In a powerful talk that touches on the six perfections in Buddhism as well as Dogen’s writing on samsara and nirvana, Nyogen Roshi exhorts us to cultivate selfless awareness through our practice…
After a particularly beautiful period of meditation, Nyogen Roshi is prompted to share his inner experience of zazen. Though setting aside striving and expectation can be difficult, the rewards are beyond measure. “You relax and release,” Roshi tells us, “then at a certain point, you begin to feel good, and the sitting itself becomes rich. You experience the wonder of what you truly are.”
In this Dharma talk which he gave shortly after he returned from a hiking adventure to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, Kelly Doman Stevens Sensei recounts the rewards and challenges of his transforming experience. “It was vast, desolate and awe-inspiring,” he says of the landscape around Mount Everest. “But I wouldn’t call it pretty exactly.” […]
“When he began talking about affirmation practice, I told Nyogen, this is so long overdue for me personally. This habit of negative thinking of mine is poison, and I have been poisoning myself with it for years.”
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.
The image of a migrant father and his young daughter lying dead on a bank of the Rio Grande prompts Nyogen Roshi to reflect on Buddhist teachings around suffering. Drawing on his own experiences with suffering as well as lessons handed down in the Zen tradition, Roshi concludes that the story of the Buddha contains the only possible remedy. “Who else other than yourself is sitting there?” Roshi says. “You can only look into your own mind. If you can understand where the pathway is, simply trust the words of the Buddha. His own life was the prescription and the path.”
Doing non-doing is the essence of Zen. Far from laziness or indifference, the stillness of zazen is the site of transformation. But reaching the still point does take effort. “Sustained effort will lead you into the joy,” Roshi tells us, “into the wonder of what your life is truly all about. The doorway opens there–all pathways lead from that point.”
Far from being anachronistic curiosities or puzzles to tease the intellect, koans are literally steps on the path of liberation. In his introduction to a translation of The Blue Cliff Record, one the the classic koan collections in the Zen tradition, Maezumi Roshi wrote, “You yourself become the case–this Blue Cliff is your very life.” […]
Reading from the book “Awareness” by Anthony de Mello–a Jesuit priest and psychotherapist who grew up in Mumbai, India–Nyogen Roshi marvels at how much the Jesuit’s teaching sounds like instructions from masters in the Zen and Tibetan traditions. “Death is not a tragedy at all. Only dead people fear death…”
In one of the most famous Zen stories, Joshu asks his teacher Nansen, “What is the Way?” Nansen replies, ” Ordinary mind is the Way.” What is ordinary mind? Nyogen Roshi walks us into it. “Get quiet,” he says. “Purify the mind–which means stop talking to yourself. Just sit here in the present moment. What else is there to be known? You know everything there is, perfectly.”
In this excerpt, Hogen points to the power we have to reduce our own suffering. When we entertain fantasies of something “other” than what exists right now—no matter how painful or difficult the situation—our desire to escape from who and where we are actually creates more suffering for ourselves.