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“If you want to get it, you have to become it. But you already are it, so why worry about it?” - Yunju Daoying On the first of our talks recorded live from the Fall Retreat, Sara takes us on a personal walking tour of personal ambition. How do we balance the desire to make something of ourselves while still staying true to the spirit of Zen? Along …
 
“What's your intention? What's your aspiration? What are you doing it all for? Maybe it’s a delusional question in a goalless practice, but they're going to ask it. Just because it's a silly question doesn't mean you get out of answering.” - Dave Cuomo Dave unpacks everyone’s favorite Zen quote of ultimate exoneration, Dogen’s “One Continuous Mista…
 
“When I read the old literature, the Zen Masters are never my role models. I identify with the idiot monks who don’t get it. Like, how do I humble myself to what I don’t understand? How do I respond to what I’ll never feel capable of? That helps me relax. It might even help me be more virtuous.” - Dave Cuomo Vimalakirti opens up a portal to a sweet…
 
“You can be afraid of ghosts and other evils, but you cannot label them your enemies. You help others like you scratch your back. There's no distinction.” - Gyokei Yokoyama Altruism, we all know it’s good, but why does it often feel so oppressive? Or, is it even possible to not live a life of service if we’re being really honest about what we’re do…
 
“I’ve had the experience of sitting zazen and just watching the dust bunnies blow around and thinking ‘this is great…’ It feels ordinary, and exciting, because only good can can come out of that sense of boring - showing up and hanging out without a lot of expectations.” - Heather Ross In our ongoing series where brave sangha members bring us the s…
 
“This practice is not about me. I love noticing that - bowing and realizing that however it’s going for me is not the point of being here. The beautiful thing about retreat is that it’s not really about your experience. You go up there, go into silence, try not to be late for things, stumble along, do the ceremonies and chants, eat in silence toget…
 
“It’s like burning a field. Out of the ash comes a true greenery - a greenery which knows the burning of the land. It’s a call and response. It’s having a trust that they're not trying to kill us inside. But actually it’s a way to strengthen that uniqueness that's embedded in us - but a uniqueness that does not confront or contradict what is.” - Gy…
 
“I don't think we should be engaging in intentionally changing who we are and how we do things here. I also don't think we should be willfully static and so stuck in our ways that we forget that change is the natural function of everything all the time. If we think about it that way, who we are and what we do will take care of itself. I think. I co…
 
“People say zazen is hard, so it’s important to check in - are you stressing out about it? Are you making it too harsh? Trying too hard? Are you disappointed with your Zen? Are you waiting for something to happen? Consider taking it easy. Stop waiting for anything to happen and just watch… Zen is the easy path, the very easy path. It doesn’t need t…
 
“Don't try to improve at all. Just try to understand what a nut you are. Be patient with it. Marvel at it - ‘What a dummy I am, it’s unbelievable that I still do this, and it's perfect the way I do it because I've been conditioned so perfectly, so exquisitely. My mother and father were so perfect in making me as neurotic as I am.’” - Norman Fischer…
 
“A Zen master's life could be said to be so many years of one continuous mistake. This means so many years of one single minded effort.” - Shunryu Suzuki Is it possible to be good at this practice? It is possible to be good at life? Would we really be better off if we were? Emily continues her deep dive into Shunryu Suzuki’s foundational “Zen Mind,…
 
”My job isn't to not make mistakes, it's to figure them out. That's the fun of it. They’re not really mistakes. They’re what I’m supposed to be doing.” - Dave Cuomo Who’s actually driving this car? Is anyone really steering the ship?? If we are not our thoughts, then who’s making our choices, and do we have any agency in that? Dave looks at a histo…
 
"This moment is not sacred. It's not mundane. It's weird. Find the weirdness." - Erik Andersen Erik takes a loving look at the cold hard truth that this might be as good as it gets. Is the world a good place at heart? Or is it as inherently corrupt as it seems? Buddhism says both! So what should we believe? Is it better to challenge negative belief…
 
“Plant seeds in the sky and they’ll never grow. Plant them in dung and dirt and watch them flourish.” - Manjushri In the culminating thesis of the sutra, our great bodhisattvic heroes Vimalakirti and Manjushri celebrate the irascible and irreverent with a whole hearted endorsement of the path of the Wrong Way and the heavenly delights of hell while…
 
“You don’t seek the way, the way seeks you!” - Kodo Sawaki Sara shares with us the enlightening existential crisis of her wayward mind which, according to our forbears, is the essential mind of practice. How did we get here and why do we keep coming back? Why does this path turn out to be for some but not for others?? What’s the difference between …
 
“We say, ‘Pulling out the weeds we give nourishment to the plant.’ We pull the weeds and bury them near the plant to give it nourishment. So even though you have some difficulty in your practice, even though you have some waves while you are sitting, those waves themselves will help you. So you should not be bothered by your mind. You should rather…
 
