Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to Cook Your Life

So I went down to TLZC (The Local Zen Center (which happens to be Austin Zen Center for me)) for "Buddha Flix", a.k.a. movie night (ref previous post), and as I suspected there were only decent people with no snobbish attitudes. That's not to say I don't think snobbish people can exist, only that my dread of them far exceeds their actual numbers in the world. So the path is set for visiting again for formal zazen and service. Hopefully my own self can stay out of my own way, and I can turn the wheel a bit in my life.

The movie we watched was "How to Cook Your Life." A little documentary style film about some of the thoughts and cooking classes of Ed Brown [Roshi] , who was a cook for a while at Tassajara (a famous, austere Zen retreat in California) and wrote a couple of their cookbooks. It was a very nice glimps at a well practiced Buddhist, temper and all. I particularly liked his characterization of the dings and scratches on the tea kettles and how they relate to we humans.

And for those who are tracking my very self absorbed decoding of my given Dharma name, it turns out I jumped to a hasty conclusion (small surprise!). Though 労連 is a recognized compound for Labor Union (or more casually, work group, as I like to characterize it), less common readings of the Kanji also yield Benevolence Bringing. So I guess I'm stuck with it. It doesn't count enough to do hard work, I've got to show a positive effect on the people around me. A good goal, and somewhat erie challenge. I often see that I don't give much of a damn on how my actions and words affect others even though I take pains to make sure I'm "right."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Benevolence, Pride & Fear

I learned yesterday that the intention for my Dharma name was Blazing Turtle Bringing Benevolence. I haven't gotten to the bottom of the mystery yet. I don't know if 労連 (which appears in most dictionaries as meaning Labor Union, but the Kanji can be more casually read as Work Group) is a compound that can *also* mean "Bringing Benevolence", or if two different characters meaning "Bringing Benevolence" that can also be pronounced "rou-ren" should have been used. I've sort of become fond of "Blazing Turtle Work Group" even though it lacks a certain Buddhist poesy. Bringing Benevolence seems to set an expectation higher than what I am comfortable with.

Fear & Pride (or do I mean Vanity?)
I've been contemplating visiting TLZC (the local Zen center) to sit. As I do this, I find I am overwhelmed by fear that I will get something wrong. I'll enter the Zendo with the wrong foot. I'll gassho instead of shashu. I'll go to pee at the start of kinhin instead of the end. I'll say Chodia Kesa no Ge outloud and with the "wrong" English translation instead of silently to myself. I will screw up, and the people of TLZC, the ones in the know around me, will sigh heavily and give me that look of "okay, I guess I'll have to take time out of my pefection to tell you what to do," and I will feel miserable.....and what is really ringin my bell is all of that is freaking fiction. Let me say that again...there is nothing in my actual experience with actual real live buddhists at Zen centers I have met that come even close to that sort of attitude.

Where the hell is that stuff coming from?

I'm not talking nervous here. I'm talking down right, can't take a next step fearful. I actually found some petty excuses bail on my plan and did not to go to TLZC this morning because I was dreading it, and anxious, and then I pulled the bow and shot the "second arrow" into myself and started getting on my on case for being anxious and for not doing what I should because I can't keep on not going and meeting real Buddhist people face to face because just being a digital Buddhist is not really "it" I mean all those cool old stories and koan are from real people talking to each other so there's no way I can even think of myself as a Buddhist if I don't get my ass down to temple, and pronto! {big breath after manic tirade}

Well, I know part of that is old old karma that I haven't worked with yet. What I'm trying to say is it's childhood shite but I hate how that sounds like it's someone else's responsibility. It's all mine now, but its tuff work as many of you certainly know.

A big part of it is also my pride and vanity. I really am too young a buddhist (not my *age*, but my time in buddhism) to be wearing a rakusu. I whipped that puppy out and did it the *real authenic* way with rags I sewed together. I didn't mumble special words while I stitched 'cause I was on a schedule. But I did it so quick 'cause I wanted to get a pretty famous Zen preist to do jukai for me. What a score that was, eh? Not your run of the mill, local Zazenkai guy who would probably make me wait and sit for a while before I did it. Not some place where I would have to "sew under" the guidance of someone. I was completely off teacher-grid and I got it anyway ha-ha "system" take that!

