Guidance in the time of Corona 18

Dear All,

Are you deepening without stopping your efforts?

Most people have been living in restricted circumstances and since the financial situation of many is effected as well, thus anxiety grows. When zazen is being taught, we learn how to breath with our abdomen. When we inhale, our belly moves forward, and when we exhale, it becomes flat. When we inhale, the diaphragm moves down, thus our belly becomes rounded, while when we exhale, the diaphragm moves up and the belly becomes flat.

We walk with our arms moving along on the side of our body. In this way we can keep balance while walking. If we are breathing from our tanden, this balance is being kept naturally. A baby is doing tanden breathing. When a baby is hungry and cries, this voice is huge, coming forth from the tanden. Even when a baby is smiling, it is doing so with its whole being, yet using its inhalation, while it is using the exhalation when crying. A baby does not need to be taught how to breath, it does so naturally. Not while thinking about it but by using its whole body. Since birth we all are doing this tanden breathing.

In Asian medicine it is looked upon as if we are two beings: The upper body with the head receiving information from the outside which has become central in our modern world. All sense perceptions as well as the ability to think are all in our head. The ability to connect to the outside. The hands as well reach out tothe outside.

Then we have the lower body, that being which is centered in our lower abdomen, in our tanden. It has the feet standing on the ground, while the tanden is the center of our life energy.

We are made up of these two beings, these two aspects. Yet we have placed more importance in gathering information from the outside. Our energy has risen up in our head and our belly has fallen into our unconsciousness. Usually we are able to keepbalance somehow but when there are times like these, when we feel a lot of pressure, we can hardly stay balanced and become even more anxious.

Since birth we have not only gathered a lot of data, but we also have unresolved feelings of anger, greed, hate, jealousy, sadness – they are always with us. While we have a warm and open heart, it simply does not function. This is today´s sickness,the energy being too high and not coming down into our belly.

We can see clearly what is most important for us nowadays: To actually feel that taught full energy in our belly which is supporting us during difficult times. Please lengthen your exhalation and right there your inner balance is strengthened.Our essence again becomes deep and stable. It is the breathing which we did when we were small, now we simply need to return to our base. Gathering our energy in the tanden. When we carry something heavy, we can feel our tanden,when we sit and move as well. During these challenging times, we need to make even more efforts to settle within.

Guidance in the time of Corona 17

Dear All,

Are you breathing deeply ? While receiving all types of information, the end of the restrictions are not in sight yet. Unsettled feelings increase. Luckily in Sogenji 27 people are doing Osesshin, the air in the zendo is sharp and tight. The people here are aware of the situation in the world. Thus they take this chance to sit even more serious. Exhaling to the last point of the breath, not making a gap between the breaths, each mind moment as its says in the Enmei Jikko Kannon gyo starts to connect to the next mind moment and no gaps are even possible.

When we experience this then the air around us is sharp. We affect others by the aura, the air around us and the other way round, other´s air affect us. Experiencing this for ourselves, our zazen becomes alive. I see people in sanzen and can feel this strongly. In this way we can experience this for ourselves, using our breath to deepen even at times when we sit alone and do not have others supporting us by sitting together. I would like to ask you all to please exhale to the very end of the breath. Then do not follow any ideas and extraneous thoughts. Thus a bright state of mind is developed.

This is how we invigorate our blood flow, especially the blood going to our brain, by exhaling to the last point of the breath, even practicing this for just ten minutes, then our head becomes light and clear. Our state of mind becomes settled and serene. The outer challenges may exist but they do not effect our deepest center.

Exhale to the last point, not making a gap, like fish eggs lying on top of each other, if we continue in this way, we feel most settled in our state of mind. This refreshes our wisdom and let´s it grow. There is the physical aspect of the breathing, but our actual essence becomes more and more pure. From there our perception is sharp and to the point. That is important, how we can use the breathing correctly and bring forth our ability which we have from the origin in its fullest.

Continuing the breathing, we do not trip, we do not drop things, because our brain and nerves are invigorated. Each breath is supporting our health and stable state of mind as well as clarifying our wisdom. Our daily practice is important.

