The Dunedin Zen Group

Welcome to the web page of the Dunedin Zen Group. The DZG is committed to supporting Zen practice and training in Dunedin, and in NZ/Aoteaora. The group supports practice by arranging weekly practice sessions (zazen), as well as offering longer half day sits (zazenkai) and regular retreats (sesshin). We also have a small lending library. If you are interested in Zen, or in learning more you are welcome to contact us at the address below, or to come along on Wednesday night to our regular practice session. We meet at 7.00 pm at St Martins Anglican Church, downstairs at 194 North Road, North East Valley.   We ask $5, to help cover rental costs. And if this is your first visit please try to email us beforehand and come at least ten minutes early .              E-mail: dunedinzen@gmail.com

The group is a part of the Diamond Sangha, and we are fortunate to have Glenn Wallis Roshi available as a Zen teacher to guide and support practice. While we practice in the Diamond Sangha Zen lineage, everyone is welcome and we regularly have friends from other traditions sit and practice with us.

WEDNESDAY ZAZEN EVENINGS

For 2016 Wednesday evening Zazen is held at St Martins Anglican Church, downstairs at 194 North Road, North East Valley. We ask $5, to help cover rental costs. It’s good to arrive a few minutes early so we can be under way by 7.00pm.
Advertisements

Living Present Moment

This is a link to a recorded talk given by Glenn Wallis Roshi at the Dunedin Public Library Thursday March 14.

The theme is our experience of the current, the freedom of Zen practice. The essence of the talk is that when we live fully right now there is fundamentally no one left or required to be separate from the current moment, and when there is no one required to be, then we are at our most free and at our most authentic, as the person we are. When we are able to fully immerse in the current, what is already arisen as this present, now, we begin to recognise that we are are not isolate and separate. That separation is the perception we take on for social reality, but that inherently we are each other, the whole vast un-bordered moment of our life.

Just as you are

 

The indelible way of Zen is ‘just as you are’. This is not always comforting though as all too often ‘just as I am’ is not so satisfactory to me, and perhaps also not for others either.

In the phrase ‘just as you are’, just points to keeping solely to that matter, not wandering off to other considerations. Not journeying into ideas, conjectures, memories, fantasies that are not you’re ‘here, now’. It is said that if you are a hairs breadth off, you miss it by the distance between heaven and earth. The space between the imagined and the real, the distance of a life.

But this is awkward, for whatever we bring in, think about, recall, conjecture, becomes our current experience, our current as we are.

This whole matter of ‘just as you are’, is a practice matter; so looking at zazen practice, at some point in our meditation, from being settled, we get distracted. We hear a sound, register recognition, follow up with reflection, perhaps some innocuous comment, then we’re fully in there with proliferation about it. Even proliferation about being distracted and then commentary judging all of that.

At such a point, at that moment that full follow up on the single sound became our ‘just as you are.’ Awkward. We manufactured a position from our own centricity, that’s what thinking is. But there is no room for rationalizing here, no matter the acuity of logic. It is a matter of practice, of learning how to let things be as they are, fully and unremittingly. Even though we practice in a way that cleaves to as fully as possible, the sole object of meditation.

Zen practice isn’t about exclusivity, isn’t about creating or manufacturing some purity of being. We don’t wait until some mythical time to be perfect for practice, that’s not what practice is. Practice is doing, not preparing to be better at. It is about what is already current. Our ‘now’ if you like. That is why it can be described as an awareness practice, although for most people awareness is being able to notice more and more. In Zen there is no ‘noticing’, instead there is ‘intimacy’. Noticing implies someone to notice, intimacy implies no one to be watching, just that very thing fully itself. Just a single breath breathing, not even air breathing, just this breath moment.

This just as you are, really isn’t you, truly isn’t even about you. It is about everything else. It is about everything, and that is about you. In his Genjokoan, Dogen writes, “To carry yourself forward and experience the myriad things is delusion. That myriad things step forward and experience themselves is awakening.” Your awakening. In Shitou’s ‘Taking Part in the Gathering’, he simply says, “Don’t limit to your own small story.”

Aitken Roshi said to his students, “You are alright, to the very bottom.” And you are. Alright, right the way through, all the way.

We would like to accept ourselves like this, and have others accept us like this too, but what about when we don’t feel ok, when we don’t like, don’t approve of who we see when we look back at ourselves?

