"We don’t call Autumn the end of Summer, we don’t call Summer the beginning of Autumn (Genjo Koan)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Marginal Zen

NIGHT BROTHER’s Zen (Ch’an) Way

Also on Sweeping Zen: http://sweepingzen.com/2009/12/22/augusto-alcalde-bio/

Augusto Al Q’adi Alcalde was born in the north west of Argentina, and grew up in a small country town in the hills, "San Pedro de Colalao", where he was exposed to the world vision, metaphors and healing traditions of the primal inhabitants of the land, through the company of his aboriginal nanny Virginia Mamaní.

He was a student of the late Shifu Yuan Chueh from Canton, China, with whom he trained from 1968 until he was fully certified by his teacher, ten years after, being him the most influential relationship in the Way.
He started sharing and conveying the practice of Ch'an (Chinese Zen) in 1974.
The Tradition in which his teacher Yuan Chueh was rooted was the "Chin Lien Chia" (Golden Lotus), a tradition that embraces the arts of meditation as the play and actualization of full attention (T'so Ch'an), with the play of the Internal Martial Arts of china (the Nei Chia Ch'uan), including T'ai Chi (Chen Style) and Pa Kua of the Huang Pei Family, together with the short arts of Chi Kung (vital energy practice) and Chinese Yoga, as well as the Healing Arts of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The Chin Lien Chia is a school that conveys Ch'an practice in the context of stillness, movement, healing, and everyday life and activities, deeply rooted in the primal Taoism of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu.
Yuan Chueh's focus was, as is Augusto's, that true Ch'an practice has to be rooted in the traditions of Primal Taoism, early Budhism or Theravada (The Way of the Ancients), as well as in the Mahayana (The Great Way), together with the study and involvement with the traditions, myths and cultures that belong to the land and the original dwellers of the land in which the practice and everyday life is happening.
Augusto has been a libertarian social activist since the 60's in Argentina and part of the resistance to the military genocide and oppresion during those dark years of latinamerica.
He has been also working with engaged buddhists associations as a libertarian social activist, for many years, and focuses on social issues from a Latino and Ch'an vision.

He networks with indigenous peoples and groups from Latin America and the world that are engaged in actively resisting the deadly works of ignorance, greed and hate.

He is a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor, as well as an Indigenous Herb healer since 1974, a practice that he considers his true vocation.

An amateur journalist, writer and poet, has published articles, books and booklets in spanish, as well as interviews and articles both in english as in spanish journals, on the practice of Ch'an, Chinese medicine, Chinese Internal Martial Arts, Taoist Yoga, and the need of a new and socially involved heart, bridging in his presentations the liberation myths and practices of both the primal cultures of South America with the practices of the Tao and the Buddhayana, the "Way of Awakening and Flourishing".

He conceives group practice as community practice. one of healing and walking together, with no hierarchies, rituals, fixed forms, roles or structures, and open to all true traditions.

The focus is on a truly lay, working and socially active person's practice and play, aside from monastic archetypes, multicultural, and willing to contain and be contained by all beings.

It is emphasized the importance of social involvement as an outcome of living, understanding and seeing, given the crucial point in which the Blue Planet and the many beings that inhabit her are, in accordance of the words of Gautama: "only one thing i convey, the understanding of the causes, and the stopping of suffering", or to say it in another way, the arising of true joy, dance and dignity, and the full acceptance and realization of humanity as our nature..

He does not, thus, consider himself a "Teacher" with capital letters, in the traditional sense of the word, with some special or unique realizations or qualities, but a "Kalyanamitra" an ancient dharma term that means something like "soul-heart friend", or, as he likes to translate it, "compañero of the way", or "soul mate" (with no capital letters), or, as a musician and poet Hawaiian friend said, "Night Brother".

The focus then is on joy and learning, mutually, in any occasional changing role that one has in life, and the practice and application as work and everyday life and relationships and social action for a better world.

He has been teaching in Argentina (since 1974) and in Chile, Mexico, Hawaii and Australia since 1984, and before this he has been living and teaching in Hawaii, as well in Argentina, where he lives and has his own clinic practice, as well as leading a health project inside unemployed workers movements and indigenous peoples resisting oppression and genocide.

He goes to those places to coordinate practice and teach as well as engaging in healing work in the way in which he is now sharing practice with, after moving aside the traditional Zen guide role that he was doing before, in the Harada-Yasutani lineage of Soto Zen and as a student And Dharma Successor into that lineage.

