Birds In The Zendo

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  • Bion
    Treeleaf Unsui
    • Aug 2020
    • 3723

    Birds In The Zendo

    Last Friday, for Zazenkai, Jundo had a talk prepared as usual, but the barn swallows had other plans. As they went about their business, their chatter increasingly loud, Jundo handed them the microphone and welcomed their impromptu Dharma talk. So we all sat, spread across the entire world, each facing our own wall, bombarded by the singing of the barn swallows in Tsukuba. They were loud and energetic and some would say even annoying after a while. But, the experience reinforced an old conviction: when we sit together, across space and time, we are never separate, never far away, never disconnected or alone. At least 17 people, on different continents, different time zones, different environments, were sitting in stillness, but the swallows were the same for all of us. When we got up, we'd experienced the same thing (though, admittedly, whatever sensations or thoughts the swallow's chatter might've produced were unique to each of us). As a matter of fact, I invite you to sit with us and experience it for yourselves, if you missed last zazenkai.


    The presence of the swallows somehow reminded me of master Dogen's Genjokoan:

    "A bird flies through its sky, and no matter how far it flies, the sky is without end. At the same time, the fish and the bird have never left their water or their sky. When their need is large their use will be large. When the need is small their use is thus small. Thereby, each of them totally uses its full range in each moment, and each of them wholly brings its realm to vibrant activity."


    In the commentary he makes on Genjokoan in 'The Zen Master's Dance', Jundo says: "...life is a field of opportunity, [ ] it is up to us to make something of it. Of course, we are not totally free to do and be what we want, no more than a fish can leave the water or a bird can fly without the air. Nonetheless, where and how the bird or fish travel within their given medium, and with what grace and energy, is largely up to them. Thus, practice never stops because the features and variety of our lives never stop, so we practice right here where we are".

    That strikes me as a timely encouragement, both for our zazen practice and for life in general, since sometimes we sit with pain, with distractions, with a cloudy mind, with a broken heart, in the middle of a war or in the most beautiful room and sometimes we feel something is insufficient, inadequate, not proper etc... Maybe like the swallows flying above our guests' heads in the Tsukuba Zendo, their piercing singing blasting through my device's speakers or my numb legs causing me to sweat and want to get up from zazen before the bell rings. But, we "practice right here where we are". The same goes for every day life. We are not always dealt the best hand, nor does the wind always blow in our favour, but how we function in those difficult situations creates our life. That is our flying in that corner of our barn in that moment and we can choose to make it a graceful and energetic flying or we can act like a fish out of water or a bird without air under its wings. I am sure the swallows had visited bigger places and that Jundo and the Zendo guests were an annoyance for the little birds as well, yet they fully brought to life their swallow activity right then and there and boy, did they make an impact!

    I wonder if any of you remembers a situation where you were a barn swallow, responding energetically and gracefully to what was right in front of you, using it fully... Would you share?

    Please excuse the length of this post and please take whatever I have written here as merely my own thoughts and observations. I am but a novice monk, hoping that through sharing we learn together.

    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
  • Chikyou
    Member
    • May 2022
    • 568

    #2
    I always love hearing the birds in the zendo - it's always amazing to me to realize that I'm hearing birds, in Japan, and often times they blend and mingle with the birds outside my window here in Pennsylvania until I can't tell who's who.

    Gassho,
    SatLah
    Chikyō
    Chikyō 知鏡
    (KellyLM)

    Comment


    • Bion
      Bion commented
      Editing a comment
      It really is one of those nice things. I am entirely sure if Jundo muted himself during zazenkai, the feeling would be different! ( During zazenkai, my birds are entirely asleep )

      Gassho
      Sat and lah
  • Onsho
    Member
    • Aug 2022
    • 100

    #3
    If they are still in the zendo next Zazenkai, we should probably name them and give them little rakusus.

    Gassho
    Onsho
    S@lah

    Comment


    • Bion
      Bion commented
      Editing a comment
      Ha! I don’t know how many swallows there are, but two of them can have the dharma names Chirpikyo and Flyosho

      Gassho
      Sat and lah
  • Ankai
    Treeleaf Unsui
    • Nov 2007
    • 890

    #4
    We've got to have at least one pair called, "Beak-khu" and "Beak-khuni..."


    ST LAH
    Last edited by Ankai; 05-21-2024, 11:39 AM.
    Gassho!
    護道 安海

    -Godo Ankai

    I'm still just starting to learn. I'm not a teacher. Please don't take anything I say too seriously. I already take myself too seriously!

    Comment

    • Alina
      Member
      • Jul 2023
      • 141

      #5
      Originally posted by Bion
      In the commentary he makes on Genjokoan in 'The Zen Master's Dance', Jundo says: "...life is a field of opportunity, [ ] it is up to us to make something of it. Of course, we are not totally free to do and be what we want, no more than a fish can leave the water or a bird can fly without the air. Nonetheless, where and how the bird or fish travel within their given medium, and with what grace and energy, is largely up to them. Thus, practice never stops because the features and variety of our lives never stop, so we practice right here where we are".

      That strikes me as a timely encouragement, both for our zazen practice and for life in general, since sometimes we sit with pain, with distractions, with a cloudy mind, with a broken heart, in the middle of a war or in the most beautiful room and sometimes we feel something is insufficient, inadequate, not proper etc...

