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The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment

In this video, John talks about the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment. This describes three approaches to meditation: Samatha, Samapatti and Dhyana. We can look at these as three different practices. We can also look at them as being three aspects, although not the only aspects, of our own practice.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 346 given on 29th April 2021
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Everything is your Ally

In this video, John talks about Dogen’s view on attaining the Buddha’s truth. Dogen says that since this truth is reality, in order to avoid it one has to resolve not to attain it. Without this intention not to pursue the Buddha’s truth then 

everything is your ally

Video adapted from Kusen No. 345 given on 17th April 2021
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Taking the backward step

In this video John talks about non-separation and what Dogen describes as ‘taking the backward step’. This can be described as ungrasping in terms of each of the five skandhas.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 344 given on 14th April 2021
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A handful of jewels

In this video John explains what we need to understand about the purpose of a teacher: it is to wake us up from the dream of the self. And that our teachers’ incompleteness and our incompleteness and the incompleteness of all things is the hand that opens and reaches out to all things.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 332 given on 23rd January 2021
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Becoming singing

In this video John talks about Dogen’s Shobogenzo Dotoku. With this he was recasting Buddhist practice by changing what we think our idea of practice is. Rather than struggling through a storm to an imagined tranquillity, we are to see ourselves and all beings as ‘expression’.

But Dogen’s idea of ‘expression’ is not to view it as an attribute of the self. If we ungrasp from the grip of the self, even what we understand to be delusion, is in itself expression.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 343 given on 16th January 2021
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Vitality

In this video John talks about vitality – the aliveness of the body – and its central role in meditation. If we ignore it then we may end up just thinking of meditation in terms of consciousness, what we will give attention to is the ‘contents’ of consciousness, primarily thoughts and emotions.Aliveness shows itself at the level of sensation, which goes ‘upwards’, becoming emotions, becoming thoughts. It will also show itself as an energetic patterning underneath our emotions.  If we’re not aware of that, then what we’ll see is simply the top layers.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 343 given on 7th April 2021
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The Mahayana Sutras

In this video John looks at the fantastical content and structure of many of the Mahayana sutras. What’s going on? In the Pali sutras, the language is simply faithfully recording what the Buddha said.
In the Mahayana sutras by contrast, the language is expressive and performative, so the teaching isn’t, as it were, set out in the sutra. The sutra is like a teacher who will change you.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 333 given on 4th February 2021
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The Magician

In this video John talks about Nagarjuna’s metaphor of a magician who conjures up an imaginary person. We can look at this in a personal way: that we have created this phantom of self, this imaginary person from our beauty and pain. A Bodhisattva sees the creator as well as the conjured person.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 342 given on 30th March 2021
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Shikantaza

In this video John talks about the phrase Shikantaza used to describe Soto Zen zazen. In English this can be translated as, ‘just sitting’. But it’s not a direction to us as an individual describing a psychological state. It’s a description of the non-separation of self & world when we are sitting.

Video adapted from Kusen No. 341 given on 29th March 2021
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The Fabric of Buddhism

In this video John talks about some of the symbolism associated with the meaning of the word sutra. Its literal meaning is thread. But if the thread of the sutra is, as it were, one line of the fabric to be weaved, the vertical say, what is the horizontal line? What or who is woven with it to constantly produce the miraculous fabric of Buddhism?

Video adapted from Kusen No. 336 given on 28th February 2021