Posted in zen

Dharma Winds

It feels like I’ve been an independent Dharma teacher for a long time.

I guess I haven’t really been independent because I’ve been teaching online at the Open Heart Project for a few years, but that feels like more of a guest teacher role to me.

Recently I was invited to join an international Buddhist community called the Dharma Winds Zen Sangha, which is a branch of the (not much) larger Order of Hsu Yun. This order is in the Chan (Chinese Zen) tradition and comes from the tradition of Hsu Yun and Han Shan, some of the same historical teachers that inspire me. I felt the need to mention that it’s international because I wanted to make it clear that they’re not here. I, at best, exist on the margins of the communities that are here in Kansas City.

And that’s okay.

I’m sort of a Zen hermit, largely practicing on my own and/or with the people in my household.

I’m still independent, really, but also part of something. I’m part of a tradition. It’s about recognition and connection. And although no one that practices in this tradition is close by, it’s still meaningful.

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I was welcomed into this international order and ordained as a Zen Priest. I’ll have to think long and hard about what it means to be a Zen Priest before I try to explain it in detail. This doesn’t really change anything other than making my relationship to Zen, as a practice and philosophy, more clear. To me it essentially means I’m committed to the path and I’m obligated to share teachings with anyone that asks. I have to meet the world with an open heart and to be as genuine as I can. Maybe we should all be trying to do that anyway. We say “priest” and not “monk” because I am in the world with everyone else living an ordinary life and that is not going to change. I’m not a monastic teacher, I’m a householder teacher. I have a family and a career. And I’m also trying to carry the teachings forward and pass them on whenever I can.

I was given the ordination name QianMing. This translates to “Supreme Clarity”. I’m not sure if I have great clarity. The clearest things to me are usually my own shortcomings. But maybe facing our imperfections honestly is the greatest clarity there is. I’m dedicated seeing myself clearly and sharing what I see with honesty and sincerity.

I believe in a Zen practice that includes all things. All beings that I meet are part of the path. So are the wind and the rain. We’re part of a connected whole. And this path isn’t about going away from the world. It’s not about retreating. It’s about being in the world fully and completely, manifesting authenticity and compassion.

So that’s what I’m trying to do.

I’m not going to try to build my own temple or anything like that.

But I am going to share the teachings with anyone that asks.

 

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Posted in rime center

Teaching the Diamond Sutra

In one week I’m going to start teaching the Diamond Sutra. It’s a six week class that will occur Wednesdays nights at the Rime Center from 7:45pm until 9:00pm. It starts on April 13th. You should come if you can. (a link to register for this class is posted at the bottom)

I’m so nervous and excited.

It all started a few months ago. Lama Matt told me he wanted me to start teaching classes at the Rime Center. What a wonderful opportunity. But, of course I wondered if I could handle it. (being the center of attention is really not my thing). Of course I said yes but it was big surprise.

He gave me a title, “Gegan” which means teacher. And he told me that I could teach anything I wanted.

I told him I would like to teach the Diamond Sutra.

The Diamond Sutra is probably my favorite Buddhist text. But it’s also a really hard text to teach. It’s a heavy text with a lot of wisdom for us to explore. If I had spent time thinking about it, I might have chosen something a little easier for my first class. But, It will be fine, I think. It does mean something that it’s a text that I love.

I spent time looking at different translations and Lama Matt did too. We agreed that the Thich Nhat Hanh translation was probably the most accessible.

So, I went to work. I took notes on every chapter and got myself prepared.

In preparing to teach this sutra I’ve learned more about it than I ever knew. And I’ve learned about myself. Maybe the best teachers are always students too. I love this sutra now more than ever and I hope that my students gain something approaching the same appreciation that I have for it.

The Diamond Sutra has changed my life. It can change yours too.

The Buddha doesn’t transform us. He invites us to transform ourselves. This sutra doesn’t give us anything, it cuts things away. The diamond cuts through our delusion and leaves only what’s real. When we put down all that we’re carrying, we discover emptiness, our true nature.

The Diamond Sutra describes the very foundation of the awakened life.

http://www.rimecenter.org/?p=628

Posted in heartland pagan festival

Pagan Festival 2016?

