7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39441

    7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

    Hello Everyone,

    Welcome to our reading of ZEN SEEDS, REFLECTIONS OF A FEMALE PRIEST by Rev. Shundo Aoyama.

    I am to make an "INTRODUCTION" here. Since my copy of the book does not have a section called "INTRODUCTION", I guess that means I should just say something!

    Rev. Aoyama is well known in the Zen Buddhist world in Japan. She is the Chief Priest of the Aichi Semmon Niso-do, one of the main (and few) training monasteries for women in Soto Zen in Japan. She was a student of Kodo Sawaki Roshi and Uchiyama Roshi, who are each very cherished in our corner of the Soto world. If you would like to see a little video about Aoyama Roshi's life and work at her monastery, here it is (soundtrack in French and Japanese) ...

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xg70tq ... 2-2_webcam

    Now, folks will be taking turns each week to start off the discussions. Here is what I suggest you do:

    Just write a paragraph or two, or more or less, about something in the essay that actually had relevance to your life and practice. Maybe toss out a couple of questions to get the discussion rolling. Folks can then talk about that, or anything they want regarding the essay though.

    Let me try to do that today with the first two essays:

    P. 11

    Imagine this big river constantly flowing flowing flowing ... river of life ...

    I once crashed into an alligator in the Everglades in Florida while paddling a canoe (true story). I wrote this:

    True Story. Visiting Florida last week, in a canoe on the Loxahatchee river, my wife at the front, me in back paddling, wind comes up suddenly and blows us sideways toward the muddy bank ... right into the backside of a sleeping 4-foot alligator. (Now, it's not so easy to hit a gator, even in the Everglades with lots scattered about. Just, I suppose, where chance brought all of us) Gator is none too pleased, you know. Bangs the little boat with his tail a couple of times, lets out a mean roar, shows some teeth, scampers away into the tall grass.

    Shaken, but still afloat, we steer the canoe back to the center of the channel and proceed with our journey ... rather glad he was not a 5-foot gator, rather glad we hit the backside and not the front.

    Suddenly, whole meaning of this Zen thing is clear. (For those not picking up the literary symbolism, gator represents the problems of life, river is life, the wind is fate, a balanced canoe - equanimity of body and mind, a disturbed vessel a disturbed mind, the paddling is just moving forward. My wife represents my wife.) Here goes:

    In the canoe of life, you, your wife, the canoe, the paddle, the river, the alligator, the grass, the mosquitoes and the whole damn Everglades are just One Great Swamp. Accept all alligators, and seek to embrace their existence, for they -- and you too -- are the life of the river. But, at the moment your canoe crashes into the alligator's backside, try explaining that to the alligator ... or to yourself (or to your wife in the front of the boat, also baring her teeth). It is okay to paddle furiously to get away, if that is possible.

    (If not possible, practice famous Zen parable about plucking a strawberry when chased over cliff by hungry tiger)

    In the canoe of life, you may not know who (if any "who") made the canoe, the river, you, your wife, the gator, etc. etc., the Whole Darn Swamp. But, here you find yourself, in life's canoe, with a paddle, heading down that river. River runs before you, seems like you came from behind. You do not know why (if any "why"). What to do?

    .... Just paddle paddle, sometimes drift drift, try to stay in the middle of the channel.

    Oh, and where possible, avoid gators.

    P. 13

    Although we should not judge a book by its cover, we can tell much from a face ... peaceful face ...

    ... stressed face ...

    ... angry face ...



    Gassho, J
  • Tb
    • Jan 2008
    • 3186

    Re: 7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)


    When i first read the first essay, i immediately thought of sewing the kesa.
    I did my first Kesa, while my life was in utter turmoil, and you can see that in it.
    I don't think there is one like it anywhere, just like an drop of water in the river.
    In that you actually see where i have been totally in "the zone", no distractions, no entangelments, perfect sticthes.
    Then suddenly someting happens, and you see how the thread goes astray.
    Missing the pace, not going straight.
    Getting entangled in life; sewer, thread, fabric.
    All the while, the kesa is perfect, just as it is.
    Perfectly sewn, perfectly viewed, perfectly worn.