In each visit he leads Zen intensives (both residential retreats and everyday-life-home-based ones), Chinese Internal Arts of Movement workshops and intensives, clinic practice, and meetings on the practice and joy of social involvement and action, linking the engaged dharma with the view, vision and dance of resistance expressed through the ways and myths of the ancient cultures of Central and South America.

He offers as a means of continuity of the relationship, the practice and the play, e-mail correspondence as needed, and phone contact once a month, for all the people that have participated in any of the activities, and are interested in sharing about their practice, play and application.

TCM Dr. Augusto Al Q’adi Alcalde (Roshi):

For contact, classes, courses or teachings, both in Argentina as well as
internationally, please drop an email.

Pervading one thing is pervading myriad things

Painting of a Rice-cake
from the Shobogenzo by Dogen Zenji; Section 1

Augusto Al Q’adi Alcalde
Sesshin, Day 1

“All buddhas are realisation; thus all things are realisation.
Yet no buddhas or things have the same characteristics; none have the same mind.
Although there are no similar characteristics or minds,
at the moment of your actualisation numerous actualisations manifest without hindrance.
At the moment of your manifestation, numerous manifestations
come forth without opposing one another.
This is the straightforward teaching of the ancestors.

Do not use the measure of oneness or difference as the criterion of your study.
Thus it is said, “To pervade one thing is to pervade myriad things”.

To pervade one thing does not take away its inherent characteristics.
Just as pervading does not limit one thing, it does not make one thing unlimited.
To try to make it unlimited is a hindrance.
When you allow pervading to be unhindered by pervading,
one pervading is myriad pervadings.
One pervading is one thing.
Pervading one thing is pervading myriad things..”

Here we are in our first day of this sesshin, and it will be interesting to go through the meanings of that word “sesshin”, to encourage our practice throughout it.
“Sesshin” means “to touch the mind-heart”, “to receive the heart-mind” and “to convey that mind”.
Thus the word “sesshin” has these three implications: touch, receive, convey the heart-mind. And this is our practice, this is our realisation, this is our heart during sesshin.
So let us really and intimately touch the mind, that mind that Dogen says is not just our own mind, “personal” mind, but the mind and the heart that is the stars, the rivers, the oceans, the trees, the birds...
To touch that mind is to become completely intimate with it, no gap, no space between, just that mind. We touch it.
And at that very moment, the second meaning of the word comes forth: “to receive the mind-heart”.
In total acceptance, total openness to the mind, we receive it and this very body, this very heart, this very belly is the mind itself, the heart itself, is the stars, the mountains, the rivers, the plants, the barking of the dog.

Then we have the third meaning, “convey the mind”, which is one of the most important, when we are talking about sesshin as sangha-community practice.

Just one practice, but it’s not basically the adding of individual practice, but one practice, happening and renewed, recreated moment by moment.

We convey the mind with our Genjo Koan, we convey the mind with our shikantaza, we convey the mind with the way we are sitting, the way we are walking each step, in zazen; we convey the mind and the heart when we eat, when we rest, when we sleep, when we dream.

And this conveying aspect is very important, because it touches the aspect of responsibility.
As we are conveying the mind, each one of us is conveying the mind of sesshin, each one is supporting, helping each other’s “conveying the mind”.
So please, let us take full complete and sincere responsibility for this.

Here we are, beginning our sesshin, in just one sangha-community practice, touching, receiving, conveying the heart-mind.
Not only for ourselves, but for all the many beings, and finally stopping suffering around the world.

In this first day of sesshin, we touch the quality of innocence that Suzuki Shunryu Roshi used to call “beginner’s mind”. Total innocence.
We don’t know anything about the sesshin; we don’t know anything about what will happen the next moment, next breath, next Koan, next flashing and blooming moment of shikantaza.

That quality of innocence is a true shelter and refuge in our sesshin.
And part of our practice, an important part, is to keep that “beginner’s mind”, that innocence of the “don’t know” mind, coming once and again, each moment, each moment, each moment as each moment.

In that way, we can drop away time, and just this zazen, just this step, just this breath, will cover the whole earth, the whole space.

Such a sesshin will thus not be a matter of seven days, four blocks of zazen each day.
It will be a matter of dropping away time: just this zazen.
Moment by moment, sesshin begins.
Moment by moment, we complete sesshin.

