing clean and nothing that is unclean—we cannot know this, however, until we have first tried to clean it. ‘Most houses can do with a thorough sweeping but even a million sweepings will not clear away the dust completely.’ Thus man remains in his body and accepts it, knowing that nothing matters, that he is immaculate, always was and always will be. This is the immaculacy of the Dharma Treasure; this makes the immaculacy and harmony of the Sangha Treasure possible. It is the knowledge of the True Kesa, that which is immaculate above all dust and dirt, the knowledge that the dust and dirt are indeed a figment of one’s own ego’s imagination as a result of past, accrued karma, that makes possible the Transmission of the Light from the far past to the now and the far future without words. The Scriptures show up blank pages; there is a Transmission that lies beyond them. 

“Harmony is the Sangha Treasure”—this is brought about by the knowledge that, no matter what a member of the Sangha may do, he is immaculate from the very beginning; there is nothing from the first. ‘Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world, a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a child’s laugh, a phantasm, a dream.’ Although this is true the members of the Sangha, the Zen Masters, all beings are bound by the law of karma; they will pay the price of what they do. Thus is the mind of the Sangha Treasure. 

“The person who has realised the Truth really is called the Buddha Treasure;”—he is the embodiment of the Truth, he is Nirvana, he is the Embodiment of Enlightenment, he is the Treasure of the Buddha for, in him, can be seen fully-digested, Preceptual Truth. 

“The Truth that is realised by Buddha is called the Dharma Treasure,”—that is the knowledge of the Unborn, Uncreated, Un- formed, Undying, Indestructible; the living with this knowledge without doubt, the trusting eternally of the Lord of the House, the certainty of the Treasure House within oneself at the gate of which sits the True Dragon Who is indeed the Lord of the House. 

“The people who study that which lies within the Treasure House are called the Treasure of the Sangha,”—the Dharma and the Sangha are one and the same thing, being the embodiment each of the other, if fully-digested, Preceptual Truth is their rule of life. If you ask, ‘What is a monk?’ you know that it is his Kesa. 

“He who teaches devas and humans is called the Buddha Treasure,”—he who gives true teaching, being beyond praise and blame, the holy and the unholy, right and wrong, without fear or favor, he who becomes ‘good’ for others. 

“That which appears in the world in the Scriptures and is ‘good’ for others is called the Dharma Treasure,”—anything may teach. However infinitesimally small, however large, no matter what, all things may teach the Dharma when they live by fully-digested, Preceptual Truth, when they have cut away the roots of karma, when they know the housebuilder of the house of ego and are constantly keeping him from rebuilding again as a result of practising fully-digested Preceptual Truth. 

“He who is released from all suffering and is beyond the world is called the Sangha Treasure;”—he for whom no longer desires burn, wherein wants and cravings no longer exist; he who gets up in the morning and goes to sleep at night, eats when he is hungry, sleeps when he is tired, is satisfied with that which he is given and does not ask for more than he can absolutely use in the immediate now. When someone is converted to the Three Treasures thus, he can have the Precepts of the Buddhas absolutely. 

In this manner you should make the True Buddha your teacher and not follow wrong ways. The True Buddha that is your Teacher is indeed the Lord of the House, the True Dragon. Do not hold on to your tiny kensho; trust the Lord of the House, hold fast by Him no matter what state you may be in, whether you are well or sick, brightly alive or dying, hold fast by the Lord of the House. 

The Three Pure Precepts 

“Cease from evil. 

This is the house of all the laws of Buddha; this is the source of all the laws of Buddha.” The law of karma is one of the five laws of the universe; it is absolute, it is inescapable. All are bound by the law of karma once it is set in motion. By accident someone made the course of karma; it is not intentionally set in motion; what happens, or happened, or will happen to you or to anyone else is caused by karma; by accident the wheel rolled the wrong way. Do not continue the rolling of the wheel in the wrong direction by dwelling on the past or fearing the future; live now without evil. Stop the wheel now by cutting the roots of karma, by knowing the housebuilder of the house of ego; if you do not, karma will go on endlessly. The only difference between you and another being is that you have the opportunity of knowing the Lord of the House right now, having heard the teachings of the Buddha. Others may have less opportunity than you but, when they hear it, who knows which will be first at the gate of the Trea- sure House? ‘Cease from evil’ is absolute, in thought, in word, in deed, in body, in spirit. All are bound by the law of karma; do not doubt this. You will pay for everything you do if you do not cut the roots now and live by fully-digested, Preceptual Truth. Do not worry about the karma of others; each man his karma makes. 

“Do only good. 

The Dharma of Shakyamuni Buddha’s Enlightenment is the Dharma of all existence.” Do not do anything unless it is ‘good;’ do not do anything unless you have first asked the Lord of the House if it is good for you to do it. Do nothing whatsoever in a hurry; do nothing whatsoever on the spur of the moment unless you know the certainty giv- en by the Lord of the House; know that you must take the consequences of what you do if it is not a fully-digested act for you know What lies beyond good and evil, right and wrong; you know That which lies beyond morality; you know the Lord of the House. Ask the Lord of the House at all times before you do anything whatsoever. ‘Is it good? Is it Your will?’ If you do not ask the Lord of the House, the housebuilder of the house of ego will again pick up his tools and, before you know it, there will be a great structure from which you must again escape. If a thing is ‘good’ in this way it may be done; if it is not ‘good’ in this way it should not be done; I am not speak- ing here of good and evil; I am speaking of ‘good’ in the sense of if it is right; this is beyond right and wrong; if it is good is beyond good and evil. This teaching is indeed the teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment for there was not one of His acts that was not the result of fully-digested, Preceptual Truth. If you live thus, doing that only which is ‘good’ after you have asked the Lord of the House, after you know the true Lord of the House, then you can know the teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment and know that His enlightenment and yours are identically the same; but this is only if you know who the Lord of the House is and do not suffer from the idea that you are the Lord of the House. Always you must ask the Lord of the House; always you must be humble in His presence. ‘Please teach me that which it is good for me to do this day. Please show me that which it is good for me to teach this day. Please give me the certainty that I teach the Truth and know, indeed, that when the still, small voice within my mind and heart says “Yes,” I must obey that teaching. When it says “No,” I must not disobey that teaching.’ When the Lord speaks, spring up joyfully to answer; then, indeed, it is good to do anything what- soever He asks; know that the Lord will never break the Precepts.1 

“Do good for others. 

Be beyond both the holy and the unholy. Let us rescue our- selves and others.” Do not set up a chain of causation that will cause others to do wrong; do not do that which will cause another to grieve; do not do that which will result in your creating karma for another being; do not acciden- tally set the wheel of karma in motion. Do not let yourself hear the words, ‘What demon allowed you to become a priest? From what demon did you learn Buddhism?’ To be beyond both the holy and the unholy, to be beyond praise and blame, to act only from what the Lord of the House teaches without worrying whatsoever what the world may think is indeed to have understood the Three Pure Pre- cepts. Before any act is performed you must ask yourself, ‘Am I ceasing from evil in doing this act? Is it good in the sight of the Lord of the House? Shall I cause another being to do harm either to himself or to others? I can- not stop him doing harm, for each man his karma makes and must carry for himself, but I can do that about my- self which will prevent me from accidentally starting the course of karma. I must think carefully of my every act. I may not cause another to make a mistake in Buddhism.’ By so doing we rescue both ourselves and others for, in cutting the roots of karma for ourselves, we help to cut the roots of karma for others also. 

“These three are called the Three Pure Precepts.” Without them one cannot live the Buddhist life. 

The Ten Great Precepts 

“Do not kill. 

No life can be cut off for the Life of Buddha is increas- ing. Continue the Life of Buddha and do not kill Buddha.” Above all, do not turn your face away from Buddha, the Lord of the House, for this is indeed to commit spiritual suicide; to kill Buddha is to turn away from Buddha. ‘Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it is dark and only he can turn round.’ To turn away from Buddha is to say, ‘My ego is greater than the Lord of the House; my opinions are more right; my wishes are more important.’ It is you whom you kill. If you do not listen to the Lord of the House in this life, in what life will you listen to the Lord of the House? Will you for eternity attempt to commit real suicide? If you always face the Buddha you will always know Buddha; if you always listen to the Lord of the House there is no possibility of your ever killing anything. 

“Do not steal. 

The mind and its object are one. The gateway to en- lightenment stands open wide.” There is nothing whatso- ever that can be stolen. ‘Preserve well for you now have,’ says the Scripture; each of us possesses the Treasure House. All we have to do is ask the Dragon for permis- sion to enter, ask the Dragon if we may see the jewel and it will be given to us. He who tries to rob himself, he who tries to steal from the Treasure House can never have the Treasure; erudition is as this; taking drugs is as this. All you have to do is ask the Lord of the House and you may know and possess all things. The gateway to enlighten- ment does indeed stand open wide for the true mind of the Buddha and the jewel are one and the same; ask the Lord of the House at all times. Remember that ‘he who counts another’s treasure can never have his own;’ he who steals can only ever rob himself. 

“Do not covet. 

The doer, the doing and that which has the doing done to it are immaculate therefore there is no desire. It is the same doing as that of the Buddhas.” Thus there is nothing to be coveted and no one that covets. ‘Preserve well for you now have,’ says the Scripture. Since there is nothing from the first, how can there be anything to preserve well? ‘The white snow falls upon the silver plate; the snowy heron in the bright moon hides; resembles each the other yet these two are not the same.’ Thus we think there is a difference; thus we think there is an ability to covet and something to covet; thus man makes mistakes. Indeed there is nothing from the first. 

“Do not say that which is not true. 

The Wheel of the Dharma rolls constantly and lacks for nothing yet needs something.” The Dharma is Truth itself but it needs expression. He who lies does not allow the Dharma to show itself, he does not allow the Dharma to be expressed, he does not allow the world to see the Dharma Wheel in action. And still the sweet dew covers the whole world, including those who lie, and within that dew lies the Truth. 

“Do not sell the wine of delusion. 

There is nothing to be deluded about. If we realise this we are enlightenment itself.” ‘Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world, a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a child’s laugh, a phantasm, a dream.’ If you hold on to nothing whatsoever there can be no delusion nor can there be enlightenment; then there are no opposites. Thus, in- deed, we are enlightenment itself—yet always we will have the form and figure of old monks. 

“Do not speak against others.” 

Do not speak against the Lord of the House. Every per- son, every being is the Temple of the Lord wherein the Lord dwells, the still water wherein the Dragon lives. If you speak against others you speak against the Lord of the House. Do not try to divide the Lord of the House; do not try to cause war within the Lord; do not try to make the Lord make war upon Himself. “In Buddhism, the Truth and everything are the same; the same law, the same en- lightenment and the same behaviour. Do not allow any one to speak of another’s faults.” Do not find fault with the Lord of the House. “Do not allow any one to make a mistake in Buddhism.” To speak against the Lord of the House is the gravest mistake of which I know. 

“Do not be proud of yourself and devalue others.” 

It is enough for me to know the Lord of the House, to know that He dwells within all things. How can there be devaluation of others if they are the Temple of the Lord? How can there be pride if all possess equally within the Lord? “Every Buddha and every Ancestor realises that he is the same as the limitless sky and as great as the universe. When they realise their true body there is nothing within or without; when they realise their true body they are no- where more upon the earth.” There is nothing to be proud of and nothing to be devalued. 

“Do not be mean in giving either Dharma or wealth.” 

Since all possess the Lord, there is nothing to be given and nothing to be taken away, and still all things must be given, all things offered at all times and in all places. “One phrase, one verse, the hundred grasses,”—all con- tain the Lord, all express the Lord—each in its own way and each perfectly. “One Dharma, one enlightenment, every Buddha, every Ancestor.” No difference, nothing greater, nothing smaller; nothing truer, nothing less true. When all is within the Lord, all stand straight together, a million Buddhas stand in one straight line. Out of grati- tude to the Buddhas and Ancestors we give Dharma, we give wealth, we give life itself—strength, youth, beauty, wealth, everything that we have and, even then, we cannot give thanks enough for one second of their true training; we can never repay their kindness to us. Only by our own true training is this possible and then, again, there is no repayment; it is just the work of a Buddha. 

“Do not be angry. 

There is no retiring, no going, no Truth, no lie; there is a brilliant sea of clouds, there is a dignified sea of clouds.” Just there is that going on which causes us to see unclearly; but if we truly look, if we look with care, we will see that the true and beautiful sky is shining behind the clouds; we may see the Lord of the House. No matter how angry the person is who is with us, we may see in him, too, the Lord if we are truly looking, if our own ego is out of the way and, in seeing the Lord in him, he can see the Lord in us. The depth of the ocean is still even when there is a great storm upon its surface; thus should we be when there is anger, knowing that nothing whatsoever can touch the Truth. 

“Do not defame the Three Treasures. 

To do something by ourselves, without copying others, is to become an example to the world and the merit of doing such a thing becomes the source of all wisdom. Do not criticise but accept everything.” The Lord of the House does not always do things in the normally accepted ways, nor do the Buddhas and Ancestors; they are not individual and they are not the same as each other. Each expresses the Truth in his own way as do all things; they do that which they do in their way and express the Lord within it. Do not criticise the way of another, do not call it into question; look within it and see the Lord. Look with the mind of a Buddha and you will see the heart of a Buddha. To criticise is to defame the Lord of the House. Love the Lord of the House at all times—know Him, talk to Him; never let a day go by when you do not consult with Him even on the slightest matter. Then you will never, as long as you live, defame the Three Treasures. 