    The second essay...
    I hope that people that look at me think "he did a good practice".
    And maybe that is a good header for my gravestone, if i ever get one...

    The second question, well, i have to say an smiling face, perhaps even an smiley face...
    But although smiles tell alot, i believe the eyes "are the doorway to the soul" as the saying goes, and as Billie holiday sings, "Them there eyes"...

    [youtube] [/youtube]

    Life is our temple and its all good practice
    Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/


    • Hoyu
      • Nov 2010
      • 2020

      Re: 7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

      I have one example in my life which sometimes feels like I'm flowing downstream and at other times a battle against the current. Marriage!
      I remember a talk given by Jundo Sensei where he mentions that up until 130 years ago priests in Japan did not marry. It wasn't until the government forced them to that they began to live outside the monastery walls and deal with poopy diapers, bills, homework, wives and all the other "real life" issues. Sure they may know all the rules, rituals, sutras, and principals of Buddhism but imagine their shock to find out that with domestic life "no" can mean "yes" and "yes" can mean "no" and the dreaded "I'm not mad" doesn't always mean you're off the hook buster! All the virtues of this practice are better spent on more realistic human relationships than living up in the distant mountains somewhere. Perhaps this is an over simplification but I really feel like it is the difference between just studying music and actually playing the instrument.

      The other thing which cane to mind when viewing life in the context of a stream was something which spiritual guru Wayne Dyer talks about. He uses this simple song to express spiritual insight:

      Row, row, row your boat,
      Gently down the stream.
      Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
      Life is but a dream.

      In essence he talks about living life gently, happily, not fighting but rather going with life's flow, and finally concluding by reminding us that this whole thing is but a dream.

      The thing about looking in the mirror for me is that I sometimes feel a certain disconnect between the image of who I am vs how I perceive myself to be inside my head. It's not a depressive thing. It's Kind of like when you read a book and then go see the movie. You swear that is not how the characters are supposed to look. You have already given them a face, or even a voice(as strange as that sounds!) in your mind and the two just don't match up. I guess what it comes down to is that the person on the inside feels unchanging while the image of that same person on the outside easily tells a different story, mainly through the aging process.

      Ho (Dharma)
      Yu (Hot Water)


      • Shokai
        Treeleaf Priest
        • Mar 2009
        • 6391

        Re: 7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

        PG 11:
        Sitting in the garden, picking weeds. Some pull out easily; extracting the entire, or at least most of the root. You feel that it may take a while for another weed to grow in that spot. Others break off and you make mental note to slow down and do a better job of it. Soon an area is cleared and then you become aware of more weeds in that space; as if they are growing as you are picking. Is this so or was it that you didn't notice them in your blind spot. As well, you become aware of the micro life going on before your very eyes. Tiny bugs busily moving to and fro. A worm may appear and slither away. A beetle scurries by and you are impressed by its agenda. All is flowing, stay long enough and you will hear the stones. Suddenly, you return to the realization that you too belong in this flow. You are not alone.

        PG 13:
        The reason we grow old is because we expect too. Billions of human cells are replicating themselves as we speak (or listening or reading or whatever you are doing right now ) It's been said that the human body replaces itself every eleven months; other estimates offer a number of years. Hard tissue and nerve tissue replace at a slower rate so goes the argument but, the crux of the matter is we look the way we do because of the crockful of mis-beliefs and thoughtless comments that we have accumulated over our lifetime. If all of our experiences had been positive, if all the criticisms had been truthful, you would have nothing but a smile to put on your face. Throw all that baggage away. You are what you think and it is never too late to change your mind.
        gassho, Shokai

        仁道 生開 / Jindo Shokai

        "Open to life in a benevolent way"



