December 30, 2010

Arrived in Piedmont

At a rest stop along the way.  Couldn't help noticing sunshine and blue sky.

The amount of water on the freeway was stunning.  White knuckles all the way with a two lane highway with trucks on the right throwing up water and cars going northbound throwing water up over the median barrier.  The wipers couldn't flick fast enough.  But, my timing was excellent for snow:  no chains, no snow on the road and just ahead of a major blizzard in the Siskiyous and Shasta.

My first night in California I stayed at the Comfort Inn in Redding.  Very nice, comfortable, spacious, hospitable.  Still the rain pummeled the city, but by morning the sky was California blue and the sun California golden.  On the open road for the remainder of the drive, wide, wide fields opened out to faraway mountains.  This went on for several hours and brought out flashes of memories of wandering in meadows in this landscape.  It’s where I feel at home.  It's dangerous to weep while driving.

Today is December 30th.  I have a few things to iron out to fully settle in, but it’s a good place to sleep with an excellent bed.  Nearly as quiet at night as it is at Olympia Zen Center.  It’s a corner apartment and the way the building is arranged, I have no walled neighbors, only someone downstairs who is very quiet.  So, I have tremendous privacy.  No need for shades or curtains since I don’t look into anyone’s windows.  There are good views from every window.  It’s a very homey place with livable paintings, some quite nice and many done by the fellow who lives here who is going to Asia for three months.
View from the kitchen window.

The location is excellent with a busy village two blocks away.  My daughter says the area should be called Piedmont and not Oakland, but the post office calls it Oakland.  A huge and interesting cemetery is just up the street and it provides good walking trails.  At the top there is a grand view of the whole of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridge.  It’s a fine day here, just the tail end of a wind storm that hit central and southern California.  I’m off to explore.

December 09, 2010

What it takes...

December 8th is the day we celebrate the Buddha's Awakening, so some people call it Enlightenment Day, or Bodhi Day.  It has a good feel to it.  It feels high spirited and special the way a birthday feels.  So last night in the Zendo, someone asked an interesting question.  He said if the Buddha had this great enlightenment and became this influential person with a way to overcome suffering, how did he know what to do to get there?

I explained that I felt very strongly that the Buddha didn't know what to do or how to get there.  He had struggled for many years and explored various avenues to try to find an answer to the dilemma of suffering, but his steadfast confidence took him through the difficulties that brought him to the great insight of the Four Noble Truths.  In Buddhism the word "steadfast" really means "faith" so the Buddha had faith in his own Self, faith in the ongoing activity of compassion which propelled him to resolve the problem of suffering.  He had confidence that through effort in the search, he would find an answer.

We have the same ability in our own lives, in our own dilemmas, to find the answer and gain insight into any life problem.  Steadfast confidence in the (big) Self will steer us in the right direction.  Of course, we have to be willing to put immense effort into right focus, right concentration, in order to place ourselves in the yeast that will give rise to insight.  We can't expect that we will just be handed an answer simply because we want one.  Sincere and steadfast effort is called for.  Practicing with steadfast confidence brings us happiness.  Please don't take my word for it.  This is what the Buddhas says.  The Buddha also says, if you want to know about steadfast confidence, please find out for yourself.

In this way, the Buddha was very practical and logical.  All that he learned and experienced is also available to us through our practice.  He clearly taught that we too can experience happiness.