“These sixteen Precepts are thus.
Be obedient to the teaching and its giving; accept it with bows.” 

May 10, 2020 – Sunday
Mother’s Day:  Equanimity, Gratitudeand the Precepts 
May 10, 2020
For hundreds of years, Buddhists have been meditating on the thought “every single being has been my mother.” 

In the Tibetan tradition it is one of the six causes that lead to the development of Bodhicitta – the wish to attain enlightenment.  They include 
a. Recognition of all sentient beings as one’s mother 
b. Remembering the kindness of all mother sentient beings 
c. Repaying this kindness 
d. The development of affectionate love 
e. The development of great compassion 
f. The cultivation of the superior intention

These six realization lead to the development of the awakening mind of bodhicitta, the mind of going, going, going on beyond.  As Nagyaarajuna says  The universality of change, the arising and disappearing when completely understood, is the seeing into the heart of all things, and the Mind that thus understands is the Mind that truly seeks the Way.

Equanimity is important here. When our mind is unsettled and biased – instead of looking at all beings equally with the eye of compassion – we feel very partial towards some and very distant from, or even hostile towards, others. In such an unbalanced state it is very difficult to recognize all beings as our mothers.  We must first try to remove our prejudices by cultivating an attitude of equanimity. 

The Loving Kindness (Metta) meditation is one way to develop equanimity.

Once we have developed an unbiased outlook towards all beings we are ready to view them all equally as having been our mother. 

And this is where the Precepts come in.  They are the firm foundation out of which the mind that seeks the way (the mind of bodhicitta) and the mind of the bodhisattva unfold.

The fundamental breakage of the Precepts is separation.  The Precepts point the ways that we separate ourselves in thought, in speech, in action.  

When we see ourselves as separate, we diminish our equanimity.  And when we see ourselves as separate, we are ungrateful.

Dogen tells us that everything teaches – so gratitude is an essential part of our practice.  How can we not give thanks…

In Pali, the word for gratitude—kataññu—literally means to have a sense of what was done. So gratitude requires mindfulness, in the Buddha’s original sense of the word as keeping something in mind. In fact, the connection between these two qualities extends to language itself.  In Samyutta Nikaya 48:10, the Buddha defines mindfulness as “remembering & able to call to mind even things that were done & said long ago.” 

Gratitude also gives practice in developing qualities needed in meditation. As the Buddha noted in the Dhammapada,

All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the wagon.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.

‘He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,’—in those who harbor such thoughts hatred will never cease.

‘He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,’—in those who do not harbor such thoughts hatred will cease.

For never does hatred cease by hatred here in this world: hatred ceases by love; this is an eternal law. 

Training in gratitude reinforces this, for gratitude requires developing a particular set of perceptions about life and the world. If you perceive help as demeaning, then gratitude itself feels demeaning; but if you perceive help as an expression of trust—the other person wouldn’t want to help you unless he or she felt you would use the help well—then gratitude feels ennobling, an aid to self-esteem. Similarly, if you perceive life as a competition, it’s hard to trust the motives of those who help you, and you resent the need to repay their help as a gratuitous burden. If, however, you perceive that the goodness in life is the result of cooperation, then the give and take of kindness and gratitude become a much more pleasant exchange.

Gratitude is not just about being thankful for the good things in your life, but it is about being thankful for everything in your life. There are things in your life which might initially seem bad, but upon further reflection actually give you an opportunity to learn and grow. Part of gratitude is recognizing these blessings in all things. 

Gratitude is more than saying “thank you” though it is that is part of it.  Dogen speaks to that in The Shushogi – a compilation of Dogen’s teaching in five chapters that was compiled in the 1880’s in a resurgence of appreciation of Dogen.  Chapter 5 is Putting the Training into Practice and Showing Gratitude:
The Buddha Nature should be thus simply awakened in all living things within this world for their desire to be born herein has been fulfilled: as this is so, why should they not be grateful to Shakyamuni Buddha? 

If the Truth had not spread throughout the entire world it would have been impossible for us to have found it, even should we have been willing to give our very lives for it: we should think deeply upon this: how fortunate have we been to be born now when it is possible to see the Truth. Remember the Buddha’s words, “When you meet a Zen Master who teaches the Truth do not consider his caste, his appearance, shortcomings or behaviour. Bow before him out of respect for his great wisdom and do nothing whatsoever to worry him.”

Because of consideration for others on the part of the Buddhas and Ancestors, we are enabled to see the Buddha even now and hear His teachings: had the Buddhas and Ancestors not truly Transmitted the Truth it could never have been heard at this particular time: even only so much as a short phrase or section of the teaching should be deeply appreciated. What alternative have we but to be utterly grateful for the great compassion exhibited in this highest of all teachings which is the very eye and treasury of the Truth? The sick sparrow never forgot the kindness shown to it, rewarding it with the ring belonging to the three great ministers, and the unfortunate tortoise remembered too, showing its gratitude with the seal of Yofu: if animals can show gratitude surely man can do the same?

You need no further teachings than the above in order to show gratitude, and you must show it truly, in the only real way, in your daily life; our daily life should be spent constantly in selfless activity with no waste of time whatsoever. Time flies quicker than an arrow and life passes with greater transience than dewHowever skillful you may be, how can you ever recall a single day of the past? 

Should you live for a hundred years just wasting your time, every day and month will be filled with sorrow; should you drift as the slave of your senses for a hundred years and yet live truly for only so much as a single day, you will, in that one day, not only live a hundred years of life but also save a hundred years of your future life.  

The life of this one day, to-day, is absolutely vital life; your body is deeply significant. Both your life and your body deserve love and respect for it is by their agency that Truth is practiced and the Buddha’s power exhibited: the seed of all Buddhist activity, and of all Buddhahood, is the true practice of Preceptual Truth.

All the Buddhas are within the one Buddha Shakyamuni and all the Buddhas of past, present and future become Shakyamuni Buddha when they reach Buddhahood. 

This Buddha Nature is itself the Buddha and, should you awaken to a complete understanding thereof, your gratitude to the Buddhas will know no bounds.

So, happy Mother’s Day – may we offer this wish to ALL our mothers, with equanimity and gratitude, as we keep the Precepts and do what needs to be done.  

May 9, 2020 – Saturday
Carl Rogers, the great humanistic psychologist, said:
Before every session, I take a moment to remember my humanity. 
There is no experience that this man has that I cannot share with him, 
no fear that I cannot understand, 
no suffering that I cannot care about, 
because I too am human.

No matter how deep his wound, 
he does not need to be ashamed in front of me. 
I too am vulnerable. 
And because of this, I am enough. 
Whatever his story, he no longer needs to be alone with it. 
This is what will allow his healing to begin.

Frank Ostaseski, the author of The Five Invitations, said
There is no Dharma apart from the heart.

When we can’t touch others,
Just put your hand on your heart
And say to yourself
Or out loud
“I choose love

To be open-hearted requires vulnerability.  It is an invitation to feel everything fully.

Courage is the heart’s answer when fear speaks.  Bodhisattva are beings who had the willingness to stand with suffering even while they were afraid.

May 8, 2020 – Friday
Rev. Master Meian Elbert continues her reflections on the Paramitas with this recent talk on The Precepts.

Rev. Master Leandra continues her reflections on The Heart Sutra – Fourth Talk.

Barbara Holmes of the Center for Action and Contemplation offers this reflection on The Beloved Community:

A contemplative person is someone who knows that they don’t know everything and trusts that they are being held by something much larger, wiser, and more loving than themselves. It is these very qualities that enable them to act on behalf of others and communities in need. CAC faculty member Barbara Holmes offers some insights as to how and why this is true, particularly in moments of crisis:

The world is the cloister of the contemplative. There is no escape. Always the quest for justice draws one deeply into the heart of God. In this sacred interiority, contemplation becomes the language of prayer and the impetus for prophetic proclamation and action.

Contemplation plugs the supplicant into the catalytic center of God’s Spirit, into the divine power that permeates every aspect of life. In this space, there are no false dichotomies, no divisions between the sacred and the secular. . . . Through acts of contemplation, individuals and congregations enter the liminal space where the impossible becomes possible.

A community is not always an intentional gathering . . . sometimes communities form because unpredictable events and circumstances draw people into shared life intersections. . . . Communities form when ego-focused concerns recede in favor of shared agendas and a more universal identity. These relationships need only hold together briefly before transitioning into other forms; however, while they are intact, all concerned are aware of the linkages of interior resolve that are at work.

As with all great social justice movements, there came a time [in the Civil Rights Movement] when worship practices and communal resolve coalesced, and an interfaith, interdenominational, interracial community formed. The commonality for this dissenting community was the willingness to resist the power of apartheid in the Americas with their bodies.

The formation of community during the Civil Rights Movement was the quintessential coming-of-age story for Africana people. During a particular time in history, nonviolent initiatives seeded with contemplative worship practices became acts of public theology and activism. Activism and contemplation are not functional opposites. Rather, contemplation is at its heart a reflective activity that is always seeking the spiritual balance between individual piety and communal justice-seeking.

Who could have predicted that America’s apartheid would fall as decisively as the walls of Jericho, when the people marched around the bastions of power carrying little more than their faith and resolve? How audacious it is to take what is given—the remnants of a chattel community, the vague memories of mother Africa, and a desperate need to be free—and translate those wisps into a multicultural, multivalent liberative vision of community. The idea of a beloved community emerged from the deeply contemplative activities of a besieged people.

In the midst of the social distancing necessitated by this pandemic, people have nevertheless come together in creative and loving ways. Some have called this virus a massive “trigger event” with the potential to change everything. As individuals and communities, we can respond with justice and compassion, or we can double down on the pursuit of accumulation and power, with no more than a return to business as usual.

May 7 2020 – Thursday
Allow for Space
From Solid Ground by Sylvia Boorstein, Norman Fischer, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche, © 2011. Reprinted with permission of Parallax Press.

The difficulty most of us face is that we’re afraid of our humanity. We don’t know how to give our humanity space. We don’t know how to give it love. We don’t know how to offer our appreciation. We seize upon whatever difficult emotions or painful thoughts arise—in large part because we’ve been taught from a very young age that life is a serious business. We’re taught that we have to accomplish so many things and excel at so many things because we have to compete for a limited amount of resources. We develop such high expectations for ourselves and others, and we develop high expectations of life. Such a competitive, goal-oriented approach to life makes us very speedy inside. We become so tight physically, mentally, and emotionally as we rush through each day, each moment, that many of us forget—often quite literally—to breathe.

When we allow space into our meditation practice, however, something quite wonderful begins to happen. That solidity, that seriousness begins to break down. We begin to relax a bit more and experience some of the fluidity we enjoyed as very young children. We begin to dance with our experience: “Haaa … I’m so upset … I’m so good … I’m happy … I’m a human being … I might be upset, but I’m alive … If I were dead, I might not have emotion … but, wow, I’m alive.”

We also gradually cut through the habit of identifying with each emotional wave that passes through our awareness. We can be angry, jealous, or scared without having to act on those emotions or let them take over our lives. We can experience joy or love without becoming attached to the object that we think is the cause of our joy.

All too often, the emotions we experience, along with the thoughts and behaviors that accompany them, become part of our internal and social story lines. Anger, anxiety, jealousy, fear, and other emotions become part of who we believe we are, creating what I would call a “greasy” residue, like the oily stuff left on a plate after eating greasy food. If that residue is left on the plate, eventually everything served on that plate starts to taste alike; bits of food start to accumulate too, stuck to layers and layers of greasy residue. All in all, a very unhealthy situation!

When we allow space into our practice, though, we begin to see the impermanent nature of the thoughts and feelings that arise within our experience—as well as of the conditions, over many of which we have no control. That greasy residue doesn’t build up, because there’s no “plate” for it to cling to. If we can allow some space within our awareness and rest there, we can respect our troubling thoughts and emotions, allow them to come, and let them go. Our lives may be complicated on the outside, but we remain simple, easy, and open on the inside.

May 6, 2020 – Wednesday
Two thoughts from Rumi

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, 
some momentary awareness comes 
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
I have lived 
on the lip of insanity, 
wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door. 
It opens,
I’ve been knocking from the inside.

May 5, 2020 – Tuesday
More on Achalanatha, the Bodhisattva who sits immoveable in all conditions.
Rev. Master Chosei Swann: Achalanatha
Rev. Master Kodo Kay: Achalanatha the Immoveable One
Rev. Master Meian Elbert: Achalanatha in the Midst of Conditions

May 4, 2020 – Monday
Rudyard Kipling
Buddha at Kamakura (1892)
‘And there is a Japanese idol at Kamakura.’

O ye who tread the Narrow Way 
By Tophet-flare to Judgment Day, 
Be gentle when ‘the heathen’ pray 
To Buddha at Kamakura!

To Him the Way, the Law, apart, 
Whom Maya held beneath her heart, 
Ananda’s Lord, the Bodhisat, 
The Buddha of Kamakura.

For though He neither burns nor sees, 
Nor hears ye thank your Deities, 
Ye have not sinned with such as these, 
His children at Kamakura,

Yet spare us still the Western joke 
When joss-sticks turn to scented smoke 
The little sins of little folk 
That worship at Kamakura—

The grey-robed, gay-sashed butterflies 
That flit beneath the Master’s eyes. 
He is beyond the Mysteries 
But loves them at Kamakura.

And whoso will, from Pride released, 
Contemning neither creed nor priest, 
May feel the Soul of all the East 
About him at Kamakura.

Yea, every tale Ananda heard, 
Of birth as fish or beast or bird, 
While yet in lives the Master stirred, 
The warm wind brings Kamakura.