There are two types of exhalation, I have explained this before. One long breath or many short exhalations following quickly after one another. Like a bamboo has separations and if we want to make a hole through a bamboo, we need to put pressure over and over to pierce through the separations. Our exhalation is always coming from the tanden and is gathering energy.

Now all over the world, people cannot bear the pressure anymore, many problems are arising because of this in many societies. The clear vision is lost. Please use your breathing to again purify your mind and stay healthy in body and in mind.

Guidance in the time of Corona #16

Dear All,

Are you taking your daily zazen as most important?

In Sogenji there are now 27 people, doing daily zazen and continuing sesshin after sesshin. I wish for everyone that they may experience this kind of taut energy at one point in their life.

Many people are infected by the virus, many have died with the virus. Many countries have put restrictions onto the people of their country, not allowing them to move freely to prevent the spread of the virus.

People being stuck at home, anxiety, uncertainty and frustration must be on a high level. Especially now we need to sit and settle our mind.

In the 5th century in Japan, there was the emperor Tenmu Tenno and a fifth of the population had died. The emperor thought to himself: “This could only be happening because our mind is defiled. We need to purify our mind.” The emperor himself first of all entered the practice of purification, and his people followed along.

We see, hear, smell, taste and touch – these senses stop to function when our mind is not pure. Then many mistakes can follow. Thus we need to purify our mind. By reading the name of the Buddha our mouth is purified. By doing prostrations, our body is purified. Not speaking in an unclear way, not talking gossip about this and that, saying different things to different people. We need to purify our eyes and our ears, and again be open and simple in our mind. And only from there can a new way of life appear.

These days everyone is drowning in the corona virus news, which will come to an end for certain. But how shall we actually life? How shall we continue? That is of great importance to us. If we cannot put our focus onto those central questions, we ill simply be irritated. This experience right now gives us the chance to reflect upon how have we been living until now, it all becomes obvious during challenging times. And how should we continue? This is how challenges help us to bring forth wisdom.

Most people may be worried about their financial situation, but if we only look for a way of how we can be financially comfortable, then for what was this eye opening time all about?
What we have done in the past, we know this best for ourselves. What was right and what was wrong, if we are quiet in mind, we know this clearly for ourselves. This is where we need to purify our mind, our mouth, our body as well. We need to repent, over and over again.

During times of adversity, of sickness and natural disasters, as well as during the last month of the year, repentance is seen as most essential in Japan. During December, we reflect upon our deeds of the year and start again refreshed and purified into the new year. From there something new can start.

Nowadays this tradition has been lost, and the concern is more about one´s personal well being than that of the nation. Whatever happens in the world is not due to a God doing good or bad, but it is humanities creation. Humans have created many problems, and that is why we make efforts and repent. But not just the form of repentance, rather taking the most direct way to purify our mind and practicing zazen.

Zazen is not only about calming the mind, but when our mind is calm what then happens is, that our true wisdom arises. Feelings of greed, hate and delusion bring about confusion and an ego based life. If our mind is quiet, this original wisdom can shine forth. We do zazen and more and more this original mind, Buddha nature, starts to shine forth. Look at this reality in society with calm eyes. Yet do not get scared rather see this is what we have created, see this as your own responsibility, and reflect upon how will you live after corona times. This base is what you can work on now.

Doing zazen, cleaning up all delusions and dust, this is the important point of our practice now. Take this chance now, and practice alive zazen, this is my deepest wish.

Guidance in the time of Corona #15

Dear All,

Are you gathering energy to your tanden?

“This elixir field, located in the sea of vital energy, the lower back and legs, soles of the feet –
it is all my true and original face.
How can that original face have nose holes?
This elixir field, located in the sea of vital energy, the lower back and legs, soles of the feet –
It is all the home and native place of my original being.
What news or tidings could come from that native place?
This elixir field, located in the sea of vital energy, the lower back and legs, soles of the feet –
It is all the pure land of my own mind.
How could the splendours of that pure land exist apart from my mind?
This elixir field, located in the sea of vital energy –
It is all the Amida Buddha of my own self.
How could Amida Buddha preach the Dharma apart from that self? “
(by Hakuin Zenji)

Gathering the energy in the tanden, especially during times like these, to gather the energy is most important.

