Teacher and Tradition

Zen Practice appears to demand a great deal from us when we are distracted, and little when we are clear and rooted. Life ebbs and flows and so does our practice. Sometimes we are happy to jump right in, and other times we hesitantly dangle our toes in the deep spiritual waters. One of the obstacles in Zen Practice, as well as other traditions, is a sense of boredom. We may feel this boredom arises from many things, for our purposes we will focus on the teacher, and tradition. However, no matter what the reason, if we have convince ourselves that our boredom is due to outside causes, we are lost on the dark path of ignorance. In reality, the origins of our discontent are neither teacher nor tradition but, our unreal expectations of our spiritual path.
Trungpa Rimpoche coined the term “Spiritual Materialism” which pointed to the consumption of spirituality as though it was a commodity to buy and sell. In the west, this is very easily seen. For example, you have a smartphone but, that new one promises to be so much better! You discard the old one and purchase the new but, wait, after a few weeks that phone looses it charm and you need a new distraction. The cycle repeats over and over. We find ourselves chronicly unfullfilled and unhappy.
I always tell people there is no need to convert to any religion if they want to practice Zen. I remember clearly wanting to be a Zen Buddhist Monk when I first was exposed to Buddhism. I wanted something new, something to fill that desire and bring peace to my restless heart and mind. All those new chants, robes and rituals are pretty powerful. Adorning myself with Buddhist robes, malas, diction and a Dharma Name would empower me, so I thought. My path didn’t turn out anything like I had expected. Seeking someone or something to save you, will inevitable lead to dissatisfaction (suffering). The inevitable reveals distraction for what it is, and once again we find ourselves confronted with boredom and discontent. The choice to convert or switch teachers is ours to make, and it may take some time to it sort out. No matter what tradition or teacher we align ourselves with, the path to spiritual awakening will always require brutal honesty. Honesty with others, and most important, honesty with ourselves.
Established Zen Students may fall into spiritual materialism by chasing different traditions/lineages and teachers. After a few years their attention wanes and they begin looking outward once again. Their discontent waters the seeds of ignorance once again. For example, I always cringe when I hear someone seeking out a “new teacher” based on outside appearances or provocative ideas. When we begin to define a teacher by outward appearances and the ideas they convey, we are caught by the ego’s gravity. Granted there are great teachers out there, and it is certainly not a negative thing to learn different ideas or impliment different tool but, if we are seeking them for the wrong reasons, we are just moving further and further from that which would truly bring us peace and tranquility. One of my favorite koans “Gutei’s Finger” is a prime example of the importance of maintaining a root teacher. With time, we realize that the true Dharma is not an idea, nor a formulation to be chased. When the chase stops, and we realize that what we seek in not within others, we open ourselves to the inexhaustible Dharma that is us.
Although boredom still visits, I know it has nothing to do with teacher or tradition. I don’t start combing through the internet as though I was shopping on Amazon for a new pair of shoes. “If only I was there or I had that, things would be so much better.” Danger!
When we say “root teacher”, that is exactly what they are and what they do – root. They are our living koan and encouragement which remind us to remain rooted and awake in times of confusion, boredom and doubt. Even though seeking various approaches is healthy, we must also be aware of the games we play.

Dharma

The word “Dharma” has no single equivalent in the western dialect. Its meanings also differs between traditions. The original meaning was “to hold”, specifically to hold the laws of the gods. Later, the word would include everything from Sila (rules of right living), the eternal, essential nature, law, truth, reality and thusness, to name a few. Moving through various consciousnesses we radiate our understanding of Dharma in many different ways. Once again falling into the caveats of the human experience. How wonderous the Dharma is! It is that which manifests the fundamental nature of the universe itself. In Buddhism we tend to use it interchangeably with “universal law” or “truth” which is close enough, however, the word by nature is much more dynamic and vibrant. Dharmas are also considered teachings which point to various ideas, truths or experiences, such as the teachings of the historical Buddha Gotama ect. Yet the Buddha clarifies in the Diamond Sutra, “There are no teachings to expound”. Meaning, there is “no thing” to teach, nor can the Dharma be given to anyone. Zen’s Dharma Transmission is the recognition of this principle, and in truth empty. The word “Dharma” is merely a marker for that which is eternal, that which is intrinsically empty, and that which is none other than the universe itself. So there are many layers within this word. The “Dharmas are endless…”, and move with us, as us, as we fall into phenomena, revealing ourselves as we drop away further and further. So the more we let go of dharma, the more we radiate IT!

