News Letter

Excerpt from a Talk by Ryushin Paul Haller

Zendo like Center Piece Of Mandala
The very shape of a Temple is like a Mandala, with the Meditation Hall as the center piece. The other parts radiate out from there. The activities that we engage in also express that Mandala, the heart of the Meditation Hall. We are an expression of that Mandala. The forms that we engage are an expression of it. This is a Mandala that’s lived. As Ru Jing, Dogen Zenji’s teacher, said, “In the mountain of form we carve out the cave of emptiness.”

Each day, we return to this practice in this hall, which is the heart of the Mandala of the monastery, on our own seat in our own body, allowing this life force to be tasted, to be felt, beyond words and ideas and opinions and judgments. To sit upright and let what arises arise, and let it be so fully experienced, there’s no separation. And to let the vitality of that reveal the Mandala of the human body. And to see in that how the human breath stimulates and supports and expresses the activity of that Mandala. And then surrounding this hall are the kitchen, the shop, the laundry, the dining room, the study hall, and the places where we live, the human necessities of our life, of being able to feed ourselves and stay warm and being able to continue the activities of our human life. And within the Mandala of the monastery, those very activities take on their own yogic expression, too. They become the ground of teaching and the expression of teaching. We live the interconnectedness of life. Some people work in the kitchen, some people empty the garbage, some people work in the shop, each person providing an activity for the nurturance of the one body of sangha. And each of us discovers that we’re not simply living and working for ourselves. We’re living and working for the one body of Sangha that we’re part of. And even though we will continually, creatively, determinedly return to a more self-centered way of being, this Mandala will keep inviting us into this larger, more interconnected way of being that’s less constricted, that’s less afflicted by the fears and anxieties and desires of the Self. So, something very simple and direct, alluding to the interconnectedness of all life. This whole cosmos is one body, interconnected. As physics becomes more sophisticated, anomalies appear of how occurrences can spontaneously happen in places thousands of miles apart. How does that happen? The interconnectedness, the non-separation of existence. The mandala of taking care of each other, of taking care of the temple, of taking care of the whole world, nothing other than that. Because we live in this world, this world is our temple, this world is the ground, literally, of our practice, and in living here, things arise, and we take care of them as best we can. This is our practice, nothing different from deciding what’s for lunch. So can we carry that in our hearts, in our Hara, as we do whatever we need to do, which, wonderfully, right now nobody knows? Yet to be figured out. So you can watch yourself: do you hold that proposition with anxiety? Excitement? Regret—

How do we live in the interplay between the unconditioned and the conditioned? But I have opinions, I have judgments, I do think, I have feelings. I do have a psychology. Sometimes I’m filled with joy and gratitude, sometimes with resentment and discouragement. Sometimes I feel clear and the path is obvious, and sometimes I feel confused and uncertain. Some people in this one body Sangha I like, and some I don’t like. And sometimes that changes around. Sometimes I like myself and sometimes I don’t. So these two, Buddha and Sangha, they offer the support. We give over to them and they give us the support to discover how to live this one precious human life. Quite simply, how to suffer less, and discover the enlivening way of being that’s the heritage of being born.

This is the teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha. This is the teaching of all the Buddhas and ancestors. So utterly applicable, utterly versatile, that whatever happens, the Dharma Wheel will turn when supported by Buddha and Sangha. And who can do such a thing? What does it take? What does it ask of each one of us? This is what we’re being asked to remember. This is the request that helps something settle. This is not a request that we can fathom or contain within our repertoire of thoughts and opinions. This is not a request that we can fulfill through our skillfulness and accomplishments. This is simply a request that we offer our efforts to. And the blessed nature of this existence is that what’s given back fully supports us.

Thank You ~