August 21, 2009

Being at the old Haiku Zendo

The door to the old Haiku Zendo is the same and the location of the windows that were the front zendo windows overlooking the street are the same. I like looking at them from the outside and I like standing in the room looking out. It's just almost impossible to imagine how we crowded all those people into the small space that seemed at the time as wide as the planet and spacious as the Milky Way.

I gave a Dharma talk on Wednesday evening at Kannon-do. The talk began with an explanation of a talk I heard by Dr. Daniel Seigel from UCLA and the author of THE MINDFUL BRAIN and other books concerning how the brain functions with the practice of mindfulness. Dr. Seigel is the director of the Mindsight Institute at UCLA. As Seigel had done, I gave people some words and asked them if they had had an image as a result of hearing those words. Yes, everyone responded affirmatively. I said that Siegel then explained that those words make a connection through neurons firing in the brain and we are able to make an image from those words. The ability to make a mind image is dependent upon the body firing up those neurons and thus, the body and mind are co-dependent. Siegel then said that no one on the entire planet is able to explain how we are capable of doing this. Siegel's small exercise makes that co-dependency immediately clear. We are not always able to grasp so easily the body/mind connection.

From there, I went to Dogen Zenji who teaches that there is nothing we do that is not about making pictures. And, Shakyamuni Buddha taught that we are what we think. Everything we do comes out of images, pictures. Dogen Zenji says, "Were you to say that such pictures are not real, then all thoughts and things are also unreal. If the Buddha Dharma is real, then it follows that such pictures must be real as well." (Shobogenzo, trans. Nearman)

Dogen: "There is not a movement or a moment of stillness that is not part of making a picture. Our own efforts to do our utmost at the present time are simply obtained from our own pictures." Dogen Zenji encourages us to examine this closely, to explore all of this in our training. And, it is this very matter that draws us to find a teacher. This is why we go to a teacher, to discover this function and to cultivate the Buddha mind. But first, before we can cultivate and manifest this function, we must actually see it, actually realize this function. We have to investigate fully what a picture truly is.

There may be no more wonderful, meritorious exploration than to discover this Way. If we don't understand it fully, we cannot truly cultivate this "field of benefaction" this "virtuous garden." We may find ourselves running around and around in life trying to find why we are beset by such suffering. When we fully see that we are the body-and-mind we begin to choose to cultivate body-and-mind by training and practice. Our life choices change. Dogen referred to this same function as practice-experience. The body training and experience of mind co-creating life moment by moment. We have no choice but to enter the Buddha's pathway and demonstrate for ourselves that there is a Way beyond suffering. We can choose what pictures to entertain. We can choose to see through delusion. We can live a healthy brain function in body by choosing healthy images. We can overcome the habits of thinking that are destructive. We can practice compassionate pictures, practice kindness in mind.