In this video John talks about how we understand faith in Zen. The expressions of Zen masters describe what they experience. They are not universal statements about the world. ‘Faith’ is that we too can experience what they have described.
In this video, John looks at the necessity of expressing ourselves fully. We imagine it’s hard for us as human beings to do this in every moment, since we have memory, perception and anticipation.
But we need to understand we are not smeared across time. We cannot illuminate this life with the half life of past or future moments.
Bodhidharma was famously said to have meditatively faced a wall at Shaolin Temple for nine years. But is this “wall gazing” to be taken literally as a person facing a wall, or it it a person practicing like a wall gazing at the world: rooted in equanimity and non discrimination?
Kusen No 319: Experiencing Emptiness in Zazen
In this video, John talks about visual imagery in the Mahayana sutras. Nowadays this can strike us as confusing – obstructing us from getting to the clear ideas we expect to be there. However, early Buddhism grew up in an oral culture without written records. Then, hearing was associated with intellect since this was how the sutras were transmitted and debated. By contrast, sight was associated with a kind of wholeness coming all at once without the mediation of the intellect. The imagery of the Pranjnaparamita sutras, then, is not making fantastical claims about the nature of reality. It’s a description of the ways in which different beings can see, in the full meaning of this.
Prior to sitting we might imagine that awareness is a kind of thinking, and that the purpose of meditation is to purify the mind. This creates an urge to banish intrusive or banal thoughts.By giving awareness to specific sensations in our head – our head, not our mind – we notice it’s impossible for a thought and an awareness of something sensate to exist at exactly the same time. The thought is not destroyed. But it’s experienced as something energetic – it’s embodied. By reconciling the mind with the head in this way we can then extend it throughout the body, resolving the mind-body dualism.
In this video John discusses the meaning of ‘gassho’ – why do we bow? He looks at different explanations and connects it to Dogen’s reformulation of ‘koan’. In this view, a koan is the expression of the reality of this person, not some universal truth. And so with us when we bow, it is this person fully expressing themself in this karmic position.