When it’s this way it is because our view is too narrow. We focus on tightly on our little me that we sought, unsuccessfully, to represent in such a better light than what we see our self as. But this too is really ok. Not nice, but fundamentally ok.

In Zen practice we learn to allow what is, and find the intimacy of the current, the life of immediately so. Now.

This isn’t something far off or conjured up, or that we convince ourselves of, but the very loves and vicissitudes of our days and nights. The beautiful intricate morass and joy of our organic heritage.

In Zen practice we learn to trust. Classically this is called faith. Faith in being able to trust, to fully allow things as they are this moment, self included, whatever that is. Whether we think we know or not is not so important. What is important is what has already arisen as the current.

It does feel easier to do this when we don’t manufacture positions, ideas about who we are or who another is. When we manufacture and self narrate, we’ve already created someone to be at the center of our story. But on the plus side, that’s all that’s been done. Creation of an impression, an idea.

Telling ourselves about who we are, what we want, like, don’t like, hope for, need, have to be free of, all of that as well as the narrations of our thoughts about other people and things; All this gives us the impression of being valid and solid in ourselves.

And that is important. We need to be solid as personalities, as social creatures, to see and feel ourselves part of our social, physical, mental emotional environments.

But this isn’t being free. The first principle of Buddhism is often said to be complete freedom. Freedom from entanglements of view and position, freedom from attachments, freedom from self and other.

When there is no one to be, we are free. When there is no need to uphold being ourselves, we are at that moment at our most authentic, and most alive.

Yet this will no doubt seem like a world away from ‘just as you are’. If that’s the case, you, have yet to include what is current, what is already immediately so. Trees, carpet, warmth of the day.

We usually hold the model of what we are to be here I am, having experiences, seeing hearing, feeling, thinking and so on. But in Zen we look to a much more intimate position, experiencing directly the matter rather than through a perspective of separate position. We relinquish our position for complete embodiment of the current. When speaking, just that speech, when listening, just that hearing, when feeling just that matter arising as feeling. At such a moment when completely allowing what is, we are fully just that matter.

But if I am that very talking, seeing, hearing, feeling, not just something that is happening to, then equally it is the same for the things seen, heard, felt, thought, known. Trees, carpet, warmth of the day, all contribute, collude, in this experience, which is also the experience of me.

However, there is no actor at the center, no me, no you, just everything else. The center is the sky, the words on the page, the carpet, the achy back, and that unsatisfactory thinking as well. So what will you do?

Cleave to the intimacy of the current just as you are, and find out through and through the vast unboundedness of it all. After all it has no where to go and no one else to be, beyond each and every person, animal, thing, and not thing… you.

© Glenn Wallis 2019

Self and Not

Zazenkai talk August 2018

 

Here we are sitting zazen, not doing something. Letting breath be breath.Zazen although not something to create struggle over, still, isn’t easy.

We give up our habit of being somebody, of being a me, and exchange that positioning for a single breath. We exchange our sense of me for the quiet of the room; for the Tui’s song; the feeling of sore legs.

We take up the way of allowing what is to step forth, regardless of form, shape, colour, sensation and indeed our feeling about it and our opinion about that! We learn to trust not having to insert ourselves into the picture of perception.

When we sit with the breath, this single current breath is all. We allow the full compass of this breath, its live habitation as this very body. Taste the breath in its presence and flow as it arises in its full cycle of uniqueness.

The swell of the breath in, the non movement as the body transitions toward release, the ease of the breath escaping, the so soft urge to move to draw in. The unique movements of body expressing as breath.

When we have honed the meditative skills of being able to have attention remain on a single matter, through this sustained attention we unite with breath, we become intimate with breath having left ourselves aside. In this way we practice beneath the level of our overt concerns about ourselves and find a place of rest, of openness, of easeful arising with no need to be.

At first when we practice, and through the busyness of life, this territory can seem very far off, or indeed entirely cut off from us by our swiftly rejuvenating self concerns. After all that’s how we ensure our sense of self continuity. But with faithful practice this eases and we ease. Breath breathes, body accommodates air, we find our place with and as all things as they are.

Without Zen practice this is territory is hard to even imagine, particularly as such imagining still centers on self concern. Thus already when we set about imagining these things the image is all set wrong.

Practice brings personal experience beyond thought, beyond conjecture, beyond hope even. We simply cede to this current breath, to what steps forth as the immediate, this immediate expression of the current.