        • Kaishin
          • Dec 2010
          • 2322

          Re: 7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

          PG 11:
          I've come to accept the "big swamp," I can deal with gators, and as Dori in the film "Finding Nemo" says, "just keep swimming, just keep swimming." What I can't figure out how to deal with is the darn tension headache that accompanies me the rest of the way down the river! Case in point, our air conditioning isn't cooling the house, and we're in the middle of a heat streak. I know, First World problems... anyway, that's great except for it's brand new. So waiting all weekend, pissed off and fuming, irritated to spend so much money on non-functional equipment, not able to focus on anything, waiting until Monday when I can call service.

          All the while *realizing* that I'm reacting in this completely irrational, unuseful way (at least I've gained that much insight from practice, I guess). But I can't shake it. I know it will be fixed in the end, and it's such a ridiculously minor thing to be upset about considering some of the things people have posted about lately, actually embarassed to use it as an example. But it is what it is. So I'm paddling, paddling (slamming the oars into the water, irritating the wildlife). Just keep sitting. "This too shall pass".

          PG 13:

          I was "immortal" until I turned 30 and had kids. Now I see my mortality in every childhood milestone, in every new ache and pain, in every disappearing hair... Not in a death-obsessed sense, just a realization of our fleeting lives and how significant each moment really is. I don't care about beauty, I just want people to look at pictures of me long after I'm gone and think, there was a loving father and husband, kind and patient and wise. I hope I can live up to it!

          Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
          Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.


          • Ekai
            • Feb 2011
            • 664

            Re: 7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

            Answer #1
            Right now in this moment of our lives, my husband and I are either flowing with life or really feel like we are going against the stream because we are PARENTING A TODDLER!!! :shock: When we are attune to Hunter's super-charged energy and provide a safe environment for him to play that allows him to be who he is, life flows much easier. But when we fight and resist his natural tendencies to explore and behave like most toddlers do, life does not quite flow so easily (in other words, major toddler melt-down!) Obviously we do set boundaries and limitations, like not crawling up the metal spiral staircase or trying to touch the fuzzy, buzzy bumblebee on the living floor. However by viewing and understanding in my mind that toddlers are supposed to be full of energy without the maturity to control their emotions yet, I am able to go with the flow of the moment instead of fighting against it.

            Answer #2
            Every time I look into the mirror, I see something different depending on the state of my mind or attitude. There is confidence and uncertainty, joy and disappointment, peace and anxiety, energy and weariness. Developing equanimity along with a few more wrinkles on my face has grown stronger and deeper over the years. I definitely would rather have a bunch more wrinkles on my face and have more balance and wisdom than be the clueless 21-year old I was again. I feel more accepting of myself no matter what mood or state I am in even if I am having a bad hair or "fat" day. By doing my best to be good person without harming anyone, I am comfortable with who I am no matter where I am at or what I look like.



            • Heisoku
              • Jun 2010
              • 1338

              Re: 7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

              Waiting for trains and planes has always allowed me to see stillness among 'busy'ness. Waiting without worry that is... just sitting and watching everyone from every corner of human life coming and going in all kinds of moods and demeanours, just living their lives, and me just sitting waiting. The best is when their is no thinking about who they are or what they are doing...just watching and in that watching being part of the motion but not in motion. It's stepping 'out' for a moment, seeing the flow rather than being part of it...until the time to board!!

              I've never been happier in my life than right now; being active enough to enjoy it and old enough not to attract any attention whatsoever doing it!
              Heisoku 平 息
              Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. (Basho)


              • Myoku
                • Jul 2010
                • 1487

                Re: 7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

                Originally posted by Shokai
                PG 11: Sitting in the garden, picking weeds. Some pull ... ... belong in this flow. You are not alone.
                Great Answer, Richard, thank you.