Till drowsy eyelids seem to see 
A-flower ’neath her golden htee 
The Shwe-Dagon flare easterly 
From Burma to Kamakura,

And down the loaded air there comes 
The thunder of Thibetan drums, 
And droned—‘Om mane padme hum’s’
A world’s-width from Kamakura.

Yet Brahmans rule Benares still, 
Buddh-Gaya’s ruins pit the hill, 
And beef-fed zealots threaten ill 
To Buddha and Kamakura.

A tourist-show, a legend told, 
A rusting bulk of bronze and gold, 
So much, and scarce so much, ye hold 
The meaning of Kamakura?

But when the morning prayer is prayed, 
Think, ere ye pass to strife and trade, 
Is God in human image made 
No nearer than Kamakura?

Kipling travelled in Japan in 1889 and 1892, and his writing of the country is collected in Kipling’s Japan, edited and with copious notes by Hugh Cortazzi and George Webb (London: Athlone, 1988). ‘Buddha at Kamakura’ first appeared appended to a prose ‘Letter’ published in the New York Sun and the Lahore Civil & Military News in July 1892. Three of its verses are used as chapter headings in Kim (1901), and it appears in its entirety in The Five Nations (1903). For the full text of the ‘Letter’ to which the poem was originally appended and knowledgable notes about the poem itself, see Cortazzi and Webb, pp. 195-209.

The best selling of several in-print editions of Kipling’s verse in the UK is The Collected Poems of Rudyard Kipling, available here, and in the US Rudyard Kipling: Complete Verse, available hereKipling’s Japan remains in print and is available here and here.

May 3, 2020 – Sunday
We celebrated the Festival of Achalanatha today with the following chant texts and Dharma Talk:

Invocation of Achalanatha
Hail to the Mandala!  Let us so be engulfed within its praises evermore that, by our own wills and vigilance, may we our fetters cut away.  May we within the temple of our own hearts dwell amidst the myriad mountains.  Hail! Hail! Hail! 

Peace, Peace, Appeaser of Enemies
Peace, peace, appeaser of enemies, Conquer of Mara!
You who wear the garland of skulls, you resplendent One.
You who look around, are pure, immaculate, and remove all
You who look everywhere and who bind all evil and are 
      yourself free.
Free from the fetters of Mara, you who are wholly pure,
Let all the devilish impediments vanish.

In Praise of Achalanatha (text by Rev. Master Seikai Luebke)
Achalanatha, the Bodhisattva of great diligence and unshakeable 
The Firmly-planted One of the blue body and a fierce 

Is known as the immutable Lord, Destroyer of Evil, standing 
       surrounded by a halo of flames 
which consume greed, hatred and delusion giving rise to the 
       compassion of Vairochana Buddha.  

He has planted himself firmly on a rock which is his sitting 
As a constant reminder of his vow never to abandon his work of 

Thus his effort of will is ever steadfast and his wakefulness does 
      not falter;
He clearly displays the method of endless training, showing that 
      mindfulness should never be neglected.

Achalanatha carries an erect sword in his right hand with which 
       to sever the bonds of delusion;
Which have been created by clinging to name and form, a self 
       identity, the five skandhas and the six senses and the eight 
       great distractions.

He cuts through the tenacious attachments of body and mind 
       helping people to recognize all their subtle forms of 
       ignorance and suffering;
Thus clearing the path of liberation skillfully using fire to burn 
       up and consume all human passions.

In his left hand he holds a rope tied with a lasso with which to 
       bind all evil forces;
Restraining and converting all manner of intoxicating desires 
       and angry intentions as well as warding off disasters.

He is unafraid to enter into foul smelling places, ripe with 
There to do all that needs to be done to cleanse away filth and 

If any human being is prone to entertaining despair, wallowing 
      in hopelessness,
That person should meditate on the ever-vigilant one and thus 
      learn to stay rooted in the present moment.

The Eternal Present is the realm of Achalanatha Bodhisattva;
He severs entanglements with the past and the future, leading  
       beings to realize the joy of sitting still within body and 

Achalanatha the Foremost Guardian of the Vajra rank is the 
      conqueror of demons;
With diamond hard resolve to persevere in the face of daunting 
      situations, he overcomes all obstructions.

The Immovable One does not shrink away from the endless task 
      of purifying evil karma;
Regarding all spiritual work as the work of a Buddha which will 
      continue endlessly into the future.

When followers of the Way invoke the name and help of the 
      Great Fierce One seeking his assistance,
He responds by showing them the path of vigilance by which 
      they may climb Mount Sumeru bringing to an end evil 
      afflictions always becoming Buddha.

We bow in gratitude to the pure-hearted, ever vigilant One of 
     steadfast willingness and strength;
and pray that we may be able to emulate Achalanatha 

Sunday Dharma Talk    
Achalanatha – Sitting Firmly In All Conditions 
or Quarantined on our Sitting Place
May 3, 2020
“Achalanatha” – or in Japanese, Fudo – means “The Immovable One.”   We might update that meaning to “The Quarantined One”.

Achalanatha is usually represented with a fierce demeanor, reflecting the will and vigilance needed to subdue and convert our ignorance and our passions. 

This is reflected in the rope of the Precepts he holds in his left hand to “lasso” our passions and delusions, which he cuts at the roots with the sword of Wisdom in his right hand.  To begin with this may seem like it constricts us, but when we look at it more closely we see that it liberates us.  Is this not true of our current experience of self-isolation and quarantine?

Achalanatha is usually portrayed in the midst of flames of the passions or of our feelings of our “need”.  Perhaps more relevantly, those flames represent the conditions in which we live – the COVUD19, the economic upheavals, the uncertainty.

Achalanatha is not driven away from his place of meditation by them, however much they seem to burn. flame, representing the need–and ability–to train even in the midst of the physical, mental and emotional fires of this world.  We can hear the resonances of Dogen telling us to “…training as if our hair is on fire…”

Interestingly Achalanatha is one of the Bodhisattvas of Compassion.  Bodhisattvas are expressions of the life of the Buddha.  They are personalizations of wise ways of living. Achalanatha is the representation of commitment to,  and determination to deepen our practice.

Dogen describes our practice as a practice of mountain still sitting.  Can we think of ourselves as “a mountain”.  A mountain is living, changing, affecting those around it, supporting life and growth.  Think of Mount Shasta or Mount Lassen.

Immovable doesn’t mean inflexible.  It doesn’t mean unaware.  It doesn’t mean stagnating.  Dogen further tells us:   “Without stagnating in good deeds of the present, continue practicing your whole lifetime.”

In the spirit of Dogen, Achalanatha invites us to ask ourselves these questions:

*The stone and the flames:  
          Can we know our sitting place? And be comfortable in it?
          Can we sit in our sitting place in ALL conditions?
          How are we in relation to “immovable sitting”?

*The rope or the lasso:
          What hold do we have on the Precepts?  
          How do we grasp the Precepts?  
           – in both senses of that word?  Hold on to?  Understand?

*The sword – in two senses – to cut away and to open:
          Do we use it to “cut away our fetters”?  
           Indeed, do we know what are our fetters?
          – see our illusions for what they are?  And do something about them?
          – see our judgments for what they are? And do something about them?
         – see our expectations for what they are? And do something about them?

   – see our illusions for what they are?  And do something about them?

   – see our judgments for what they are? And do something about them?

   – see our expectations for what they are? And do something about them?

This – meditating, keeping the Precepts, showing wisdom and compassion and loving kindness – being willing to see clearly, without expectation or judgments – this is Immovable Sitting.  This is Quarantine Sitting.

April 29, 2020 – Wednesday
Cultivating Compassion
Whatever you intend, whatever you plan, and whatever you have a tendency toward, that will become the basis upon which your mind is established. (SN 12.40) Develop meditation on compassion, for when you develop meditation on compassion, any cruelty will be abandoned. (MN 62)Compassion succeeds when it makes cruelty subside. (Vm 9.94)

When lovingkindness comes in contact with witnessing the suffering of others, it transforms into compassion. Compassion and cruelty are considered opposite mental states and cannot coexist in the same mind moment: when one is present, the other is absent. This is why it is so important to cultivate compassion as an intentional act, both to make it grow in its own right and to block out all cruelty.

Allow yourself to be open to the fact that people are suffering. Cultivate the emotion of compassion and allow it to grow. You are training your mind to develop in a particular direction, much like guiding the growth of a plant or a vine. As the process unfolds, the tendency toward compassion will get stronger. As your character gradually evolves in this healthy direction, the tendency—even the ability—to feel cruelty will disappear.

From Dhamma Wheel

April 28, 2020 – Tuesday
A Time To Talk
When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, “What is it?”
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
Robert Frost

The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar our of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
~Mary Oliver

April 27, 2020 – Monday
Sunday’s Dharma Talk at Redding Zen
At This Time of Shortage and Confinement:  The Four Immeasurables
April 26, 2020

What are the Four Immeasurables?  
The Four Boundless Qualities?   
The Four Limitless Ones?  
The Four Sublime States?  
The Four Brahma Viharas?   
The Four Divine Abodes?  
The Four Divine Dwelling Places?  

These four qualities, which literally have “no measure” (apramana), are equanimity (upekkha), love (metta), compassion (karuna), and joy (mudita). 
By dissolving the boundaries that constrain us, these four qualities expand our capacity for experience and deepen our experience of practice.  They are called immeasurable because their capacity to purify the heart and generate positive energy is beyond measure.  

These immeasurable qualities of love are also called abodes (vihara) because they should become the constant dwelling places of the heart and mind; where we feel at home. They should not remain merely places of rare and short visits, soon forgotten. In other words, our minds should become thoroughly saturated by these qualities of love. They should become our inseparable companions, and we should be mindful of them in all our daily activities. The Buddha tells us: “Cherish all living beings with a boundless heart, radiating kindness over the entire world.” He suggests we remain in this loving state of being at all times. This he calls the “sublime abiding” (divine abode). 

And at this time of empty shelves, hoarded toilet paper, the limitations of fear and the tightly grasped hands of thought, our reflection on the Four Brahma Viharas may be helpful.  Imagine:  what would it be like to be quarantined in the Four Divine Abodes?

Let’s look at them, and see if you are familiar with the “addresses”.

The Buddha taught the following to his son Rahula:   Rahula, practice loving kindness to overcome anger. Loving kindness has the capacity to bring happiness to others without demanding anything in return.  Practice compassion to overcome cruelty. Compassion has the capacity to remove the suffering of others without expecting anything in return.  Practice sympathetic joy to overcome hatred. Sympathetic joy arises when one rejoices over the happiness of others and wishes others well-being and success. Practice non-attachment to overcome prejudice. Non-attachment is the way of looking at all things openly and equally. This is because that is. Myself and others are not separate. Do not reject one thing only to chase after another. I call these the four immeasurables. Practice them and you will become a refreshing source of vitality and happiness for others.”

Equanimity is the attitude of regarding all beings as equals, regardless of their relationship to oneself. This sounds simple, but it’s probably the hardest to cultivate. It involves trying to view all things as equal, not being attached to our circumstances or to our desires. Letting things just be as they are. Equanimity counters clinging and aversion.

Equanimity means to have a clear-minded tranquil state of mind – not being overpowered by delusions, mental dullness or agitation. For example, with equanimity we do not distinguish between friend, enemy or stranger, but regard every sentient being as equal. 

Equanimity is the basis for unconditional, altruistic love, compassion and joy for other’s happiness and Bodhicitta.  When we discriminate between friends and enemies, how can we ever want to help all sentient beings? 

May I be free from preference and prejudice.
May I know things just as they are.
May I experience the world knowing me just as I am. 
May I see into whatever arises. 

Loving kindness 
Loving-kindness is the wish that others be happy. That sounds easy, but it is supposed to include everyone, not just our friends and people we know, but everyone. When we cultivate loving-kindness, we are trying to extend it, first to all the people we love, then to the people we feel neutral about, then to the people we dislike/hate. Only when we can really cultivate this can it be said to reach the Immeasurable level. Loving-kindness counters ill will.

The definition of love in Buddhism is: wanting others to be happy. This love is unconditional and it requires a lot of courage and acceptance (including self-acceptance). 

This definition means that ‘love’ in Buddhism refers to something quite different from the ordinary term of love which is usually about attachment, more or less successful relationships and sex; all of which are rarely without self-interest. Instead, in Buddhism it refers to detachment and the unselfish interest in others’ welfare.

May I be happy, well, and at peace.
May I open to things just as they are.
May I experience the world opening to me just as I am. 
May I welcome whatever arises. 

Compassion is similar.  It is the wish for others to be free from suffering. Again, we want to cultivate compassion and try to extend to include all beings, not just the ones who we love, or who we think ‘deserve’ it. Wishing suffering upon others or turning a blind eye to it is not helpful to us. It can plant negative seeds in our minds. Compassion counters cruelty.

The definition is: wanting others to be free from suffering. This compassion happens when one feels sorry with someone, and one feels an urge to help. 

Compassion thus refers to an unselfish, detached emotion which gives one a sense of urgency in wanting to help others. From a Buddhist perspective, helping others to reduce their physical or mental suffering is very good, but the ultimate goal is to extinguish all suffering by stopping the process of rebirth and the suffering that automatically comes with living by reaching enlightenment. 

The attitude of a so-called Bodhisattva is Bodhicitta: this is the ultimate compassionate motivation: the wish to liberate all sentient beings from the sufferings of cyclic existence and to become a fully enlightened Buddha oneself in order to act as the perfect guide for them. Actually, this could well be the most honorable and idealistic motivation possible

May I be free of suffering, harm, and disturbance. 
May I accept things just as they are.
May I experience the world accepting me just as I am. 
May I serve whatever arises. 

