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In our last half day sitting I spoke about Avalokiteshvara as Dogen presented in his fascicle by the same day that is found in the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, translated by Kazuaki Takahashi.

Dogen opens the fascicle with a dialogue between two dharma brothers, Yunyan and Daowu.  Yunyan asks Daowu “What does the bodhisattva of great compassion do with so many hands and eyes?”  Daowu’s response, “Like someone reaching back for the pillow at night.”  This heartfelt exchange is packed with intensity from both individuals.  Such a genuine inquiry by Yunyan and a wholehearted response by Daowu!  Yunyan wants to know what are Avalokiteshvara’s hands and eyes about and why so many.  Maybe some of you may have heard that Avalokiteshvara listens to the cries of the world.  Dogen has another understanding, “…Avalokietshvara – One who has complete freedom in perceiving.”  Now the eyes in the hands make sense!  But Daowu’s response is unexpected, dynamic and unexpected, “Like someone reaching back for the pillow at night.”  Who is this ‘someone’ and what is like to reach back for your pillow?  After groping and feeling for a pillow we are comforted by the pillow’s presence. Can you imagine experiencing Avalokiteshvara’s abiding presence, bringing comfort to those in distress?  The Lotus Sutra, chapter 25 highlights Kannon (Japanese name for Avalokiteshvara) qualities to those who invoke this Bodhisattva’s assistance.  These expressions all take place in the phenomenal world.  Now, the source of Avalokiteshvara’s compassion arises from emptiness, Suchness, Oneness, the Universal.  Often “night” or “darkness” is a metaphor for emptiness.  From these details we can begin to see the depth of Daowu’s response.

So how do we practice compassion in our life?  How can Avalokiteshvara help us stay awake to what arises moment by moment, and equally important, awake to an appropriate response?  Beginning with our zazen practice, we let go of our thoughts and mind habits.  This work is with us off the cushion.  And, zazen can be practiced in any of the four positions: sitting, standing, lying down, walking.

If you seek a state of happiness and peace, begin today with a daily meditation practice.  This will open your mind-heart to being compassionate to self and others as the moments arise, one after the other.







Year of Compassion


Our Sangha is committed to studying and practicing compassion in our lives.  At the beginning of the year the Sangha came up with a list of studies, activities and Buddhist practices that would stimulate and develop our intention to compassionate living.

In January we held our annual Relinquishment Ceremony that is focused on letting go of our attachments, our mind habits that are causing difficulty in our lives.  Relinquishing a mind habit can be quite complex as our brain built up many associative patterns even in just one mind habit.  Undoing takes effort, awareness and openness to experience reality in new ways.

In late January Heart Sutra Writing was practiced – a quiet meditation that can be done with a brush or pen, in English, Chinese, or your native tongue.  The important point is to observe what arises in the mind, then let it go.  Writing distracts the mind and we then have a window into our mind’s functioning.  The benefit of writing the Heart Sutra is immeasurable.  The  sutra penetrates one’s being in a fresh way.  For more on this subject visit our website at under Events/Heart Sutra Writing.

Beginning February 6 we began our study of Norman Fischer’s book, Training in Compassion Zen Teachings on the Practice of LOJONG. What I would like to do here is make accessible this teaching by sharing Fischer’s translated slogans.    These slogans are helpful when studied for at least 1 week, keeping them available via a post-it note or through journaling.  It’s also acceptable to repeat the slogans during meditation practice.  In this way you will have a chance to incorporate the slogan teaching.  Select ones that resonate with you as you travel with us on our journey.  Should you have questions or which to comment you can contact me

“Training in the preliminaries:

  1. The rarity and preciousness of human life.
  2. The inevitability of death.
  3. The awesome and indelible power of our actions.
  4. The inescapability of suffering.”1
    1.  p.8 Training in Compassion Zen Teachings on the Practice of LOJONG.



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