There was a transmitted to student of Baso Doitsu Zenji called Kiso Jijo Zenji. He would come from his room to the kitchen where the monks were turning the stone mill, Kiso asks them, “what are you doing?” It was obvious to see what they were doing. Still he asked. The monks answere: “We are milling white beans and making bean flour. We are milling rice to make rice flour. We are milling wheat to make wheat flour – and with that we cook.” Kiso Osho responded: “Great work! When you move the milling stones, do not move the central stick.”

A stone mill consists of a stone on the bottom, another one on top and through the central whole a stick is placed, so that the top stone can move well on the bottom stone which stays fixed. The top stone can actually only moved because there is this central stick.

Just like the milling stone moving, it is natural for us to be moving along with the happenings in the world. Moving along with our work, with meetings in our neighborhood, with gatherings of family. All different encounters are our daily life. Yet if we get moved around by them and lose our center, that becomes a big problem. In the end we do not know anymore where we are standing neither do we know how to settle our state of mind.

This is our present situation in the world, this coronavirus is putting so many restrictions on us. So we get anxious and confused. That is what Kiso Osho was pointing at. We never know what will happen next, yet if we get moved around by these changes, we lose our center. We cannot lose the serenity of our mind but need to preserve our clear seeing eye or else we end up in huge confusion.

Please in your daily life do not lose your center. A balanced and centered essence is most important.

Guidance in the time of Corona #14

Dear Sangha,

Are you all doing fine?

Unmon Daishi asked his students: “Do not speak about the days before the 15th, but say something about the days after the 15th.” There were different answers, yet Unmon Daishi was not satisfied by them. So he was asked to please let everyone know his answer so that they may learn from his wisdom. Unmon then said those famous words: “Every day is a good day.” You know this story well, you know the essence well. There is no need to explain these words.

In this world now we have the problem with the corona virus, which for sure will come to an end. Then if you simply feel relieved that this difficult time is over and relax, for what then was this experience for?

The economy, politics – all are only going on about this situation affected by the virus. The weight is felt as heavy.

Zen students do not look at that, but how to live after the pandemic is over, how can we support other, how can we guide others? We need to look at this or else this experience is wasted.

During difficult times we take this chance and use it to awaken. To polish our wisdom.

This kind of situation does not come around often. No one has wished for it, yet since it has appeared, how can we give life to it? That is the eye of zen.

Unmon Daishi asked: “ I will not ask you about before the 15th, about that which has passed. But from now, how is your state of mind? How can you face this reality?” We cannot be moved around by this situation, but we need to know how we can change our focus onto something wider. Or else we do zazen and cannot give life to it, as if we are practicing a dead form of zazen. This does not help us.

Please look carefully at the chance we have received, please dig deeper to that place which you have not been able to reach before. Take this time now as being most important. Living with restrictions put on us, this now is the chance to deepen our essence. Having had too many responsibilities and now being freed from them, we have the chance to dive deeper. Now we can awaken, we need to make efforts.

Right now there are 25 people in Sogenji. Day by day the essence is getting sharper, especially those beginners are putting their life on the line. So that they may awaken to their true mind, may you all awaken to that true mind, to realize this, we have been born. This is our value, our true worth, please everyone use your energy and dig deep into that place which you always wanted to reach. This is my great wish.

Guidance in the time of Corona #13

Dear All,

The situation in the world is that 120000 people have died with corona and almost 2 million have been infected with the virus. The world is being confused by the virus situation. We are living in a world of information and are constantly receiving data input. We are not calm in our mind but rather feel anxious.

In the olden days Nangaku Ejo Zenji was at the place of the Sixth Patriarch and was asked by him: “Who is it that came here?” Nangaku Ejo Zenji was a scholar, he could not give a simple answer. He was a man, a person of training, his life history was known to the Sixth Patriarch as well. Knowing all this, still he was asked, so a simple answer would not suffice. Nangaku Ejo Zenji lowered his head and left the room. It took him eight years, asking the question within, who am I, digging into this question. After eight years he met the Sixth Patriarch again and answered: “That which cannot be described in words has come.” Eight years he worked hard on this question. The Sixth Patriarch could see the answer alive in Nangaku Ejo Zenji, and could sense that he had awakened to human´s truth.