"Whatever the ineffable is, it doesn't seem too concerned with our politics. But then we're also always told that the ineffable is nothing but what happening right now... So it gets left up to you to figure out what's truly important. My actual hot take on everyone's politics is, if you've already sat down and shut up for a half hour today, whateve…
 
“The nice thing about a Zen Center is they make it really easy to be a good person. Just follow the script - bowing, sitting, chanting enlightened things, sending all your cosmic merit to all living beings… you’re already being an enlightened buddha just by following the playbook. Everyone seems so nice, wholesome, and down to earth around here. I …
 
“If the pure land isn’t real, maybe we can make this a pure land. Even if it doesn't add up to anything, maybe our own brains can be a Buddha land - a sphere of influence positively affected by an outside Buddha. Maybe the pure land isn’t so far away after all.” - Erik Andersen “Not knowing is nearest!” Erik takes us on a personal pilgrimage to the…
 
“Part of us dies in this process. It’s like a beautiful salad that starts to whither and you feel like something was lost… It’s like finding trust in the most unpromising place with no ground for solid footing. It's allowing the whole situation to penetrate through you and allowing yourselves to penetrate right through the situation… But I'm still …
 
“Enlightenment might be inherent, but it’s not natural to humans for some reason. In some places they will literally beat it into or out of you. So my question is, what are we doing here? What do you want to get out of this?” - Dave Cuomo Dave takes a look at a modern Zen conundrum: is a Zen center a place of equal practice and training for all, or…
 
“It was always about what am I contributing? What am I doing out in the world? But yeah, I’m not shooting so high anymore. It’s true, there are important things to be done out there. And the reality is this practice is going to be really important to the future. So yeah, sitting is my contribution.” - Mota Mynttinen Mota open up and regales us with…
 
“If you train yourself to always be confident, competent, and charismatic, you're going to walk into a room and either alienate or inspire everybody, and connect with nobody. If you’re able to walk into a room with a tickle of anxiety and self doubt, next to some hope and aspiration, all cradled in the big old thromb of emptiness that animates ever…
 
“…when you’re totally beaten up and you don’t know what to do, that’s the moment of truth - when suddenly all those Buddhist teachings you’ve read about are no longer just something you read in a book….” - Gyokei Yokoyama On day two of our Mt Baldy retreat, Gyokei opens himself up for Daisan - a revelatory round of public practice discussion where …
 
“Bodhisattva’s determination is not something that makes you feel leashed or confined. This kind of determination frees you…. It's not self-sacrifice. It's the feeling that I cannot help but do this.” - Gyokei Yokoyama Gyokei returns from a nationwide tour of the post-pandemic Zen Center scene with an impassioned (and important) message of unity an…
 
“There’s a thousand ways of speaking, infinite understandings, all just inviting you to befriend your unknowing.” - Shitou Xiqian Dave brings us a fresh original translation of Shitou’s timeless, “Straw Hut Song” - a beautiful and deceptively simple piece that moves from a humble nap in the hay to the boundless fringes of everywhere and nowhere at …
 
”…it was like, ooh, I don't have to count breaths? I liked that idea… no anchor, nothing holding me to this cushion… where was I going to go?It was scary, but liberating. I thought, ‘Hmm… maybe I shouldn't tell anybody that I'm doing this… But I can do this. This is something I could do every day.’” - John Nilsson John shares the raw unvarnished st…
 
“The goal here isn't to stop feeling pain. We need you to feel pain." - Dave Cuomo In pt 4 of our Vimalakirti series , the great bodhisattva Manjusrhi finally meets the enlightened laymen Vimalakirti himself for some playfully profound dharma combat as they tackle the big questions; why do we have trouble? How should we care for other people when t…
 
“We all think that we're a good person, that we're some form of intelligent. In the monastery, they compassionately take that away and help us remember that there is something more important.” - Gyokei Yokoyama Gyokei takes us on a personal tour of zazen from the monastic perspective; from the enlightenment of certain failure, to the raw self under…
 
“Part of grief is that you can't predict it. It just happens and you have no control over it. And some of that aspect of grief is accepting that you don't have control; or maybe not accepting, actually resisting it entirely and rebelling against it, and being afraid that you don't have control over your loved ones disappearing and going. And maybe …
 
“If anything you say is going to be wrong, you might as well say it right” - Colin Young Dave takes a Zen look at making choices - what are wise discernments and what is the delusion of discrimination? Along the way we get a dramatic reading of the Xinxin Ming, Sengcan’s classic treatise on choice and non duality, and some practical advice on how t…
 
“A professional artist is someone who understands what they're doing and are just going to do what they understand. An amateur is going into something with the understanding you're going to get lost.” - Jason Dodge Jason takes us on a delightful walk through the life and work of Ryokan, the famous wandering poet monk of Edo Japan, while holding up …
 
“If you can sit zazen until you don't need to get up in the middle, then you're really content with nothing. When you're content with nothing, you don’t need to go out and find things to fill that big empty hole inside of you. The less you need, the less you have to worry about. I highly recommend it.” - Dave Cuomo In the thrilling conclusion to hi…
 