Joy is the attitude of rejoicing at the happiness and virtues of other sentient beings. Again, we want to cultivate joy and try to extend it to all beings. When others are happy, we want to take joy in this. This is the counter to jealousy.

The definition is: being happy with someone’s fortune/happiness. Sympathetic joy here refers to the potential of bliss and happiness of all sentient beings, as they can all become Buddhas. It is a great antidote to depression for oneself as well, but this should not be the main goal.   By rejoicing in others’ progress on the spiritual path, one can actually share in their positive karma. 

Sympathetic joy is an unselfish, very positive mental attitude which is beneficial for oneself and others. In this case, it also refers specifically to rejoicing in the high rebirth and enlightenment of others.

May I enjoy the activities of life itself.
May I enjoy things just as they are.
May I experience the world taking joy in all that I do. 
May I know what to do whatever arises. 

Consider setting up house in one of the Four Divine Abodes.  There’s plenty of room.

Perhaps you could even go so far as to create a time-share for yourself in the Abodes:  equanimity, loving kindness, compassion, and empathetic joy.

April 25, 2020 – Saturday
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to life
we have refused
again and again
until now.

Until now.

David Whyte from
Where Many Rivers Meet

April 24, 2020 – Friday.
We had a vibrant conversation with Rev. Vivian Gruenenfelder Thursday evening, April 23.  Rev. Vivian is the monk in residence at the Still Flowing Water Hermitage currently based in the Meadow Vista (CA) with the Bear River Meditation Group.  She spoke about this importance of trust during this time and  addressed questions that dealt with the anxiety, stress and uncertainty that we are all feeling these days.   

She offered a teaching from Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh for us to consider as we try to navigate our way through the coronavirus:   When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.  She invited us to make the choice – today – to be that one person on the boat who chose to trust that all is unfolding for the good.  

The Fine Art of Distance
Rev. Mugo offered this daily teaching on the Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey website.  It is from Sue Gittins who lives close to the monastery in Northern England.

The weather is “perfect”. You know that day when the sky is deep sheer blue, and itʼs warm and windy and delicious and youʼd be a fool not to be out there in it?

My COVID-19 lockdown walk takes me past houses on one side of the road, along quite narrow pavements, then along a country path. Both these locations require all of us whose paths cross to practice the fine art of communication: we need to create safe distance, establish mutual consent, wait and watch to cue each other in, maintain civility. Itʼs pretty complex. And weʼve only been doing it for a short while. And nobody taught us how to do it.

Youʼd think one or two of these little encounters would go wrong. Youʼd think it might get awkward. But today youʼd be wrong. Everybody I meet, and must keep at a safe distance, smiles warmly. Either of us waits for the other to pass within two metres, each of us smiles and greets the other. One woman walks her dog down the middle of the road to allow me enough space. I thank her, and she says” Youʼre welcome”. I shuffle into a driveway to allow a man coming the other way to pass, and we exchange reassuring smiles. The young woman and her small child smile, and give me room to pass by.

So much smiling. So much unforced courtesy. Limitless co-operation. Youʼd think humans were designed to be generous of spirit, to co-operate, to consider and help each other. Maybe we were. Homage to the Sangha.

April 23, 2020 – Thursday.
I offer the following poem in honor of Rosemary Dyke who died peacefully yesterday. She truly lived her DASH in her kindness to all she encountered who were in need of kindness.  She was gentle to the feral cats, consistent in vacuuming the Buddhist Supplies Shop at the Abbey, and a dear and good friend.  May she be in her own True Home in peace.

The Dash
Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
From the beginning…to the end

He noted that first came the date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears, 
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time
That they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
Know what that little line is worth

For it matters not, how much we own, 
The cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile,
Remembering this special dash
Might only last a little while

So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash…
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent YOUR dash?

April 22, 2020 – Wednesday. His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke recently about the coronavirus:

Sometimes friends ask me to help with some problem in the world, using some “magical powers.” I always tell them that the Dalai Lama has no magical powers. If I did, I would not feel pain in my legs or a sore throat. We are all the same as human beings, and we experience the same fears, the same hopes, the same uncertainties.

From the Buddhist perspective, every sentient being is acquainted with suffering and the truths of sickness, old age and death. But as human beings, we have the capacity to use our minds to conquer anger and panic and greed. In recent years I have been stressing “emotional disarmament”: to try to see things realistically and clearly, without the confusion of fear or rage. If a problem has a solution, we must work to find it; if it does not, we need not waste time thinking about it.

We Buddhists believe that the entire world is interdependent. That is why I often speak about universal responsibility. The outbreak of this terrible coronavirus has shown that what happens to one person can soon affect every other being. But it also reminds us that a compassionate or constructive act—whether working in hospitals or just observing social distancing—has the potential to help many.

Ever since news emerged about the coronavirus in Wuhan, I have been praying for my brothers and sisters in China and everywhere else. Now we can see that nobody is immune to this virus. We are all worried about loved ones and the future, of both the global economy and our own individual homes. But prayer is not enough.

This crisis shows that we must all take responsibility where we can. We must combine the courage doctors and nurses are showing with empirical science to begin to turn this situation around and protect our future from more such threats.

In this time of great fear, it is important that we think of the long-term challenges—and possibilities—of the entire globe. Photographs of our world from space clearly show that there are no real boundaries on our blue planet. Therefore, all of us must take care of it and work to prevent climate change and other destructive forces. This pandemic serves as a warning that only by coming together with a coordinated, global response will we meet the unprecedented magnitude of the challenges we face.

We must also remember that nobody is free of suffering, and extend our hands to others who lack homes, resources or family to protect them. This crisis shows us that we are not separate from one another—even when we are living apart. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to exercise compassion and help.

As a Buddhist, I believe in the principle of impermanence. Eventually, this virus will pass, as I have seen wars and other terrible threats pass in my lifetime, and we will have the opportunity to rebuild our global community as we have done many times before. I sincerely hope that everyone can stay safe and stay calm. At this time of uncertainty, it is important that we do not lose hope and confidence in the constructive efforts so many are making.

April 21, 2020 – Tuesday
This morning I did a Memorial Ceremony for Sherry Morgado’s 15-year old cat, Cloud.

Cloud’s picture was on the altar along with her favorite chicken treats. I offered the Scripture of Great Wisdom and the Dedication of Merit, and then read this beautiful poem selected by Sherry:

Death is nothing at all. 
It does not count. 
I have only slipped away into the next room. 
Nothing has happened. 

Everything remains exactly as it was. 
I am I, and you are you, 

and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. 
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. 

Call me by the old familiar name. 
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. 
Put no difference into your tone. 
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. 

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. 
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. 
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. 

Life means all that it ever meant. 
It is the same as it ever was. 
There is absolute and unbroken continuity. 
What is this death but a negligible accident? 

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? 
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, 
somewhere very near, 
just round the corner. 

All is well. 
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. 
One brief moment and all will be as it was before. 
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

Death Is Nothing At All
By Henry Scott-Holland 

April 20, 2020 – Monday
Rev. Master Leandra, Abbot of Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey, gives her third lecture on The Heart Sutra.

Rev. Master Serena’s Dharma Talk Fear of Death was offered on Sunday, April 19 at Shasta Abbey, and Rev. Master Daishin Yalon offered timely teaching in his recent Dharma Talk on The Paramita of Never Giving Up 

April 19, 2020 – Sunday Dharma Talk Opening the Hand of Thought 
In the 1300s in Japan Great Master Keizan in his Instructions on How to Do Pure Meditation says:  Pure meditation opens us so that we may directly realize the Foundation of our minds and dwell content within our own Buddha Nature. 

Directly realize.  
Go beyond the speculation and controversies.   Dwell content.  Be at ease, equanimous, as things unfold – keep the precepts and do what needs to be done.  Isn’t this what we’re missing in the fog of fear and the thickets of agitation we’re caught up in these days?

In the last century Kosho Uchiyama Roshi spoke of the importance of “opening the hand of thought”.  (Uchiyama was ordained a priest in 1941 by his teacher Sawaki Kodo. Sawaki Kodo was the priest to who Koho Zenji sent Rev. Master Jiyu to affirm her kensho.  Uchiyama became abbot of Antai-ji following Sawaki Kodo’s death in 1965. Antai-ji was unusual in that both Sawaki Kodo and Uchiyama Roshi simply sat. Uchiyama felt that it was most important to just practice without any expectation of reward.  Those that needed certification as temple priest would be sent to other temples.  Those who came just sat.)  The book by this title offers an extraordinary insight into the heart of meditation: the effort of an individual to realize – make real –  “their universal self” in living a truly full life.  

This is what makes our meditation practice so relevant in this time of quarantine.  This is the moment we have to see and accept – to make real – our true self.  We come to know what the Sandokai points to – all is one and all is different.  AND they are in harmony. 
Opening the hand of thought is the very act of meditation.  This is what we do in meditation:  we are opening the hand of thought.  

In opening the hand of thought we are loosening our grip on our judgements, expectations, fears, anxieties, joys, even ecstasies.  

In opening the hand of thought we are embracing the truth of impermanence (anicca).  We can’t control the flow of change no matter how had we hold on.  

In opening the hand of thought we have the rare opportunity to recognize the reality of ANATTA – we have a chance to see “the self” for what it really is. AND to see the many ways we are “connected”.

In opening the hand of thought we have the rare opportunity – as Keizan says – to directly realize the Foundation of our minds and see the ways our fears and judgements and expectations shape our experience of the world.  Or, in other words, to see what our minds are doing.   In doing so – if we are paying attention – we see the truth of DUKKHA – and how we create our own suffering by closing our “hands of thought” in vain efforts to make it otherwise.

When we see what our mind is doing, we begin to see that it might be time to explore in depth this thing we call the self.

Dogen in the Genjo Koan (Actualizing the Fundamental Point) gave some simple instructions on how to do that:  

To study the Buddha Way is to study the self; to study the self is to forget the self; to forget the self is to be enlightened by all things. To be enlightened by all things is to let body and mind drop off.  No trace of enlightenment remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.

To study the self is to forget the self.  

 the hand of thought is doing just that.  It is the fundamental Buddhist practice of not grasping and clinging.  And life in time of corona virus, interestingly, invites us to do just that.  

What about our expectations:  about not getting COVID-19?  About having one’s loved ones come through this safely?  About not dying, or not having those we love die?

What about our judgements:  that things should be THIS way?  About “my self” as something permanent and unchanging?

In Gakudo Yojinshu  (Aspects of Zazen) Dogen says:  Forget the selfish self for a little and allow the mind to remain natural for this is very close to the Mind that seeks the way.

Forget the selfish self for a little and allow the mind to remain natural.  
Allowing the mind to remain natural, I suggest, is that same as opening the hand of thought.

Dogen continues:    Self is the basis for the sixty-two private opinions so, when you are beginning to become full of your own opinions, just sit quietly and watch how they arise.

And he asks (and answers) – as he usually does – some compelling questions:  On what are they based, both within you and outside of you? Your body, hair and skin come from your parents: the seeds that came from your parents, however, are empty, both from the beginning of time and until the end of it. 

Within this there is no ego, the mind that is fettered by discrimination, knowledge and dualism of thought blinds us. After all, in the end, what is it that inhales and exhales? 

These two are not the self and there is no self to which to cling. They who live in delusion cling to all things whilst they who are enlightened are free of clinging and things: and still we measure the unreal self and grasp at worldly appearances, thus ignoring true Buddhist practice; by failing to sever the ties of the world, we are turning our backs upon the True teachings and chasing after false ones…

“The world” is our preoccupations – our distractions, our fears, the things that cloud our minds.  When we don’t sever our ties with these, we’re turning our backs upon the True teachings and chasing after false ones…

Opening the hand of thought AND recognizing the importance of “holding on loosely “ to this thing we call “the self” – in life and in practice.  

I’m reminded of the chorus of song by the 70s band Kansas – Hold On:   
Just hold on loosely 
But don’t let go 
If you cling too tightly 
You’re gonna lose control

I might adapt it to our purposes to read:
Just hold on loosely 
What’s to know? 
If you cling too tightly 
It’s harder to let go.

April 18, 2020 – Saturday
Recently parallels have been drawn between the global pandemic and the climate crisis. It seems early to say, but we can sense that the two problems are more related than we think, as they are both challenges that we all must face together.  No voice has been as clear or as compelling as Joanna Macy’s in the intersection that lies between Buddhist practice and ecological movements. Despite the fear, panic, and pain that rages on in our world, Joanna Macy says that she’s lucky to be alive in this moment—because when everything starts to unravel, we have an opportunity to rediscover our deep belonging with the Earth.  Tricycle’s Editor James Shaheen talks to Joanna about how she believes we can move forward in a time of great despair—and how we can transform our despair into action 

Rev. Master Jiyu’s Teaching on Care for Environment
as an Expression of Buddhist Practice
Rev. Master Oswin Hollenbeck, currently the Executive Secretary of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, and formerly the Prior of Eugene Buddhist Priory, is the author of Conserve, Preserve, Respect & Revere: Rev. Master Jiyu’s Teachings on Care for the Environment as an Expression of Buddhist Practice which was originally published in the Spring 2015 Environmental Issue of the Journal of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives. 

April 17, 2020 – Friday
Sangha member Dr. Elizabeth Colleran gives an update on Cats and Covid19 that may be of interest to you. 