Gutei’s Finger

One of my favorite Teishos to give is on Case Three of the Mumonkan “Gutei’s Finger”. Depending on our karma, every koan will strike us in a different way. Some koans we are content to hear the words “next” while others we could fall into for a lifetime, for me this is Gutei’s finger. By nature this koan demands no less and is truly “inexhaustible”. For me this “inexhaustibility” is that of love, Tenryu’s love, Gutei’s Love and the love of that one finger . Love to me IS the rabbit hole from which I tumble down investigating this “One finger Zen”. Down and down I go, righting momentarily to only start tumbling again. You may perceive the periods of “righting” are the periods of radiance, they are not, it is the tumbling. The “righting” is the grasping at roots on the way down, desperately trying to hold on to control. For new students they think me odd when I get choked up offering this koan. They think “My god, this Gutei is vicious and Joriki seems to be of the same feather”! I assure you the cut was extraordinarily deep but, the finger, in a relative sense, still remained on the attendant. I hope on my death bed too I will still be tumbling, mumbling my last words of the endless beauty of this one finger.

Mumonkan Case 3: Gutei’s Finger
Gutei raised his finger whenever he was asked a question about Zen. A boy attendant began to imitate him in this way. When a visitor asked the boy what his master had preached about, the boy raised his finger.
Gutei heard about the boy’s mischief, seized him and cut off his finger with a knife. As the boy screamed and ran out of the room, Gutei called to him. When the boy turned his head to Gutei, Gutei raised up his own finger. In that instant the boy was enlightened.
When Gutei was about to die, he said to the assembled monks,”I received this one-finger Zen from Tenryu. I used it all my life and yet could not exhaust it” and then he passed away.

March on

Life by nature is a challenge, and many times we are on a learning curve. Sometimes that curve is exhilarating, and sometimes it is confusing and heavy. We do our best. With patience and strength we work through the waves of karma as they crash upon us. Zen Practice allows us a strong footing, so we are not constantly knocked over by the ebb and flow of the universe. It is said in zen to just “march on”. No matter if the sun is upon our check, or the cold winds bare down on us, we just keep moving forward. We watch not to become caught, or stuck in deep currents of phenomena; even if they are comforting and pleasurable. The Zen Student is always traveling, and her supplies are not that of heavy preference and nostalgia. The Zen Students pack has only the robe of liberation to drape over the universe, and a small bowl to collect the subtle offerings of the falling sakura. So I invite to put down the load, carry only what you need, and “March on” through this journey we call life.

MARCH ON

Koryu-ji Ranking System

Blue Mountain Zendo offers formal Rinzai Zen Training for those who are interested in a deeper level of commitment and practice. These training paths are open to everyone, and Koryu-ji will offer all available accommodations to allow those with disabilities to ordain. Koryu-ji is a welcoming sangha, and believes that diversity enriches its members while encouraging an open heart and mind.

Lay-path

Refuge (Triple Jewel)

Anyone can request to take Refuge at Koryu-ji whether they are a member or not. There is no requirements other than a basic understanding of the Three Jewels. Traditionally a Juzu (mala) is used to mark this ceremony.

Jukai (Precept taking)

The rank of Jukai is the formal admission into Sangha via the taking of the *”The Sixteen Precepts”. A student is required to attend weekly zazenkai and sesshin (retreat) for a one year period. This rank is many times called a “Lay Ordination”. Traditionally a Rakasu is bestowed upon the initiate along with a Dharma Name and certificate.