We form ourselves, as we must do in order to be viable social creatures. We must form ourselves in order to represent ourselves to others as well as our self. No one else forms the ‘me’ of myself. This is of our making through self-narration, relating to the locus of experience to this one here, to give ourselves a point of reference in our experience even our thinking. It allows us a shortcut to append whole processes of perception and orientation that occur to this me, with the outcome that we don’t have to repeat these processes every time we encounter a situation, we not only remember the outcome of how it was last time, but critically we relate it to ourselves and so we know what to do for ourselves rather than have it as some academic conjecture.

However, because we form ourselves we are also quite deluded about ourselves too. We form ourselves and then rightfully attached to this sense of self and its fictional territory of me. And this is entirely natural. As social creatures we need to be able to form ourselves to be someone, to present as someone. If we are not someone in this sense, an identifiable person, how could we live as social beings? Without created self this simply couldn’t happen at all.

Even animals (including you and me) have self, but depending on the animal it can be more or less developed. We have developed self along with other tools of intelligence to such a degree that we are also self referential and even self-conjectural, for example this very talk.

We use many tools an events to form ourselves and to continue to refine this self we form. We use identity, how we know about our individual arising; we use personality and its continuance, to reassure our own self continuity; we use memory and narration to recount who we are and to shore up the story our life and life experience.

We use sovereign events to hold to being a self; thinking, body, mood; things which we are solely privy to as individuals. All of this is like a constellation of events that dance around a central core, a core which is entirely empty; empty of anyone at all. It is this space into which we plant the ‘me’ of my self. After all who is it that experiences these matters, who is listening to this talk? Not someone else, so it must be me. We assume ourselves into being.

There is no other option here, no other punter in view, no other to clearly locate experience to. There is nothing that is solid and enduring and singularly isolate that can be subject to this experience; that we can say is having the experience of listening, or reading. I wonder why that is?

So naturally experience is allowed to be appropriated by this sense of self, the closest element to be found to stand in for me myself. This sense of self becomes a matter to continuously uphold, after all nothing else creates it but our referral and relating to it as if it is the real solid perpetuating me.

We reflexively refer to ourselves and relate to ourselves for the very purpose of maintaining a relatable image at the center of the constellation of events. An impression to make sense of experience as me experiencing. But with practice another option that is not either me nor sense of self can arise as vast as the constellation of experience itself.

As Dogen says, ‘When the self advances and confirms the ten thousand things that is delusion. When the ten thousand things advance and confirm themselves, this is realization.’

Before this matter arises personally though, we suffer the repercussions of creating and forming our selves where there is only space in the center of everything being in flow. We have self doubt, we sabotage ourselves, we hurt others, we withdraw our interest for others and our self. We even withdraw our care for ourselves and those around us; we worry about how others see us, and what will happen in the future. We try to manipulate others so we feel safe, or acknowledged, or superior or even inferior. It seems our lot to bear these things, and here we are, just trying to get by as best we can. The troubles we suffer through come from being required to maintain being someone when fundamentally there is no me to exist as the center to our life, and never has been.

Denying or trying to cut off from our self doubt, our failings our manipulations is to keep them close but unseen. Better to let them be as they are, and include them as the experience of this one here, so we can make better use of the opportunity and gift of life, whatever this is. In practice we let the difficulty be what is it, and not what we imagine it to be. When we look at pain and suffering, the real difficulty often turns out to be not what we are dealing with but the fears around it, the ‘what ifs’ of our imagination no matter how well informed. In such speculations and attempts to preempt the future we at least have ourselves, yes? Well that is exactly what such speculation is seeking to shore up in the face of a whole universe constantly pointing out that this isn’t so. And we are very very good at it.

Our full range of responses to this very upside down and unexpected situation that we inherit as life, our life, come at a cost. The cost is that we use our generated self to attach to and thus secure for ourselves a sense of separation from the world, others, and even ourselves, that assures us that we are the self that we uphold for all, including ourselves, to see.

So my point is that this is a conundrum, an upside down situation were in order to be we betray our birthright of inherent clarity and this cannot be fixed or resolved through thinking or re arranging perception, but through practice. My point is to assure you that you are doing fine, even as it doesn’t feel like it. This is a ridiculous situation…

You are truly alright as you are and with all your life’s difficulties are perfectly formed for practicing the Zen way, as you. Only as you can you find the treasure of the mystery of this one here, the one that sees and hears, with nothing but the revolving constellation of the current to show for it.

© Glenn Wallis 2018