I have been a member of Treeleaf for three years now. I just thought I'd share a few thoughts/views!
shel wrote:I believe Jundo/Treeleaf is of the 'practice is enlightenment' Soto Zen school. That basically means that if you can quiet the mind enough in sitting meditation to the point where a sense of self temporarily suppressed, that's experiencing emptiness, and that's the pinnacle of their practice.
Yes, at Treeleaf we do believe that practice is enlightenment and that enlightenment is practice. This is what Dogen taught and one of the truly great koans in my opinion. But we don't try to suppress the self, thoughts, feelings or anything else. We just don't always pay the self so much attention. But the self is Buddha nature too. If you fight the self, you reinforce it and let it cage you. In Shikantaza, we just practice being who we are, free from all bonds, sitting with what is, right here, right now, not trying to do something in particular, not trying to be someone, not trying find something nor trying to escape anything. In suchness, when everything is put down, when you finally just stop and take a break from all the madness, when there is no more chasing after desires or running from aversions, when we are no longer trapped and tormented by our delusions, emptiness emerges. The pure land is revealed. Samsara is seen as Nirvana. The path ends right there, right then. But emptiness didn't emerge. It was there all the time. It is what we are. It is what never changes. And it's not so empty after all. Practice is the pinncle of our practice. No distant goal, just whole-hearted, honest and compassionate practice.
I do this in addition to full-time employment, as well as taking care of all the usual householder duties, and additional learning and training. I wouldn't call it a rigorous lifestyle.
Sitting alone and all by my lonesome self, if something comes up like a work deadline I'll sometimes skip sitting for the day. Do you or any of the other priests in training do this?
Don't tell Jundo, but I skip sitting every now and then too!
In my opinion, in order to practice Zen buddhism, you need to stop trying to fight what life throws at you and instead accept your circumstances and adapt to them, dance with them, effortlessly, fluidly. I don't believe in ascetism. I don't believe in a rigorous practice. But I do believe in a whole-hearted, dedicated practice that is motivated by your heart's deepest desire, and I know that is what Myozan means. I wouldn't worry too much about skipping a day every now and then. I would feel much worse if I neglected my work or family just because I had the idea that I must sit every day. Problem is, many times I would just rather do something else, ie keep chasing after my desires, which is not the same thing. The ego can come up with all kinds of reasons why we needn't go sit on that cushion. As Zen buddhists we sit Zazen, it's as simple as that. As grown-ups we brush our teeth every morning and every night. We don't debate whether we should or shouldn't on this particular day, or skip it just because we have something important to do. As a member of Treeleaf, you are expected to sit daily. But you can sit for only 5 minutes if that is all the time you have. That is perfectly fine! The funny thing is, once you are on the cushion, those 5 minutes easily become 15 or 20 minutes!
I wrote this in response to a thread on the chapter in Dogen's Shobogenzo called Shukke Kudoku, “In Praise of Home Leaving”, in which Dogen writes: Breaking of the precepts having left family life (become a monk) is better than keeping the precepts as a layperson, because with the precepts of a layperson we do not realize liberation.
"It's easy to get provoked by a statement like this and ignore the true meaning, the wisdom that could be hidden behind these words. It's very convenient to just disregard the passages that we don't like, that we feel aversion towards, instead of asking ourselves where this aversion comes from, and what the blind old donkey is really trying to say.
We tend to identify ourselves as laypersons and of course our egos don't like it when someone says we can't realize liberation. But is that what he is really saying? We are extremely lucky to live in a time and part of the world where we have access to the kind of advanced practice and teachings that in medieval Japan was reserved for monks only. If you practice dilligently, in the same way as monks traditionally did, does this make you a monk? Does living in a monastery (and only sitting because someone beats you if you don't) make you a monk? That is a question each of us has to answer for themselves. There was a thread a year or so ago about what constitutes a monk. I think I said something silly like "if you consider yourself to be a monk, you are a monk". To me, it's not about living inside a certain type of walls, but about a dedication to practice.
If you get too hung up on the whole monk/monastery/home leaving thing, you may be leaning to much toward the relative side of things and forget about the absolute.
In my view, you can be a monk, even though you don't live in a monastery. When you are a monk, the whole world is a monastery. Leaving home without taking a single step. This is not the same as trying to eat the cake and keep it too. It's a transformation of the mind."
Sara H wrote:The wisdom of when somebody listens to you go off and rant on something and they don't tell you something yet, because they know you just arn't ready to listen to it, or giving you some small physical task to do, because they know it will help a certain kind of problem you have...
Thanks Sara for a good post!
I don't expect all people to understand Buddhism. I don't expect all Buddhists to understand Zen buddhism. I don't expect all Zen buddhists to understand Soto Zen. And I sure don't expect all Soto Zen buddhists to understand or applaud what Jundo and Taigu are doing with Treeleaf either!
For me, for my practice, Treeleaf has been great. Jundo, like all people, has his faults. He may seem like an elephant in a china store sometimes!
He's not a saint and he's not trying to impersonate one either. But his heart is in the right place. And he's a great teacher. I personally think what he has done with Treeleaf together with Taigu is truly wonderful. An internet Sangha may not be the answer for everyone. Of course it has its drawbacks. But during the few years I have been around, I have seen Treeleaf grow into a Sangha more real to me than any other. A while back, I wrote this on the Treeleaf forum:
"Since I joined, it feels as if this Sangha, its members and its teachers have gone from strength to strength. Maybe it has. Or maybe what has changed the most is me, or rather my views, ideas and perceptions. Maybe through sitting, listening and interacting, through being as honest to myself and others as possible, through dropping some of the judging, expecting and running after what's next, this Sangha was truly realized, made real, the true Sangha seen as for the first time."
Thanks for listening, and thanks for practicing!
Take great care,