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A digest of news, reviews and musings from the StoneWater Zen Sangha
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Issue 6 - October 2016


Sensei's Welcome

Dear Fellow Practitioners, 
 
Zazen and Sangha

Ever since Shakyamuni Buddha, meditation, zazen in the Zen tradition, with its guidelines and discipline has provided a vehicle to settle and quiet our ever concerned and wandering ego mind. With time such zazen practice can find its way into our daily lives which we can then begin to live more freely. Here we can now manifest the kindness and empathy that arises out of practice and be more alive to other people and their lives.

Sitting allows us to look at our emotions and thoughts and to discover what we really care about as opposed to our usual grooved and patterned mundane thoughts and the worries that can seem to loom so large. We sit to be free of judgements, our own and other people's. We sit to live more freely from the heart. We sit to know we can be together and alone at the same time. Separation and merging, individual and common cause can coexist.

Notwithstanding these benefits, the undertaking of a spiritual practice and the wish to follow the Way is, from my experience, tough to sustain on your own. From the very beginning the Buddha recognised this and emphasised the importance of community or sangha.

For those of us near a sitting group or the SWZ Zendo may I gently remind you that this is a matter of good fortune and a blessing many folk do not have. May I thus encourage you to really support your local group, not just for your own well being but for everyone else present. When you support the sangha in this way you strengthen it and as well ensure there is always a place for you to come along and practice. You also contribute to providing a refuge with warmth and energy to support newcomers searching for a spiritual home. Please and please again do not underestimate the importance of your presence to the life of the sangha. You are the sangha!

For sangha members who do not have a local sitting group may I encourage you to use the website, to keep up to date with Postings and the Digest, and if you use it Facebook. Contribute to these mediums and, when you can, attend some of the many retreats we have e.g. Crosby, Retreats to the City and retreats in the Lakes such as those throughout August.
 
I wish you well in your lives.
 
Keizan Sensei
In this issue:
  1. Essence of this Edition
  2. Our Inspirations
  3. News from Centres
  4. Walk into the Fan
  5. Readings Used in Local Groups
  6. Suggested by You
  7. Practice in Daily Life
  8. The summer's ceremonies
  9. Oreocastro
  10. StoneWater Flows
  11. Forthcoming Retreat Dates
  12. Liverpool Bike Rides
  13. The Next Issue
Essence of this edition 

The essence of this issue is the artists, musicians and others who have inspired us and whose work seems to embody spiritual life. We'd be keen to hear other people's suggestions. Let us know your thoughts via Facebook or the website.
Our Inspirations

Woo-Young Tetsugen Yang' - Light Red over Black by Mark Rothko  http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/rothko-light-red-over-black-t00275

 
I must confess that I have no formal training nor a personal interest in appreciating art. With this complete lack of artistic disposition, the only reason why I came across Mark Rothko's painting was because many years ago I read about his paintings in a Korean poet's travel essay collection on her trip to Paris. In the Zen lingo, I could therefore compare this experience to a complete lack of understanding on a koan followed by obtaining some glimmer of appreciation after reading a commentary on the case. As I do not have the book at hand, if I may paraphrase the author from memory, she commented,
 
"For me, the most achingly beautiful features in Rothko's 'Multiforms' series of paintings (the ones in the style of the painting linked above) are the fluffy edges of the forms. The forms blend together at the edges as the edges quietly bleed into each other. Even when he uses very gloomy tones and colours, these edges never fail to inspire warmth in my heart."
 
There is a line of Zen expression (incidentally, I read it in an anecdote about Maezumi Roshi) which particularly resonates with the above commentary on Rothko's painting.
 
"Wash a clod of earth in the mud."
 
Within this anecdote, the writer reminds us that we are the clod of earth. Similarly, in connection with this Zen expression, Rothko's 'Multiforms' paintings remind me that we are the forms - 'independent, but at the same time related' (:-D) through the edges that bleed into each other, with no separation. At these edges, where one form starts and the other ends is always blurred, regardless of whether the colours are gloomy or bright. As an 'additional commentary on the case', Brodie also points out the depth of colour fields in the paintings. Looking again, they are indeed deep - seemingly uniform on the first glance, but always changing. 
Andy Tanzan Scott  - Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
This 1922 novel by Hermann Hesse deals with the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha. The book deals with his journey of self discovery, his involvement with city life, wealth, family and marriage, and his final rediscovery of the spiritual life.  

I read this when I was about 15, and along with books by Jack Kerouac and the Beat Poets, this was my first introduction to Buddhism. I still remember the feelings of completeness they evoked, it just felt right.