Dogen here is saying: All Buddhas are realisation. Thus all things are realisation. Yet no Buddhas or things have the same characteristics. None have the same mind. Although there are no similar characteristics or mind, at the moment of your actualisation, numerous actualisations manifest without hindrance. He says All Buddhas are realisation. All things are realisation.
He is not saying they have realisation. He is not saying “become” realisation.
He is saying are: just as they are, all Buddhas are realisation.
Just as we are, all things, all beings are realisation herself.
Here we touch the aspect of inquiring in our practice, inquiring that we call also Great Doubt, inquiring body heart and mind.

How are you?
How many times during the day we hear that simple question: “How are you?”
Yet it is not a superficial question.
How are you? The “how” is not different from “what”, not different from “What is Mu?”

So inquiring mind, inquiring heart, inquiring body is “How is the Genjo Koan?” “How is Mu?” “How is shikantaza?” “How is buddha nature?”

The how is the what, indeed.
But this Ahow@, this Awhat@ needs to be answered, presented, expressed by the whole body, heart and mind.

So please, let us settle there our zazen and life.
Let us settle the inquiring mind-heart there, in the “How is the genjo Koan?”, in the “What is Mu?” that fills the whole universe as our true body itself.

Dogen continues, saying At the moment of your actualisation, numerous actualisations manifest without hindrance. At the moment of your manifestation, numerous manifestations come forth without opposing each other.
The moment of your actualisation: the moment of becoming actual, being this very whole moment, alive and shining, moment by moment, in full, open attention, as our true face, our true body, our true home.
There the ten thousand beings advance and confirm, actualise, that true home as our intimate heart, our most intimate belly.

Numerous actualisations manifest without hindrance, says Dogen here. Numerous manifestations come forth without opposing each other.
Many actualisations manifesting without hindrance, that is this very moment as Mu, as shikantaza, as the very Genjo Koan, the Koan of our everyday life, as the joyful dance of the limitless life that we call Amitabha Buddha.

This is the place and the ground of practice realisation itself.
It’s that very “no hindrance”.
When that is the context and that is the container of our practice, we are truly free to settle into the deep intimacy of one moment.
Full body-heart-and-mind Mu, one moment.
Full body-heart-and-mind shikantaza, recognising and embodying that very dance as our breath, and our life itself.

Numerous manifestations come forth without opposing each other, says our text today.
There is a Korean teacher called Chinul, who talked about “sudden realisation, gradual personalisation”.
Sudden realisation: this is one moment, “dotoku”, full dedication, one moment of full engagement in buddha nature, awaken-ing nature, with buddha nature, as buddha nature itself.

Numerous manifestations come forth without opposing each other: we touch here gradual personalisation.
This is manifestations, acts, steps, coming forth and becoming our impermanent body of understanding and compassion.

Our text continues, saying Do not use the measure of oneness or difference as the criterion of your study [or practice]. Thus it is said, to pervade one thing is to pervade myriad things.
Do not use the measure, says Dogen here.
Do not use the measure: not to measure, not to evaluate, not to compare, the three legs of the bed of delusion.

Zazen, Mu, shikantaza truly do not belong to that world.
Janis Joplin says in a song, “Freedom is just another word for having nothing left to lose”.

Well, we do not have a single thing from the very beginning; that is, nothing to lose.
And in that joyful freedom and humbleness abides the opportunity to dance with dignity the intimacy of zazen, dropping off, shedding off body and mind.

This very mind-heart is all Buddhas, all beings, practice realisation itself.

Dogen says here, To pervade one thing is to pervade myriad things.
To pervade one thing: he uses the ideograph “tsu” here, “pervade”, and means direct experience, true understanding beyond discriminatory thinking.

To pervade one thing, that one thing: our true face, the Genjo Koan, Mu, shikantaza itself.
So again, “How are you?” How is original face? How is Mu?

If there is the observer, the “how” is not intimate enough.
Maybe strong Koan is there; maybe strong shikantaza is there.
But there is also a strong observer, and two places of tension, the observer and the Koan, the observer and this very moment.
Two places of tension are working.
So even when we have that dual, if intense, practice, there is a gap, a space in the middle for distraction, discriminative thinking, evaluation; and intimacy and full blooming do not have a chance to come forth.
So please, only Mu, only this moment. We ourselves disappear.
How are you? How is Mu? How is this very moment?
Please, do not answer.
Let the coming forth of the whole true body be the actualisation and manifestation, in total freedom, no hindrance at all.
Liberating the many beings, pervading just that ordinary, subtle, essential thing that is life. Call her the Genjo Koan, if you like.