      Alina
      stlah

      Comment

      • Shigeru
        Member
        • Feb 2024
        • 32

        #6
        I always enjoy hearing the birds on the other side of the screen when we're sitting. As I am sitting mostly in silence, I think it makes for good ambience (and maybe a good way to pretend it is not in fact the middle of the night? )

        Gassho
        Will
        SatLah
        - Will

        Respecting others is my only duty - Ryokan

        Comment

        • Daiman
          Treeleaf Unsui
          • Apr 2022
          • 674

          #7
          At some point, one of the Barn Swallows said, "Let's Sit." I heard it. Then it got really quiet. And so their Dharma Talk was complete.

          Gassho,
          Daiman
          St/LAH

          Comment

          • Soka
            Member
            • Jan 2017
            • 162

            #8
            My first thought when I read Bion's post was of the bird that sometimes lands on the roof of my van and walks along during my morning zazen.

            I tried to capture it, but instead I have captured the sound of the rain, rowers, reversing vans and the car that sometimes parks next to me in the mornings with the stereo up. I also captured some birds, but not the one that. The audio is not such good quality, but here is a snippet of my mornings.

            Over the last couple of years I have moved from van, to studio flat in Vietnam, to a month sharing a place with my mum, sister and nephew, and now back to the van. Each time the spaces have been different, but each time I have had what I needed. I feel the less I have, the less I need. I run and I sit. But I have also observed that sometimes, if I get something nice, my mind also starts to crave the next something nice. Part of me still likes to expand the space in which I fly, while another part is content to sit in the small spaces.

            Now I find myself in a relationship and I realise that even though my need is not so great, I have to also balance that with the needs of another. It is one thing to live in a van without heating, plumbing or electricity, but it feels a somewhat different thing to ask that of someone else. It seems I am not so totally free, but wherever we end up, I will have a place to sit and exactly all I need.

            Gassho,
            Sōka
            sat​

            Comment

            • Bion
              Treeleaf Unsui
              • Aug 2020
              • 3723

              #9
              Originally posted by Soka
              My first thought when I read Bion's post was of the bird that sometimes lands on the roof of my van and walks along during my morning zazen.

              I tried to capture it, but instead I have captured the sound of the rain, rowers, reversing vans and the car that sometimes parks next to me in the mornings with the stereo up. I also captured some birds, but not the one that. The audio is not such good quality, but here is a snippet of my mornings.

              Over the last couple of years I have moved from van, to studio flat in Vietnam, to a month sharing a place with my mum, sister and nephew, and now back to the van. Each time the spaces have been different, but each time I have had what I needed. I feel the less I have, the less I need. I run and I sit. But I have also observed that sometimes, if I get something nice, my mind also starts to crave the next something nice. Part of me still likes to expand the space in which I fly, while another part is content to sit in the small spaces.

              Now I find myself in a relationship and I realise that even though my need is not so great, I have to also balance that with the needs of another. It is one thing to live in a van without heating, plumbing or electricity, but it feels a somewhat different thing to ask that of someone else. It seems I am not so totally free, but wherever we end up, I will have a place to sit and exactly all I need.

              Gassho,
              Sōka
              sat
              I really appreciate this answer! Thank you, Soka! I’ve told you before how convinced I am of your “swallowness”

              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


              • Soka
                Soka commented
                Editing a comment
                Well, I do migrate
            • Douglas
              Member
              • May 2017
              • 59

              #10
              As I've continued to practice zazen, I've interestingly noticed animals more, both outside of sitting and during it (Robins and Carolina Wrens can be LOUD). I find myself pondering their lives, their activities, and wondering in a general sense how exactly they regard us humans, if at all.

              I appreciate life far more now than I did in the past. It truly is special, and I try to let it unfold naturally whenever I can and not interfere.

              Mindfully observing birds, my cat, and even an ant crawling across my deck seems to offer instruction.

              -

              Comment

              • Dainin
                Member
                • Sep 2007
                • 372

                #11
                Originally posted by Douglas
                I appreciate life far more now than I did in the past. It truly is special, and I try to let it unfold naturally whenever I can and not interfere.
                Beautifully put, Douglas.

                Gassho,
                Dainin

                SatLah

                Comment

                • Douglas
                  Member
                  • May 2017
                  • 59

                  #12
                  During Jundo’s talks on the podcast I could swear I heard roosters in the background. Are there roosters near the zendo?

                  Comment

                  • Jundo
                    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                    • Apr 2006
                    • 39237

                    #13
                    Originally posted by Douglas
                    During Jundo’s talks on the podcast I could swear I heard roosters in the background. Are there roosters near the zendo?
                    Hah! No roosters. Only barn swallows.

                    Gassho, J

                    stlah
                    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                    Comment

                    • Bion
                      Treeleaf Unsui
                      • Aug 2020
                      • 3723

                      #14
                      Originally posted by Douglas
                      During Jundo’s talks on the podcast I could swear I heard roosters in the background. Are there roosters near the zendo?
                      You heard correctly! For consistency, there is actually an ambience track behind the voice, which adds enough noise and “effect” to blend with the natural environment but also with the noise of Zoom and microphone, laggy internet connection, etc … Should anyone listen with headphones, the sound is quite “wide”. So, you heard correctly!

                      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

                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39237

                        #15
                        Originally posted by Bion

                        You heard correctly! For consistency, there is actually an ambience track behind the voice, which adds enough noise and “effect” to blend with the natural environment but also with the noise of Zoom and microphone, laggy internet connection, etc … Should anyone listen with headphones, the sound is quite “wide”. So, you heard correctly!

                        gassho
                        sat and lah
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                        Comment

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