Ilene shared a video and discussion of their amazing spiritual journey to walk the Kumano Kodo World-Heritage route in Japan. Here is her video of the pilgrimage.

Also, I shared the “Spring Breeze” poem and story that Shibuya Sensei often mentioned: Tsu-yüan (aka Mugaku Sogen 1226-1286AD) came to Japan, advised the regent to the Shogun, and established the Engakuji Zen monastery. While still in China his temple was invaded by soldiers of the Yüan dynasty, who threatened to kill him, but he was immovable and quietly uttered the following verse:
There is no room in the Universe where one can insert even a single stick; I see the emptiness of all things—no objects, no persons. Honored be the sword, 3 feet long, wielded by the great Yüan swordsmen; it is like cutting the spring breeze with a flash of lightning.

It referred back to a poem by Seng-chao on the verge of death by a vagabond’s sword:
In body there exists no soul.
The mind is not real at all.
Now try on me thy flashing steel,
As if it cuts the wind of Spring, I feel.

Both these Zen masters had gone beyond attachment to life and death, knowing they are Nature – a spring breeze perhaps.


We talked about Jay & Ilene’s pilgrimage in Japan. One topic was the idea of a Bodhisattva you “pray to” for help. In the first turning of the wheel of Buddhism, the cultural traditions around the Theravada typically have lay persons thinking they don’t have a chance to reach enlightenment this life so at least they can support the monastics who do. The second turning of the wheel started at the second Buddhist Council around 300-200BC where there was disagreement (eventually) over whether enlightenment could be attained by a person who was not a monastic and instead worked, married, and had a family. This later grew with Nargarjuna’s concept of emptiness in the Madhyamaka school around 200AD. By the time it reached China and NE Asia, the cultural practice of asking for help of those persons who have transcended the physical (no more rebirths), have almost reached final nirvana (cessation), but remain existing because they want to help others. They are the transcendent Bodhisattvas such as Quan Yin, Manjusri, Jizo, etc. When a person reaches full enlightenment they are a Buddha (awakened person), and a transcendent Bodhisattva has one last attachment – to help others. I hold to the idea that each of us has the ability to be perfectly content in the moment (jhana) and the chance to be perfectly content in our life (enlightenment), regardless of things like occupation, marital status, sex, health conditions. Although we can always ask for help – from transcendent Bodhisattvas, and other bodhisattvas (any compassionate person aspiring to help others), eventually we have to face and know our self in order to better know how to be content.


We scattered Sensei’s ashes in the poppy fields this weekend. Here’s a little write up I put on his website with some perhaps interesting topics to discuss this evening. We all talked about a couple questions regarding: 1) The difference in practices between Soto/Caodong and Rinzai/Linji Zen (just meditate vs koan study, group faces in or faces out). 2) The story of Siddhartha becoming a Buddha. Here’s a summary from Bhikkhu Bodhi:
“Just then he thought of another path to enlightenment, one which balanced proper care of the body with sustained contemplation and deep investigation. He would later call this path “the middle way” because it avoids the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. He had experienced both extremes, the former as a prince and the latter as an ascetic, and he knew they were ultimately dead ends. To follow the middle way, however, he realized he would first have to regain his strength. Thus he gave up his practice of austerities and resumed taking nutritious food. At the time five other ascetics had been living in attendance on the Bodhisatta, hoping that when he attained enlightenment he would serve as their guide. But when they saw him partake of substantial meals, they became disgusted with him and left him, thinking the princely ascetic had given up his exertion and reverted to a life of luxury.
Now he was alone, and complete solitude allowed him to pursue his quest undisturbed. One day, when his physical strength had returned, he approached a lovely spot in Uruvela by the bank of the Nerañjara River. Here he prepared a seat of straw beneath an asvattha tree (later called the Bodhi Tree) and sat down cross-legged, making a firm resolution that he would never rise up from that seat until he had won his goal. As night descended he entered into deeper and deeper stages of meditation until his mind was perfectly calm and composed. Then, the records tell us, in the first watch of the night he directed his concentrated mind to the recollection of his previous lives. Gradually there unfolded before his inner vision his experiences in many past births, even during many cosmic aeons; in the middle watch of the night he developed the “divine eye” by which he could see beings passing away and taking rebirth in accordance with their karma, their deeds; and in the last watch of the night he penetrated the deepest truths of existence, the most basic laws of reality, and thereby removed from his mind the subtlest veils of ignorance. When dawn broke, the figure sitting beneath the tree was no longer a Bodhisatta, a seeker of enlightenment, but a Buddha, a Perfectly Enlightened One, one who had attained the Deathless in this very life itself.
For several weeks the newly awakened Buddha remained in the vicinity of the Bodhi Tree contemplating from different angles the Dhamma, the truth he had discovered. Then he came to a new crossroad in his spiritual career: Was he to teach, to try to share his realization with others, or should he instead remain quietly in the forest, enjoying the bliss of liberation alone?”


Who are you? We should be aware of how we define ourselves. I am a physicist, because I identify in part, with my education and first career. So here’s some advanced physics and its parallel with meditation and our sense of self. We don’t hear much about Relativistic Quantum Field Theory (RQFT) even though it was a major Nobel-winning breakthrough in 1965 when it was first created for electrodynamics (QED). We do hear about Quantum Mechanics (QM) from earlier in the century, when it was discovered that very small things like electromagnetic waves (light) are actually made up of small quantities called photons. We do hear about Einstein’s relativity, though his two theories get mixed up: Special Relativity (SR) = constant speed of light, so if you go very fast odd things happen, and General Relativity (GR) = his theory of gravity being a warp in spacetime. Well, RQFT was the unification of QM and SR and is technically called Second Quantization. Just like light being made up of photons and looks like a wave at larger scales, RQFT explained that every electron in the Universe is just a piece of the “electron field”. Same thing for each of the fundamental particles: a “proton field” a “neutron field”, etc. (technically each particle is a soliton in the corresponding field). Einstein thought it might go even further and all these fields might simply be different ways of folding up empty spacetime. OK, so here’s the parallel with meditation: what if like all the electrons being the same field, each of our selves are expressions of a Universe-wide field of consciousness? This is much different than saying we are all the same thing (e.g. a generic human?), and it is different from saying we are all connected (i.e. have an effect on each other). This is saying there is only one consciousness, and it is having experiences from multiple points of view. When we are in third Jhana it does feel like this, so I think it’s a reasonable theoretical explanation. But coming back to the practical aspect. Because we experience things with the mistaken belief that we are separate beings, we suffer. Buddha said we suffer from anicca, dukkha, and anatta (impermanence, dissatisfaction, no-self). We are talking here about anatta. So when we meditate we let go of all that defines us, so stop thinking of our self as the person who has this relationship, property, education, job, role, values, dreams, etc. Instead we become a universal person, or as Shibuya Sensei translated Buddha: “Sabbe dhamma anatta ti yada pannaya passati. Atha nibbindati dukkhe. Esa maggo visudhiya.” = “Achieve universal consciousness. Being not disturbed by anything at all.”