The Ferryman by Ralph McTell - a folk song retelling the story of Siddartha.
Keith Shingo Parr

There are a number of writers I’ve come across who for me have a distinctly Zen flavour. The first that comes to mind is T. S. Eliot and his poem Burnt Norton from The Four Quartets:

“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.”

More of a Buddhist feel perhaps than specifically Zen. When I say Zen I mean the aspect of the Zen tradition which tries to express suchness in poetry and/or prose. This next one comes from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time fantasy series:

“It was an odd thing Tam had taught him.

Concentrate on a single flame and feed all your passions into it – fear, hate, anger - until your mind became empty. Become one with the void, Tam said, and you can do anything.”

The former clearly comes out of Eliot’s own spirituality and his deep questioning of life, while the latter is I feel simply influenced by the writer’s reading of Zen literature, particularly with reference to the martial arts, I’m guessing here Eugen Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery, although I haven’t read it. My favourite author at the moment is Cormac McCarthy, and I find Zen/ Buddhist themes in most of what I have read of his work so far. Take this from The Crossing:

“For this world also which seems to us a thing of stone and flower and blood is not a thing at all but a tale. And all in it is a tale and each tale the sum of all lesser tales and yet these tales are the selfsame tale and contain as well all else within them. So everything is necessary. Every least thing. This is the hard lesson. Nothing is dispensed with. Nothing despised.”  Or this:

“You cannot touch the world. You cannot hold it in your hand for it is made of breath only.” And again this:

“He said that like every man who comes to the end of something there was nothing to be done but to begin again.”

I just love the novels of Cormac McCarthy they are full of teachings that come out of his own experience and questioning of life; they appear to be exploring the Absolute and Relative and coming to some fairly Zen/Buddhist like conclusions it seems to me.

Rachel Keido Forday  - Moonlight by Rameses B

This liquid drum and bass track doesn’t have actual lyrics, just a spoken word sample from Stephen Hawking. It was just a one time experience for me when I listened to this walking home and it made me feel like everything was fine and that the world is so much bigger than me and I was in it and with it. Whenever I listen to this track now, I can’t go back to feeling the same thing as I did that time, but it still gives me chills and makes me feel something about the cosmos.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ILsdcs__ME

News From Centres 

Liverpool


Beginners Sessions.
These sessions are going well with a good turn out on Saturday 15th with 9 new people attending. The next session will be on 12th November.
 
A Time to Talk
Our new group for StoneWater Zen members has now met for the first time and is open to any sangha member. It’s not therapy, but a group of practitioners meeting to talk through whatever is going on for us with an emphasis on confidential, emotional support. We meet once a month on Sunday afternoons - regular attendance is ideal but you’re very welcome to join us if you missed the first group and to come when you can.

We sat for 20 minutes in zazen before the conversation began to flow. The 90 minutes passed quickly as we shared our thoughts, feelings and experiences about being part of a Sangha, how we relate to one another, how our practice influences our daily lives, and aspects of our life stories and the patterns that follow us through our lives. It was humbling and fascinating to find out more about each other. The group is facilitated by Alan Kaishin and hosted by Miranda Wayu.

The next group dates are Sunday, 20 November and Sunday, 11 December, 2.50 - 5pm.

Please contact Miranda if you have any questions, and please confirm your attendance at each session in advance at mforward61@gmail.com
Walk Into the Fan 
Some sangha members may remember a film maker, Beth Karaski,  filming in the StoneWater Zen Centre in Liverpool during some sittings and services some months ago. This was as part of filming a profile of Keizan Sensei. The 13 minute video, called 'Walk Into The Fan', is now available on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxTvLSUPTrw&feature=youtu.be
Zen Mind Beginners mind cover
Readings used in local groups

Zazenkai at StoneWater Zen Liverpool has included readings from the following:
Zen Mind Beginners mind cover

Suggested by you

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa - Woo-Young Tetsugen Yang
 
Being a relative novice at SWZ, I might be the last person within the Sangha to have finally read this book as I have discovered that many members already rate it very highly. In that case this will be more of a chance for me to join their enthusiasm and remind the others how helpful the book can be - both for zazen and the everyday practice - rather than a fresh recommendation as such.
 
