brief teachings

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    Understanding Understanding Paid Member

    Consider, for a moment, the word understand and its synonyms. To stand under. Something is “there” above us and we are below, underneath, looking up. We reach “up” and try to “grasp” it, “catch” it, “capture” it. The origin of the synonym comprehend is “to seize or lay hold of, to hang on to.” And similarly, the word apprehend carries this sense. Elusive criminals, like subtle meanings, can be quite difficult to apprehend. In each of these synonyms, the idea of understanding is linked to capture and containment, to a break in an ongoing flow of movement. As if understanding were a great tiger that we must take into custody and keep enclosed and tightly controlled. But what if it weren’t so? More »
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    The True Self Paid Member

    What is the true self? It's brilliantly transparent like the deep blue sky, and there's no gap between it and all living beings.From The Zen Teachings of Homeless Kodo. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., www.wisdompubs.org. [See interview with Shohaku Okumura, the student of Kodo Sawaki Roshi's student Kosho Uchiyama Roshi. —Ed.] More »
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    Being No One Paid Member

    When you wake in the morning, you may notice a brief period when you’re between sleep and waking, when you’ve left the dreams of the night but haven’t yet entered into the identities and plans of the day. The gap may be extremely small, but if you pay attention you can catch it and prolong it. This gap has an unknown quality, perhaps a sense of openness and nakedness; it’s a kind of liminal zone where you still don’t know exactly who or what you are. You may feel afraid of this openness and tend to rush back into the known, to check your smartphone or open your computer to remind yourself who you are. Instead, just lie still and be open to the unknown. More »
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    Simple Paid Member

    God's joy, wrote Rumi,
moves from unmarked box to unmarked box. I remember my sister’s husband,
 after her stroke, complaining
 "Liz is a box. It says
 on the outside Liz, but she’s not there, not the Liz I married." "Is she simple," our daughter wondered, noting how the sheer
weight of loss
 had rendered my sister speechless. But I have to confess, as I watch your memory fade—
grief and the rest of it aside—
I’m also curious: What is the self? What of the self, or the no-self, outstays loss after loss? 
I watch the wind 
fill with leaves, red and gold,
 as the tree that was once
 a summery billow
thins to an outline. A friend
 told of a woman he knew 
with dementia. "And who are you," someone asked her pointedly,
 and she replied, I watch.
 How is it for you?" our son 
got up his courage and asked you, More »
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    Black Fire Paid Member

    During the Gembun era (1736–40), a fire broke out at the neighboring Numazu post station. I sent two of my monks and our old servant Kakuzaemon to find out what was happening. Kakuzaemon came running back, gasping for breath, and made the following report. "Ahh, there is nothing as terrifying or as hateful as fire! Eight hundred dwellings, suddenly reduced to ash. How damaging and destructive it is! And yet it also has a trait that I admire." "What would that be?" I asked. More »
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    The Benevolence of the True Teachers Paid Member

    Such is the benevolence of Amida’s great compassion,That we must strive to return it, even to the breaking of our bodies; Such is the benevolence of the masters and true teachers,That we must endeavor to repay it, even to our bones becoming dust.Hymns of the Dharma-Ages, 59. More »