Zen Master Raven

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clyde
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Zen Master Raven

Post by clyde »

It’s been over 2 years since I was in a bookstore, but yesterday my wife felt comfortable enough (N95 mask on) to enter a Half Price Books store. I accompanied her and while she was looking at cook books and craft books and magazines, I went over to the Buddhist books shelves. With nothing better to do, I started looking for a book by Susan Moon, “The Life and Letters of Tofu Roshi”. It was in my mind because my wife had recently ordered her latest book, “Alive Until You’re Dead: Notes on the Home Stretch”. My wife had read one of Susan’s earlier works on aging, “this is getting old”. So my wife (not a Buddhist) has a theme going.

In any case, I didn’t see it on the 3 shelves . . . but this book caught my attention or rather jumped out at me - Zen Master Raven by Robert Aitken. I’ve heard of Aitken Roshi, but I’m not really familiar with him. I’ve probably read some of his writings (a translation of a koan here and there) and I’m familiar with a few of his students who are now teachers, but I don’t really know much about him - except that he was an important Zen teacher during Zen’s early introduction to America. I expected something serious.

Instead I found this delightful book, Zen Master Raven. I opened it in the store a read the first few pages standing in the aisle - and decided I would buy it. I read more last evening and I’m glad I bought it. It is a collection of very short ‘fables’ with deep insight.

Here is one:
Relaxing with the others after zazen one evening, Owl asked, “What is the spirit of the practice?”

Raven said, “Inquiry.”

Owl cocked his head and asked, “What do I inquire about?”

Raven said, “Good start.”
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

“The most straightforward advice on awakening enlightened mind is this: practice not causing harm to anyone—yourself or others—and every day, do what you can to be helpful.” Pema Chodron, “What to Do When the Going Gets Rough”
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clyde
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Re: Zen Master Raven

Post by clyde »

Maybe the briefest excerpt:
One day Raven took his perch and said to the assembly, “We are children in the dream of the Buddha Shakyamuni.”
That’s a snippet from one of the ‘fables’ (The Dream) in Aitken Roshi’s book. I find it sweet and profound.
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

“The most straightforward advice on awakening enlightened mind is this: practice not causing harm to anyone—yourself or others—and every day, do what you can to be helpful.” Pema Chodron, “What to Do When the Going Gets Rough”
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clyde
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Re: Zen Master Raven

Post by clyde »

Here’s one I don’t get. The fable is called “Ego”.
During one of the early gatherings at Tallspruce, Badger asked Raven, “How can I get rid of my ego?”

Raven said, “It’s not strong enough.”

“But I’m greedy,” Badger said insistently, “I’m self-centered and I tend to push other folks around.”

Raven said, “Like I said.”
Hmm . . . ?
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

“The most straightforward advice on awakening enlightened mind is this: practice not causing harm to anyone—yourself or others—and every day, do what you can to be helpful.” Pema Chodron, “What to Do When the Going Gets Rough”
oryoki
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Re: Zen Master Raven

Post by oryoki »

clyde wrote: Sat May 14, 2022 5:56 am Here’s one I don’t get. The fable is called “Ego”.
During one of the early gatherings at Tallspruce, Badger asked Raven, “How can I get rid of my ego?”

Raven said, “It’s not strong enough.”

“But I’m greedy,” Badger said insistently, “I’m self-centered and I tend to push other folks around.”

Raven said, “Like I said.”
Hmm . . . ?
IMHO, and if I use Advaita terminology, then if ego-self was really strong, then it would be EGO-SELF.
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clyde
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Re: Zen Master Raven

Post by clyde »

I don’t understand the difference between “ego-self” uncapitalized and “EGO-SELF” capitalized.

Meanwhile, sitting with the fable reminded me of a Jewish tale. I don’t know if this is true, but it is said that a Rebbe (a Jewish teacher) recommended that his students keep two pieces of paper, one in each pocket. On the first piece of paper is written (in Hebrew), “I am dust and ashes” and on the other, “for my sake this world was created”.
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

“The most straightforward advice on awakening enlightened mind is this: practice not causing harm to anyone—yourself or others—and every day, do what you can to be helpful.” Pema Chodron, “What to Do When the Going Gets Rough”
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KeithA
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Re: Zen Master Raven

Post by KeithA »

clyde wrote: Sat May 14, 2022 5:56 am Here’s one I don’t get. The fable is called “Ego”.
During one of the early gatherings at Tallspruce, Badger asked Raven, “How can I get rid of my ego?”

Raven said, “It’s not strong enough.”

“But I’m greedy,” Badger said insistently, “I’m self-centered and I tend to push other folks around.”

Raven said, “Like I said.”
Hmm . . . ?
In Kwan Um, we have a saying: "More suffering is necessary"

I have read most of Aitkens books. Good stuff, and interesting life.
“If a human being, even for a single moment, manifests the Buddha’s posture in the three forms of conduct, while that person sits up straight in samādhi, the entire world of Dharma assumes the Buddha’s posture and the whole of space becomes the state of realization." Doyen

New Haven Zen Center
reiun
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Re: Zen Master Raven

Post by reiun »

clyde wrote: Sat May 14, 2022 5:56 am Here’s one I don’t get. The fable is called “Ego”.
During one of the early gatherings at Tallspruce, Badger asked Raven, “How can I get rid of my ego?”

Raven said, “It’s not strong enough.”

“But I’m greedy,” Badger said insistently, “I’m self-centered and I tend to push other folks around.”

Raven said, “Like I said.”
Hmm . . . ?
From a psychological point of view, a healthy ego would be strong enough not to fall into self-centeredness and bullying. From a Zen point of view . . . that should be between you and your practice, you and your teacher.
Be Fully Alive
oryoki
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Re: Zen Master Raven

Post by oryoki »

clyde wrote: Sat May 14, 2022 11:56 pm I don’t understand the difference between “ego-self” uncapitalized and “EGO-SELF” capitalized.
Advaita Vedanta uses the term Atman which is translated usually as Self with capital letter S. I wrote it as EGO-SELF. Realisation of EGO-SELF is just a step on the path of practice to non-self (anatman).
The EGO-SELF is associated, naturally, with bliss/happiness. It is non-duality, it is feeling/knowledge of non-separation. For a person, still in the dualistic frame of mind, i.e. trapped in the ego-self, the EGO-SELF is present and is inseparable part of that person’s sub-consciousness/intuition. Such a person, driven by sub-consciousness/intuition, i.e. driven by non-realised EGO-SELF, is often greedy, and grasps for stuff. The cure for this grasping and greed is to replace ego-self with EGO-SELF. Then there would be no need for greed as the EGO-SELF is, naturally, the non-separation associated with bliss/happiness/joy.

And experiencing EGO-SELF is manifestation of mind; experiencing ego-self is also manifestation of mind; and mind is un-graspable.
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