Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Mind that Seeks the Way

Tonight (Feb. 1) I will offer the first of three Dharma talks at City Center (Buddha Hall at 7:45 pm). At SFZC it's traditional for the Shuso's first talk to be a "way seeking mind" talk. That is, it's a talk about how the events of your life brought you to this moment in practice. For me, it's a chance to talk about the way seeking mind itself, and to consider the conditions that help it to arise and the ways it expresses itself through me.
In "Guidelines for Studying the Way" (Gakudo Yojin-shu) Dogen describes this mind - bodaishin in Japanese or bodhichitta in Sanskrit - as the One Mind of Buddha. Another name for it is Bodhi-mind. Kazuaki Tanahashi translates it as "the thought of enlightenment." At the outset of the "Guidelines" Dogen quotes Nagarjuna (the 14th Ancestor who was from India) as having said, "The mind that sees into the flux of arising and decaying, and recognizes the transient nature of the world is also known as the Bodhi-mind." So mind sees mind, and mind is expressed in the seeing. In my life this first occurred in 1987 when I encountered the Dharma for the first time. I was trying to find some spiritual expression and began reading some books about Buddhism. I was thoroughly struck upon encountering Robert Aitken's "Taking the Path of Zen." This moment had arisen out of a devout Catholic youth upbringing, and many life lessons about things like intention, unconditional love, delusion and anger. I've been sitting zazen since, prompting my first encounter with a Zen practitioner. She taught me to "be present in the spaces between the breaths," a teaching that I still find helpful. To make a long story short, I sat from that time on, mostly by myself, and then for a short while with Philip Kapleau after his retirement to Florida. I came to practice at San Francisco Zen Center in 2003, and became a resident in 2005. Then in 2006 I met Sekkei Harada Roshi, a Zen Master in Obama, Japan. I moved there to practice with him for the better part of two years, receiving priest ordination in March 2007. When I returned to the States in late 2008, I again joined the Zen Center sangha.

Now, having spent about two years at Tassajara and a total of three years at City Center, I work with the koan of "What is this moment?" and I practice zazen on and off the cushion, including shikantaza when sitting. I hope to be an instrument of the Mind of the Way, allowing many forms of practice - lay and ordained, American and Japanese, homemaking and homeleaving, in the suburbs, mountains and city - allowing it all to flow through me and nourish all beings.

No comments: