Eon Zen Dharma Talks


"I Won’t Say Alive, I Won’t Say Dead.”

A Dharma brother’s final message to his friends was “look Death in the eye.” When you do this, what looks back? In a famous koan, Master Dogo refuses to answer when his student asks if the corpse in front of them is alive or dead. What does such labeling accomplish other than allowing us to better compartmentalize death, making it less immediate and scary. Sages and poets through the ages have insisted that death is not as we conceptualize it, that instead of being that which follows (or precedes) life, it is in an intimate dance with life at all times. When we allow the fact of impermanence to permeate our consciousness, our skin may tingle and our eyes start to glow. Whatever we think death is, the real question is “are we alive?”

(Gyodo Sensei, November 5, 2018)

sutras in the wind.jpeg

Bodhidharma's Third No: "No Words or Concepts"

When the world comes to us, we almost always process the situation through our verbal conceptual understanding before responding. From a very early age, our cognitive development leads us to make sense of things through language that separates self and other, do-er and action. But the living expression of Zen Masters is often told through "body language": a single bow or a raised finger. Activating "an inner bow" is critical, even on those many occasions where the proper outer response requires us to speak. Bodhidarma's "no words" ask us to give up our allegiance to words and concepts and our need to understand and control, to act from the silence that is our home. 

(Gyodo Sensei, May 14, 2018)

Photo by Lisa Gakyo Schaewe (Lotus Opening Studio)

Photo by Lisa Gakyo Schaewe (Lotus Opening Studio)

Bodhidharma's Second No: "Not Knowing (Who I Am)"

From the beginning, Zen has recognized the disproportionate emotional energy we humans dedicate to creating and maintaining an identity structure. With so much of our conscious (and subconscious) attention turned toward fixing our "selves" amid the flux of phenomena, we lose perspective and create obstacles to intimacy. Confidently asserting "I don't know" when asked "who are you?" states your willingness to meet your life with boundless curiosity, unbeholden to the personal biography you have diligently crafted. Swami Satchidananda said, "You were fine; and then you de-fined yourself." Bodhidharma manifested the active ambiguity that is living the undefined. This unknowability is the path to deepest intimacy and truth.

(Gyodo Sensei, May 7, 2018)

Photo by Lisa Gakyo Schaewe (Lotus Opening Studio)

Photo by Lisa Gakyo Schaewe (Lotus Opening Studio)

Bodhidharma's First No: "No Merit"

The first words of Bodhidharma, the legendary first Patriarch of Zen, when he was called to the Imperial Chinese Court, were "no merit". What a surprising kick-off to a world-influencing spiritual tradition! Witnessing the Emperor's self-concern behind his question: "Where is my merit?", the Zen master pulls the rug out from beneath his feet. Right now, we can all ask ourselves what is important to us, what is most sacred and worthwhile, and how do we create value and meaning from them. If there is even a little bit of self-concern in our service to our ideals, then "no merit" may trouble and even demoralize us. From that place, we can question what is truly real and meaningful. 

(Gyodo Sensei, April 30, 2018)

Photo by Lisa Gakyo Schaewe (Lotus Opening Studio)

Photo by Lisa Gakyo Schaewe (Lotus Opening Studio)

Activation through Imitation

While zazen is neither active nor passive, it is both activating and pacifying. The forms of Zen practice and life -- posture, schedule, protocols, and ceremony -- are the ways in which awakened heart is activated and neurotic tendencies pacified. Sharing nothing with habit, convention, or even technique, the forms when meticulously embodied facilitate the alchemical transmutation of our life with the life of our predecessors in the awakened life. In a strange seeming-paradox, our own improvisational freedom arises from the imitation of form. Then we share bones, blood, eyebrows and heart with the honored women and men of the Way throughout time and space.

(Gyodo Sensei, April 23, 2018)

Photo by Lisa Gakyo Schaewe (Lotus Opening Studio), 2/5/18

Photo by Lisa Gakyo Schaewe (Lotus Opening Studio), 2/5/18

Dharma of the Impossible

The mind that thinks in terms of what is possible and what is not possible is often the mind absorbed in the Me-story. Limited by its own interpretation of experience, it lacks the broader context of intrinsic awakened nature, buddhanature, within which the impossible happens constantly. When we look into it, we see it is often our "need" for things to be a certain way that generates the illusion of impossibility. Bringing our attention to the everyday allows the miraculous to reveal itself. The opposite of impossible is showing up fully. 

(Gyodo Sensei, April 16, 2018)

Photo by Lisa Gakyo Schaewe (Lotus Opening Studio), 2/5/18

Photo by Lisa Gakyo Schaewe (Lotus Opening Studio), 2/5/18

Mastery is Neither Difficult nor Easy

The path of awakening takes us through shifts in our view and understanding, as we manifest, integrate and realize the life beyond division. "Your life is the life of the Buddha" means that whatever happens externally and internally in the course of this thing we call our life IS intrinsically awake. How can we see that truth, and more importantly how can we live that truth? Layman Pang said it was difficult, Laywoman Pang said it was easy. Their daughter Ling Jiao said it was neither difficult nor easy, a sublime perspective that does not deny difficulty or ease, while not fixating on them. Zen mastery is drinking when you are thirsty.

(Gyodo Sensei, February 6, 2018)