Rev. Master Daizui McPhillamy was ordained by Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett in 1973 and served as her chief assistant and one of her primary caregivers until her death in November of 1996. Following her death Rev. Master Daizui was elected as the second Head of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives. He served in this capacity until his death from lymphatic cancer in April of 2003 at the age of 57.  He is the author of Buddhism from Within:   An Intuitive Introduction to Buddhism

After 9/11 Rev. Master Daizui McPhillamy commented on his sadness at the events of 9/11 in the USA and then offers his reflections on Spiritual Simplicity (download the PDF).   His words resonate with the events we see unfolding today:

And yet within this sadness, this self-questioning and introspection, there are some positive things which many people have pointed to: a new perspective on what is important. A perspective on, not only what is well not to do, but what is well to do. Such things as being, simply being with one’s loved ones and friends. Not doing anything in particular, just being. Such things as doing small acts of enlightenment, bringing charity, tenderness, benevolence and sympathy into life in little ways. Truthfulness, whether it be within oneself or to one’s fellow people; and the tolerance that comes from forgiving ourselves, and others, our mutual humanity; a wish to care for one another and for the world.
All of these things strike me as being very simple, very basic, and somehow, together (and this is where I am not quite fathoming or able to bring together what I sense), these things paint a picture that is larger than the things themselves. A picture of what I will call, for lack of any other term, “spiritual simplicity.” While I cannot define that for you or even for myself, it’s something that seems to have been recognized and spoken of in various ways down the ages in the Zen tradition. I will try to share with you some observations about it, perhaps in the way in which one sees a moth circle around the flame. Even if I cannot point directly to it, perhaps we can fly around it a little together.

And here are two more excellent talks by Rev. Master Daizui
What It Means to be a Buddhist   Link to talk: Listen / Download  Date of talk: 2001    Length of talk: 50 min/15 MB 
Radical Sobriety  Link to talk: Listen / Download 
Date of talk: 2001    Length of talk: 45 min/16 MB

April 16, 2020 – Thursday
The Buddha said:  However the seed is planted, in that way the fruit is gathered. Good things come from doing good deeds, bad things come from doing bad deeds. (SN 11.10) 

What is the purpose of a mirror? For the purpose of reflection. So too social action is to be done with repeated reflection. (MN 61)

One reflects thus: “Others may speak in unhealthy ways; I shall refrain from speaking in unhealthy ways.” (MN 8)

One lives with companions in concord, with mutual appreciation, without disputing, blending like milk and water, viewing each other with kindly eyes. One practices thus: “I maintain verbal acts of lovingkindness toward my companions both openly and privately.” (MN 31)

How we speak to one another has a big impact on how well we get along with one another. We evoke from others the same emotions we express to them. If you say something with annoyance, you will provoke annoyance. If you say something kind, you will bring out the kindness of others. This is how human interactions work: however the seed is planted, the fruit is gathered. The same is true about how we speak about others.

One important way of practicing in daily life is bringing as much lovingkindness as possible to everything you do, especially in the realm of verbal action. Make a point today of speaking kindly to the people you interact with, as well as those you speak about. 

You’ll find it comes easily if you can manage to view the other person “with kindly eyes.” 

Find something good in other people to focus upon and allow your speech to flow from the emotion of friendliness.

adapted from The Dhamma Wheel

Thus shall you think of all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;
A flash of lightening in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream
The Diamond Sutra

How do we respond to life appropriately with compassion and skillfulness?  This is our challenge as human beings.  The Bodhisattva practices says Zen teacher Reb Anderson, gives a roadmap. 

April 15, 2020 – Wednesday
Today, When I Could Do Nothing – Jane Hirschfield
Today, when I could do nothing,
I saved an ant.

It must have come in with the morning paper,
still being delivered
to those who shelter in place.

A morning paper is still an essential service.

I am not an essential service.

I have coffee and books,
a garden,
silence enough to fill cisterns.

It must have first walked
the morning paper, as if loosened ink
taking the shape of an ant.

Then across the laptop computer — warm —
then onto the back of a cushion.

Small black ant, alone,
crossing a navy cushion,
moving steadily because that is what it could do.

Set outside in the sun,
it could not have found again its nest.
What then did I save?

It did not move as if it was frightened,
even while walking my hand,
which moved it through swiftness and air.

Ant, alone, without companions,
whose ant-heart I could not fathom—
how is your life, I wanted to ask.

I lifted it, took it outside.

This first day when I could do nothing,
contribute nothing
beyond staying distant from my own kind,
I did this.

April 14, 2020 – Tuesday
Rev. Master Jiyu spoke of The Delusion of Illness and Death in a series of 4 talks in 1978. They are profoundly relevant to us in 2020 as well.

When Giving Is All We Have. Alberto Rios

                                              One river gives
                                              Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

April 13, 2020 – Monday
In her Dharma Talk on Sunday, April 12, Rev. Meian Elbert offered her insights on The Six Paramitas: Generosity

Koshin Paley Ellison of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care offered this teaching recently: One of the most common ways we avoid living by our values is the old “I’ll do it later” excuse— the moment isn’t right, or it’s too hard, or all the right conditions are not present. Maybe the person you’re dealing with is just too obnoxious for you to extend respect and love to them. Maybe the emotions you’re feeling are just too much to bear for you to accept them. Maybe the mistake you made was just too long ago to rectify.
You may ask yourself:  What are you waiting for?
Not making excuses is a place of practice.

We feel like separate water droplets but we are also ocean. Jane Hirschfeld

April 12, 2020 – Sunday
Rev. Master Leandra gives the second lecture on The Heart Sutra, incorporating comments and questions from correspondents who are following the series.

Doug Carnine, PhD, is a member of the Eugene (OR) Buddhist Priory and a Lay Minister in the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives.  He coordinates the Spreading Kindness Campaign and says:  Being self quarantined, I came up with the idea of connecting with friends, so I would feel not so isolated. My excuse for reaching out is to send my guest newspaper editorial in about caring for our mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several friends have found it useful and sending it out makes me feel that I am (hopefully) doing something useful. The Eugene Register-Guard’s Guest View: Kindness in the face of COVID-19 is reprinted here:

In these times of extraordinary stress, kindness to those close to us and members of our community is essential. The March 22 editorial (Our View, “We can all help our most vulnerable neighbors”) documents how this extends to the most needy in our community.

Kindness lets people know they are not alone. There are people who care about them. Our kindness to strangers goes unseen when we “stay home, save lives.” If we have to go out, strangers see our kindness with our social distance. We stand at least six feet away.

Being kind to others also helps the giver.

Caring about others reduces our stress and fear by increasing our feeling of belonging, not being isolated. For example, some Rotary clubs are reducing isolation by holding virtual meetings with ZOOM, which is especially important given that the members value Rotary first for its service and second for its fellowship.

Consider not only how you might help people, but also how to connect, make them feel appreciated and included. Remember the power of caring for others is also a strong motivator to take better care of ourselves. For example, doctors were more likely to clean their hands when the focus was on keeping their patients from catching diseases than when the focus was on them not catching diseases. We cannot control the stressors caused by the pandemic, but we can dampen the stress. Here are some ideas for how to keep your kindness activated, beginning with self-kindness.

Ways to be kind to yourself: Reflect on why you need more kindness. Stressed? Pray, meditate, practice mindfulness, yoga, or tai chi. Isolated and bored? Reach out to friends, do tasks you have been putting off, and work toward new goals. Depressed? Take Yale’s course on happiness for free, the most popular course in its 300 year history.

Anxious? Spend less time thinking, talking and reading about the virus. Instead, spend more time thinking, talking and writing about what you are grateful for.

Engaging with your partner: Ask about your partner’s interests and concerns, joke, get up to date on activities. Do one of your partner’s tasks. Ask how to be of use, encourage and support your partner in doing things they enjoy and that you do together.

Be affectionate, compliment efforts and accomplishments.

Ways to be kind to children: Be calm and reassuring, and describe what you are doing to make sure you and your partner will stay healthy. Let them know you love them. Find fun, constructive ways to spend time together. Make yourself available for their questions and fears, answer honestly. Monitor social media and TV so that they do not take in too much negative and highly upsetting news or other anxiety-inducing content.

Ways to be kind (virtually when possible) to friends and fellow employees: Find out how COVID-19 is complicating the lives of a friend or co-worker and ask if there are ways you or a manager might be able to help. Reconnect with good friends. Drop off food to a friend or take something from work to an employee working remotely. Watch to make sure no identifiable group is excluded or even blamed because of their nationality, ethnicity, gender, religion or other differentiating factors.

Go out of your way to express gratitude to those who are making the best of it in this time of heightened stress, especially those who are connecting, helping and including.

Helping others reduces our stress; we know it from our experience and from science. So as our stress from COVID-19 grows, let’s respond by growing our kindness, including for ourselves

April 11, 2020 – Saturday
Rev. Master Daishin Morgan’s article Loneliness starts out In recent years I have spent much of my time in solitude and would like to offer some thoughts on loneliness, especially now when many of us are having to live in isolation.  You may find this short article directly relevant particularly the following poem:
Space is a poor analogy for emptiness,
It is the lightness of things being free.
Being in a room is the same 
If the door opens easily or I am locked in 
But so completely different.
Remorseless positivity is only pretending;
The cries must be heard, you must enter the room.
The lightness is not the condition of the door.

 as well as thus observation about distraction: Finally, a word about distraction. I have come to appreciate the role of distraction in keeping some equilibrium. When on your own it is usually not a good idea to spend many hours in zazen as you might do on an intense retreat or sesshin. We can rely on conditions for the intensity. Enjoyment is important. I once had a dog who would chase his tail, distracting him with a biscuit would usually help.

The community of Throssel Hole Abbey recently held a Transfer of Merit ceremony partly intended as an offering of merit for all those suffering because of coronavirus.  The video is quite beautiful and the chanting, particularly the chanting of the Dedication of Merit is quite meaningful.  
Rev. Mugo gave an insightful talk on Offering Merit at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey this past Sunday.  We will offer an adapted Transfer of Merit Ceremony here at Redding Zen this coming Sunday.

April 10, 2020 – Friday
Many thanks to Rev. Leon, Prior at the Portland Buddhist Priory, who joined in our Thursday Evening Dharma Conversation last night.  27 of us had a good discussion on aspects of our practice during this time, particularly the importance of “looking up”.  Last night one of you mentioned the ER Doctor Who Advocates Meditation. You may find the full Tricycle article of interest.

Scott Johnson very kindly made a guided video tour of the goings on at Meditation Valley at his home in Cottonwood (CA). You might find it an interesting “walk”.

The roses are coming out at the Priory, and the azaleas, too.  May kindness continue to blossom in the world, and compassion, too. As Ryokan says In the scenery of spring, nothing is better, nothing worse; The flowering branches are of themselves, some short, some long.

April 9, 2020 – Thursday
When we feel limited and constrained, consider this from Etty Hillesum, who died in Auschwitz at the age of 29.  Her diary – well worth reading – is An Interrupted Life.Through me course wide rivers and in me rise tall mountains.  And beyond the thickets of my agitation and confusion there stretch the wide plains of my peace and surrender.  All landscapes are within me.  And there is room for eveything…

Ajahn Sumedho is a senior monk of the Thai forest tradition and was abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, UK, from its consecration in 1984 until his retirement in 2010. The following is taken from his 1995 Article “Noticing Space” – adapted for Tricycle from his book The Mind and the Way.
The spacious mind has room for everything. It is like the space in a room, which is never harmed by what goes in and out of it. In fact, we say “the space in this room,” but actually, the room is in the space, the whole building is in the space. When the building has gone, the space will still be there. The space surrounds the building, and right now we are containing space in a room. With this view we can develop a new perspective. We can see that there are walls creating the shape of the room, and there is the space. Looking at it one way, the walls limit the space in the room. But looking at it another way, we see that space is limitless…

April 7, 2020 – Tuesday
What are we risking when we withhold, when we meet with resistance and pull away? We’re risking not living a life of conviction, integrity, and authenticity. The Buddha himself faced adversity. Becoming a great spiritual leader created anger and jealousy in his cousin, so much so that he tried to kill the Buddha out of jealousy and envy. The Buddha could have shut it down right then and packed it all in: “All right, my family is trying to murder me. This is too much.” But he didn’t. And all of us who benefit from his teachings now are thankful for that. Working with adversity is a place of practice. Koshin Paley Ellison

April 6, 2020 – Monday
Here are three rich resources available from Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey that you may find helpful in your training this week:
1.  Rev. Master Leandra, Throssel Hole’s abbot, gives the first of four planned lectures on The Heart Sutra, partly inspired by Shohaku Okumura’s book Living by Vow. 
2.  The Throssel Community has videoed their Renewing the Precepts Ceremony.  Similar to the ceremony we do here, it is held there twice a month when the community gathers for a reading of the sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts. 
3.  Rev. Olwen Crookall-Greening offers  Guided Meditation and Reflections: Just Sitting, given in January this year during a meditation period.  This 23-minute reflection offers insights on our practice of serene reflection meditation.

Gesshin Claire Greenwood is a Zen teacher and author of Bow First, Ask Questions Later.  She invites us to practice releasing the thought that “things should not be this way”:

Buddhist wisdom points to the reality that suffering is an enduring and continual part of being alive. . . We are often sheltered in our own kind of psychological palace where we are shielded from things like illness. Yet this kind of suffering can ultimately not be avoided. We will all, everyone one of us, face old age, sickness, and death. . . . 