That's not the complete picture of my jukai experience, of course. Many of my sincere values are manifest in that ole rakusu. It was important to me that old times (e.g. Dogen) said a kesa should come from "rags" and, to the best of my ability, mine did. I think Buddhism should be poor, and "common." I am very glad I painted a picture of Buddha for my Jukai instead of buying one. I had to think alot about the dude and the meaning of bowing to a picture of him, in the process of painting, and I think that was valuable. And most of all, the support I recieved from my brothers and sisters in the digital dharma was extremely "real" and important to me.

But even though I thought I was keeping a tight watch on myself, I think now, in retrospect, I way over did the pride and fame bit by having my Jukai with Brad. He did his darndest to say no, but I insisted. My bad, of course, not his.

So I have a nice rakusu that I really think has some good vibes in it. But though I've proudly expounded Chodai Kesa no Ge, I really don't understand it, or believe it. I don't really experience "formless field of happiness" yet. I don't see myself as *devoutly* wearing the Tathagata's teachings. To tell the truth, I don't even know exactly what they are. I maybe know some of the basics, but not ALL of them. And I really don't understand my role in saving all living beings.

So maybe I'm projecting all this scorn onto TLZC because I think much of my Buddhist practice is a sham. That seems about right.

There's also this apparently sadistic side of Zen lore that scares the kid in me I think (resonance with childhood woes). I say 'apparently' cause maybe its really okay and its just my prejudice mis-interpreting. We've all heard of the stuff of students being told to put up with discomfort if they want to "get anywhere" with Buddhism. I was in the San Jose Kinokuniya bookstore the other day and picked up a recent book written by a Japanses dude who spent a few months in Eiheiji. The page I landed on was him telling of a new monk in there who had broken a leg as a kid and so was having trouble with full lotus. One of the head guys said he better tie his legs together in full lotus to get it right. Full lotus is the ONLY right way. That crap makes me mad, and scares me. Where's the compassion? Where's the spirit of gentle Ryokan (a hero of mine long before I new anything about Buddhism)? No wonder so many monks run off to hermitages to do their zazen. All that socio-political no pain no gain zen bullshit is absent when you're by yourself (unless you bring it with you in your head, like I often do).

So I've got a ton to work with here. My own crap...and the institutional zen crap.

I'll let myself engage TLZC a bit more slowly. Maybe join them for their Buddha-flix tonight. Less formal, less pressure (I put on myself), and I'll get to experience real people, more than likely being genuinely friendly and compasionate.

Bottom line...this is all mine. I rushed in too quick. I got tangled in pride. I will relax into a "turning step". With thanks to all you...the Sangha that supports me.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Errors and Hindrance

Even something as simple as Chodai Kesa no Ge (previous post) has so much in it. It can be learned and repeated by rote. But I am uncomfortable with that. Plus, I love to muck around with Japanese. So, in looking more into the verse, I've found a couple errors in my previous post. The most frustrating is in the first line. For sure "da" is not in the same kanji as "ge", but I'm still not clear if the "tsu" in "datsu" is normal or 'sokuon'. That is, whether the proper way is "ge datsu fuku" or "ge daffuku." The later is what Nishijima Roshi recommends here. But other trusted sources say it's not sokuon. Still digging.

A friend noticed I haven't posted in a while. He's certainly right. I've find I've had so much going on, its not clear what is value added to the world to post on. I am returing again and again to the question of whether I "am" a buddhist. Sit often, but not twice a day, and certainly not for 30 min twice a day. I feel I should. I accept that I don't... almost.

I wear my rakusu and do the chant before sitting. I've taken the precepts and strive to uphold them. I've managed to not drink for a week now. Yet I read the books of any buddhist author and am certain I am no buddhist. I dont' sit enough, or well enough. I don't know enough ceremony. I haven't made it down to the local Soto Zazenkai since Brad was here in April. I've never had dokusan with a teacher. Yet I know all this minutea is not what "it" is. Yet I know I'm not doing it.

Quite a Sueng-esque knot. I "don't know" if I "don't know" well enough.

Sigh.... just babble. No clarity. I believe there is no hindrance, but surround myself with hindrance.

I don't post, cause I have nothing I'm proud of. Nothing to brag about. Nothing wise to expound. Just trying to sit better each time I sit. Trying to be goal-less.

What a mess... yet again.