We have a physical body, yet we need to awaken to that which expresses itself through this body. If not we will be moved around by the situation in the world. The ancients would align their mind and deepen within, Nishita Kitaro, a philosopher, would practice zazen: “today I was able to sit 3 hours, today there were guests thus I could only sit 1 hour, today it was raining and I could not go outside, thus I was sitting for 12 hours.” He left these notes behind. In the midst of this he awakened to the truth of his own existence. “In my mind there is a place so deep where the waves of joy and sorrow do not reach.”

We are called emotional animals, we cry, we laugh, we smile, we get angry – these are like the waves on top of the water according to what wind is blowing. Yet if you do not know the tranquility of the bottom of the ocean, you believe that all what you are, are those emotions. On the surface of our mind, we have all types of emotions, yet in the depth the tranquility does not get touched by the waves on the surface. The surface of our body, the colour of our eyes, of our hair, the weight of our body – there are all types of expressions, yet in the depth of our mind, we are not affected by these whatsoever, that is our truth of no form. That is the truth, our mind expressing this truth. To know this truth means to know zen.

We can awaken to this immovable state of mind through our zazen. In our life we have all types of encounters, and while we have these encounters to stay immovable is most important.

Bankei Zenji said, there are so many words about others, while we are only alive right here and now. If we look through past experience, we perceive all types of situations, yet only looking at this very moment, we are this truth of mind, immovable, we can grow our roots deep in this place. Not worrying about what will come, but experiencing this very truth of this moment. That is the place we need to look.

In the olden days there was the zen master Tozan Osho, who was asked by a student: “How can we not be moved around by cold and heat?” Tozan Osho replied: “Go to the place free of emotions. Why don´t you go there?” The student continued: “Where is this place free from emotions? Please tell me, where is this wonderful place where there is no cold or heat?” – “When it is cold, it affects the teacher with cold. When it is hot, it affects the teacher with heat. When it is cold, become the cold completely, when it is hot, then become this heat completely. Don´t look away from this moments reality. Take each and every moment. Gather the energy in your tanden and take this essence and see, hear, smell, taste, feel and think about this world as it is. Perceive this very reality. But do not get fooled by it, only reflect it. Experience the importance of your senses.” This is how Tozan Osho was teaching.

The Buddha said, “extinguish the seed of greed, hate and delusion and you are in Nirvana.”
There is nothing we want in this world, there is nothing we are holding onto. It does not mean that there is nothing, but that our essence is full and taught, thus we do not get pulled along by the outside. We see reality, use it and give life to it. Do not get angry but stay calm and perceive the situation with a serene view. Do not let confusion arise but do stay with your focus on your inner truth. Not an idea about Nirvana, but in this sharp focus we can find our truth. If we carefully work on this and realign ourselves, then no matter what happens, we perceive all as our reality without any fear but rather using the situation to share this truth with others. The wisdom to guide and support others arises naturally.

Guidance in the time of Corona #12

Dear All,

Are you deepening in your zazen?

In my monastery there are 22 people from 13 different nations. Doing one sesshin after the next. Of course, I do sit together with everyone in the zendo.

The corona situation is bringing a lot of uncertainty to many people in different countries, it is not allowed to gather in groups, that is how the instructions are. Here in Sogenji we sit In the zendo with the windows open, we keep 1 m distance between everyone in the zendo. That is how far we take it and then gathering each breath in the belly, slowly letting the essence ripen. We are also not allowed to go out, there is actually no need to go out since we are in sesshin, our zazen can develop even further.

Luckily I cannot go abroad right now, thus I am there from morning until night for daily sanzens morning and night, and I can check the essence of everyone. Of course, this training is not only possible in a situation like this. That is how it should be. With so much bad news around, we decide within to sit deeply, that is important. It is as if the outer situation is helping us to deepen even further.