To penetrate one thing, says our text, does not take away its inherent characteristics. Just as pervading does not limit one thing, it does not make one thing unlimited. To try to make it unlimited is a hindrance. When you allow pervading to be unhindered by pervading, one pervading is myriad pervadings. One pervading is one thing. Pervading one thing is pervading myriad things.
Not to take away its inherent characteristics, not to limit that one thing, not to make that one thing unlimited, says Dogen here.
This is total open acceptance.
There pervading is unhindered by pervading.
Zazen is unhindered by zazen; the koan, shikantaza unhindered by the koan, shikantaza.

The sages of the Tao say, “The Tao is basically utterly open. Utter openness has no substance. It ends in endlessness, begins in beginninglessness.”

There is no place there for an observer at all.
No place for evaluating or making. Just the fertile night of the dharma.

We have a story by Walking Words in my Latino Land that says:

“In Haiti, stories may not be told during the day.
Anyone who tells a story before dark is disgraced.
The mountain throws a stone at his head; his mother walks on all fours.
Night-time draws out what is sacred, and those who know how to tell stories
know that the name is the very thing that it names”

Truly, indeed.
Let us please settle our heart, our zazen, let us settle our Koan, our shikantaza into that night-time.
Night time draws out what is sacred.
Let the sacred come forth, intimate with that name, the very thing that it names.
What is that name?

The bird is conveying it; the smell of incense is conveying it.
Please do not practise outside this fertile, sacred night.
How could we anyway?


Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Virtue of the Tao's Herb

Aki No Hashi Dojo: "Auttum Bridge Dojo"

"Beauty, youth, and allure fade even as they first appear. In the
earliest mists of Spring, we see the Autumn Bridge"

The Virtue of the Tao’s Herb

By Augusto Al Q’adi Alcalde

From the “Autumn Bridge Dojo”


I have been chewing one of Dogen’s experiences and phrases through the Shobogenzo. And that phrase. “Do Toku”, was shining. There are many possible translations of that Do Toku, but of course, enough to say, the only real “translation” is the living experience of it. The “common” living experience, the social one, the one that has the power to change our hearts and the world.

The usual one is “Total Dedication”, Total, full dedication.

But the words themselves, the ideographs themselves are quite interesting.

Do is the same as Zendo or the way or the Tao. And Toku is the equivalent for Teh in Tao Teh King.

It is the power, or energy, or “virtue”, of the Tao.

We could also translate not only as “total dedication” but also as “total availability”, to practice and essential nature. Our Zapatista brothers and sisters do say “the word is half of the one who says it, and half of the one who hears.” Thus, our “hearing” reality and our common heart, does create reality, makes our true nature shine.

May I quote Jun Fan? (also known as Bruce Lee) “Wu Hsin, No Mind, consists in a subtle art of harmonizing the mind’s essence with the essence of the place and situation in which we are working and doing. The innermost secret awaits for the silence”

So we can say that this is the power or energy or virtue, and not in the moral sense of the word “virtue” but as potential, as in what is the “virtue” of this plant or this herb.

The virtue of the Tao.

The Tao. We shouldn’t forget, if we understand what Lao Tzu is saying in his little book, it is the unknown, is the nameless, is the black female, the mother of all mystery.

Dogen talks about this total dedication as one of the fundamental elements of Zazen, the formless actualization of Unconditional Attention. Or, as a friend said, “making Love to emptiness” right on!!!

Completely disappearing into Zazen, into and as that very Attention as our True Body and Heart, this living moment.

Completely disappearing into each breath, each moment, each step.

As them.

Total dedication.

I think this is related with the word “Intensive” or intense that we use to approach this practice. We can say this very moment is a Zen Intensive. It is based, it depends, it is supported, by our respons-ability in relationship to our half of the word…

When we talk about the word Zen and the meaning of the word Zen we see more and more Zen as being much more than a practice, and see Zen more as an experience, a living experience, a flowing and unfolding living experience. Seeing it as such, does open really many many gates. And as Dogens says, Zen is the Dharma Gate of ease and joy. And at the same place as an inquiry, an inquiring, deep, formless, daring, fearless inquiring.

