Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Meditation Month 2021: Silent Illumination

Join meditation teacher Guo Gu for weekly guided meditations to help you sit every day in March.

By TricycleFeb 03, 2021

Welcome to Tricycle Meditation Month, our annual challenge to commit to a daily practice throughout March. Whether you’re new to meditating or a longtime practitioner, our free 31-day challenge is a great way to kickstart your practice and set aside more time for calm and clarity in your life. We’ll be supporting you along the way with an array of meditations, tips, inspiration, and resources. Our free offerings throughout the month include:

A new guided meditation video each week from our Meditation Month teacher Guo Gu, a leading Chan Buddhist teacher and author Two live calls with Guo Gu to ask any question you have about your practiceA steady stream of helpful articles on Trike Daily, including classic and contemporary Buddhist teachingsA Facebook discussion group where you can share your experience and connect with practitioners from all over the worldA weekly newsletter to keep you up to date on everything going onOur evergreen meditation section of Buddhism for Beginners

Sign up here to take the Meditation Month challenge.

SILENT ILLUMINATION with Guo Gu

Starting on Monday, March 1, Guo Gu will lead a series of four guided meditation videos from the Tallahassee Chan Center in Tallahassee, Florida. In his series, Guo Gu will draw from Chan Buddhist teachings on silent illumination, an idea that reflects the true, spacious nature of mind. He will also offer guidelines for taking the clarity of mind cultivated on the cushion into your daily life. New videos will be posted every Monday.

The schedule is:

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Fishing for Enlightenment 

In the final segment of Disney-Pixar’s animated film Soul, the character of jazz saxophonist Dorothea Williams (voiced by Angela Bassett) shares a lesson about goals.  When her new and slightly disillusioned star pianist Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) remarks that he thought he would “feel different” after finally getting his big break, she says:

I heard this story about a fish. He swims up to this older fish and says, “I’m trying to find this thing they call the ocean.”

“The ocean?” says the older fish. “That’s what you’re in right now.”

“This?” says the young fish. “This is water. What I want is the ocean.”

Joe’s confusion at his anti-climactic breakthrough follows a bewildering existential odyssey. At the start of Soul, he unexpectedly dies—right after landing a gig with the great Dorothea. As a disembodied soul, he desperately navigates the trippy dimensions of the Great Beyond, the Great Before, and returns to life on earth just in time to perform his set that evening. But after all the drama, and after all the years of dreaming and practicing and waiting, Joe doesn’t experience a euphoric sense of accomplishment. In fact, it all feels pretty normal. As if he had been swimming in the waters of the ocean the entire time.

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Groundhog Days

“Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.” —Groundhog Day

“Every day is a good day.” —Yun Men

The other day, an old friend of mine and I were chatting on the phone about our COVID experience, and he mentioned, with a dry chuckle, how it’s been like Groundhog Day: every day pretty much the same. He was referring, of course, to the 1993 Harold Ramis film, a modern classic in which a self-centered weatherman (Bill Murray) wakes up every morning and it’s the same day, February 2, Groundhog Day—again and again and again. I immediately recognized that my friend’s insight was spot-on. While this past year has indeed been like no other, the days within it have felt remarkably similar: every morning, we wake up, and life is more or less the same. Stuck at home in the same old place, seeing the same old faces, having the same old conversations—and, at the center of it, unchanged and unchanging, the same old you.

While the pandemic has of course intensified this feeling—necessarily restricting travel, fresh social interaction, and basically any opportunity to have experiences one might consider “new”—there’s a way in which life has sort of always felt like this. I mean, after all, when has it ever not been today?

To put it another way, when has it ever not been now? Sure, you could say, yesterday was yesterday, and tomorrow will be tomorrow, and neither of them are “now”—but when you were in the midst of yesterday, it was “now” for you then; tomorrow, it will be “now” for you yet again. Or as the great Zen master Dogen puts it in his brilliant (and often incomprehensible) treatise, The Time-Being, “Since there is nothing but this moment, the time-being is all there is” (trans. by Dan Welch and Kazuaki Tanahashi). Apparently, the present is inescapable, though we do our best. But no matter how we long for yesterday—or dream of tomorrow, and the way it might somehow set us free—we remain trapped in today. Today, today, today.

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Tashi Wangchuk Released from Prison

Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk is released from a Chinese prison, an online forum connects Asian American Buddhist writers and artists, and the Dalai Lama congratulates President Joe Biden. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Emily DeMaioNewton and Karen JensenJan 30, 2021

Tashi Wangchuk was released from prison this week, but it is unclear if the Tibetan language advocate is "fully free." | International Tibet Network

Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.