                My thoughts (are they mine ? :roll: ):

                Page 11 Hearing the Voice of the Valley Stream

                Every once in a while, on each and every day, when I get back to the very moment, I feel the tension in my body. Its almost always there. And when I look into the tension, I often find it comes from the resistance, it seems as if I always find something to resist against, even if its a small thing. So I swim against the river over and over. But just by coming back to the moment, its like turning around, flowing with the stream, effortless.

                Page 13 I Want to Become a Beautiful Person

                The face before I was born? That question has been pondered in every second book about zen, how can I reply to you with anything thats not just a quote ? :-) My heads so stuffed with that pre-programmed replies that its hard to find my own answer, one thats not just a copy. I try ... you and I, we both see it right now and in every moment.



                • Rimon
                  • May 2010
                  • 309

                  Re: 7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

                  Question 1: There is this road I take lots of days from the University to the Train station. I've passed it so many times that I never pay attention to the surroundings, either distracted with my own thoughts or rushing to catch the train. Last week, after dokusan with Taigu, I followed his advice to try to be less reflective and more open to what's happening right here, right now, in a non-judgmental way. As I enter the road, I was able to realize that there were plenty of crickets singing. I'm sure they've been singing for at least some weeks, but since then I was completely deaf to them. I stopped and just enjoyed the view. The view isn't memorable at all: some trees and bushes and suburban buildings in the background. There is even a small river, that usually carries detritus from the big factories up the stream. The really memorable thing is how my mind was outside the picture in that moment; there was just all of us together, the trees, the bushes, the crickets, the cement road, the buildings and the river flowing.

                  Question 2: My facial expression changes from a forced smile to a genuine one as I relax. Then it gets forced again if I keep paying attention to it. The original face is in the mirror that surrounds the face and just reflex what is in front of it. I still can't see it, but I keep on trying, nevertheless.
                  Rimon Barcelona, Spain
                  "Practice and the goal of practice are identical." [i:auj57aui]John Daido Loori[/i:auj57aui]


                  • KellyRok
                    • Jul 2008
                    • 1374

                    Re: 7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

                    Hello all,

                    pg. 11 - the valley stream

                    Having just gone through a few major life changes in the last year, I can tell you that I have both flowed with it and have fought (to no avail) against the current. To say that the nature of our lives is ever-changing is an understatement. Every few years, my husband puts in for new jobs (usuallly a promotion) to multiple places/multiple states. He does this because it is kind of a requirement in his current work path in order to move up in "rank" so to speak...not unlike many military families. For the most part, I'm open to new experiences, new places, "new adventure" - as I tell my children. However, this makes for a rather lonely life. It is hard enough for most adults to make friends, but when you move around, and are always deemed an outsider it makes it even more difficult. So I find that I don't want to make close relationships because I know that I will be leaving them behind, like I did with this last move. From the moment we find out we are moving until we get to our new destination - I put myself in "work" mode. I flow with the changes, because I have to for my husband and my children. Whatever problems arise, as they always do, I deal with them (although rather stressfully) and move on. But, once we get settled into our new life, I begin to resist my own feelings on it all. I fight my husband when he brings up the fact that we will eventually move again and we have to figure out what is "right" for us all over again. It is a cycle of flowing and resisting...it won't change any time soon. So....

                    pg. 13 - becoming a beautiful person

                    I try to avoid mirrors on most days. I look to make sure I'm presentable on the outside, but I never spend much time "looking" at my reflection. I work with children (teacher's aide) - and I've been told that I always look happy or content, and that I never get angry. But, on most days, I feel my face hides "me". I don't always feel that my reflection matches my inner feelings. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I want to be authentic, but I guess that nasty little thing called fear prevents me from doing so. Or at least that's how I feel...who knows, maybe others know me better than I know myself. I do hope to have a heart at peace someday, and then maybe I will be a beautiful person too.

                    Thank you to all who are sharing, this is where I truly learn.



