Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Zen’

The Nature of Being

51cq5sixWzL._SY346_The Mystery: Zen Stories by Dan Glover.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Unlike my book of satirical stories (Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire), which was a take-off on the insightful wisdom stories in the classic collection Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, Mr. Glover has put together a serious, and in-depth look, at the nature of our being, by presenting eighty-one stories in eleven sections. Here is a glimpse from the introduction, of what The Mystery: Zen Stories lays bare.

This book seeks to illuminate the subtle relationship between the unknowable world and what we know by experiencing the world. It is based in part upon ancient texts written down some two thousand five hundred years ago brought up to date so as to be more applicable to the present day Western culture. In many respects, these tales sound autobiographical, though no one person has “likely” experienced everything within.

The different sections, which are titled as a season (Breath of Spring, Autumn Giving Way, etc.) each begin with a beautiful haiku, then dive into topics such as acceptance, loss, water, stillness, perception, and non-attachment, but in the context of stories and experiences. Mr. Glover has a delicious way with words and is able to see things from many perspectives, and not what may always be expected.

“I once heard of a man who was said to be in possession of a great understanding far surpassing any other. Making many inquiries I discovered where this man lived. The journey was long; the way very difficult and arduous. After months of travails, I reached this man’s abode. He seemed to have been expecting me; looking delighted to see me standing at his door he waved a hand for me to enter.

Without saying a word he brought refreshments. Sitting silently together we ate and we drank. When the meal was finished I got up and I left. When I arrived back home my wife inquired if I had found the man who I had been seeking for so long. I nodded my head. She asked if he had shared his great understanding with me. I smiled at her and looking into her eyes I could see she knew without being told.”

There is so much to be said about this book, yet I am hesitant to say anymore, as my words seem insufficient to describe the breadth and depth of its spirit. I think it best, at this moment, to let The Mystery: Zen Stories speak for itself.

“I hold that we come forth without roots. We enter the world by no aperture. We have real existence but this has nothing to do with place, such as our relation to space; we have continuance but it has nothing to do with beginnings or ends, such as our relation to time. The door of the mystery is non-existence. All things come from non-existence; non-existence is the same as not existing. This is the secret of the ages.”

Short Lines Speak Volumes

Haiku: Natures Meditation by Nora D’Ecclesis.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51BDcJpjIXL._SY346_This lovely book is the best description of haiku that I’ve come across in many years. Haiku: Natures Meditation is beautifully laid out, with accompanying photos. The term (Haiku) is described as, “Haiku is three short little lines in a small poem that speaks volumes about how we think when viewing nature.” Ms. D’Ecclesis also provides a history of haiku, what “haiku” style means, and where it originated from (zen Buddhism, Taoism, and Shintoism).

The author includes historical, and popular masters of haiku, such as Basho.

Spring rain
Leaking through the roof
Dripping from the wats’ nest

Haiku involves the what, where, and when, of a moment, as well as juxtaposition, crescendo, mystery, and realism. Here is one by the author that encompasses many of these traits.

Watching the white tail
The deer steps eloquently
Chunks of ice float by

There are are many famous ancestors, proponents, and writers, of haiku in Japan and around the world. Haiku: Natures Meditation is an excellent introduction to this poetry if you are unfamiliar with the style, and a welcome edition, if you are already well versed in the art. Here is another one of my favorites by Ms. D’Ecclesis.

Nor’easter brings ice –
Snow like a Russian novel
A single finch chirps

Dying and Living Zen

41CcmYmNunLJewel in the Mud: Zen Musings by Harmony Kent
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Jewel in the Mud is a laywoman’s guide to living life like a nun, as a householder living in the world. It is laid out beautifully, in fifty-two week increments, for anyone who chooses to practice being more aware of what is taking place with their inner and outer world. The author speaks from experience, having lived in both worlds. Ms. Kent resided in a Zen Temple for 13 years, and in mid-life decided to leave that environment, and began a new vocation, meeting a loving partner, and getting her own home.

Many of the weeks thoughts and words were previously conveyed on Ms. Kent’s blog. Luckily, for all who read Jewel in the Mud, she expanded her “Monday Musings” into book form. The weeks include titles such as, Nobility of Silence”, “No Strings”, “First, Breathe”, “Dying to Live”, and “It’s Okay. Have a Meltdown”. The illustration of the lotus flower for each week is lovely, and the caption summing up that section always fits perfectly. For example, in a talk about appreciation, she concludes with, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”

Here is a brief excerpt from Week Eighteen, called “Life Before Death”.

“Mindfulness is simply about seeing what we have right here, right now, in this moment. It’s about noticing the myriad of small things that make our lives whole. And about catching the stories we tell ourselves. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way right in the present moment. The easiest way to notice as much as possible is to live each moment of your life as though it were the last moment of your life. Or, the first.”

