Friday, May 31, 2019

Step 6 and June Koan

Greetings Everyone...

June is just around the corner and time to sit with Step 6 and the following koan:


Step 6:  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.


Koan: Truly is anything missing now?




Bill K.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Step 5 and the Avatamsaka Sutra



Step 5:  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

From our Sutra entitled Purification:    

Koan: All the ancient twisted karma
From beginningless greed, hatred and ignorance
Born of my body, mouth and thought
I now confess openly and fully.
Basically, sutras are Buddhist scripture.  This one felt like a perfect fit for Step 5 (and 4, too). I began to wonder when this sutra was written.  First I asked Rocks and Clouds Roshi, Daniel.  He quickly wrote back that this sutra is found in the Avatamsaka Sutra, also called the Flower Ornament or Flower Garland Sutra that had its beginning in the 2nd century CE.

According to Wikipedia, the first complete Chinese version of the Avatamsaka Sutra was completed around 420 in 60 scrolls with 34 chapters, the second version around 699 with 80 scrolls with 40 chapters.

My next question was where in this grand sutra do we find Purification? Gregory Wonderwheel came to the rescue.  He loves delving into Buddhist history and scripture and said it’s near the end of Chapter 39. This would indicate that “our” Purification Sutra came about in the second version around 699.

Repentance Verse

All my past harmful actions,
from beginningless greed, hatred, and delusion,
born through body, speech, and mind,
I now fully avow and repent.

Turns out that the Avatamsaka Sutra is one of the longest of Buddhist sutras. It “describes a cosmos of infinite realms upon realms, mutually containing one another.” D.T. Suzuki said it’s “the consummation of Buddhist thought, Buddhist sentiment and Buddhist experience.”

Thomas Cleary’s English translation was a phenomenal undertaking, exceeding 1600 pages. He calls this sutra “the most grandiose, the most comprehensive, and the most beautifully arrayed of the Buddhist scriptures.”

I interpret the Flower Ornament Sutra as containing every aspect of the human condition. Here, coming back to my cushion, we are meditating with the 5th Step; still, I’m wondering if we could find all of the Steps contained in this grand sutra.  Wouldn’t that be a delicious addition to the buffet of our 12 Step program? Maybe I'll take a look at Chapter or Book 39...in the future...


All the ancient twisted karma…

How about all our past twisted behavior? We come into AA with baggage of our “character defects”. Elsie commented, “I was not the person I wished to be when I came into AA.” When she came up to the words, the exact nature of our wrongs, she wasn’t sure what that meant.  And today, with more than three decades of recovery, “I’m still not sure about exact nature. What does she do? She continues to work the Steps; she has changed sponsors and “I review, review, review my situations and know that I am getting closer to the ‘exactness’.”


The Five Remembrances Sutra comes to mind regarding “all my past harmful actions”.

Ino:      My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
All:      My actions are the ground upon which I stand.


From beginningless greed, hatred and ignorance (also translated as delusion)…

Doesn’t this describe three important conditions of an alcoholic?

 ·      “Selfishness-self-centeredness! [Certainly tied to greed] That, we think, is the root of our troubles. P. 62

·      “Resentment [A form of hate] is the ‘number one’ offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.” P.64

·      “The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed. We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking.” P. 30


These are the driving forces that take us to the bottom, a bottom where we are suffering from the consequences of our unhealthy actions. So, what do we do to go beyond this suffering?

 

“Born of my body, mouth and thought
I now confess openly and fully.”


Step 5 is where we, with the guidance of a sponsor, acknowledge our behavior and the harm we have done to others. Those who helped write the Big Book knew we had to admit this as deeply as our willingness takes us, to our Higher Power, to ourselves, and to another person. This Step is a BIG ego smasher, in having to share this with others. This is what we do if we want to recover and turn our lives around. The writer who wrote this sutra 1,320 years ago, in effect, came to the same conclusion.  The human condition hasn’t changed.

John remembered an AA convention he attended early on in his recovery entitled “Language of the Heart.” It was at this convention where he grasped the concept of living amends. It’s the openly and fully that expands Step 5 to include living amends.

Yes! Confession includes our entire body, mind and spirit.






Bill K.













Sunday, April 28, 2019

Here is the May koan with Step 5


Step 5:  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Note: From our Sutras:   PURIFICATION     

Koan: 

All the ancient twisted karma
From beginningless greed, hatred and ignorance
Born of my body, mouth and thought
I now confess openly and fully.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Step 4 -- Heaven or Hell for You?



Step 4:  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Koan: A soldier comes to visit a famous Zen master Hakuin. And the soldier asks, “Is there really a heaven and a hell?”

The Zen master replies, “Who are you?”

The soldier says, “I am a samurai.”