                    • ChrisA
                      • Jun 2011
                      • 312

                      Re: 7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

                      Gassho, everyone, especially Rimon, Jodi, and Kelly (more on why below!). Like you, Kelly, I have a spouse who is very committed to her profession, which I support wholeheartedly -- as best I can! She works at a high level in the state department of education, and her work is intense, requires last-minute changes of plans, and often disrupts our family life.

                      Or so I thought. Upon greater reflection (and sitting, lots of sitting!), I realized that her work disrupted my feelings about changes that her work brought, often daily, to our family life. Looking back on those changes, I can see the extent to which much of my anger and frustration grew from being unable to confront a truth Aoyama describes neatly:

                      We make every effort to keep things as they are, because human beings, alone, lament transience.
                      It's not an overstatement to say that, upon getting a text message saying she had been unavoidably delayed and would arrive ~10 minutes later, I was lamenting transience! I cannot say I've worked this through to perfection (ha!), but it's been remarkable how a few minor things -- better communication and planning -- and one major thing -- shikantaza -- have reduced this dukkha, most days, to a few blips here and there at worst. And our mutual appreciation for supporting and loving each other in the life we actually lead has increased dramatically.

                      So, to the questions!

                      Originally posted by Jundo
                      See above! One more thing, in reference to this sentence:

                      Though theirs is a much slower flow, stones, trees, houses, and towns are flowing too.
                      I think about this slower flow quite a bit, try to embrace the idea that flux unfolds on a grander scale than I usually perceive. The town reference is particularly apt for me: I've lived in Providence RI most of the last 30 years, starting when I was 18, meaning that the city itself has been and continues to be a significant condition in nearly every aspect of my life. In addition, at critical moments, some of the darker aspects of the city have reared their ugly heads, reminding me how little control I have in this life. I've had to learn how to watch horrible things unfold ever so slowly, things that I knew a lot about but could do nothing to alter....

                      I had to laugh when I read this question, and was glad for Rimon, Jodi, and Kelly's responses about smiles! There's a joke in my family that I have the worst camera smile in the world, and it's accurate. My dad worked on the film assembly line at Polaroid when I was growing up, and nearly every weekend he brought home a few packs of test film that had to be shot. Suffice it to say that the smile I learned to make is nearly impossible for me to let go if I have a camera pointed at me -- or if I'm looking at myself in a mirror!

                      So, to quote Radiohead, when I look in the mirror, I think, "That there? That's not me."

                      [youtube] [/youtube]

                      Working on it. :wink:
                      Chris Seishi Amirault


                      • Shujin
                        Treeleaf Unsui
                        • Feb 2010
                        • 977

                        Re: 7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

                        I've been keeping Jundo's first question subconsciously for the past few weeks, so I'm grateful to be able to think of it directly. Both my sons, and myself, have food intolerance issues. After discussing it with the wife for some time, we decided to undergo a strict elimination diet. I could go on about the feeling of giving up your favorite foods for six weeks (and possibly forever), but I won't. The heart of the matter is that this is something I chose to do because I knew it was right, and stands a good chance of helping my family. In that sense, I feel I am swimming with the current. In parallel, however, I realize that some of my friends & extended family probably think I'm a lunatic. Going ahead with the diet also feels like swimming against the current. I'm not necessarily fighting, I'm just headed in a different direction. It's a novel experience.

                        When I look at myself in the mirror, I see an overly serious face. This is my work face. After a few seconds, a smile plays at the sides of my mouth. There's a happy person in there, but he won't come out when I'm wearing a mask. I start to think that I'm over analyzing the situation. I go to check on a pot of milk I've left to simmer. While busy being serious, the milk has boiled over.

                        Kyōdō Shujin 教道 守仁


                        • BrianW
                          • Oct 2008
                          • 511

                          Re: 7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

                          Hello all,

                          Perhaps no better time to write about than the present (and recent past)…..I had been planning to write about these issues and had even drafted a post, but my life seems so fluid…I never am able to keep up with it. I wanted to let everyone know at Treeleaf why my participation has been rather limited in recent months. This seems to fit…..

