Karma is real, Nyogen Roshi reminds us. Zen practice is real. What do we see when practice allows us a glimpse of our world as it truly is? The vast emptiness that Bodhidharma spoke about in his exchange with Emperor Wu. What do most of us do when we catch that glimpse? “You turn it into a concept,” Roshi tells us. “What you’re holding onto now is delusion! You have to keep stepping into each new moment. That’s the point to our practice.”
I once heard Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron talk about the instructions she gave to people who came to retreats while dealing with trauma. She gave them the mantra, “Stay.” Whatever is going on, stay with it. Thoughts might be crazy — let them fly but stay with the moment. Want to get up and run — don’t, just stay. Stay within the body; stay within your field of hearing. Just stay. After a while, the individual would invariably settle.
Services introduce the aspect of ritual into our practice. Specifically, a “service” consists of a chant, performed in front of the altar, to transmit the energy, intention and benefit of our practice into the world we inhabit. In one way, rituals are an external expression of our inner state. At the same time, we strengthen and reinforce our inner state by the external chant. The service brings together what we think of as “inside” and “outside” into a unified whole.
Patrice Taisho Bucher’s poignant talk about caring for her elderly parents in her hometown of New Orleans reminds us that serious Zen practice can sometimes feel like trying to be quiet when you’re caught in a whirlwind. But the rewards are priceless…
My first novel, Aidan and the Dragon Girl Save the World, was borne of my love of history and an interest in how dragons are viewed in the east—not as fire-breathing reptiles but as shape-shifting water spirits and protectors of the Dharma.
Now I’ve written a second Aidan novel, inspired by my interest in early Buddhism and the cosmology of ancient Egypt. It’s called Aidan and the Mummy Girl Save the Universe…
Learn the basics of Zen meditation in less than five minutes. Clear, step-by-step meditation instruction, as practiced at the Hazy Moon.