Personally, one of the most distressing things to me about the COVID-19 outbreak has been a feeling that “things should not be this way.” In reality, though, things are and always have been this way. . . . The suffering caused by illness and death is nothing new. 

According to [a Buddhist] legend, there once was a woman who sought out the Buddha after losing her baby to illness. Crazy with grief, she asked him for medicine to bring her son back from the dead. He replied that he would give her this medicine if she brought him back a white mustard seed from the house of a family that had never experienced death. The woman went door to door, searching for a family untouched by the loss of a loved one. Of course, she could never find such a family. She realized that death touches everyone. And in realizing the universality of grief and death, her suffering lessened. 

This story shows us that the feeling of “things should not be this way” is an additional and unnecessary pain on top of our inevitable suffering. We cannot avoid old age, sickness, and death, but we can remove the unnecessary assumption that things should be otherwise, and the psychic pain this assumption causes us. 

April 5, 2020 – Sunday
Thanks to the 26 folks who attended our time together on Sunday, April 5 and shared our Dharma Talk At Home Is Our Sitting Place.  Text of that talk is attached below. We started with a short period of meditation then read together Great Master Dogen’s Rules For Meditation. Building on Dogen’s opening questions in the Rules, our Dharma Talk explored the questions we are asking during these challenging days, as well as other possible questions we might be asking.  We looked at the Three Foundations of Meditation, Precepts and Wisdom that make up our “home”. Finally we looked at ways we might remain more at ease “at home”.  The talk was followed by an insightful discussion.  Thanks to all who participated

Nadia is a good example for us. She’s making the most of this time at home appreciating forest songbirds.  We can breathe more easily and explore the songs of our own heart (or the songbirds outside!)

April 4, 2020 – Saturday
The Scripture of the Buddha’s Last Teaching tells us …in making the four offerings which are your joy in awakening your heart, your reverence for the Dharma, your resolve to train and your practice, know your capacity and be content with that. Be quick to go about doing services and work but do not seek to amass tasks.

As we go into the fourth week of quarantine, and we are resetting our expectations about how long this will last and what we are – and can be – doing during this extended time, this New York Times article, Stop Trying to Be Productive, offers a compassionate and contemporary perspective on knowing our capacity and being content with that.

At home, within the temple of our own heart:
…May we within the temple of our own hearts dwell  amidst the myriad mountains.   Invocation of Achalanatha

If you can breathe in and out and walk in the spirit of “I have arrived., I am home, in the here, in the now.”
then you will notice that you are becoming more solid 
and more free immediately.
You have established yourself in the present moment,
at your true address…

Thich Nhat Hanh  Taming the Tiger Within

It is futile to travel to other dusty countries,
thus forsaking your own seat
if your first step is false,
you will immediately stumble.  
Already you are in possession 
of the vital attributes of a human being – 
do not waste time with this and that…

Great Master Eihei Dogen  Rules for Meditation

You do not need to leave your room. 
Remain sitting at your table and listen. 
Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. 
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked,
it has no choice, 
it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. 

Franz Kafka

April 3, 2020 – Friday

Ryokan – Ancient Sages Left Their Works Behind
Ancient sages left their works behind, not to let us know
About themselves, but to help us understand our own stamp.
Had we wisdom deep enough to know ourselves, single-handed,
No benefits would result from the works of ancient saints.

A wise person learns the mystery of existence in a flash
And climbs in a leap beyond the world of hollow phenomena,
Whereas a foolish person holds willfully to facts and details,
To drown in subtle differences of words and lines,
And being envious of others in their supreme achievements,
Wastes the mind night and day in efforts to exceed,
Truth, if you cleave to it as truth, turns into falsehood.
Falsehood, when you see it as such, becomes at once truth.

Truth and falsehood are the mated edges of a double sword.
None alive can separate with certainty one from the other.
Alas, too many people drift with the skiff to fathom the sea.
From time immemorial they are causes of endless deception.

On Internet Security
You may have read about intruders “zoombombing” online meetings, such as our Sangha get-togethers. You may have received e-mails from folks you’ve never heard of, or from companies that you haven’t done business with in years. You may have gotten text messages from unknown contacts. 

     Some of these may be legitimate — many companies that had lots of business a week ago have seen their customer base evaporate, and are trying to generate new leads by any means possible. Fair enough. BUT there are other folks who are simply trying to use the current emergency to sneak past our normal security awareness and get information from you. (And let’s be honest: my “normal security awareness” was never that vigilant before. Is yours?)
      Example: Zoom meetings have a meeting number and a password, but THE PASSWORD IS OPTIONAL. Opt for it. Here’s why. (And I just gave you a test! That link takes you to an article about how to set up a password for a Zoom meeting… but it could have linked you to an entirely different address. Do you inspect Web links before you click on them? You should!)
     Another example might be a text that says “Gregg! Did you hear this? Get back to me!” and gives a link to what is purportedly a song on YouTube, but isn’t. Or a notice from “your bank” warning about security problems (!!) and asking for your login and password so they can “verify your statement is secure”. Or to download a “security update” that actually installs a hacked program onto your computer or tablet. Etc. etc. etc.

      Legitimate banks, the Social Security Administration, etc. will never ask for your credentials this way. Instead, they will have you contact them by other means, securely, such as a voice phone call or a visit to their actual Web site. 

      This sort of scam is called “phishing” (‘cuz us nurds luv phunny punny spellings, but also because) the “black-hats” (scammers) are casting bait into the waters, trying to entice you to rise to it. Holy Mackerel! Don’t do that! And remember, this isn’t a 1950’s western. The bad guys don’t all wear black hats!

     It can even be done over the phone, if you get a call or a voice message — even a robo-call! — warning about online scammers and asking you to just tell them things. Computer-age scamming generally is referred to as “social engineering” (they are trying to make you into a cog in their “machine”). But this is nothing new. Crooks have been pulling the long con on marks for millenia. It’s fun to read in a Damon Runyon story. It’s another story when it happens to you.
     Some tips:

  • Zoom meeting IDs are 9 digits long, but follow a pattern so that there aren’t actually a billion possibilities. Black-hats can “war-dial”, hoping to hit an actual meeting number, and “bomb” your session (including lurking quietly in the background, collecting information as legit attendees speak… or reading the notes magnet-tacked to your refrigerator door in the background!). Zoom has now acted to prevent this, by disconnecting if you try too many bogus meeting numbers, but it’s still possible to hit one “by accident”.  If the Zoom meet has no password, they’re in right away. Being able to guess both the meeting number and its bespoke password is much, much less likely. That’s why you should always ask for a password when you originate a Zoom meeting.

    [The name of the trick comes from the 1983 movie “War Games”, where Ferris Bueller has his computer dial number after number until he hits one that answers with a modem connect tone — that warbly screechy thing you used to get when you dialed into America Online, remember? Ah, those thrilling days of yesteryear!]

  • if you get a text that seems iffy, do not reply, not even to say “wrong number” or “do not contact me”. Just getting the text will let the scammer know that this is a live address. (It may even automatically notify him that you have read the text.) But replying will (a) confirm that the address contains an actual person, not just a robot, and (b) may pass along contact information from your address book. Instead, block that caller in your address book, then delete the message without replying.

  • similarly, do not reply to a e-mail that seems fishy. [phishy??] And do not click on any links in one without inspecting them first — most e-mail reader apps will let you hover over a link and see what is the actual address it links to. [Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition. Sue me.]

  • Things hackers would like to have (or to confirm) include your Social Security Number, your Medicare ID (which used to be your Social Security Number, and this is why they changed it!), your birthday/Mom’s maiden name/first dog/first dog’s maiden name/other reminders or personal “yeah it’s really me” facts that you might have provided earlier. A patient black-hat may try phishing in half a dozen different ways to pick up bits and pieces of information, so they can build a profile with all of them that any one of them wouldn’t have compromised.

  • If you think the contact attempt might be legitimate, follow up some other way. For instance, if an e-mail wants your bank info or Social Security Number, call the bank instead and talk to a real person. They want to catch and stomp these scammers as much as you do. Basically, the rule is “know who you are talking to” — which is not always easy. But as John Philpot Curran commented in 1790, “It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.” [I owe ya a quarter, Rev.]

     It is generally safe to swim in the World Wide Ocean, yes. But check in with the lifeguard, watch your buddy, and be aware that there are sharks out there. (Cue ominous Jaws theme music. And don’t believe the Chamber of Commerce guy telling you the beach is OK!)
— Davidson Corry

April 2, 2020 – Thursday
Dr Elizabeth Colleran shared the latest updates on Coronavirus and our pets
Click here to listen to COVID19Update w/Dr. Colleran  

For One Who Is Exhausted, a Blessing – John O’Donohue
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

April 1, 2020 – Wednesday
Written in the 1400s by Kabir, the Indian mystic and poet, isn’t it relevant for us today?
Don’t go outside your house to see flowers.
My friend, don’t bother with that excursion.
Inside your body there are flowers.
One flower has a thousand petals.
That will do  for a place to sit.
Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty
inside the body and out of it,
before gardens and after gardens.
– Kabir

Twenty two of us “met” through ZOOM on Tuesday evening from 6 to 7pm to meditate briefly and then to read and discuss the Sandokai. we explored aspects of this foundational scripture in our tradition that points to the All is One and All is Different.  We discussed the questions of ideals, of the Middle Way and that striking injunction at the end of the scripture:  Do not waste time.  We will meet to continue our discussion on Tuesday, April 7.  The Scripture is included here below and the text in the Shasta Abbey Book of Daily Ceremonie  on page 10.  The chanted Sandokai is available here.

From west to east, unseen, flowed out the mind of India’s greatest Sage
And to the source kept true as an unsullied stream is clear. 
Although by wit and dullness the True Way is varied,
Yet it has no Patriarch of south or north.
Here born we clutch at things
And then compound delusion, later on, by following ideals;
Each sense gate and its object all together enter thus in mutual relations
And yet stand apart in a uniqueness of their own, depending and yet non-depending both.
In form and feel component things are seen to differ deeply; 
Thus are voices, in inherent isolation, soft or harsh. 
Such words as high and middle darkness match;
Light separates the murky from the pure.
The properties of the four elements together draw
Just as a child returns unto its mother. 
Lo! The heat of fire, the moving wind, the water wet, the earth all solid. Eyes to see, sounds heard and smells; upon the tongue the sour, salty taste.
And yet, in each related thing, as leaves grow from the roots, 
End and beginning here return unto the source and “high” and “low” are used respectively.
Within all light is darkness 
But explained it cannot be by darkness that one-sided is alone. 
In darkness there is light
But, here again, by light one-sided it is not explained. 
Light goes with darkness
As the sequence does of steps in walking;
All things have inherent, great potentiality,
Both function, rest, reside within. 
Lo! With the ideal comes the actual, 
Like a box all with its lid. 
Lo! With the ideal comes the actual,
Like two arrows in mid-air that meet. 
Completely understand herein
The basic Truth within these words;
Lo! Hear! Set up not your own standards. 
If, from your experience of the senses, basic Truth you do not know, 
How can you ever find the path that certain is, no matter how far distant you may walk? 
As you walk on distinctions between near and far are lost 
And, should you lost become, there will arise obstructing mountains and great rivers. 
This I offer to the seeker of great Truth, 
Do not waste time.

Here born we clutch at things
And then compound delusion, later on, by following ideals;

We have tobe aware of how we hold ideals. They can be a form of pushing away. Diana St. Ruth observed …noticing what is taking place—as opposed to what one wishes would take place, or what one fears might take place, or what one grieves over as having already taken place—is a way of life that is completely free of all self-imposed restrictions and conflicting states of mind.

March 31, 2020 – Tuesday
It was a joy to share a short meditation followed by a Dharma Talk and brief discussion on Sunday, March 29, 2020. 35 folks attended via ZOOM.  The text of my Dharma Talk follows.  Please let me know if you have any questions arrisine out of it.  With gratitude, Rev. Helen

The Great Way is Not Difficult – a Dharma Talk given on March 29, 2020
In this time of picking and choosing, in this time of fear, uncertainty, and overwhelm, may I quote John Daido Loori,   It’s perhaps the greatest single-sentence summary of Buddhist practice: “The Great Way is not difficult, simply avoid picking and choosing.” If we transcend all preferences, distinctions, and opinions, the true nature is revealed and “everything becomes clear and undisguised.” So easy—yet of course it overturns every conventional principle by which we so often lead our lives.”

We live in 2020 Coronavirus America, with institutions – government, educational, commercial – that not only invite our picking and choosing, but encourage and reinforce our doing so. 

We live in 2020 Coronavirus Northern California Redding, in a culture that not only invites our picking and choosing, but encourage and reinforce our doing so.

We live in our own 2020 Coronavirus life, with a life history that not only invites our picking and choosing, but encourage and reinforce our doing so, particularly in terms of our preferences, aversions, and habits. 

We live in our Buddhist practice, and even there we pick and choose – we sitting  or not, we select a teacher- a practice – or not, we keep the precepts or not.
Is it any surprise that picking and choosing is the ground of practice?  To repeat:

It’s perhaps the greatest single-sentence summary of Buddhist practice: “The Great Way is not difficult, simply avoid picking and choosing.” If we transcend all preferences, distinctions, and opinions, the true nature is revealed and “everything becomes clear and undisguised.” So easy—yet of course it overturns every conventional principle by which we so often lead our lives.

