the Abysmal Centre

4 April 2012

Something to consider every now and zen.

I’m becoming increasingly interested in Zen. It’s something that’s been drifting around the periphery of my attention for some time, but lately, I’ve decided to pay a little more attention. Brad Warner was brought to my attention as an ordained Zen practitioner (if that’s the right term for him) who has retained a good amount of his punkish attitude. I’ve only found one of his books at the library, Sex, Sin and Zen, which was interesting enough, but his sense of humour sometimes rubs me the wrong way. I appreciate that his criticism is consistent in that it seeks to cut the extraneous nonsense out of practice. Do zazen, and forget all the mindfulness, enlightenment talk.

Having gotten a taste for it (and doing zazen as much as my still old legs will allow), I signed up for an introduction at the White Wind Zen Community. In the meantime, I read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki, which at its heart repeats the same ideas as Warner supports. I’d subscribed to Suzuki’s facebook feed (he died in 1971), and have been receiving occasional quotes from the man, not really knowing much about him. This is often how my life seems to work out. Serendipity is a very real force, and the key to it (and to Zen practice) is paying attention.

Next, I picked up the Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau. I read it over a decade ago, and figure I’d see what new perspective would add to the reading. So far, it’s similar stuff to what Suzuki & Warner have written, which is encouraging. There doesn’t seem to be huge discrepancies at the heart of it, although different “schools” practice in different ways. I imagine that these differences are more in the details. Every time I sit down to read, within a few pages, I’m eager to sit in zazen some more. It’s getting easier, but I still can’t get my legs into the preferred position. It seems like it’s attainable given patience and time. We’ll see.

Zen and theAbysmal

Having just dipped a toe in the ocean of Zen practice, I’m hardly qualified to draw any conclusions and make any statements about it, or, I am already, and should just sit down and shut up.

My recent foray into Zen keeps bringing up the idea of theAbysmal Centre, which I’ve been playing with for years now. There is a commonality of theme, in that it represents both one and zero, the centre and the perimeter, everything and nothing, being and non-being, etc, along those lines. It is the realization of self at its most fundamental as perfect in its current incarnation – one just needs to take down all the window dressing to see it.

I’ve had such positive experiences with meditation of late that I’m seeking a regular place for practice. It’s much easier sitting in a room full of other people than to do it by oneself (provided the others aren’t playing Call of Duty  – that’s a more advanced exercise).

Also, this: How to draw a Zen circle (Enso)

261 Days to Dec 21st 2012


Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

3 April 2012

Entering into the centre of Zen, which is mind-bending, or unbending, or both, and neither.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

Right Practice

p23 “Zazen practice is the direct expression of our true nature. Strictly speaking, for a human being, there is no other practice than this practice; there is no other way of life than this way of life.”

p25 “These forms are not the means of obtaining the right state of mind. To take this posture is itself to have the right state of mind. There is no need to obtain some special state of mind.”

p29 “What we call ‘I’ is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.”

p31 ‘To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him.”

p34 “Because we all enjoy all aspects of life as an unfolding of big mind, we do not care for any excessive joy. So we have imperturbable composure.”

p36 “You should rather be grateful for weeds you have in your mind, because eventually they will enrich your practice.”

p38 “In the zazen posture, your mind and body have great power to accept things as they are, whether agreeable or disagreeable.”

p41 “To stop your mind does not mean to stop the activities of mind. It means your mind pervades your whole body. With your full mind you form the mudra in your hands.”

p43 “Bowing is very serious practice. You should be prepared to bow, even in your last moment. Even though it is impossible to get rid of our self-centered desires, we have to do it. Our true nature wants us to.”

p46 “If you continue this simple practice every day, you will obtain some wonderful power. Before you attain it, it is something wonderful, but after you attain it, it is nothing special.”

Right Attitude

p51 “The point we emphasize is strong confidence in our original nature.”

p53 “Even if the sun were to rise from the west, the Bodhisattva has only one way.”

p55 “If you lose the spirit of repetition, your practice will become quite difficult.”

p57 “Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.”

p59 “If your practice is good, you may become proud of it. What you do is good, but something more is added to it. Pride is extra. Right effort is to get rid of something extra.”

p62 “When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.”

p65 “‘To give is non-attachment,’ that is, just not to attach anything is to give.”

p71 “It is when your practice is rather greedy that you become discouraged with it. So you should be grateful that you have a sign or warning signal to who you the weak point in your practice.”

p75 “Usually when someone believes in a particular religion, his attitude becomes more and more a sharp angle pointing away from himself. In our way the point of the angle is always towards ourselves.”

p76 “To have some deep feeling about Buddhism is not the point; we just do what we should do, like eating supper and going to bed. This is Buddhism.”

p80 “When you become you, Zen becomes Zen. When you are you, you see things as they are, and you become one with your surroundings.”

p83 “People who know the state of emptiness will always be able to dissolve their problems by constancy.”

p86 “Without any intentional, fancy way of adjusting yourself, to express yourself as you are is the most important thing.”

p90 “Big mind is something to express, not something to figure out. Big mind is something you have, not something you seek for.”

p92 “Our life and death are the same thing. When we realize this fact, we have no fear of death anymore, nor actual difficulty in our life.”

Right Understanding

p97 “Our understanding of Buddhism is not ust an intellectual understanding. True understanding is actual practice itself.”

p99 “If you are trying to attain enlightenment, you are creating and being driven by karma, and you are wating your time on your black cushion.”

p102 “We should find perfect existence through imperfect existence.”

p104 “When you do something, if you fix your mind on the activity with some confidence, the quality of your state of mind is the activity itself. When you are concentrated on the quality of your being, you are prepared for the activity.”

p107 “Moment after moment, everyone comes out from nothingness. This is the true joy of life.”

p110 “When you study Buddhism you should have a general house cleaning of your mind.”

p113 “It is the readiness of the mind that is wisdom.”

p116 “In our everyday life our thinking is ninety-nine percent self-centered. ‘Why do I have suffering? Why do I have trouble?'”

p118 “That we are attached to some beauty is also Buddha’s activity.”

p121 “for Zen students a weed is a treasure.”

p123 “There is something blasphemous in talking about how Buddhism is perfect as a philosophy or teaching without knowing what it actually is.”

p125 “Actually, we are not the Soto school at all. We are just Buddhists We are not even Zen Buddhists. If we understand this point, we are truly Buddhists.”

p127 “To realize pure mind in your delusion is practice. If you try to expel the delusion it will only persist the more. Just say ‘Oh, this is just delusion,’ and do not be bothered with it.”

p131 “If you take pride in your attainment or become discouraged because of your idealistic effort, your practice will confine you by a thick wall.”

p133 “Before the rain stops we can hear a bird Even under the heavy snow we see snowdrops and some new growth.”

262 Days to Dec 21st 2012