                          So here’s the flow –

                          Most of you have heard about the protests in Wisconsin over the Governor of the state trying to do away with public sector unions. Well same deal here in Ohio and I am in a public sector union at a state university. Not to get overly political here, but since last January, I have been thrown into a fight to keep our union….attending protests … networking with individuals involved in labor movements from Wisconsin to Egypt. It caught me off guard and as I am one of the union reps for our campus and I have spent a lot of time on the road. Political issues never really had much impact on my job…now I feel under attack and blindsided by all of this.

                          My wife’s dad and my mom entered hospice within the same week this spring. Both died within a week of one another. My wife’s family lives in Arizona and my wife was actually out helping her mom, when my mom passed away. In the past, my dad has refused me to help him deal with his finances and now he has bill collectors after him. Others are threatening law suits against him and he is receiving letters from lawyers. Last week he handed it all over to me to solve….he yells at me constantly.

                          My dog has kidney issues and needs sub-cutaneous water treatments. This does not hurt him, but he gets pretty upset during the procedure. He shows little signs of being sick or in pain, but his appetite is a major issue and I am constantly working with him to eat and to keep up his weight. I do not mind a bit working so hard to keep him healthy but I do worry about him so much.

                          We usually spend part of our summers on an island at a small cottage we own, but our relationship with some of the people has gone bad and my taste for the cottage has been soured. The cottage has been in my family since I was four and I usually associate it with a place to get away from problems…now I go there and feel stressed.

                          Each of the aforementioned issues are gators. They make me very anxious…as of late it seems like I am constantly anxious. I’m paddling down this stream and starting to get shell shocked….when will another gator pop up? At times hypervigilance sets in.

                          We may think of gators interrupting our “flow”…as we bump into them we get the feeling of discontinuity, but they are as much a part of the flow as the river itself. Although my participation at Treeleaf has been somewhat limited in recent months, I have kept up a regular practice of zazen. As stated in by Rev. Aoyama, zazen helps us to hear the river….to feel the flow….to perceive the continuity.

                          I have a bit of a different slant on impermanence. I see impermanence as connecting all of reality…the river constantly flows, but that unities one small particle of water at the beginning of the river to one small particle at the end of the river. Impermanence is the temporal expression of emptiness. Thus, if you can experience the change, you can feel the connection…..we are the river…it all becomes one.

                          I can’t tell you all that I am doing great, but I am doing at least OK. Zazen and the practice are my constant companions. I did experience a very special event surrounding my mother’s death, which I will share at a later time. Sorry for the big “unloading”, but it just seemed to fit with Jundo’s story.



                          • Jiken
                            • Jan 2011
                            • 753

                            Re: 7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

                            PG 11:
                            Flow should be simple so im going to try to do this using just a few words (with a less serious example). Here's my flow:

                            Daughters sing and play
                            In their bedrooms upstairs
                            Inhale, exhale without care

                            Here’s my current:

                            Daughters conflict roars
                            In their bedrooms upstairs
                            Inhale, exhale lose my hair

                            So I swim against the river over and over.”

                            swimming against the river is great explanation of how my life was (and still is) before I came to zen practice. Now regardless of the flow (pleasant or not) I try to let go and come back to center. It is way easier for me to say than do. I still swim. Sometimes I swim hard. But now I sometimes float.

                            PG 13:
                            When I look in the mirror I see change and my relationships with friends and family


                            • Shokai
                              Treeleaf Priest
                              • Mar 2009
                              • 6391

                              Re: 7/15 ZEN SEEDS: P. 11, P. 13 (INTRO)

                              Thank you all for your sharing, It appears we all have good reason to keep sitting.
                              The response to this thread is wonderful and Thanks to Rimon, I learned a new word
                              gassho, Shokai

                              仁道 生開 / Jindo Shokai

                              "Open to life in a benevolent way"