The Three Refuges (Three Treasures)

I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Dharma. I take refuge in the Sangha.

The Three Pure Precepts

I vow not to do harm. I vow to cultivate compassion. I vow to love others.

The Ten Grave Precepts

I take up the way of not killing, and vow to cherish all life. I take up the way of not stealing, and vow to respect that which belongs to others. I take up the way of not misusing sex, and vow to be honest and respectful. I take up the way of not lying, and vow to speak the truth. I take up the way of not misusing drugs or alcohol, and vow to keep the mind clear. I take up the way of not gossiping about others’ faults, and vow to be understanding and sympathetic. I take up the way of not praising myself by criticizing others, and vow to overcome my own shortcomings. I take up the way of not withholding spiritual or material aid, and vow to give freely when needed. I take up the way of not unleashing anger, and vow to seek and extinguish its source. I take up the way of not speaking ill of the Three Treasures, and vow to cherish and uphold them.

Rank of Sensei (Master)

The rank of Sensei is a formal recognition of a “lay teacher”. A Sensei must have taken Jukai, practiced for at least ten years and have attended 60 Sesshin or more. The sesshin may range from 3-12 days.

Path of the Monk/Priest

Path of a Postulate Monk/Priest

The path of a “Postulate Unsui” (cloud water) or “Postulate Priest” is a tentative ordination bestowed upon an initiate. Due to the PT schedule of Koryu-ji, what normally takes one year of FT training, takes two years at Koryu-ji. Postulate students must attend all zendo activities as well as meeting various training requirements. To encourage those seeking Unsui ordination, Koryu-ji offers a postulate ordination which allows the postulate to live as a novice monk under the guidance of a teacher after the first year. Within the two year training period, both the postulate and the teacher may terminate the training arrangement at any time. The postulate retains his Jukai name/rank but, looses the rank of Unsui. The “Postulate Unsui” is welcome to reinitiate the training process, beginning once again at the one year mark.

Rank of Priest (Jushoku)

The training of a priest and a monk are almost identical. The main difference between the two is the monk lives at either a temple or a monastery, while a priest typically does not. A priest may run a zendo or a temple, yet also have an outside job. A priest is focused on meeting the needs of the local community by offering various teachings, ceremonies and services.

Rank of Unsui (Cloud/Water)

The rank of Unsui requires two years of supervised training. This includes, memorizing sutra, services, instruments, form and personal koan practice. An Unsui is still encouraged to attend all zendo activities, however, the schedule is more flexible than the “Path of a Postulate”.

Rank of Osho (Tranquil Monk)

The rank of Osho requires Unsui Ordination, sixty weeklong sesshin, ten years of temple or sangha experience and the endorsement of a Roshi.

Active Jukai Students

Kyosei Daniels, Seido Souders, Taipo Macintyre, Joshin Zimmerman, Ryukei Clasen, Shuji Roberts, Myoho Schultz, Enmei Pettigrew, Seiun Leavey, Dana Landau

Active Unsui

Rev. Zoho Wilson, Unsui

Please support Blue Mountain Zendo’s Fall Fundraiser.

Blue Mountain Zendo 2018 Fall Fundraiser

Blue Mountain Zendo has operated within Eastern Pennsylvania for twenty years, offering authentic Rinzai Zen Practice. Community outreach programs such as; public lectures, interfaith meetings, chaplaincy, crises placement, meditation workshops and animal/enviromental advocacy have been the focus of the temple since its inception. Blue Mountain Zendo is maintained by its abbot Joriki Baker, Osho and a small order of laywomen/men who call the zendo their spiritual home. Blue Mountain Zendo is a registered non-profit and is supported soley by outside contributions. The temple has never required fees or dues. It operates in the tradition of Dana (charity), and once a year the sangha (congregation) reaches out to the greater spiritual community to gather donations which will carry the zendo through the cold winter months. The temple is heated primarily via woodstoves, with baseboard supplimental heat. Our woodstoves and chimneys are in need of fall maintenance, and our yearly heating expenses run around $3,000. With deep gratitude and a reverential heart, we are reaching out to our brothers and sisters in the greater spiritual community, and asking for support so that we may continue to offer a refuge for all those who seek truth and spiritual awakening. It is Blue Mountain’s Zendo’s vision to lend aid to anyone who seeks a safe harbor from pain and suffering whether that means holding meditation services for men and women or offering a warm and safe place for abandoned or injured animals. It is our beleif that all life is precious and it is our responsiblity to both respect and nurture it.

