One of the reasons I believe in jazz is that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your heart. It’s the same any place in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born — or before you’re born — and it’s the last thing you hear. — Dave Brubeck

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Smokey the Bear Sutra

Originally posted May 5th, 2010, but reposted now because the work is far from done.

Please join me and chant the Smokey the Bear Sutra for all those who are working for a green earth! Use any tune you like, or none at all. Sing in the shower or on the street or in a coffee house or in your room. In my own practice I visualize Mary, Star of the Sea, standing at Smokey's side to offer guidance and protection. This is not obligatory. But it is obligatory that you find your own way to join this work.

By reciting this sutra (and matching my actions with its words), I am confident that its merit will:

Will help save the planet Earth from total oil slick.

Will enter the age of harmony of man and nature.

Will win the tender love and caresses of men, women,  
and beasts.

Will always have ripened blackberries to eat and a 
sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at.

After we chat and pray, let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that we have fulfilled our obligation. Take Action!

by Gary Snyder

A handsome smokey-colored brown bear standing on his hind legs, showing that he is aroused and watchful.

Bearing in his right paw the Shovel that digs to the truth beneath appearances; cuts the roots of useless attachments, and flings damp sand on the fires of greed and war;

His left paw in the mudra of Comradely Display--indicating that all creatures have the full right to live to their limits and that of deer, rabbits, chipmunks, snakes, dandelions, and lizards all grow in the realm of the Dharma;

Wearing the blue work overalls symbolic of slaves and laborers, the countless men oppressed by a civilization that claims to save but often destroys;

Wearing the broad-brimmed hat of the west, symbolic of the forces that guard the wilderness, which is the Natural State of the Dharma and the true path of man on Earth:

all true paths lead through mountains--

With a halo of smoke and flame behind, the forest fires of the kali-yuga, fires caused by the stupidity of those who think things can be gained and lost whereas in truth all is contained vast and free in the Blue Sky and Green Earth of One Mind;

Round-bellied to show his kind nature and that the great earth has food enough for everyone who loves her and trusts her;

Trampling underfoot wasteful freeways and needless suburbs, smashing the worms of capitalism and totalitarianism;

Indicating the task: his followers, becoming free of cars, houses, canned foods, universities, and shoes, master the Three Mysteries of their own Body, Speech, and Mind; and fearlessly chop down the rotten trees and prune out the sick limbs of this country America and then burn the leftover trash.

Wrathful but Calm. Austere but Comic. Smokey the Bear will Illuminate those who would help him; but for those who would hinder or slander him...

Thus his great Mantra:
Namah samanta vajranam chanda maharoshana Sphataya hum traka ham mam

And he will protect those who love the woods and rivers, Gods and animals, hobos and madmen, prisoners and sick people, musicians, playful women, and hopeful children:

And if anyone is threatened by advertising, air pollution, television, or the police, they should chant SMOKEY THE BEAR'S WAR SPELL:
And SMOKEY THE BEAR will surely appear to put the enemy out with his vajra-shovel.

Now those who recite this Sutra and then try to put it in practice will accumulate merit as countless as the sands of Arizona and Nevada.

Will help save the planet Earth from total oil slick.

Will enter the age of harmony of man and nature.

Will win the tender love and caresses of men, women, and beasts.

Will always have ripened blackberries to eat and a sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at.

...thus we have heard...

(*may be reproduced free forever)

*And this have I done!

Sister Kuon Elaine MacInnes

Originally posted December 12th, 2012

“Spirituality is what you do with those fires that burn within you.” -Sister Elaine

Sister Elaine MacInnes is a Catholic and a recognized Zen master. I have included a brief biography, a film, The Fires that Burn, done about her, and a link to her book on the miscellaneous koans. The picture of her with Jeremy Irons comes from her tenure as the head the Prison Phoenix Trust he founded to introduce meditation in the UK prison system. Now in her 80’s she continues to work with prisoners in Canada through the not-for profit Freeing the Human Spirit which she founded.

not broken, what do catholicism, zen, yoga & prisons have in common? a profile of Sister Elaine MacInnes by Talya Rubin

The Fires that Burn explores the life and work of Sister Elaine MacInnes - professional musician, Roman Catholic nun, Zen master, and prison activist - and her unusual journey to greater understanding. The documentary retreads 80-year old Sister Elaine's life path of spiritual redefinition, and uncovers the journey from her harrowing days as a body shield and activist during civil war in the Philippines, to her present-day campaign to get meditation teachers into prisons across Canada.