“You might think you're no good or you can't do anything. But the more you think that, the more you might be missing that little hairsbreadth of difference that could be the difference between heaven and earth. Anything can happen at any time. The message is to not believe anything. To just be cautious. And to take everything with a grain of salt.”…
 
“Ultimately, you can't separate yourself from the things that you or others do wrong. There's no glory in being better than other people.” - Dave Cuomo In pt 3 of his thrilling Vimalakirti Sutra series, Dave regales us with the story of the time our titular hero, the enlightened layman Vimalakirti, sought out each of Buddha’s best monks to explain …
 
“They say there is only suffering. Even happiness is just another form of suffering. And I can see that. But what do you do with that knowledge? Do you still go to birthday parties? Do you go on dates? And what do you say? Do you just say ultimately happiness and unhappiness are just the head and tail of the same snake? I don’t know if there’s a qu…
 
"Precepts are what humbles us. It's not designed to inflate our imagination. It sobers us. The precepts come with an understanding that we are constantly, in each moment, failing. And that's why we uphold the precepts." - Gyokei Yokoyama Gyokei returns to the hot seat with an in depth and personal look at precepts and Jukai (lay precept ceremony). …
 
“If we started with the goal of becoming happy and wise enough to attract better people into our lives and making a better world together, now they’re telling us the real liberation is to not need to think like that at all - to be so free that you’re not worried about what kind of world you live in. In fact if you were truly free, you might just ch…
 
"The funny thing about zazen is, it can’t be fooled. The funny thing about Zen is I can’t crush it or not crush it. So all I really want to do is be honest and convey something true for a second. And when I remember that, I kinda can" - Jordan Mylet Jordan regales us with a warm and insightful love letter to zazen, as part of our series where long …
 
“When we’re talking about joy, I mean the kind of joy that you might feel at a funeral, a crying aching joy that encompasses everything. It's like, no, this whole thing is beautiful and I'm glad we did this. And I would do it all over again.” - Dave Cuomo Dave brings us an optimistic look at the afflictions - greed, hatred, delusion, anger, guile (…
 
"To that voice who's saying, ‘Are we good enough?’ This is saying we exist. And that's enough" - Emily Eslami Emily shares with us Dogen's bright and clear treatise on fundamental self worth, "Brightness." What does Zen mean with woo woo sounding words like 'Buddha's light?' and how is that supposed to apply to us? And where does the light go when …
 
“The most important thing you can be doing is just to be doing it, and that's doing it right. You don't have to be perfect. You just have to be there.” - Sara Campbell Sara shares her experiences with Master Clown (yes, that’s a thing!) Moshe Cohen’s “Levity of Pause” workshop, all about the intersection of Zen and clown. Join us as she helps us br…
 
“Slowly, over time, you might get used to not feeling crappy about yourself. You might get used to not hating everyone you disagree with. And then when some of that old negativity does come back up it can seem like a big problem. But that’s a good sign. Don’t turn back when you notice how crappy of a person you can be. When the afflictions become a…
 
“You are what's happening, what's happening is you. What else could you be? Even when what's happening is that you're doubting what's happening, that's still what's happening.” - Dave Cuomo In a totally timely New Year’s talk, Dave brings us a dramatic reading of “The Time Being,” Dogen’s classic treatise on time and reality and where exactly we fi…
 
"What are we liberating ourselves from? It's about being able to do the things that you want to do and not getting hung up about smaller things This is emotional liberation, emotional freedom. People get discouraged in Zen for not getting things or not understanding it. A lot of people think that they just don't get it and move on to other things. …
 
“Every religion at some point asks the question, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ And there is rarely a satisfying answer. But this sutra is going to try to answer that by showing us how to accept the full crappiness of the world, while also knowing it as a jewel encrusted paradise at the same time.” - Dave Cuomo Dave dives into some sang…
 
"Last night, this mountain monk unintentionally stepped on a dried turd and it jumped up and covered heaven and earth. This mountain monk unintentionally stepped on it again, and it introduced itself, saying, “My name is Sakyamuni.” Then, this mountain monk unintentionally stepped on his chest, and immediately he went and sat on the vajra seat, saw…
 
“To live in the realm of Buddha nature means to die as a small being, moment after moment. When we lose our balance we die, but at the same time we also develop ourselves, we grow. Whatever we see is changing, losing its balance. The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance, but its background is always in perfect harmony.”…
 
“This is the answer key to zazen, the answer key to Buddhism. It’s actually the answer key to enlightenment too. It might not seem like it, it might seem pretty boring. But, when they don't tell you the answers in Zen, this is what they’re not saying.“ - Dave Cuomo Dave walks us through Yogacara’s “Five Omnipresent Factors” - the theoretical underp…
 
"I love the idea of worlds creating and worlds destroying. Each moment being new makes the good times sweeter. And being aware of how much you love something when it's happening makes harder times bearable. It's that awareness that everything is being made up and torn down constantly." - Sara Campbell Live from Mt Baldy, Sara brings us a personal e…
 
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