That Which is Engraved Upon the Heart that Trusts to the Eternal (or Verses on Faith Mind) points to the unity of training and enlightenment.  Our Buddha Nature and our mind are one. The “goal” of Buddhism, the direct experience of enlightenment – as we act with charity, tenderness, benevolence and sympathy – is only attained by seeing clearly that which our mind is doing.  It is being aware of our fears.  It is noticing our irritation.  It is acknowledging our uncertainty, confusion, overwhelm.  And – in our meditation – keeping an appropriate “social distance” form them.  We can simply see the fear and not engage it.  That which sees the fear isn’t afraid.

Our purpose in our practice is to realize, face, and resolve the Genjo-koan – the Koan of Daily Life by truly understanding that…training and enlightenment are one – training and enlightenment aren’t different!   It is to become fully who we are.  Can I actually live my own life – not those whose voices we have incorporated into our judgements and expectations.

When we live our own life, whatever comes is both training and enlightenment.  Our worst moments offer us both training and enlightenment.

John Cage has a famous piece of music called 4’33” in which all of the notes are silent.  While it has often been performed at the piano, the score calls for any number of people playing any number of instruments.  Musicians who present the work do nothing aside from being present for the duration specified by the title.  The content of the composition is not “four minutes and 33 seconds of silence,” as is often assumed, but rather the sounds of the environment heard by the audience during performance.   Everything else that happens ends up being the piece.  The cough, the siren coming up the street, your wondering if anything is going to happen, the air conditioner, your memory of church in your childhood, your sense of waiting for something.  

This is what Kanchi Sosan is telling us when he says …The Great Way is not difficult – simply give up picking and choosing.  When love and hate are both absent, everything is clear and undisguised.  What’s happening is the music.  
What’s happening is our training.  What’s happening is enlightenment.

This is training:  THIS very mind is Buddha.  This is enlightenment:  THIS very mind is Buddha. 

Can we accept what’s there?  Can we accept “the music” of the soundtrack of our lives.  Those of you who have been to the Abbey know that it is located along the interstate highway.  I-5 is the main north-south transit route – one 18-wheeler after another.  How many of you “didn’t expect” the constant noise and rumble? 

The things we want to push away – the fears, the judgments that we make – the irritations, the expectations – the delusions – that we have – in a word, our picking and choosing – are the doorways to deepening practice.  We don’t want to be out of work.  We don’t want to be separated from our loved ones.  We don’t want to feel like we don’t have “enough” of whatever gives us security.

Can we leave the mind in its natural undisturbed state?  Can we let go of the thoughts that say “This is problem, that is a problem!”  Without labeling difficulties as problems, leave your mind in its natural state.

John Tarrant says:  If you don’t dislike your own dislike, not picking and choosing is just present.  It’s not a discipline or a good thing that must be achieved.  

It’s …keeping the precepts and doing what need to be done.  When we can do this, we can stop seeing difficult conditions as problems, and simply do what need to be done.

How do we do this?  Kanshi Sosan says:  Within the oneness of your everyday mind, be indifferent to differences, and any sense of self will completely cease to exist.  And then there’s this particularly relevant advice during this time of respiratory difficulties:  There is no need to hunt for Truth, simply stop exhaling personal opinions…

Cease to …be limited by your opinions, wary or filled with doubts (because) the faster you hurry about, the more you slow yourself down.

AND …If you wish to advance quickly upon the One Course, you must not despise the experiences of your six senses for, with no loathing for sensory experiences, you become once again at one with the omniscient wisdom of the Buddha… If you can be as herein described, why waste your time worrying over not finishing things?  Trust and the heart are not two separate things; the “no-two” is the heart that trusts to the Eternal.  Words fail to describe It for It is beyond the past, the future or the now.

But fundamentally all of this points to trust.  The dictionary definition of trust is “to believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of something or some one.”

The heart of our practice is a fundamental act of trust – in the Eternal and in ourselves.

March 30, 2020 – Monday
Just a reminder: Ultimately, there is no distinction between “sitting upright in the meditation hall” and just living.  Do not abide in time, space and dualistic views.  When you can see things in this way, you no longer need to use the word “liberation”.  How can you despise anything as ‘fettering you:?  
Daii Doshin in The Denkoroku

Rev. Meian’s talk Everything is Changing from Sunday, March 29, 2020 offers relevant insights into our life of practice during this challenging time.

For the Interim Time – John O’Donohue
When near the end of day, life has drained
Out of light, and it is too soon
For the mind of night to have darkened things,

No place looks like itself, loss of outline
Makes everything look strangely in-between,
Unsure of what has been, or what might come.

In this wan light, even trees seem groundless.
In a while it will be night, but nothing
Here seems to believe the relief of darkness.

You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.

“The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.”

You cannot lay claim to anything;
In this place of dusk,
Your eyes are blurred;
And there is no mirror.

Everyone else has lost sight of your heart
And you can see nowhere to put your trust;
You know you have to make your own way through.

As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.

What is being transfigured here in your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.

March 29, 2020 – Sunday
Thanks to all who shared in our Dharma talk and discussion today. It is a joy to come together, sharing experiences, insights, and on-screen smiles.

Please join us for any or all of the Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday ZOOM conversations currently part of the Priory Schedule. You should receive an invitation through the Priory etree (thank you, Roya!), but please contact Rev. Helen at if you haven’t received any.

March 28, 2020 – Saturday
The following are offerings from Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey that you may find both interesting and helpful.

Throseel Hole Buddhist Abbey offers Short Morning Service on Youtube.

Also available is Rev. Master Daishin Morgan offering teaching  
On Meditation

Finally Rev. Master Leandra, Throssel Hole’s abbot, will be giving four lectures in April on The Heart Sutra, based on Shohaku Okumura’s book Living by Vow.  She encourages anyone who is interested in following the series to read the book in preparation. She invites questions following on from the classes, as well as in advance… For more information please see

Thanks to those who shared the lovely and relevant reflections below.  They may be both interesting and helpful, and echo our own feelings and thoughts.  Mary Oliver speaks of her own worries (I Worried) and Kathleen O’Meara envisions how things might unfold (And people stayed home).

I Worried –  Mary Oliver
I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

And people stayed home – Kathleen O’Meara 
And people stayed home
and read books and listened 
and rested and exercised 
and made art and played 
and learned new ways of being 
and stopped 
and listened deeper 
someone meditated 
someone prayed 
someone danced 
someone met their shadow 
and people began to think differently 
and people healed 
and in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways, 
dangerous, meaningless and heartless, 
even the earth began to heal 
and when the danger ended 
and people found each other 
grieved for the dead people 
and they made new choices 
and dreamed of new visions 
and created new ways of life 
and healed the earth completely 
just as they were healed themselves.

Shasta County Public Health is reaching out to our spiritual and faith community to keep you up to date on information and resources regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

First, thank you for all you do to support the physical, mental and spiritual health of your communities.  These are indeed hard times, made more difficult by the fact that we cannot safely be in each other’s presence.  Many of you have posted messages on your social media and webpages, and I am so encouraged that we are on the same page: encouraging our community members to stay home to stay safe.  Thank you so much!

Spread the message, not the virus!

Please continue to share messages of hope and encouragement.  Meaningful connection is essential during this time and we are all having to come up with creative ways to stay in contact.  This can be done through social media and web-based platforms.  Many businesses and organizations are using available technology to stay connected safely.  This also allows us to set an example for those we are connected to!

Reminder: Stay at Home order from Governor Newsome still in place
* Do not hold in-person services or gatherings. 

Please become familiar with the Governor’s order and encourage your members to take the situation seriously.  Reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 means only going out for necessities, and not visiting in person with those outside your household.   

* Most reliable sources for information as the COVID-19 situation evolves:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
California Department of Public Health (CDPH) COVID-19 Website
Please see the Translate button at the top right for more languages.

COVID-19 Information for Shasta County (

CDC Resources for Community- and Faith-Based Leaders
Checklist for Community and Faith Leaders
Get Your Community- and Faith-Based Organizations Ready for Coronavirus Disease 2019
Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendation

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has helpful publications for supporting emotional health.  I have attached a document to this email you may find especially helpful, but please explore the site, particularly their resources for Faith-Based communities.
Your leadership in being calm and actively supporting requested restrictions helps our community to stay safe.  Please advocate with your community to follow this guidance.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at this email. 
With gratitude,
Amy Sturgeon
Public Health Program and Policy Analyst,
Health Equity
2650 Breslauer Way,
(530) 245-6456


March 27, 2020 – Friday
There were 26 of us at our Thursday Dharma Conversation.  It was a joy to see each other as well as to hear how our practice in unfolding in these challenging days.  Thanks to all who participated.  We will “meet” again on Sunday at 11 for a Dharma Talk and Discussion – watch your mailbox for the ZOOM invitation.

These sessions remind us that we are not alone.  Maya Angelou (Alone) and Naomi Shihah-Nye (Gate 4-A) speak tenderly of that in the poems below:

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Maya Angelou

Gate A-4
Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning
my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement:
“If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please
come to the gate immediately.”

Well—one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just
like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,”
said the flight agent. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We
told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly.
“Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-
se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly
used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled
entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the
next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just later, who is
picking you up? Let’s call him.”

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would
stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to 
her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just 
for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while
in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I 
thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know
and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee,
answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool
cookies—little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and
nuts—from her bag—and was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the
lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same powdered
sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two
little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they
were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend—
by now we were holding hands—had a potted plant poking out of her bag,
some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country tradi-
tion. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that
gate—once the crying of confusion stopped—seemed apprehensive about
any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

Here is a Dharma Talk by Rev. Shiko Rom at Shasta Abbey on the Eight Worldly Conditions:  praise and blame, elation and sorrow, gain and loss, fame and disgrace.  It is a very timely and relevant talk that you may find of interest:

March 26, 2020 – Thursday
The life of the Priory continues to unfold.  In the spirit of quarantine and self-isolation, I did a House Blessing for Jeri Shattuck’s new home – The Abode of the Dawn of the Dharma – BY TELEPHONE Wednesday afternoon.  Having just got the keys for her new house, Jeri set up a lovely altar in the empty living room.  Following my opening verse and dedication here at the Priory altar, we recited the Scripture of Great Wisdom together.  We then sang the Om Kembaya invocation of protection as we “went through” the house.  Jeri walked through each room and out into a spacious back yard. On my computer, I went through the Zillow listing photos of the places she was walking.  How nice to know there are alternative ways of bringing ceremony to life!     Congratulations to Jeri! 

A minute or so before 7am each morning, I sound the clappers and recite the Kesa Verse – How great and wondrous are the clothes of Enlightenment, formless and embracing every treasure.  I wish to unfold the Buddha’s teaching, that I may help all living things.  
The first day or two of this quarantine, because no one was physically in the Meditation Hall with me – no, not even Nicholas! – i said the verse quietly to myself.  Things changed though as more of you mentioned that you were sitting with me during that meditation period.  I now say the verse clearly, with clear intent, out loud.  I invite you to do the same.  
With gratitude and appreciation, Rve. Helen
PS Interestingly, wherever he may have been from 6:30 to 7am, Nicholas comes to my seat when the clappers sound.

March 25, 2020 – Wednesday

In the Shushogi, Great Master Dogen poses, “…the most important question for all Buddhists…” Bernadette Miller in her poem From Which It All Began explores her own questions. In this time of uncertainty, what are your questions?

Great Master Dogen. Shushogi: Chapter One – The Reason for Training
The most important question for all Buddhists is how to understand birth and death completely for then, should you be able to find the Buddha within birth and death, they both vanish. All you have to do is realise that birth and death, as such, should not be avoided and they will cease to exist for then, if you can understand that birth and death are Nirvana itself, there is not only no necessity to avoid them but also nothing to search for that is called Nirvana. The understanding
of the above breaks the chains that bind one to birth and death therefore this problem, which is the greatest in all Buddhism, must be completely understood.

It is very difficult to be born as a human being and equally difficult to find Buddhism however, because of the good karma that we have accumulated, we have received the exceptional gift of a human body and are able to hear the Truths of Buddhism: we therefore have the greatest possibility of a full life within the limits of birth and death. It would be criminal to waste such an opportunity by leaving this weak life of ours exposed to impermanence through lack of faith and commitment.

Impermanence offers no permanent succour. On what weeds by the road-side will the dew of our life fall? At this very minute this body is not my own. Life, which is controlled by time, never ceases even for an instant; youth vanishes for ever once it is gone: it is impossible to bring back the past when one suddenly comes face to face with impermanence and it is impossible to look for assistance from kings, statesmen, relatives, servants, wife or children, let alone wealth and treasure. The kingdom of death must be entered by oneself alone with nothing for company but our own good and bad karma…

From Which It All Began Bernadette Miller
Tell me, what
would you do today
if you knew your life
to be a celebration
of this world?

Would you stop
to gather sunlight
dropping soundlessly
upon pines
beyond your window pane?

Would you court
dreams too wide
for the container
of consciousness?

Would you linger
in the terrible beauty
of uncertainty
as if the fullness of the world
depended upon your presence?

Would you cast your hopes
upon possibilities that abide
only in departure?

Would you become the motion
of your song,
losing itself in overtones
of delight
or despair
and returning, finally,
to the stillness
from which it all began?

Rev. Master Seikai Luebke is a Resident Teacher at Pine Mountain Buddhist Temple and Meditation Retreat.  His recent perspective might be helpful as we go through our days: Within my tiny sphere of influence I try to practice positivity, knowing that it’s probably my greatest gift to the world. Negative energy is like a tsunami at the moment, washing all over everything in its path. During a recent weekend Dharma talk at the temple, one person remarked that, given the state of the world, if you are plugged into electronic media, following the news, etc., there is almost no way you cannot be either afraid or despairing about it all. That is, unless you have a solid spiritual practice of disconnecting from the world of negativity and immersing yourself in positive energy on a daily basis. Relatively few people do this, which is why negativity is the real epidemic, far more damaging in its long term effects than something as transient as a flu virus.

