A Message for the Passing Year: Zazen, Stillness and Change

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39272

    A Message for the Passing Year: Zazen, Stillness and Change



    A new year comes. Time passes. But is that the whole story?

    A key teaching of our Zen way is that there is stillness and change. The Buddha taught that all things of this world are ever changing, yet that change is also wonderfully timeless and still. Change is stillness in other guise. Stillness is the change that always rests perfectly even as things change. Passing time is wonderfully timeless, unhurrying, although the hours, days, months, years and vast ages keep hurrying by. It is like clock hands that are turning, turning, turning, yet their motion arises as the stillness present in the unmoving clock face which supports the motion. As well, the clock face would be frozen, lifeless, meaningless without the moving hands of flowing time.

    If you go to a Zen monastery, one of the hardest things to get used to, especially for modern people, is the incredibly regimented and repetitive routines day in, day out. The same bells, the same ceremonies, the same companions day in, day out, the same long hours of motionless sitting. But, despite appearances, there are large and small differences day by day and minute by minute, and nothing is truly ever exactly the same, nor truly ever stops. Events never go exactly the same on different days, and the action moves from beginning to middle to end with changing skies, changing feelings, changing fortunes, changing light. Every atom spins in every thing, the whole world spins. Even the still, still sitting of Zazen is always new, changing each time, changing sometimes by the second. Every ritual, each burning stick of incense, is like a vibrant dance amid stillness, the stillness of Zazen which flows with the movement of all this revolving world. We sit for a time, maybe minutes, maybe for hours, but the heart of Zazen cannot be measured, holds all time.

    The people in our lives change. They come, they go. People are born, live for a span then leave this world. New people will come. We grow old, sometimes sick, someday die ourselves. And yet at the heart of it, there is a stillness and timelessness here too. There is this which never goes nor comes, does not age and does not die, even amid the constant coming and going.

    We Zazen folks gather together for a time, to sit still, to put everything down, to sit as that central axis of the clock where the moving hands of spinning time become the timeless face. One embodies that central axis in Zazen. One sits quietly, yet the world is still turning, turning, turning. Everything is changing. When the bell rings, we get up again, and we go back to the world where things change and are in a rush. But, despite all the people to see, places to go, work to do, hopefully now that taste of the timeless and unmoving is known deep in our bones, even as our muscles run run run.

    We have work to do. We have trips to make. We have problems in life to resolve. The sun rises and falls. This new year will be more of all that. But now hopefully, in our bones, we feel the same quiet, quiet, quiet that has nothing in need of doing, no place in need of going, nothing lacking and no problem that requires fixing, something surpassing even birth and death. It is the Buddha’s peace and stillness that is just the other face of this busy world’s changing, changing, changing.

    Zen folks do not run from change. We do not insist that the world stop so we can get off. Instead, we flow with the change, like a river that we merge into, waters that we become and flow along as. Having become ourselves like water, we are the river’s flowing. Yes, we try to direct the rushing currents into directions we prefer, dam and channel it, avoid the pull of the dangerous rapids we fear but, in the end, we allow the river to flow as it flows, whether it heads in the directions we would want or not. We may swim against the current, or with the current, yet somehow we are the current too.

    I believe that this attitude of knowing stillness as change, change as stillness, is especially important today, in a world that appears to be rushing along always at high speed! Maybe in Dogan's time, the pace of change wasn't so noticeable. Life was not as fast and innovative, with the flood of stimulation and noise and constant newness that we have today. Now, more than ever, we need to practice stillness, to get that timeless taste in our bones. I think that there is so much more to do, so many more places to go, so much new information pouring into our eyes and ears than in the past, so learning to be quiet, still and to sit facing the wall and putting the world down, is especially vital. Yes, time is money, but it is worth our time to put everything aside for a time each day and Just Sit.

    People come and people go, our lives come and go. The old year goes and a new year comes. And yet, and yet, there is this which does not change although the pages of the calendar fall. This is precisely where Zazen is sat, the unmoving moving, turning-non-turning, changelessly-changing, still and flowing, timeless pivot point of time.