For two years in a row the Sacred Experience Committee of the Heartland Pagan Festival hired me to give Buddhist teachings during their event. It’s an outdoor camping festival in the Midwest that has been going on for 30 years. I takes place on Memorial Day weekend.

I enjoyed the first year. There was something special about giving teaching out in the woods, where people were celebrating life.

Dancing around bonfires. Walking around naked in the sunshine, in front of strangers with no sense of shame. Cavorting. Reveling. Just enjoying life and being happy. Being wild and free. Such a rare opportunity in the modern world.

Pagan camp can really be a wonderful thing and I really valued having the chance to go give Buddhist teachings in a place where other Buddhist teachers seemed unlikely to go.

And the people were really receptive. They wanted to learn about the Dharma. They wanted to meditate in the woods with me. The organizers of the festival wanted people from various religions to come give teachings, but in the 30 years of it’s existence they had never had a Buddhist teacher come  before.

So, last year when I was invited back I went again. Again I saw people who were wild and free. Again I delivered teachings to people who were unlikely to receive them otherwise.

But something else happened too.

My wife threw up in my tent. And she told me she didn’t really love me anymore. That’s the extent of what I have to say about the end of my marriage.

We are divorced now.

Now the Sacred Experience Committee has reached out to me once again.

I have a few months to decide, but I’m not sure if I’ll go. I probably won’t.

Bad memories weighing on my mind and all that.

And I’ve never camped alone.

But I do wonder if the people there really have a need for the teachings.

 

 

 

 

Posted in diamond sutra

Diamond Sutra: Chapter 7

Then Buddha asked, “What do you think, Subhuti, has the Buddha attained the highest, most fulfilled, most awakened and enlightened mind? Does the Buddha teach anything?”
Subhuti replied, “As far as I have understood you, there is no independently existing object of mind called the highest, most fulfilled, awakened or enlightened mind. Nor is there any independently existing teaching that you teach. Why? Because the teachings that you have realized and spoken of cannot be conceived of as separate, independent things and so cannot be described. The truth in them is uncontainable and inexpressible. What does this mean? What this means is that Buddhas and disciples are not enlightened by a set method of teachings, but by an internally intuitive process which is spontaneous and is part of their own inner nature.”

The message is clear. We awaken ourselves. Buddhas and teachers do not awaken us. A teacher can only point the way or set an example. It’s important to remember this. Sometimes students want the teacher to walk the path for them and that is simply not how the path works.

Posted in rime center

A Chapter Ends

I am no longer going to run the Dharma School at the Rime Center.

I have enjoyed running the children’s program at the Rime Center very much. I have met wonderful Buddhist teachers of many traditions (Maezen was my favorite). My association with the Rime Center Dharma School has also helped me become friends with other Buddhist parents.

I’ve heard that if you want to learn something, try teaching it to someone else. That has been my experience. Teaching in Dharma School has forced me to learn a lot more about Buddhism than I might have otherwise. Planning lessons, reading stories, thinking of new and innovative ways to present teachings; I’ve had to do these things a great deal and it’s really given me a better grasp of Buddhist teachings than I had before I started.

For three years I’ve been teaching children how to meditate. People that ran this program before me didn’t put as much effort into the meditation part as I have. Children CAN sit still and meditate. And some of them actually want to.

I’ve also been teaching them values. The six perfections: generosity, virtue, patience, diligence, concentration and wisdom, have been my road-map for teaching.

The kids have helped me develop those values in myself too. (especially patience). And a seventh one: Adaptability. I have had to learn to be so adaptable in this position because many things don’t go as planned.

SO,

I’m writing this because I am leaving this position.

I have been doing it for three years, which means I’ve been doing it longer than anyone else has.

It’s not because I don’t enjoy it. It’s not because my time is precious and I don’t want to volunteer anymore.

It’s because it feels like the right time. It’s because I need to get out on a high note, before I get burned out and start to be bad at this. It’s because my daughter Nissa has told me she’s had as much Buddhist education as she needs. And it’s because I’ve found a replacement that I think will do a better job than I have. I think that’s the goal of any leader or manager. To find someone better to take their place.

Her name is Leslie and I wish her the best of luck.

This has been a big part of my life.

What comes next for me?

I’ll let you know.