 

Samu Weekend (Beginners Welcome) June 15-17 2018

Samu Weekend is an opportunity to experience Zen Training in an engaged environment. Most understand Zen Practice to be a purely motionless and austere practice, however, Zen is alive and moves with the turning of the wheel of Dharma. Zazen (meditation) is our anchor which keeps us grounded as we move and sway with the movements of our fluid lives. Learning to move, while remaining still, is a wonderous consciousness that opens us to the vastness of our true nature. During “Samu Weekend”, we are grounded through true fellowship, the sangha (congregation) engages in activities that open the heart and mind and deepen our interconnection with the world around us. Samu Weekend is an opportunity to experience Zen Training in an engaged environment. Most understand Zen Practice to be a purely motionless and austere practice, however, Zen is alive and moves with the turning of the wheel of Dharma. Zazen (meditation) is our anchor which keeps us grounded as we move and sway with the movements of our fluid lives. Learning to move, while remaining still, is a wonderous consciousness that opens us to the vastness of our true nature. During “Samu Weekend”, we are grounded through true fellowship, the sangha (congregation) engages in activities that open the heart and mind and deepen our interconnection with the world around us. These activities include: planting flowers, vegetable gardening, landscaping, and temple cleaning. There will also be zazen (meditation), teisho (sermons), formal meals, chanting and sutra study. Unlike Sesshin (meditation intensive), Samu Weekend is not as formal and although we encourage silence, there are opportunities during the day to ask questions and engage in conversations based upon the Sutra we are exploring. Samu Weekend is also great for those who are interested in Zen, although, have yet to explore formal practice. We ask for a $75 donation or $50 in flowers, trees or bushes. If you bring greens, you will be planting them, so please plant something that you can grow with. Blue Mountain Zendo looks forward to your visit and aspires to allow people from all backgrounds to attend retreats. If there is perceived barrier for attendance, please feel free to call and we will attempt to work together to accommodate any special needs which need to be addressed.hese activities include: planting flowers, vegetable gardening, landscaping, and temple cleaning. There will also be zazen (meditation), teisho (sermons), formal meals, chanting and sutra study. Unlike Sesshin (meditation intensive), Samu Weekend is not as formal and although we encourage silence, there are opportunities during the day to ask questions and engage in conversations based upon the Sutra we are exploring. Samu Weekend is also great for those who are interested in Zen, although, have yet to explore formal practice. We ask for a $75 donation or $50 in flowers, trees or bushes. If you bring greens, you will be planting them, so please plant something that you can grow with. Blue Mountain Zendo looks forward to your visit and aspires to allow people from all backgrounds to attend retreats. If there is perceived barrier for attendance, please feel free to call and we will attempt to work together to accommodate any special needs which need to be addressed.

