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What does Big Mind mean?

By Genpo Roshi I’m using “Big” with the sense of the Japanese word Dai, or the Sanskrit word Maha, meaning great or big. “Mind” when preceded by Dai or Maha means a mind with no limits or boundaries. A quote from the 6th Patriarch: “The capacity of the mind is so great, it’s like space. But if you practice Empty-mind Zen, you will fall into a featureless void. In this…

Overwhelming emotion

Student:  How do we work with overwhelming emotion?  Roshi:  Well, the only reason it’s overwhelming is that we’re not allowing our self to experience it fully.  There’s no such thing as an overwhelming emotion; there’s just emotion. When we repress it, it becomes overwhelming.  When we open ourselves to it, nothing’s overwhelming.  It’s like a storm in the sky, the empty sky, and the storm fills the sky.  But it’s not too much for the sky.  When the…

What is out there is in me

Student: It occurred to me that one reason the thinking mind is disowned is there are a lot of things that one would rather not think about. For example, why we have so much and thousands of babies are being born in rubbish heaps every day, and why corporations control governments that have millions of lives in their hands and their only motive is profit, or, you know, whatever it…

Zazen, Koans and Voices

Student: I notice when I try to work with disowned voices it gets difficult to identify them and pull them apart. Do you have any tips or tricks to work with that? Roshi: I don’t know about tricks, but I’m glad you brought this up because I’ve been asked this very often by people who say they have a difficult time meditating in the voices, particularly the disowned voices. What…

Disappointment

by Zen Master D. Genpo Merzel Q: How is it that disappointment can bring about enlightenment or an awakening? Genpo: Disappointment is a cruel but vigorous teacher. We all enter the spiritual path with many ideas, notions, hopes and expectations. It is our hope that the spiritual path will save us from our fears, loneliness and feelings of emptiness. The more we attach to the notion or idea that something such…

Where am I stuck?

by Zen Master D. Genpo Merzel If you really want to practice Zen, not just know something about it, a good first question to ask is “where am I stuck?” We may think, ‘I’m not stuck,’ or ‘people fall into two categories: some are stuck and others are not, and I myself am [or am not].’  What I’m suggesting is that the question is not “if” I’m stuck, but “where?”  Assume…

Suffering

by Zen Master D. Genpo Merzel For much of my 40 years of Zen practice I was beyond most of the pain of this realm of suffering and loneliness. In the early days of practice I would alleviate suffering by asking myself, “who is the one suffering?” and since there was no one there, the suffering would cease. Instead of feeling the pain of loneliness, which so many people experience on…

Never ending clarification

by Zen Master D. Genpo Merzel It just gets clearer and clearer to me how much I, and we, are deluded by our enlightenment. We have a saying by Dogen Zenji: “We’re enlightened in our delusion. We’re deluded in our enlightenment. And then there’s delusion beyond delusion”. It’s all delusion, and enlightenment is just another delusion. There’s dualistic delusion, of self and others, and that’s where most of us are at….

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