Rereading Dogen’s Journal of My Study in China, Rocky follows the advice of Sojun Roshi: reading the other side of the page to uncover the true meaning of Rujing’s subtle admonishment: “Only stupid people keep cats.”
When I filled out the practice period application, I noticed the option to help serve dinner at the Men’s Shelter. Although I had served once years ago at the shelter, I had never helped prepare the
meal. So, I spoke to Laurie about it, signed up on the community room porch bulletin board and showed up on Center Street on May 8 a little before 5pm. I was early and had some time to hang out
on the street a half block from city hall, across the park from my old alma mater, Berkeley High, and a few doors from the Veteran’s Hall.
Laurie arrived at 5pm with a load of food that Don had purchased earlier from Costco and we helped bring in food. Several long-time stalwarts prepared lemonade and set up the serving tables for
buffet. Folks were washing dishes, locating tools and some of us pitched in to wash and cut up potatoes, prepare salad, portion out chicken into baking/serving pans. I learned by watching how to
mash cooked potatoes with the skins on, add a quart of 2% milk and a cube of butter. Delicious.
In the freezer, Laurie discovered ice cream from a previous dinner that could go with the Trader Joe blondies which I had overbaked a bit… some of the men don’t have good teeth, so soft is better.
After serving the line of men who thanked us and told us frequently how good the food was, I filled a plate with food and joined some of them at a table. One man asked about Buddhism and where we were located. Laurie invited him to a zazen orientation at 8:45am on Saturdays. Another man told me he had lost his small business when he got sick and ended up at the shelter. The third man was not able or willing to engage in conversation and left after he finished his meal and before dessert. Men can stay for 30 days, have to leave
each day by 7am and return at night for dinner and bed. You can see some of the dorm area from the dining hall.
It is a good space to be in and the more hands make the work lighter. I was glad to see more volunteers show up for serving and clean-up help. We were all out of there by 8pm.
I’m still thinking about Friday. How can I impact the roots causes of poverty, ill will, and greed? How can my Buddhist practice and my
political practice make a difference? One idea is that you can really help by preparing food, serving, and eating with people. Give it a try and then consider if you can schedule yourself regularly and be one of those who can be counted on to be there.
While studying with Rocky, Ross points out a quote from Dogen’s teacher Rujing which throws both Ross and Rocky into great doubt:
“Nowadays elders in monasteries keep cats; this is really unacceptable; only stupid people do this.”
Between Nan Chu’an’s cutting the cat in two and this present reading, both Rocky and Ross are seeing Dogen in a new light which is rather dark…
Morning moon gives birth to a shadow
Robe chant reveals a rakusu-berét
Moon sets, sun rises and the bell ends this movie
—Ross Estes Blum
Weaving our lives
We’re working from the underside
as tapestry makers do.
We’re looking at the wispy bits of yarn
and the knots. It looks so messy.
Only toward the end of life
can we turn it over, see the whole.
Then we say—
“Oh yes, there is a pattern here.”
— Meghan Collins
So tell me, Daisy, destroyer of tennis balls and pine cones,
Those big brown black-lab eyes,
Does a dog have Buddha-nature?
What about your new friend, Lola?
She reeks of strong puppy-nature, that’s for sure!
Sunday, I moved the zafu to the garden shed.
Bare wood, a pile of boards for an altar.
Tonight the rain drums on the roof,
Dribbles from shingles to puddles on the path,
Transports me across time and space to the attic
Of the big old house on Dwight.
No roosters here, nor fire trucks,
Only Daisy snuffling through the bushes.
She steps into the light from the candle,
Her big, blunt snout hovers over the altar
Next to the incense. Without a sound
She sets in place an old wet pine cone.
— Bud Bliss. Bud writes from Oregon: “Some readers may remember sounds from sitting in the attic zendo on Dwight. We buried Daisy with this poem from 1999 a couple of years ago. “
Dawn. I stepped onto the deck. I lay back and exposed myself to the sun rising in warm, soft air. I had just climbed from the cold stream, preceded by the hot, mineral spring. A prize, dawn, still and priceless, scent of manzanita wafting over me. I would meditate, burrow into the sublimity, my heart showing.
All at once, a terrific rumble. From overhead, racing down the hillside, a boulder, careening, down, down. Before I knew it, it crashed five inches from my head, splintering into segments, one of which landed on the bench behind me, the other vaulting across the redwood span. I lay pinioned by the sudden silence, and then peered at the rock-sized stone hooked into the plank as if by a claw. Dark-brown, coppery with bronze flecks, this slab, five inches from my ear, my temple, my skin.
Slowly, I pulled myself up. Around the deck, the trees still stood. The railing still held, and, as I inched back, I saw the moist oblong where I had lain. Beside it, the yellow striped towel, still folded. There, I thought, just there. I bent and pulled out the stone from the wood and lay it on my palm. Warm it felt and smelled burnt, as if it had flown through fire on its run to the ground. Of course it told me none of that. Nor its name, purpose, or plan.
I turned it over. over. Who sent you I wanted to say, but kept the silence the speeding missile whistled to, turning me witness rather than victim.
“So, this is how it is then,” I said, “this.”
Every day, I study this messenger, its blank presence impelling me to wake.
—Lois Silverstein, Tassajara, 2000
The moon is shining serenely in the sky, casting her reflection in countless places wherever conditions are matured. We see her image on the least trace of water or a vast expanse, which may be polluted or clean, but each reflects the same moon according to its nature. The shadows also are as numerous as the bodies of water, but we cannot say that one shadow is essentially different from another, nor has the moon left her orbit even for a moment.
—Nyogen Senzaki, Buddhism & Zen, 1953