Why do we do zazen? We need to experience it for ourselves.

Seen from the Asian traditional medicine, there is Genki, the source of all energy of the universe. As long as we are alive, we do need to eat. We need to drink water and breathe air. For our body to live we receive food, water and air from the outside and absorb it. Our 6 trillion cells receive the oxygen, this is what supports our body. As long as we have a body we need to give this energy to every single part of the body. This again refreshed us. Food and water is yin energy, while our energy is yang energy. Our belly is the center of this energy. From the time we were walking on four legs until now that we have evolved to walking on two legs, the structure of our body has not changed. Animals kick with their back legs while the front legs grasp and hold, this is life energy. To be able to kick means that our belly is working well.

This belly is giving us our life energy and purpose. When we are too involved in the outside, that energy which should gather in our belly is being used up by the outside. This energy slips away and lets our anxiety increase.

The stronger the exhalation the more vibrant the blood circulation in our body. If this low is not vibrant, the energy can get stuck more easily. We keep working on extending our breath which in return gives us more energy. This is what we focus on not only when sitting but also when walking and working, as if a balloon has been blown up. We feel taught and full in our belly. If we can actually feel this, then no matter what influences us from the outside, we do not get pulled along while not ignoring the situation. We are able to stay centered within, that is the important point.

During zazen we gather this energy which keeps slipping away so that we can rise our essence. When we carry a bucket with water, whatever we do, we add pressure on our belly, when walking as well, with each step we can gather even more energy in our center. If we stay with this focus daily, even when there is a corona virus around with so many people infected, a few percentage will get seriously sick from it, yet most people don´t. The infected numbers are high, but an actually healthy person will not be affected by it much. Please do not get fooled by the numbers, do not get fooled by all the many news. Of course, you need to keep to the instructions. And supporting your own health by not going to a place with bad air flow, where many people gather, do not do unnecessary things. Yet those people who will get the virus will get it. Looking at it in this way, we need to have stronger essence. Not getting confused by the information but rather deepening our essence.

Please do not practice a zazen of form but of essence. Everyone will know this for himself, if we are in our center no matter what news reaches us, we can receive it with a clear and calm mind. We do not become anxious. Now is the time we need to be centered within, not getting stopped at anything. To be able to face the present situation we need to be even more centered within. I would like to ask all of you for you continued efforts.

Guidance in the time of Corona #11

Dear All,

Every day doing zazen as an important part of your life?

zazen is not the form of sitting zazen, but all motions of the day are zazen. Since the time of the Buddha it is taught in this way. Sitting is zen, standing is zen, all five positions of the day are zazen.

After the awakening of the Buddha for 49 year without resting a single day, the Buddha taught his students. Bodhidharuma as well at the high age of 140 he travelled to China. Not being quiet for a single moment, the ancients passed on their experience to society. Not only sitting zazen when there was a need for it, but doing training all day long. Not losing the state of mind of Zazen in our daily life, that is not how Zen looks at it. Zen is taking every single moment of your day as being your zazen. For that we need to know our center well, then not losing that center, just like a top spinning. When the top is balanced well on its one point, then it can move freely in all directions.

The same is true for us. When we have many extraneous thoughts, we lose the natural flow of our mind. This is called confusion.

Sitting zazen, talking or being quiet – that is also zazen. We can do all types of work, we can stay centered in our mind from morning until night, not having lost our center we do not stop anywhere. Our body then responds and acts accordingly. That is called Zen. If we think, it is all about sitting, then as soon as we move, we lose our essence easily. We may be quiet when sitting but as soon as we move, we are pulled around by outer impressions. If we fall into inner noise, that is not zen.

We simply sit to experience the base of our mind.

“Daily work is worth 10000 times that of sitting zazen. “ Zazen is not only when sitting, but when we work, we can do not lose our center – that is zen. Not just in the zendo but in our daily life, not stuck on the form, when we are in society, we do not lose this central focus. Please see this as important. And check for yourself how alive your zazen is. In daily life staying centered is important.