In many ways, Jewel in the Mud, reminds me of the classes Stephen Gaskin held each week in San Francisco, California, in 1969 and 1970, which were later turned into a book called Monday Night Class. He spoke about life, death, community, love, and awareness, in a way that was easily relatable and personable. Ms. Kent’s work has the same vibe. Like Stephen, she does not come off as preachy, egotistical, or superior. Jewel in the Mud has gifts of compassionate and experienced insight for one and all.

Taking Liberty With the Truth

586613838e010d433bacb209ce65ea56c69e859e-thumbFor my satirical book of koans, stories, and words of wisdom (Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire), I used the same format that was used in the 1961 classic book Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings. Zen Flesh presented the sayings, teachings, and koans of real Japanese teachers, whereas Zen Master Tova takes liberty with a fictional character and the truth, to put it mildly.

From Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

Nan-in a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “You are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty our cup?”

From Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba

“Do cats and dogs have Buddha-nature” Sister Sexton asked Master Toshiba.

“Yes.”

“Can cats and dogs attain enlightenment?”

“Yes.”

“Can all animals reach Samadhi?”

“Yes.”

“Do insects and bugs have Buddha-nature?” Sister Sexton persisted.

“Yes, they do,” The Master, patiently replied.

“Is it possible for vegetables, fruit, and flowers to see their true selves?”

“Yes, they can.”

“What about dirt, grass, trees, rocks, and water?”

“All life can become conscious of its true nature, even if it does not have a consciousness, as we know it.”

“Then surely, all women and men can awake to their Buddha-nature and find peace?”

“Yes, all women can express their Buddha-nature and attain enlightenment.” Master Tarantino paused, “As far as ‘all men’. I’ll have to think about that.”

Perhaps this use of fact and fiction are more intertwined than we like to believe, and history is permeated with realities which have been diluted, reinterpreted, and/or intentionally changed, in order to favor, or present events, or beliefs, in the manner and fashion that the writer in the moment chooses, or “believes” to be true. Read Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba and do your own sniff test to see if any of it rings true, or it is a total farce.

Looking Good

imagesA beautiful excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Mistress Tova loved to eat. She ate whatever was provided, unless it was meat or fish, as she chose to not partake of anything that had eyes or a mother.

One evening, during the rainy season, when travel was the most enjoyable, a family offered Mistress Tova and her drenched wandering sisters some stale moldy bread. The Abbott’s students refused to touch the food, afraid it would make them sick, but their mistress ate heartily.

“That is the most delicious meal I’ve had in weeks,” she told the family, who beamed with pleasure at having their meager offering accepted by the great mistress.

As soon as the family left, Mistress Tova went behind a tree and threw up the entire meal. When she returned and the sisters asked her why she’d eaten the putrid bread, she said, “Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how you feel, as long as you look good.”

More good looking stories at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Trust Me

A shaky excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

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Master Tova was traveling with Sister Sun and Sister Moon to visit one of the community centers. They came upon a narrow rope bridge which crossed a deep gorge and raging river below.

“I’ll wait here until you return,” Sister Sun said, shaking in her boots every time she looked towards the walkway.

“Nonsense,” Master Tova replied. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

“I’ll stay with Sister Sun,” Sister Moon added, holding on to her companion for dear life.

“We must cross,” Master Tova replied. “They are waiting for us and Sister Star needs our assistance. You know she is very ill and may not have much time left.”

“We feel deeply for Sister Star,” Sister Sun trembled, “but it will do her no good if we parish before we see her.”

“This bridge has been here for centuries,” Master Tova explained.

“Exactly,” Sister Moon exclaimed.

“Thousands upon thousands have safely made their way upon its planks and rope handrails,” Master Tova reassured. Both sisters stood frozen, shaking their heads. “Look,” Master Tova said, as she walked onto the bridge and turned around. “See, it’s as strong as a rock.” She jumped up and down several times. The bridge bobbed and swayed side to side. Master Tova returned to her reluctant students and said, “You must trust in life or you will never get anywhere.”

The Master took hold of Sister Sun and Sister Moon’s hands and led them toward the structure. Just as Master Tova was about to step on the bridge, Sister Sun coughed. Her cough caused a loud crack. They watched in horror as the ropes snapped, the wooden planks broke, and the walkway plummeted into the gorge below with a deathly crash.

Sister Sun and Sister Moon’s eyes were as large as saucers, as they pulled Master Tova back from the edge and fell to the ground.

As they got up and dusted themselves off, Master Tova turned and spoke. “Like I said, it’s always good to consider alternatives, and cough before proceeding. We’ll have to walk upstream and wade across the shallow portion of the river. It will take longer, but we’ll get their safe and sound.”

Many honest and trusted stories at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Windmills of the Mind

imagesZingers by Mistress Tarantino Toshiba. Between Chapter 9-10. An excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

How do you catch the wind without a windmill?

Many more zingy things and stories at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

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