Flowing Bridge, Guidance on Beginning Zen Koans, By Elaine MacInnes. Elaine Roshi took some flak for writing about a koan practice that had been almost entirely an oral tradition, but I see it as her simply starting from the beginning.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Very Short Sutra on the Meeting of the Buddha and the Goddess

by Rick Fields

Thus I have made up:
Once the Buddha was walking along the 
forest path in the Oak Grove at Ojai, walking without 
arriving anywhere
or having any thought of arriving or not arriving

and lotuses shining with morning dew
miraculously appeared under every step
soft as silk beneath the toes of the Buddha

When suddenly, out of the turquoise sky,
dancing in front of his half-shut inward-looking 
eyes, shimmering like a rainbow
or a spider's web
transparent as the dew on a lotus flower,

--the Goddess appeared quivering
like a hummingbird in the air before him

She, for she was surely a she
as the Buddha could clearly see
with his eye of discriminating awareness wisdom,

was mostly red in color
though when the light shifted
she flashed like a rainbow.

She was naked except 
for the usual flower ornaments
Goddesses wear

Her long hair
was deep blue, her two eyes fathomless pits of space
and her third eye a bloodshot
ring of fire

The Buddha folded his hands together
and greeted the Goddess thus:

"O Goddess, why are you blocking my path.
Before I saw you I was happily going nowhere.
Now I'm not sure where to go."

"You can go around me,"
said the Goddess, twirling on her heels like a bird
darting away,
but just a little way away,
"or you can come after me.
This is my forest too,
you can't pretend I'm not here."

With that the Buddha sat
supple as a snake
solid as a rock
beneath a Bo tree
that sprang full-leaved
to shade him.

"Perhaps we should have a chat,"
he said.
"After years of arduous practice
at the time of the morning star
I penetrated reality, and now..."

"Not so fast, Buddha.
I am reality.

The Earth stood still,
the oceans paused,

the wind itself listened
--a thousand arhats, bodhisattvas, and dakinis
magically appeared to hear
what would happen in the conversation.

"I know I take my life in my hands."
said the Buddha.
"But I am known as the Fearless One
--so here goes."

And he and the Goddess
without further words
exchanged glances.

Light rays like sunbeams
shot forth
so bright that even
Sariputra, the All-Seeing One,
had to turn away.

And then they exchanged thoughts
and the illumination was as bright as a diamond candle.

And then they exchanged mind
And there was a great silence as vast as the universe
that contains everything

And then they exchanged bodies

And clothes

And the Buddha arose
as the Goddess
and the Goddess
arose as the Buddha 

and so on back and forth
for a thousand hundred thousand kalpas.

If you meet the Buddha
you meet the Goddess.
If you meet the Goddess
you meet the Buddha.

Not only that. This:
The Buddha is the Goddess,
the Goddess is the Buddha.

And not only that. This:
The Buddha is emptiness
the Goddess is bliss,
the Goddess is emptiness
the Buddha is bliss.

And that is what
and what-not you are
It's true.

So here comes the mantra of the Goddess and the Buddha, the unsurpassed dual-mantra. Just to say this mantra, just to hear this mantra once, just to hear one word of this mantra once makes everything the way it truly is: OK.