How we sleep at night is how our day starts. How we sleep affects us is of great importance. When we go to sleep, we should be in a huge expansive state of mind, facing up, the legs a bit apart, and feeling as if this great universe is embracing us. Just when our mother held us in her arms when we were small, when we could completely entrust to being held, with this huge feeling we can fall asleep. Not forcing ourselves to sleep, but with a natural feeling, not pulling that along what happened during the day, neither being so exhausted that we simply fall asleep, but with a huge feeling, a huge state of mind, we can rest deeply. This is a habit of our daily life which we can practice. How we fall asleep, we know it best ourselves and need to look at this carefully. Huge and entrusting completely, that is how our state of mind should be. Do not be mean and critical with yourself, do not judge yourself, but simply entrust. There is no need to think about anything when falling asleep.

If we pull those many thoughts and emotions of the day into our sleep, we create a huge damage to our mind. This we should not do. If we were to do this, we do not wake up with a good feeling. We can check ourselves when we wake up. If we can wake up quickly, feeling light and bright, that shows us we we actually fell asleep. If you want to wake up refreshed, then to point is about how we fall asleep.

Do not carry those happenings of the day, those many thoughts and emotions into your sleep. That is the important point of zazen. If we wake up refreshed, our day will continue in this way and we can respond to encounters in a bright way. How we sleep at night shows us how we give life to our zazen.

Please look at this carefully. It is not about making efforts to sit only, we should not try to not think either, but this hugeness of mind is what we need to experience.
Please however the situation in society may be, do not let your state of mind get affected by it.

Guidance in the time of Corona #10

Dear All,

Are you taking your daily zazen as most important? I have talked about the important points of the breath and energy flow, yet it does not work only by hearing it. In Sogenji there are now over 20 people who sit deeply while there is so much turmoil going on worldwide about the corona virus. Morning and night they all put everything into their zazen. Of course, I join and sit together with them. Not leaving out daily sanzens as well. This is now a time when deep practice is possible, when it is needed. The Sixth Patriarch taught how to practice zazen:

Let go of all concern about good and bad in the outside
And inside to stay immovable no matter what arises.

You all heard the teaching of the Sixth Patriarch many times, yet you need to experience this during your zazen for yourself. In theory we know this well, yet at this point in time we cannot escape the information which is reaching us. We do need to absorb it but we cannot let our mind get pulled off center. That would be sad. We are alive and because of us being alive, this world exists. If we lose our life essence because of this world, that would be truly sad.

Of course, if we do get the virus and are in a fragile state, we may die with the virus. But if we are filled with energy, we can face even such a terrible virus and have the inner strength and energy to deal with it. Rather than facing the actual situation, we get unsettled within because of the information we hear. If we get confused by the phenomena, we lose track of our original mind.

We do zazen, and it is not the body that is sitting but our mind. No matter what problems may occur in the world, be exhale with each breath into our tanden and let the essence accumulate. If our tanden is filled then then we can see this world as being a reflection in our mind. This is our actual experience in zazen. As soon as outer information moves us around, we lose our inner center.

Each and every breath, each and ever step that is taken brings us to rising our essence. Let go of the tension in the upper part of our body, in the diaphragm, and exhale to the last point of the breath. Not letting go of the efforts needed, but exhale completely, maybe 30 – 40 seconds long. It is not easy to have such a long breath from the beginning, but if we stay with our Kufu – creative work – and do not get stopped by any obstacles. The inhalation can be ignored. The inhalation is what we receive from the heavens. We do not need to think about it in a complicated way. Simply be open to receive the huge energy of the heavens.

Exhale completely and then absorb the heaven´s energy with you inhalation, do not stop your efforts, use every single day to develop this essence further. Then we feel our belly being like a blown up balloon. This is what we need to actually experience with our body, we can use this body, and not stay with our idea about it.

The more we feel this essence, it fills our whole being, our mind as well. The surroundings, the world´s situation, all has been drunk down. We can actually experience this, then facing within we can stay immovable no matter what happens. That place free from any dust, worry, uncertainty, all that has been blown away. We do not need to carry these heave feelings around but rather entrust and see this huge open state of mind. With each and every breath you can purify your own essence. This is my deep inner wish, that you may experience it for yourself.