Life is transient. Supposing you contracted the coronavirus and died from it, then what? When you review your life you will most likely regret the time you wasted on foolish stuff that had no lasting value and was part of an endless loop of negative energy, like being glued to CNN. People who study end of life phenomena have reported that most people, when facing death, have more regret for things undone than done, things that would have gotten them out of their comfort zone, out of their fear cocoon. In other words, fear is suffocating, and it takes an act of will to step out of it.

Here are several short verses that you mght find helpful as you go through your day. Perhaps you have other verses or mantras that you can share with the Sangha?

The Kesa Verse – said at the end of the first meditation period of the day.

How great and wondrous are the clothes of enlightenment, formless and embracing every treasure;  I wish to unfold the Buddha’s teaching that I may help all living things.

The Five Thoughts – said at the start of a meal 

We must think deeply of the ways and means by which this food has come.

We must consider our merit when accepting it.

We must protect ourselves from error by excluding greed from our minds.

We will eat lest we become lean and die.

We accept this food so that we may become enlightened.

The Universe is as the Boundless Sky – said at the end of a meal 

The universe is as the boundless sky,
As lotus blossoms above unclean water.
Pure and beyond the world is the Buddha Nature of the trainee. O Holy Buddha, we take refuge in Thee.

Lecture Verse– said at start of a formal Dharma Talk or before doing spiritual reading

The unsurpassed, penetrating and perfect Truth Is seldom met with even in a hundred thousand myriad kalpas.  Now we can see and hear it, we can remember and accept it; I vow to make the Buddha’s Truth one with myself.

March 24, 2020 – Tuesday

As I sat in meditation on this rainy morning and watched as the dark gentled into grey, I was grateful to have this opportunity to practice as we do.  I reflected that our meditation practice is the practice of “making space” – just the thing we’re being asked to give each other in our social distancing.  
May your day be rich in practice.

You may appreciate this article The Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief and the following poem:

Small Kindnesses – Danusha Lameris
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”With gratitude and appreciation, Rev. Helen

March 23, 2020 – Monday

RM Koten Benson has offered a second Dharma Talk on the coronavirus and our practice – Virus 2 – well worth listening to.

Laura Kelly Fanucci, mother, author, and Director of the Communities of Calling Initiative, wrote recently:
When this is over
May we never again
Take for granted
A handshake with a stranger
Full shelves at the store
Conversations with neighbors
A crowded theatreFriday night out
The taste of communion
A routine checkup
The school rush each morning
Coffee with a friend
The stadium roaring
Each deep breath
A boring Tuesday
Life itself.
When this ends
May we find that we have become 
More like the people 
We wanted to be
Were called to be
We hoped to be
And may we stay
That way-better
For each other
Because of the worst.

March 22, 2020. Sunday Dogen, in the Shushogi says: The life of this one day, today, is absolutely vital life; your body is deeply significant. Both your life and your body deserve love and respect for it is by their agency that Truth is practiced and the Buddha’s power exhibited… Today, this one day, please take care of yourselves and those around you.

March 21, 2020 – Saturday
Information share by Lynn E. Fritz from Shasta County Public Health to faith communities in Shasta County: I want to thank everyone in Shasta County’s spiritual and faith-based community for the support you have demonstrated for all our residents here.  It has been inspiring to see so many of you respond with offers to help contribute to our efforts to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and keep everyone safe.

On Friday, March 20th,  Brandy Isola –  Public Health Branch Director for Shasta County –  spoke by phone to faith leaders of Shasta County.  This email is intended to be a follow up from that conversation and an opportunity to share that information with those who were not able to participate.  I also want to share Brandy’s remarks to the community that were made shortly after. 

First things first: A Stay at Home order has been announced by Governor Newsome: Governor Gavin Newsom Issues Stay at Home Order | California GovernorSACRAMENTO – Today, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay at home order to protect the health and well-being of al…

Do not hold in-person services or gatherings. 

* Please become familiar with the Governor’s order and encourage your members to take the situation seriously.

*Please come up with and share creative ways that you can encourage fellowship and emotional support while still honoring the Stay at Home Order that keeps us safe.  We understand that meaningful connection is essential to health, and many community members receive this through fellowship.  The most vulnerable to this disease are often those who already experience physical isolation.    

Shasta Ready- COVID19
CDC Resources for Community- and Faith-Based Leaders

Please see Translate button on the upper right for more languages.

Public Spaces

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has helpful publications for supporting emotional health.  I have attached a document to this email you may find especially helpful, but please explore the site, particularly their resources for Faith-Based communities. I received a request to include in this email a copy of Dr. Ramstrom’s presentation about COVID-19.  The reason it is not included is because some of the information in the original draft is no longer current.  Current information can be found in the links listed above.

Brandy’s remarks to the community on Friday morning: “The HHSA wants to make sure everyone understands the importance of following the Governor’s Executive orders in Shasta County.  While it is true that we have only one documented case of COVID-19 in Shasta County our nation’s capacity to identify cases cannot keep up with the disease. How this disease works is that you can be spreading it while you feel bad but not bad enough to stay home. We are in a privileged position to act and prevent illness and death among our family and neighbors. Just as Governor Newsom said last night, if we are going to be criticized we want to be criticized for over-reacting and not under-reacting. We are a rural community but we are on the I-5 corridor which is part of our nation’s infrastructure of goods and services and lies between major urban centers that are experiencing widespread disease. We need to take this seriously and pull together to protect our family and neighbors, especially our most vulnerable. We need to channel the strength we showed during the Carr Fire.  We are still Shasta Strong and we can get through this together by all doing our part.

What will this look like for our day to day lives?
What is open: Gas stations, Pharmacies, banks, laundromat and laundry services, essential state and local government services including Law Enforcement and government programs.
What is closed: Dine-in restaurants, Bars and night clubs, entertainment venues, public events and gatherings, gyms and fitness studios, convention centers.”

I know this is a lot of information so please feel free to connect with me should you have any questions. Again, thank you for all you do that supports our community!

Perhaps we could talk about this tomorrow at our Zoom session at 11am:

Here’s what I’d like to be able to say to you: “Don’t worry, the situation is under control. The pandemic, tumbling stock markets, social isolation, canceled flights, surging panic, and illnesses and deaths caused by coronavirus (COVID-19) will soon be a thing of the past. Before long we’ll all be able to go back to our normal lives and tell stories about how we got through this.”

Sadly, I can’t — not because I have any special intel, but because I simply don’t know. And like you, I’m scared.
Zen speaks of “don’t know mind,” a kind of open, groundless awareness that doesn’t fixate on outcomes. As Rev. angel Kyodo williams explains in the forthcoming issue of Buddhadharma, practicing “don’t know mind” involves tolerating the discomfort of uncertainty. And it is a practice: “When confronted with the unknown,” says williams, “those of us who have not trained our minds enter a reactive state in which panic, aggression, or indecisiveness overtake us. In order to avoid such feelings of overwhelm, our minds seek out confirmation of our preexisting ideas rather than tolerate the discomfort of not-knowing.”
If you’re like me, you’re probably asking yourself, “So how do I meet this moment without adequate training or a preexisting playbook that even comes close to the reality that’s unfolding?” The answer, it seems, is one breath at a time.
In her article “In Times of Crisis, Draw Upon the Strength of Peace,” Kaira Jewel Lingo writes, “So much of the stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed comes from all that we are projecting onto the future, all the fear. But in this moment, right here, there is the ability to recognize fear, to be with fear, and to not be swallowed by it. There is non-fear, and we can touch that. But if we’re running, then it’s fear that’s running the show. If we can stop, we have the chance to touch into something deeper than being overwhelmed.”
Touching into this moment is not about denying the suffering that’s happening all around us or in us. Rather it is an act of compassion for ourselves and others that helps our innate wisdom to emerge. When attended to with gentleness and love, connecting to this moment — including whatever suffering may be present — reveals just how interconnected we are with one another and also the planet that sustains us.
In an interview in the May issue of Lion’s Roar magazine, Joanna Macy says, “Our pain for the world… reveals that we are far vaster than we ever imagined ourselves to be. This crumbles the walls of the little separate ego and moves naturally into seeing with new eyes… You see that you are part of everything.”
This pandemic and cascading crisis has shown us that we are all in this together — not in some philosophical sense, but in a very literal way. Our survival depends on each other and our willingness to self-isolate, heed warnings, help out neighbors, make sacrifices, and step up like never before. May we do so and take these hard-earned lessons of interdependence to heart, one breath at a time.

—Tynette Deveaux, editor, Buddhadharma: The Practioner’s Quarterly

March 20, 2020 – Friday
Rev. Master Leandra, Abbott of Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey (United Kingdom), offered this recent and relevant perspective on Exploring awareness; what is the present moment?

Rev. Master Koten returned to Lions Gate Priory (Canada) earlier this week from Shasta Abbey.  Here are his  reflections on Virus that you may find helpful.

These reflections may be helpful as you go through your day:
The Peace of Wild Things
Wendell BerryWhen despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. 
Do justly NOW.   Love mercy NOW.  Walk humbly NOW. 
You are not obligated to complete the work 
but neither are you free to abandon it. 
The Talmud

People are often unreasonable and self-centered. 
           Forgive them anyway. 
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. 
           Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. 
           Be honest anyway. 
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. 
Be happy anyway. 
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. 
Give your best anyway. 
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God 
(or your own Buddha Nature, or your own heart, or…) 
It was never between you and them anyway.
Said to be an inspiration for Mother Teresa

Tricycle Magazine offers Practicing in a Pandemic: six teachings on how to find compassion and equanimity in a time of great uncertainty, that you might find helpful:

March 19, 2020 – Thursday
The Buddha said: living in harmony is a means of generating and offering merit. As we find ourselves confined at home, may I suggest we open the door to the Four Brahma Viharas – the Four Divine Abodes.  Also called the Four ImmeasurablesLoving Kindness – Metta, Compassion – Karuna, Joy – Mudita  and Equanimity – Upekkha, these are the traditional ways ofliving in harmony is a means of generating and offering merit.  And we can say the Mantras for the Four Brahma Viharas when we wish to offer merit for ourselves, those we love, the world.  We can turn to them rather than to critical or fearful thoughts.

Mantras for the Four Brahma Viharas are below.  And here’s a link to Gil Fronsdal’s The Four Faces of Love:  The Brahma Viharas.  May you find harmony in your day.  

Loving Kindness
May I be happy, well and at peace.
May I be open to things just as they are.
May I experience the world opening to me just as I am.
May I welcome whatever arises.

May I be free from suffering, harm, and disturbance.
May I accept things just as they are.
May I experience the world accepting me just as I am.
May I serve whatever arises.

May I enjoy the activities of life itself.
May I enjoy things just as they are.
May I experience the world taking joy in all that I do.
May I know what to do, whatever may arise.

May I be free from preferences and prejudice.
May I know things just as they are.
May I experience the world knowing me just as I am.
May I see into whatever arises.

May I recommend Rev. Master Koten’s The Five Diamond Points. This is a
transcription of a series of Dharma Talks offered by Rev. Master Koten to the community of Lions Gate Buddhist Priory in 2017.

The first of the Five Diamond Points is the keeping of the pure and bright mind. May we find that pure and bright mind in the uncertainty, confusion, and fear we find in our current conditions.

This may be a time to polish your meditation practice. Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett talks about The Art of Meditation (1978), and in a series of 12 talks
offers her teaching on Meditation and Soto Zen (1979):
Talk 1  Meditation and Soto Zen01
Talk 2  Meditation and Soto Zen02
Talk 3  Meditation and Soto Zen03
Talk 4  Meditation and Soto Zen04
Talk 5  Meditation and Soto Zen05
Talk 6  Meditation and Soto Zen06
Talk 7  Meditation and Soto Zen07
Talk 8  Meditation and Soto Zen08
Talk 9  Meditation and Soto Zen09
Talk 10 Meditation and Soto Zen10
Talk 11  Meditation and Soto Zen11
Talk 12  Meditation and Soto Zen12

March 18, 2020 – Wednesday
Below are links to audio recordings of our Morning Services for anyone who’d like to follow along.  The Book of Daily Ceremonies is available here.
I hope this will allow you the opportunity to explore these relvant and timely scriptures of our tradition.

I will be doing Short Morning Service daily:
You may also offer full Morning Service.  This includes Morning Office, consisting of SandokaiMost Excellent Mirror Samadhi, and the Ancestral Line:
and Morning Service, consisting of The Scripture of Great Wisdom, the Litany of the Great Compassionate One, and the Adoration of the Buddha’s Relics:

The following is a ceremony at Shasta Abbey in which the monks chanted Great Master Dogen’s Shushogi:

The text of the Shushogi is on page 94 of Rev. Master Jiyu’s Zen is
Eternal Life for anyone who’d like to follow it:

May chanting be a helpful practice to maintain and deepen equanimity and peace.

March 17, 2020 – Tuesday
For these next two weeks, I will be sitting daily at the Priory at
Please join me at your own sitting place as your schedule allows.

You may find these recent teachings from monks of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives of help during this time.  The first is by Rev. Median Elbert of Shasta Abbey on Working with Fear.

The second is by Rev. Berwyn Watson of Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey
on  Our Reaction to the Coronavirus Outbreak: Dealing with Fear and Uncertainty