While the book provides a glance into the Vajrayana take on Buddhism, the most salient part for me is the author's scathing criticism of the so-called 'Spiritual Materialism'. Spiritual materialism is the attitude of treating the experience and understanding of the spiritual journey as some 'achievement', which leads to selectively grasping at and holding on to certain experiences when the focus should be the opposite. As with anything in Buddhism, Chogyam Trungpa's point is not that this spiritual materialism is 'intrinsically' bad, but rather it hinders one on the spiritual path and ultimately does nothing but harm. The following are some memorable quotes to demonstrate this view. The book is also unexpectedly hilarious in places - for me, the most hilarious part is where my own vice of trying to write things down is described!
"Whenever we have a dualistic notion such as, "I am doing this because I want to achieve a particular state of consciousness, a particular state of being," then automatically we separate ourselves from the reality of what we are." p14
 
"We attempt to rationalise (the) painful situation, trying to find some way to protect ourselves, some way to explain our predicament to ego's satisfaction. ... When we think that we are working on the forward-moving process of attempting to empty ourselves out, we find ourselves going backward... filling ourselves up. And this confusion continues and intensifies until we finally discover that we are totally lost. ... So at last we might really give up all these complications and just allow some space, just give in. This is the moment when abhisheka(initiation or empowerment e.g. of true meditation or transmission) - sprinkling and pouring - really takes place, because we are open and are really giving up the whole attempt to do anything, giving up all the busyness and overcrowding. Finally we have been forced to really stop properly, which is quite a rare occurrence for us." p56
 
"... we experience this  flash, and everything seems to be fine. At first we are very excited, everything is beautiful. ... No mundane concerns bother us at all, everything goes very smoothly, instantaneous meditation occurs all the time.  ... Quite possibly your first reaction after such an experience would be to write it down in your diary, explaining in words everything that happened. You would attempt to anchor yourself to the experience through your writings and memoirs, by discussing it with people... But now the experience is no longer with (you). There is just the memory. ... If we regard something as valuable and extraordinary, then it becomes quite separate from us. ... That very moment is when self-deception comes in. ... in this case, (it) means trying to re-create a past experience again and again, instead of actually having the experience in the present moment." p65-67
Silence - Stuart Gendai Hollyoak

‘The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent’ - Alfred Brendal

Our culture never tires of dangling carrots of satisfaction over my head. Industries vie for my attention and money with new fragrances, fashions, gadgets and entertainment. Though I’m hardly coerced by such propaganda it is easy, when coupled with the necessity to earn a livelihood, for me to be swept up in the momentum of everyday life and lose track of myself.

A long and settled habit of discipline ensures I make the time for zazen every day. Though I can never know someone else’s mind I imagine that some practitioners resist sitting because they are afraid. On the cushion we expose ourselves to ourselves and to life as it is in the very moment of sitting. There’s nothing grand to this – I find that I simply do not want pain in any form and have over the years concocted all manner of mechanisms to evade pain whenever I can. That and the multitude of thoughts and feelings which, when I snag my empty self on, distract me from moment to moment living.

What binds all this together is silence. No silence, no reflection, no awareness. In silence, especially in zazen, I consolidate myself to see the forest for the trees though I never see all at once and doubt I will ever see it all. Do I need to? 

An encounter - by Jez Yushin Lovekin

I was painting the railings outside the Samaritans building in Aber when I was approached by a smartly dressed man riding a disability scooter. He looked fit, well and bright and I guessed immediately he was a Jehovah. I never have a problem with an approach as I have a secret admiration for their courage and zeal and indeed one of my mates at work was a Jehovah and I was very fond of him. We always hug warmly when we meet in Aber.

However I also have an Englishman’s reserve and the dread of having to find a way of escape without  too much damage. So straight away I said I was a Buddhist and he had no hope of a conversion. Most hastily shove a leaflet into your hands and retreat but he was made of sterner stuff and immediately tuned in. “How did you get into Buddhism?”He asked, and then the killer, “Was I born into it?” I explained my parents were Commies and I had found Buddhism myself. The look he gave me was memorable and I can only describe it as a mix of pity and sadness. This was a no-brainer for him, Faith versus No Faith. I was a goner and I shrank in the face of such certainty and waited for the next hammer blow.

“What’s the Buddhist line on the state of the world?” By now I was floundering READ MORE

‘Shyness and the Dharma’ by Nameless

You would find it difficult or even impossible to connect these two terms. But for me, it’s easy. I have to begin by reliving the life I led in my formative years and up to 1995. (Why 1995 ? I’ll come to that later.) So please excuse me if this piece is too personal or revealing. It’s painful for me to remember my disability, by which I mean my semi-pathological fear of relating to other people.