Inquiry not being caught up by any fixed form but just inquiring,

Formless deep inquiring into the unknown. As the Unknown herself.

So we can see Zen, as well as Life and relationship, is a practice, and actualization, as well as an inquiry.

The ones who did broke the neo-liberal mirror and war, do also say “Asking questions we walk”. We walk.

And this walking is contained in a form and community. even if in one moment is is a community of simply an ass and a pillow, a community of two feet and the ground.

The seed is there, and the seed is the tree and the shade. The tree is the rain and the horizon.

So that power, that virtue, that tao, is the Total Availability, total trust, total dedication to the seeds. Yes, in plural, as we are also, plural.

Thus we have this form and this community which is basically the container of that inquiry and play. At that point Zen or Shikantaza or Koan is a living experience renewed moment by moment falling, diving into that container of this form and the community and how it expresses outside the limits of the formal place, be it called Zendo or another name in and as our very everyday life.

When we say this word “intense” or “intensive” we touch the possible relationship between time and practice and life. And Passion and Love.

Time! such a mystery! As well as practice or life itself.

And the question is how do we touch this?

How do we become that intensity, that passion in such a way that that our Attention practice and play, our Zazen and our life is not just hanging in there for the 8 days or 50 or 60 or 80 or 120 years of life?

How do we touch or how we become, actualize, express that passion, that intensity without which I don’t think we can touch and become intimate with that heart of inquiry and practice.

The notion of continuity blocks that passion to come forth.

In that continuity we lose that passion because we place that ideal time in which realisation or understanding or fulfilment or ease and joy as Dogen defines Zazen will happen, always in the future, always as a projection. Do we by chance do the same with Peace, Justice, Freedom too?

Or maybe we do sit in some kind of formatting or manipulation of the cause, in such a way that we want to produce an effect.

But this I don’t think nothing works as well, as bad, we should say, as the illusion of having time, we “think” we have time. Yes tomorrow we continue here?, who knows!!! I don’t think so. It may be, it may be not .

And when we fearlessly challenge that security about next moment taken for granted we touch that passion.

When we have the illusion of having time, we imagine, we plan, we postpone, that living experience.

So Dogen says Total Complete Dedication, availability to this Tao, this unknown and nameless reality.

So what is practice then? what is play? Is that very Do Toku as Zazen, as Shikantaza, as the “Koan of everyday life”, that Koan named as Genjo Koan.

Then those elements, Unconditioned Attention, Full fearless Inquiry, the4 so called Zazen, Shikantaza or the Koan are expressed as every single step in our life.

So we have two wings in this practice, there is a lot of emphasis in certain schools about not searching but I think it is also important not to postpone that possibility. Not to postpone the horizon, not to postpone the New World, New Heart.

We don’t direct ourselves to our aim but also we don’t postpone the potential of this very moment as the only one for that awakening.

There, with that heart of passion and intensity, that we can call it Zazen or our true nature.

Not to search, not to postpone, becoming one in the simple act of sitting, walking, breathing, living, loving.

In the Taoist tradition the word for Zazen that is used is not the same.

The word is used the ideograph that is used is “Tso Wang”. Tso has the same meaning as Za- sitting. Tso Wang is “sitting in forgetfulness”, “sitting in oblivion”. Wang is forgetfulness, oblivion, not remembering. So the Taoist tradition which is one of the most important ones in the coming forth of Zen in China. says we sit in forgetfulness, in forgetting us, this act of forgetting everything itself.

Then there is nothing known, thus there is no point of reference.

WE don’t know what Zen practice is as we are sitting, we don’t know who we are, we don’t know what we are and thus as Dogen says the Self is forgotten and all beings from all directions and times come forth and actualise true nature. Actualize the New Heart, New World that is so badly needed on this Blue Planet.

Here then time is our heart and body, space is our heart and body, this brand new living moment is our heart and body. And it is a Common heart and Body, thus, a common walking.

Dogen, in a very interesting essay called Being Time or “the identity of being and time”, he says like this: “You may suppose that time is only passing away and not understand that time never arrives. Although understanding itself is time, understanding does not depend on its arrival.”

I find this last part quite interesting “understanding does not depend on its own arrival”.

We can rest there.