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Highlights from Eido Frances Carney and Ryokan

March 14, 2015

Just finished Kakurenbo: Or the Whereabouts of Zen Priest Ryokan by Eido Frances Carney and thought I’d share the sections highlighted. Some are Carney’s words, some are Ryokan’s.

  • To see one’s limitations and the piling up of beliefs and projections heaped into an assembly that we think is ourselves and to see this mirrored against Zen practice convinces that compassion is at its core.
  • How do we create a Zen Buddhist ministry in the United States that can become organized enough to address the problems we face as a society, to hold the line against charlatans, to care for the health and welfare of the clergy and yet not become entangled in privilege and power?
  • First, innumerable labors brought us this food, we should know how it comes to us. Second, as we receive this offering we should consider whether our virtue and practice deserve it. Third, as we desire the natural order of mind, to be free from clinging, we must be free from greed. Fourth, to support our lives we take this food. Fifth, to attain our Way we take this food. First, this food is for the Three Treasures. Second, it is for our teachers, parents, nations, and all sentient beings. Third, it is for all beings in the six worlds. Thus, we eat this food with everyone. We eat to stop all evil, to practice good, to save all sentient beings and to accomplish our Buddha Way.
  • … all these contrivances against discomfort distance us from the natural world and cause us to forget the true human condition and the right of all creatures to exist. Such privilege allows us to exert power in ways that diminish the recognition of Buddha Nature and our openness to the totality of existence.
  • the question becomes: what is enough? What is too much? When does having become greed?
  • The Buddha, who lived on as little as possible, would come to say that the origin of violence is poverty.
  • The powerful stay in power whilst those who seek to confront it rise and fall. Someone who makes the news today quickly becomes yesterday’s forgotten hero…” (Spin Watch, March 27, 2005)
  • If the origin of violence is poverty, then the origin of poverty is privilege.
  • Let me drop a word of advice for believers of my faith. To enjoy life’s immensity, you do not need many things.
  • We want to identify with success, with accomplishment, and therefore we will be generous where we can see some sign of economic protection or the legitimate use of our money. We want our gifts to be insured. We want accountability for our judgments of worth. Thus, we will give to the successful organization but not to the homeless.
  • Americans must discard any notions of casual practice, must give our lives, fully committed to the Dharma. We cannot see Zen practice as faddish or exotic. It is work at its core.
  • Till darkness wrapped us complete.
  • Friends don’t actually give a gift to someone else; they give the gift to the friendship and both share and benefit equally in the exchange.
  • If Ryokan lost a game of Go, he paid his betting debt with calligraphy. Since he was a poor Go player, it was easy to get a piece of calligraphy out of him.
  • Keibun Roshi wrote that we should live in an invisible way and not seek to hand a body of work into the future. We should not seek fame, but live totally in the present so that our thoughts and actions are loaded, like the brush is with ink, in the expression of Buddha Nature.
  • We should not be concerned whether anything we have done will live beyond us. In other words, the mind should not attach to anything. If something we have done lives beyond us, it is none of our business. Fame does not actually belong to the person who becomes famous but only to those who make others famous.
  • If many ghosts dance in Ryokan’s poems, how glad they must be to have their bones still rattle.
  • There is a fine line between allowing people to work out their issues and really helping to relieve suffering. We don’t have all the answers.
  • It is wisdom to step aside even though one may feel regret.
  • Freedom seems to be in the ability to manage our commitments and to sustain older commitments with care when we decide to take on a new one. Happiness is found in the practice of devotion surrounding our work. As with the man in the sandpit, apart from situations of abuse, it is about not looking to escape the life we have but embracing the work we are doing.
  • This is why commitment or vow is such a treasure. The person chooses to be constant to a particular way because it is true for their lives, and then she continually chooses it, not just once, but again and again.
  • We misunderstand compassion and misinterpret empathy as a standard for ethical behavior.
  • Without this balance, we can become invested in our own needs and performance while forgetting there are others in the animal, vegetable, and mineral world. Or we can become so outwardly directed, perhaps even to the point of interfering, as to fail to see our own shortcomings. We must ask: for whom do we practice? We have the paradox of the self in the world, focusing inwardly in order to manifest outwardly. The inward look is the outward view.
  • Straight glances of honest eyes break a pile of swords. Strides of steady feet scorn the heat of boiling water.
  • This plainest truth must be implanted time and time again,
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