Mirror of Zen Blog

The State of Our Projection

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When this pandemic started, there were perhaps 500 people subscribed to this YouTube channel. There was no special effort to do anything with it (and that’s mostly true today). It was just a place where we parked Dharma stuff that had some value for sharing, and then there began to appear various videos of me teaching. Stuff done in Korea over the years got gathered there.

Yet due to the lockdown, the channel bloomed in 2 years into this 5,000+ subscribers.

It doesn’t really mean anything to our work here. The daily life here, as in any temple, is centred around twice-daily practice, 365 days a year. There is a daily silent meal at lunchtime, because that is the only time of the day that the Buddha ate.

We still feel especially happy to provide a supportive twice-daily chanting and sitting meditation practice on this channel. People attend from all over the world. The number of videos and views, the whole all-in on the algorithmic functioning of “viral” videos is just not where we have ever wanted to be, as some sort of goal or “relevance”. If something seems worthwhile for helping practice, it can be edited and put out online. But there is no “production-for-production-sake” video here. We are trying to stay away from fluff and fodder, and will not do gimmicky stuff. It’s just not in my spiritual DNA, anyway, to put out catchy or trendy material. And things are never very politically correct here — we just try to express things as Ralph Waldo Emerson: “I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways” (“Self-Reliance”).

Anyway, coming in to check something on our livestream broadcast tonight of the evening practice, these factoids on our YouTube channel banner caught my eye: Passing the bridge of 5,000 subscribers, I do only hope this doesn’t become yet another bronco that gets wildly out of control, as happened with the unexpected “fame years” I experienced in Korea beginning in 1998.

Thank you for tolerating our messaging.

The Inching Progress of a Little Child

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Despite some 30 years of hard practice, every day I realize I am definitely not a person of infinite light and patience. It’s more than a little humiliating. There are still lots of rough edges — oh, baby, so many. In my often-misguided passion to share the teachings of waking up — powered with a visceral urgency I find hard to convey adequately to others, I can sometimes be too blunt, too irritable, too curt, especially when trying to handle the complicated thinking (“mind habits”, or karma) of folks whose mind-states and issues appear so clearly to me, but which I cannot get them to see for themselves — what appears to me in an almost technicolor clarity and simplicity can be delivered a tad too sharply. In a flash, that burning sense of urgency can get the better of me, and sometimes override the balance and softness of the meditative default-mode. Inside, I am often deeply regretful for any excessive or unnecessary reactivity, though I often show it not. If there might be one motto that a am compelled by, it is the teaching of the Japanese Zen Master Bassui (1327-1387): “My true desire is to relieve others of their pain, even though I myself might fall into hell.“

On days like this, the timeless teachings of Zen Master Hyu Jeong So Sahn [서산 대사] (1520-1604) come straight to mind, as he recorded them in his classic text, The Mirror of Zen (선가귀감):

End / Begin

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Waking up NOW is very very important!

Our root Teacher, Zen Master Seung Sahn, often commented, in his simple broken English, “End of this world.” Then he would say, “…That means, end of this human world. Human world is not the only world. If you wake up, and find your seed, then any kind of new world is possible. That’s how you survive ‘end of this world.’ Very important is human beings wake up necessary!”