    Gassho, J

    stlah
    tsuku.jpg
    Last edited by Bion; 05-14-2024, 08:54 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
  • Suuko
    Member
    • May 2017
    • 405

    #2
    Can we say that the one thing which doesn't change is what the truth is?

    Gassho,
    Suuko

    Sent from my M2101K7BNY using Tapatalk
    Has been known as Guish since 2017 on the forum here.

    Comment

    • Kaitan
      Member
      • Mar 2023
      • 447

      #3
      Thank you, Jundo

      Gasshō

      stlah, Bernal
      Kaitan - 界探 - Realm searcher
      Formerly known as "Bernal"

      Comment

      • Nengei
        Member
        • Dec 2016
        • 1697

        #4
        Thank you for your teaching.

        Gassho,
        Nengei
        Sat today. LAH.

        Please always be sure to do zazen before reading and posting in the forum, even if it is only a few minutes, and put that you have sat in your signoff. This is only to remind all of us that zazen is always the core of our practice. And if you have managed to be helpful in even a small way to others, include LAH, so that we are reminded to lend a hand, living as bodhisattvas.
        遜道念芸 Sondō Nengei (he/him)

        Please excuse any indication that I am trying to teach anything. I am a priest in training and have no qualifications or credentials to teach Zen practice or the Dharma.

        Comment

        • Geika
          Treeleaf Unsui
          • Jan 2010
          • 4978

          #5


          stlah
          求道芸化 Kyūdō Geika
          I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

          Comment

          • Kotei
            Treeleaf Unsui
            • Mar 2015
            • 3935

            #6

            Gassho,
            Kotei sat/lah today.

            義道 冴庭 / Gidō Kotei.
            Being a novice priest doesn't mean my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

            Comment

            • Hōzan
              Member
              • Dec 2022
              • 417

              #7
              [emoji120]

              Gassho, Michael
              Satlah

              Comment

              • Jundo
                Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                • Apr 2006
                • 39272

                #8
                Hi Suuko,

                Originally posted by Suuko
                Can we say that the one thing which doesn't change is what the truth is?

                Gassho,
                Suuko
                Yes, but not just that. Not in all its richness, and such teaching is the brilliance of Master Dogen, I believe. To say that would be something like saying that the "truth" of a painting is to find the blank canvas stripped of paint, that the reality of a film is to turn off the story and watch the empty screen. In fact, the painting comes alive in the colors and creation which emerge from the canvas, the richness of the cinema is the dance of light, the wall, all the tragedy and comedy passing, even the popcorn, the viewer and the viewing ... all one great thing.

                Nor is it a "thing" to pin down, but is the movement and dance so much that it is not to be nailed to the wall ... and it is both one and many and leaps through all small human measures of "one vs. many" or "movement vs. stillness" ...

                Now, in life, most often we get lost in the surface images, the beauty but also the horror, so we practice Zen and find that there is more than meets the eye. However, if we stop there, the result would be a lifeless gallery, an empty theatre. Returning to see the colors and movement, we now know them for the grand show that they are, and we ourselves as characters in the painting, actors in the film (and viewers too.) So, said Master Dogen, although it is all like a dream, an image of a painted cake, although we also see the light shining through the surface images, we had best now live and dream it well, do not make it a nightmare. This dream is truth, truth is the dream ... a True Dream, so dream it well.

                Something like that.

                Master Dogen wrote in his "being-time" (my translation):

                ... Since there is nothing but just this moment, the time-being is all the time there is. All moments of being-time are just the whole of time, as all existent things are time too. The whole universe exists in individual moments of time, and each moment contains all existences and all worlds. Reflect now whether any being or any world or the whole universe is left out of the present moment of time.