Fall Session October 20-24 2017

Weekend Sesshin are a great opportunity to experience Zen Monastic practice. Come join the Blue Mountain Sangha for Summer Sesshin, and gain insight into your true nature.
“Sesshin”, literally “to collect the mind”, is the Zen Buddhist seclusion or intensive period, consisting of one to ten days of silent meditative practice. Included in these periods are daily Zazen, Dharma Talks/Teisho (sermons), Samu (work) periods, and private interview/meeting (Dokusan) twice daily with Ryuun Joriki Baker, Osho. During Sesshin, the Zen Student concentrates on nothing but collecting the scattered energies of the mind, so they may realize their place within the universe, as the universe. Much of the times, this “place” feels hidden from us in our daily lives, and as a result, we seek outwardly for that we perceive we are lacking. Deep insight into our core nature occurs when we least expect it. These seemingly random experiences stir within us something systemic to our very being. Something which consumes us without a trace. This nature, our nature, is the root of the universe itself. This nature is always present, however, we are blinded by the habitual ego projection, and we just miss it! When we do experience these subtle insights, these quick flashes of light and sparks, they stoke the flames of our core, and we burn brighter and brighter. Although sadly, for most, these flames grow cold once again; they are left unattended and un-nurtured. However, for those few men and women who tend to this burning ember, it grows stronger and stronger until a flame rises up and illuminates the darkness of ignorance. For centuries, philosophy and theology have tried to explain this process, their attempts intrinsically shallow and hollow at best. The awakened mind is beyond word and letter. The path is straightforward, and honest in approach. It reveals itself fully in each unfolding moment. This honest and straightforward readiness to let go of our preconceived ideas and attachments, is the catalyst from which the restorative process begins. Sesshin is a time to dedicate ourselves to the exploration of this great matter, and a time to heal the scars which have long limited our true freedom and happiness. We hope you will come and explore with us, this most noblest of endeavors.

Obon August 19-20 2017

Obon or “Ullambana” (S) is a Buddhist festival which invites us to celebrate our connectedness to our ancestors. Obon reminds us that we have a great responsibility to repay our deceased family/friends for the love and sacrifice they offered us. The Buddha said, “The gravity of the debt we owe to our parents is as boundless as the heavens.” The celebration of Obon symbolically repays some of this debt, by reaffirming our responsibility to honor our families and loved-ones. It also reminds us to treat all sentient beings with compassion, understanding and patience. During Obon, we celebrate the lives of our ancestors/friends, by inviting them to enjoy an evening of live music, food and drink with us. Through our being, our ancestors once again visit with us, reminding us of their presence within our lives; within every breath we take, they sit in shadow, hidden by our linear mind, awaiting for their names to once again be called.

Obon is celebrated in mid-August, this year it will be celebrated on August 19 2017, and has been celebrated since the 7th Century. Obon finds its roots within the Urabon Sutra, and it is based on the teachings of Gotama Buddha. The Urabon Sutra contains the story of a monk called Mokuren Sonja who through his meditative practice sees that his deceased mother has become entangled within the realm of hungry ghost. Mokuren Sonja, soon after, asks the Buddha for his guidance on the matter. The Buddha instructs Mokuren to be compassionate to the young monks who were just returning from a retreat and offer alms. In return, Mokuren’s efforts frees his mother from her torment, and allows her to ascend to the pure land/heaven. Today’s Obon celebration keeps this spirit of giving alive. Through the celebration of Obon we give our love, respect and remembrance to those who have come before us. We open ourselves to an unseen interconnected web which bonds us all together. Obon is a time for deep reflection; however, it is also a time of great celebration.

Obon at Blue Mountain Zendo is open to the public and you do not need to be Buddhist to attend. The ceremony begins with the lighting of the temple lanterns and the bonfire which guide our ancestors back home. Pictures of our ancestors are then placed on the main alter while lanterns are offered to individuals to decorated. This decoration time is a fun time for the kids, they get to color and decorate while they are reminded of family they may have never met, or who they only knew for a short time. Family is something that is too often forgotten in this culture, and without their efforts, we would not have the honor of this life. A vegetarian meal is then served in an atmosphere of live classical music. After dinner, a special service and Dharma talk are offered outside under the stars. During this service, the names of the deceased are recited by the temple priest, while the lanterns are lit and placed in rows along the alter. Rice and water are then offered to the hungry ghosts. After the completion of the ceremony, thanks are offered during a period of silent contemplation; when ready, participants say goodbye to their loved one by extinguishing their lantern’s flame. To conclude, the community turns and faces the bonfire while it is extinguished and the spirits are sent home.