At this point, I realise that anyone who knows me now will find this hard to believe. If I say so myself, I have every appearance of confidence. I can speak to groups or even large audiences. I have no obvious symptoms like panic, stuttering, trembling or anxiety. Shy ? Never !

But in my younger years, meetings and interviews filled me with dread; I would do anything, give any excuse, to escape them. I walked the streets with my head down. I felt that I was worthless, an embarrassment, a pain to myself and others. I suppose my ailment could be called an inferiority complex, which is something that non-shy people can never understand

What was the cause of my ‘social phobia’ ? I have no idea. I had a happy childhood. My parents loved me as their only child. There may have been underlying conditions but I lacked the self-awareness to discover them. I knew that I was different. All I know is that suddenly I felt crippled by shyness. READ MORE

A visit to Shinheunsa temple, Korea by Woo-Young Tetsugen Yang

These are some photos that I took from Shinheunsa in Korea, one of the oldest temples that belong to the Zen sect (Seon in Korean), built in the 7th century AD. Unlike the old Japanese Zen temples which seem to preserve the colour of the original timbre and are therefore more monochromic, the colour coordination that you see in these photographs is fairly typical of Korean Buddhist temples. In particular, the brightly coloured undersurface of the roof is a striking feature, using the motifs such as lotus flower, blue dragon, other flowers, waves and clouds.

Another interesting universal feature of Korean Buddhist temples is that the Ten Ox Herding Pictures are painted on the exterior walls of the main building (usually the one with the biggest statue of Buddha), starting from the right side and ending on the left in sequence. What caught my curiosity is that, as the ox becomes tamed, its colour gradually changes from dark to white. While I had not noticed this before, apparently this colour change is very common in these wall paintings. Apart from the obvious connotation of purification, it also reminds me of the veneration that the Indian people have for the white cow as a sacred animal even these days, the remnant of which may be depicted in these pictures. READ MORE
Free Mind? Free Spirit? by Maurice Shokatsu George

My mind feels free. I think I can make up my own mind. I believe that I have freewill. And I would resent it if you told me that my freedom was non-existent; so be careful what you say to me ! So let me say right now that ‘freedom’ is a fraud.

What shall I have for lunch today ? I always have a couple of fruits plus (I must confess) a few shortcake biscuits and perhaps some chocolate. It’s part of my routine; it’s always the same. Every day.

Have you heard the story about the novice and the Zen master ? The novice said, “My life is so boring. Every day I get dressed and everyday I eat. I dress and eat. What advice can you give me ? How can I escape this routine and this monotonous life ?” The Zen master replied, “Put your clothes on and eat your food”.

Zen Buddhists will get the joke. It’s about freedom. It’s under your nose READ MORE
How Big is Life? by Richard Harris

Some would say I lead a full and rich life. I have a wonderful partner, a large, caring family, good friends, sufficient resources to live on. After 40 years of work, retirement has had its benefits – being in control of my time, being able to do what I want and indulge my whims. Inevitably patterns have been set; domestic chores, meetings and events, engaging in the myriad activities that our 9 grandchildren do. There is “me” time too. Learning a language, how to cook; experiencing Zen through discussion with John, irregular visits to the Zendo and retreats. Ever inquisitive I like to travel and explore. Oh and then there is watching Wigan Warriors. That old cliche of retirement “I don’t know how I found time to work” is true for me and my friends. We find it more difficult to meet now than we did when we worked.

So a big, structured life, full of plans, until February 2016. We are in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, visiting our daughter and family, who emigrated there the August before. Jenny comes out of the bathroom and says – I have found a lump.

Two weeks later we are in the Lancashire cancer care clinic, at the threshold of an inevitable pathway of treatment, with the brutality of surgery, the invasiveness of chemotherapy. READ MORE

A Summer of Ceremonies

August saw shuso hossen, tokudo and jukai ceremonies.

Shuso Hossen

On 27 August, following his month-long residency in the Lake District, Tony Shinro Doubleday presented Case 67 from the Blue Cliff Record at a well-attended Shuso Hossen ceremony at the Liverpool Centre.  You can read the text of his talk on the SWZ website  here. You can also read the appreciatory verses read to Tony at the end of the ceremony on the website here.

Tokudo - Dan Gallagher and Tim Steel - 4th August



 

Jukai - Karen Shoji Robbie - 18th August

Oreocastro
Sangha member Emily  Koshin
Oliver recently spent a week at a refugee camp in Greece and her account below explains what she found and how the money she raised from donations was so valuable.


