Zen retreat. 7 days of mostly silence & lots of deep meditation. Arrived Monday January 15th, 2007, after 48 hours of 1 overnight bus to Bangalore, 1 day in that sardine can of 6 million souls city, 1 overnight train, another 3 hour bus, one last 1 hour bus, & a quick taxi ride up a mystic mountain...has brought me to a remote mountain zen retreat center, located in South India.
"Nirvana is right here before our very eyes. You are looking at the Lotus Land. You are the very body of Buddha." (ancient Zen saying)
"The journey begins with the first step Here & Now, and it is always the first step" (Amy Sama - master at Bodhi Zendo center)
"Emptiness is not to be understood as something seperate from or beyond our actual universe. It is the relative nature of all forms inthe universe, in other words relativity itself, which is the emptiness of these forms." (pg. 51, Zen for Beginners)
"Shikan Taza is sometimes said to be the most difficult, most advanced type of zazen. It is just simply sitting without any object of concentration...(It) is often compared to the alertness of someone involved in a life or death sword fight. Most important is to sit in the faith that this "just sitting" can and does naturally unfold to total self-realization, called Buddhahood." (pg 74, Zen for Beginners)
I feel right at home here. I have re-entered the dojo & here is my new food for thought:
Enter the Dojo. the gongs have once again been struck & the ringing of singing bowls is calling you to trancendance. It is time to practice the art of emptiness, to realize the nature of your true self. there is no duality. unity surrounds us always & in all-ways. flow into the harmony of the unstruck sounds & surf the cosmic echo your heart has longed for.
Enter the Dojo, where silence is not the only thing that is golden. your true self is golden, pure & full of emptiness. you may have forgotten along the paths of illusions & delusions of the Six Worlds of Samsara, but you are infinity, manifesting equanimity, attaining emptiness Here & Now. with emptiness you are free. free of opinions, ideas, ego. back to beginner's mind as they say in Zen. Yes, it is life's mysterious riddle. there is in actuality...nothing to attain. in emptiness we become full again. This is It! Zen.
It is simple. letting go & surrendering to balance in nature. non-judgement & complete acceptance of our imperfect selfs. butterflies & chirping birds know this, so now it is our turn? This isn't rocket science. It is the science of meditation, which is a direct path to save us from our own troubled restless monkey minds. moments of Satori bring encouragement, but do not strive for only bliss & joy. life is dramatic & naturally full of ups & downs. Enter the Dojo & bow to eternity & rejoice for this space & time is always for you. It is always here. freedom is yours...again...Now.
For 220 Rs ($5.50 CAN) you get a beautiful room, very good gourmet vegetarian (mostly grown locally), & the practice.
The practice is about 8 hours of meditation done at 25 minute sits about 16 times a day. In between you eat, drink tea, do one hour of selfless service work, laundry, shower, read, be. My seva (selfless service job) is to rake, tidy & clean the Japanese stone garden. perfect! Just what I needed to further empty this hectic monkey mind of mine! This place is like another dream manifestation for me.
There are probably many many other Zen retreat centers worldwide, but this one is very much to my liking. Japanese & Asian culture has also been a life long interest for me, starting with Bruce Lee & other kung-fu movies as a child in the '80s, to taking Japanese goju-ryu martial arts for 4 years in high school, to having many asian friends & girlfriends throughout the years. I am drawn to their cultures perhaps as much as India. I love the resonance of the gongs, the humming of the singing bowls, the pounding rhythms of the wooden blocks. this is Zen & i forgot how much I love it (it's been awhile since i read any Zen or practiced this meditation). At night after a long day of many meditations, a series of drums & bells are played and a standard Zen message is read:
"Let me respectfully remind you, life & death are of supreme importance. Time passes swiftly and opportunity is lost. Each of us must strive to awaken. Take heed, do not squander your lives."
Another good idea I got from the Zen master here is that alot of us so called spiritual minded seekers have these goals of reaching enlightenment, samadhi, satori, & so on, BUT...that is not important he says. To be here now in full acceptance without desiring, striving, & pushing too hard. There is nothing to attain! Everything is perfect, NOW! If those states come naturally, then great. But many have their heads up in the clouds when they progress on the paths & reach certain states & forget that they still have their imperfections (i don't feel i'm one of those types, but sure...i got some ego to balance!). "Head in the clouds & shitting in the toilet." We are all of the earth & need to be real with ourselves HERE & NOW. I have to admit...he's got a good point! Anyhow, I love this place & highly recommend it. Could easily stay here a few months in the Dojo!