Right now, I should have been in Perth for this year’s Every Day Zen event which was to have been on the theme:
'When cold and heat visit us, how should we avoid them?’: practice in a time of climate change. A student’s question to Dongshan goes to the heart of how we deal with the circumstances of our life. How do we do that?
Well how much has changed since I worked on that flyer!
Of course we have no idea how long it will be before I can safely travel there again to teach and so, in the meantime, I hope to meet online with any of you (not only EDZ participants) for Dharma activities. This will be my first foray into online teaching, so it will be an ongoing experiment to see how we can practice together in a virtual environment and I encourage any of you to join in, even if you were not planning to attend the EDZ and even if you are not normally able to attend Perth Thursday-nights because of distance. If you are a member of the sangha, you are welcome.
Our first meeting will be an opportunity to meet together online and to sit together for 25 minutes to start, followed by a talk and discussion. I imagine the whole event will last for around 2 or 2 and a half hours.
Because the circumstances have changed, I will not be focusing on exactly the same theme as the EDZ but the koan that inspired the theme is still relevant:
A monk asked Dongshan, ‘When cold and heat visit us, how should we avoid them?’
Dongshan said, ‘Why not go where there is neither cold nor heat?’
The monk asked, ‘Where is there neither cold nor heat?’
Dongshan said, ‘When it is cold, kill yourself with cold. When it is hot, kill yourself with heat.’
Despite the monks question, posed in terms of heat and cold, this koan is not essentially about temperature, it is about suffering. The monk is asking how we can avoid suffering. How do we avoid grief? How do we avoid fear? How do we avoid dissociation? So, this koan is still as relevant now as we all come to terms with the reality of living in the midst of a global pandemic. How do we avoid suffering?
For the gathering online on Saturday 4 April, I would like to invite you to consider this. We are all in this pandemic together: how are we doing right now? What helps? What doesn’t?
I look forward to meeting with you on a regular basis during this time of lockdown. Some of you will still be working, other of you will have hours of time in solitude or with members of your household. Over the coming weeks I will be working with the ZGWA Council and Ross Bolleter Roshi to organise the best way I can support you from where I am so it would be good if you could think about what would work for you.
I look forward to meeting with you in the ether soon In the meantime, please take care and, if you are stuck at home wondering what to do, just sit.