                ... So, we should not understand only that time flies by. We should not feel that “flying” is time’s only ability. For if we just let time fly away, separations from and in it might appear. Those who fail to experience and grasp the truth of being-time do so because they only understand time as something that passes. Ultimately all existences are linked and become time. Everything that exists throughout the whole universe is lined up in a series of all individual moments, and at the same time is each and all time. Because all moments are being-time [and you are being-time], they are your being-time. And because time has the nature of flowing, today flows into tomorrow while today flows into yesterday, all as yesterday flows into today, today flows into today, and tomorrow flows into tomorrow.

                ... We should not just feel that the passage of time from one moment to the next is like the movement from east to west of the wind or a rainstorm. The whole universe is not unmoving, for all is moving and changing, and the universe is flowing from one moment to the next. An example of such a moment-by-moment passing of time is the spring. The spring has countless aspects arrayed as what we call “the passage of time.” ... because spring embodies the momentary passing of time, passing time is being realized and actualized in each present moment of springtime here and now. The flowing of time occurs by spring, thus the flowing is completed and brought to fruition in just this moment of spring.


                Gassho, J

                stlah
                Last edited by Jundo; 12-22-2023, 12:50 AM.
                ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                Comment

                • Nengei
                  Member
                  • Dec 2016
                  • 1697

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Jundo
                  Ultimately all existences are linked and become time. Everything that exists throughout the whole universe is lined up in a series of all individual moments, and at the same time is each and all time. Because all moments are being-time [and you are being-time], they are your being-time. And because time has the nature of flowing, today flows into tomorrow while today flows into yesterday, all as yesterday flows into today, today flows into today, and tomorrow flows into tomorrow.


                  All that ever was and that ever will be is, right now, here, in this moment...

                  and now...

                  ... here in this moment...

                  and now...

                  Gassho,
                  Nengei
                  Sat today. LAH.
                  Last edited by Jundo; 12-22-2023, 12:48 AM.
                  遜道念芸 Sondō Nengei (he/him)

                  Please excuse any indication that I am trying to teach anything. I am a priest in training and have no qualifications or credentials to teach Zen practice or the Dharma.

                  Comment

                  • Onkai
                    Treeleaf Unsui
                    • Aug 2015
                    • 2842

                    #10
                    Thank you, Jundo.

                    Gassho, Onkai
                    Sat lah
                    美道 Bidou Beautiful Way
                    恩海 Onkai Merciful/Kind Ocean

                    I have a lot to learn; take anything I say that sounds like teaching with a grain of salt.

                    Comment

                    • Shokai
                      Treeleaf Priest
                      • Mar 2009
                      • 6391

                      #11
                      合掌,生開
                      gassho, Shokai

                      仁道 生開 / Jindo Shokai

                      "Open to life in a benevolent way"

                      https://sarushinzendo.wordpress.com/

                      Comment

                      • Seikan
                        Member
                        • Apr 2020
                        • 712

                        #12


                        Thank you Jundo!

                        Gassho,
                        Seikan

                        -stlah-
                        聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

                        Comment

                        • Jundo
                          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                          • Apr 2006
                          • 39272

                          #13

                          I am content to say that Tricycle magazine just wrote me, and a version of this little essay will be their new year's feature on their web page ...

                          Gassho, J

                          stlah
                          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                          Comment

                          • Nengei
                            Member
                            • Dec 2016
                            • 1697

                            #14
                            Great news!

                            Gassho,
                            N
                            Sat today. LAH.
                            遜道念芸 Sondō Nengei (he/him)

                            Please excuse any indication that I am trying to teach anything. I am a priest in training and have no qualifications or credentials to teach Zen practice or the Dharma.

                            Comment

                            • Bion
                              Treeleaf Unsui
                              • Aug 2020
                              • 3734

                              #15
                              Originally posted by Jundo

                              I am content to say that Tricycle magazine just wrote me, and a version of this little essay will be their new year's feature on their web page ...

                              Gassho, J

                              stlah
                              Ah! Fantastic! [emoji3526]

                              Gassho
                              Sat and lah
                              "Stepping back with open hands, is thoroughly comprehending life and death. Immediately you can sparkle and respond to the world." - Hongzhi

                              Comment

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