Dear Sangha,

I received so many donations and kind words from people following my Syrian Refugee appeal in the summer and subsequent trip to the camp, that I wanted to share a little about my experiences there. It will also tell you how I spent the money so generously raised (every penny very well used), and ways to support them further. Please feel free to share the document or the links at the bottom of it with anyone who may find it interesting. And as before, my email address is emy_oli@hotmail.com should anyone wish to get in touch.

Gassho,

Emily 
 

NB: Writing and photos intended solely as a personal account – these are my own views. Oreocastro seems to be spelled in various ways - I have chosen the spelling the refugees have adopted. There are ways to support them further at the bottom of this piece

It is really hard to know where to begin to sum up my experience in the refugee camp at Oreocastro (Thessaloniki, Greece). It was horrifying and heart-breaking; exhilarating and inspiring. For one week the rest of the world disappeared, and I was wholly and completely (and rarely!) exactly where I was, feeling very real. Through a serendipitous connection I found myself there with a group of Italian nuns - rather a surreal situation for me at first. Not a religious mission; just wonderful people who have spent years helping the less fortunate. They decided to come to Oreocastro for 2 weeks to provide the children with much needed attention, stimulation, focus, smiles and hugs. Five nuns; five volunteers; 150 little ones.   READ IN FULL
StoneWater Flows...

Frog and zabutan by Karen Shoji Robbie

A couple of years ago I went on a short creative writing course. I was surprised how much I liked it, so began writing  poetry and couldn’t stop. I joined a poetry group. Their critical feedback was sometimes difficult but slowly I began to find my way.  By chance, I came across the chinese poet Li Po.  His style of writing has been an inspiration.

My poems are grounded in zazen, nature and my everyday life with Jez and Wabi in wild, rural Wales.

call it joy
this summer garden

candles on shaded chestnut
bees cupped in pink flowers

shadows of long grass
mixed by movement

wind whistling
under my hat


I received Jukai this summer and a new name, Shoji, meaning authentic self.

searching for truth
a baby frog
under my zabutan

Forthcoming Retreat Dates

Rohatsu - Wednesday, 7th to Saturday, 10th December

This year’s annual ‘Rohatsu’ retreat will be held at the Stonewater Centre, Liverpool and will follow the format of a ‘Retreat to the City’. A limited number of residential places are available, including meals but part time attendance is also welcomed. The retreat will begin with supper at 5.30 pm on Wednesday followed by the usual evening sitting. There will be a ‘through the night’ sitting on 8th December to mark Rohatsu, a celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment. The usual sittings at the centre will not be affected. Cost: £75.

For more details and to book contact suigen@blueyonder.co.uk
 

Lakes Silent Retreat - Monday,16th to Friday 20th January

The annual Lakes retreat in which we endeavour to maintain strict silence throughout the week. The retreat will be led by Sensei and is most suitable for Stonewater students who have been established in the practice for some time. Cost: £120 waged and £90 unwaged

To book: contact Jenny Best, purplejenny52@gmail.com
For more information: contact John, suigen@blueyonder.co.uk
 

Retreat to the City - Wednesday 1st to Saturday, 4th March

Retreatants will be resident at the Liverpool centre and will be joined by other members of the Sangha at the usual weekly sittings. Sensei will also be available for interviews. The retreat will start with registration and supper at 5.30pm on the Wednesday and will end at 12.30 pm on the Saturday. Cost: £75

To book and for more information contact: suigen@blueyonder.co.uk

StoneWater Zen Liverpool Bike Rides 

Gorgeous August weather for the Liverpool SWZ bike ride and an unusually speedy cycle for us, 25 miles in 2 hours from Prescot to Aughton and return.
No photos of the bike ride on 28th August as for once the riders didn't stop for long enough for photos. Well only once and then people were too busy refuelling with coffee, cake and sarnies. Instead of the intended 57 miles, the completed 40 miles was a respectable distance. Ended with sunshine and gorgeous blue skies as we headed back along the coast/marsh road back into Southport from Lancashire.
October's bike ride was a 35 mile circuit from Hunts Cross via Hale, Widnes, Runcorn, Warrington and back with torrential rain on the return leg soaking the 5 intrepid riders.
The next bike ride will be on Saturday 5th November. The route is still to be decided.
 


Our question for you for the next issue is: "Zen in my daily life / My daily life in Zen"

Contributions on this or other subjects are much appreciated. Please pass them to Sarah at thwaites.sarah@btinternet.com and Andy at andyscott21@gmail.com
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