Tibetan Language Advocate Released from Prison

Tashi Wangchuk has been released from prison, according to the New York Times. The 35-year-old Tibetan-language advocate was arrested after calling for the Chinese government to honor its laws allowing bilingual education for ethnic minorities. Wangchuk, who was accused of “inciting separatism,” completed a five-year sentence and has returned to his hometown in the province of Qinghai, his lawyer, Liang Xiaojun, said on Twitter and in a telephone interview with the Times. 

Wangchuk had originally taken up his cause after the Chinese government ramped up restrictions on teaching Tibetan in schools. The Times had documented Wangchuk’s efforts to save the Tibetan language—which China used against him during his trial. “In our Tibetan region, from primary and middle schools to high school, there’s only one Tibetan language course among many courses,” Wangchuk said in a Times documentary about his journey to Beijing in 2015 to make his case to Chinese officials and state media. “No one wants to live in an environment that’s full of pressure and fear,” he said. “In effect, there is a systematic slaughter of our culture.” Chinese police detained Mr. Tashi two months after the Times reports about him came out. Despite Wangchuk’s release, Mr. Liang said he could not be sure that Mr. Tashi was “fully free.” In China, former prisoners can be confined to their homes even after their formal release, especially in politically contentious cases. 

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Buddhist Caves Attract Coronavirus Researchers

Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.

Buddhist Caves Attract Bats—and Now Scientists 

A Buddhist cave complex in Thailand has become a research site for scientists seeking answers about the novel coronavirus. According to the New York Times, scientists believe that the virus that causes COVID-19 originated in bats, although the virus has not been conclusively traced to the flying mammals. The possible connection between horseshoe bats and the coronavirus prompted an investigation into whether bats in Thailand may share a similar viral load to bats in China’s Yunnan Province and Cambodia, where testing of bats and bat dung has shown traces of similar viruses. In Photharam District, Thailand, bats are at the heart of the local economy: guano is sold for use in fertilizer, and bats are consumed as food. In one cave owned by the Khao Chong Phran Temple, researchers found three million bats from 10 different species. But the team of scientists have found no trace of the coronavirus in these Buddhist bats, although other coronaviruses have been discovered there. Testing of humans in and around the temple, including of guano collectors who have spent decades in proximity with bats, have yielded no evidence of antibodies. 

Buddhist Priest Takes Photos of Insects

A Japanese Buddhist priest has recently gained attention for his close-up photographs of insects, reports the Asahi Shimbun. Yusei Hara’s  project began by happenstance while he was training to be a priest at a Shingon school on the historic Mount Koya. Hara was taking a photo of a flower when he noticed a fly perched on a nearby leaf and decided to take a snapshot of the fly, too. After Hara developed the film, he enlarged the image and was struck by the fly’s detailed appearance. Fascinated by the insect, he sought more bugs to photograph and started learning everything he could about entomology. In September, his photos were published in a new book, Utsukushiki Chiisana Mushi-tachi no Zukan (Illustrated Encyclopedia of Beautiful, Small Insects), which includes more than 100 species of familiar insects shot in gardens and parks. Hara aims to show that flies and moths are not insignificant and can, in fact, appear beautiful. Before he became a priest, Hara saw bugs as pests. But now, he says, when he focuses his full attention on insects, he can find a whole universe in them. Hara hopes that his photographs will help humans see that we are not “the main characters on this planet.” 

Bodhgaya Prayer Event Held with Limited Attendance

Prayers for world peace marked the beginning of the nine-day Nyingma Monlam Chenmo Puja, the annual event for monastics in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, which is held at the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment, the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, India. The event was unusually small this year due to health precautions. According to the Times of India, only about 100 Nyingma monks participated in this year’s 32nd Nyingma Monlam, a sharp contrast from the 10,000 monks and devotees who typically attend the event. Many other events traditionally held at the Mahabodhi temple, including the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo and Tripitaka chanting ceremony, have been postponed this year due to the pandemic. 

Rubin Museum To Host Virtual Losar 

The Rubin Museum of Art, a Himalayan art museum in New York City, has a full afternoon of free virtual activities planned on February 7 to celebrate Losar, the Tibetan new year, with the whole family. The arts and crafts projects, which all use simple materials that are likely available at home, are inspired by the year’s zodiac animal, the Metal Ox. Children and their families can make their own ox horns, construct prayer flags, and virtually join in on a traditional end-of-year gathering dance called gorshey (circle dance). The Rubin is currently open to visitors, but events and other programming remain online. 

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