So here it is:
Hey, silent one, Hey, great talker
Not two/Not one
Not separate/Not apart
This is the heart
Bliss is emptiness
Emptiness is bliss
Be your breath, Ah 
Smile, Hey
And relax, Ho
And remember this: You can't miss

We dedicate any merit that might come from reciting, posting, and spreading this sutra to Bonnie Johnson, who now bridges the worlds of both the seen and unseen. In your presence, Bonnie, we were so aware of who we were that we saw the possibility of being so much more--extending love's embrace. You showed us the way of Jesus through your kindness, gentleness, the care with which you treated us, all your friends, family, doctors, caregivers, yes, even the care with which you treated your disease. May your teaching go on and on throughout all the worlds to come. May you be with the saints forever.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Case 32: A Philosopher Asks Buddha

A friend of mine once said, “The West doesn’t need another religion. If the new Western Buddhists just set up a competing cult, what’s the value in that?” 

I am a former Jesuit, and, it is impossible for me to change that part of my training, no matter how much I find myself outside the tradition. But I also know I need balance. If not, I get lost in a long theological rant and call it spiritual practice. Sitting quiets my mind just enough so that I can hear other voices besides my own. The rants calm down. Hearing and listening, however, are just the first steps towards understanding, and ultimately compassion.

Just over a month ago on Ignatius day, I talked about a Zen koan and the Jesuits who have practiced Zen and gone on to teach in the koan tradition. I won’t even try to predict where their practice will take them or their students. But I will encourage anyone, no matter what beliefs they cherish, to practice meditation with their whole heart.

Mumonkan - Case 32: A Philosopher Asks Buddha

A philosopher* asked Buddha:
"Without words, without the wordless, will you tell me the truth?"

The Buddha kept silence.

The philosopher bowed and thanked the Buddha, saying:
"With your loving kindness I have cleared away my delusions and entered the true path."

After the philosopher had gone, Ananda asked the Buddha what he had attained.

The Buddha replied, "A good horse runs even at the shadow of the whip."

Father Ignatius would have approved of the Buddha's answer. I think that it might point to the heart of the Buddhist-Zen connection. And for the record I am not at all suggesting a fundamentalist, hierarchical interpretation of "blind obedience."

Here is a list of the Jesuit Zen teachers and other Catholic religious who have followed this path.

Fr. Hugo Enomiya-LaSalle, S.J. (dec. 1990)
Fr. William Thomas Hand, S.J. (dec. 2005)
Fr. Niklaus Brantschen, S.J., Roshi
Ruben Habito, Roshi (former Jesuit)
Fr. Bill Johnson, S.J. (dec. 2010)
Fr. Kakichi Kadowaki, S.J.
Fr. Robert Jinsen Kennedy, S.J., Roshi
Bro. Tom Marshall, S.J. (dec. 2010)
Fr. Ama Samy, S.J., Roshi
and their students:
Sr. Elaine MacInnes Roshi, member of Our Lady’s Missionaries
Bro. Kevin Hunt Sensei, Trappist

May their practice help relieve suffering and free all beings.

I’ll end this post with a poem by Rumi.

Who gets up early to discover the moment light begins?
Who finds us here circling, bewildered, like atoms?
Who comes to a spring thirsty
and sees the moon reflected in it?

Who, like Jacob, blind with grief and age,
smells the shirt of his son and can see again?
Who lets a bucket down
and brings up a flowing prophet?
Or like Moses goes for fire
and finds what burns inside the sunrise?

Jesus slips into a house to escape enemies,
and opens a door to the other world.
Solomon cuts open a fish, and there's a gold ring.
Omar storms in to kill the prophet
and leaves with blessings.
Chase a deer and end up everywhere!
An oyster opens his mouth to swallow one drop.
Now there's a pearl.

A vagrant wanders empty ruins
Suddenly he's wealthy.

But don't be satisfied with stories,
how things have gone with others.
Unfold your own myth,
without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you.

*”The Philosopher” is sometimes translated, “the pagan.” The Buddha’s questioner is not a member of the sangha or even a lay follower no matter which word you choose.

Nanso no Ho practice

Nanso No Ho , or “soft-ointment meditation,” is a ' naikan ' (transformation) practice originally taught by Zen master Hakuin Ze...