“You? A samurai? What kind of lord would have you as his guard? You look like a beggar.” The soldier starts to get angry and becomes so enraged that he’s about to draw his sword.

The Zen master continues and he says, “Oh, so you have a sword. It’s probably too dull to even cut my head.” At this point, the soldier is just indignant and he brandishes his sword.

The Zen master says, “Here, open the gates of hell.” And the soldier immediately recognizes the wisdom in those words and he puts his sword away.

The Zen master says, “Here, open the gates of heaven.”


Samurai were the military nobility of medieval and early-modern Japan, sort of like our present day Special Forces, Navy SEALS, and Army Rangers all rolled into one…Supreme Dudes for sure. You wouldn’t want to be on their bad side.

When the soldier asks the simple question, “Is there really a heaven and a hell,” Master Hakuin doesn’t go into a philosophic or esoteric description of heaven and hell. Instead, his response slaps the entire subject down to right now -- by totally humiliating a samurai!   Of course, the samurai became furious!

When is the last time someone with words or otherwise really pissed you off? By cutting you off in traffic perhaps? Receiving an insensitive Tweet? Remember  the feeling of hot anger building within your body? Welcome to hell realm. The Big Book is very clear about anger: “If we were to live, we had to be free of anger.” Page 66

I see where many people choose to go out at Step 4.  The fear of looking at oneself, one’s behavior, and one’s past deeds is too much to face. They find themselves in the hell realm of self-centered fear and choose to go back to the other hell realm of active addiction.

Elsie said she didn’t go out, but postponed her 4th Step for a very long time, all because of fear. “I had no peace during this period of time – and heaven is peace.

Last week a speaker was telling us about his situation.  “I was in total fear about having to look at my past. The prospect of this was gnawing on me day and night (‘The gates of hell have opened!’). Ultimately, I thought, it came down to two choices:

·      I had to get a new sponsor, or

·      Give up the fight.”

He went onto say how difficult had been for him to finally choose his present sponsor, and the thought of having to choose a new sponsor brought on waves of discomfort. Fortunately, he chose to remain with his sponsor. And that was enough for him to “give up the fight” (‘Now, open the gates of heaven’) and continue onto Step 4.

Dale said,  “This koan reminds me of what Pema Chodron asks, ‘Am I going to add to the aggressions?’ Am I going to take up battle with people, places and things? These are the battles I’ve had when I look inside in self-examination. We have these internal battles working Step 4. War is hell.”

Bob was agreeing, “Heaven or hell is an inside job, set up by our perception of external aggravations.

The evening’s common thread was revealed – fear.  John said, “It took me quite a while to take action with Step 4. Fear was my protector.  Fear was my nemeses.

Do you remember Joyce? She knocked some sense into me when she exclaimed, ‘John, this is life and death!’  Her strong words pushed me past my fear into working Step 4 where I could find out who I really am.”

This is what we do.  We don’t need a samurai to threaten us with pain – for us it can be self-inflicted agony and suffering.  Oh the hell we can put ourselves through.  Thank goodness for this process we have by working with a sponsor.  Acceptance appears when we ease up on ourselves and realize that we’re working on this 4th Step together -- a threesome actually: my sponsor, my Higher Power, and me.

Bill K.













Friday, March 29, 2019

April Koan with Step 4

 
Greetings,

In April we'll be sitting with Step 4 and this koan.  Hint ... you may begin sitting with this today!
More about this next month.

Bill K.


Step 4:  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Koan: A soldier comes to visit a famous Zen master Hakuin. And the soldier asks, “Is there really a heaven and a hell?”

The Zen master replies, “Who are you?”

The soldier says, “I am a samurai.”

“You? A samurai? What kind of lord would have you as his guard? You look like a beggar.” The soldier starts to get angry and becomes so enraged that he’s about to draw his sword.

The Zen master continues and he says, “Oh, so you have a sword. It’s probably too dull to even cut my head.” At this point, the soldier is just indignant and he brandishes his sword.

The Zen master says, “Here, open the gates of hell.” And the soldier immediately recognizes the wisdom in those words and he puts his sword away.

The Zen master says, “Here, open the gates of heaven.”










Saturday, March 9, 2019

From Out of Nowhere, Step 3, and Pouring It On




Step 3:  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Koan: “It…pours its abundance without selection into every nook and cranny...”

This was the koan for the evening at CityZen last December, A phrase from The City Limits, a poem by A.R. Ammons (1926-2001).


Of utmost importance here, we are not asked to carry out this decision right now – the implication is that in some time in the future, we will make this decision.  We hear “fake it til you make it” tossed about at meetings, and for some this concept works. After all, it’s a form of surrender. And as Dale pointed out this evening, “The act of surrender leads to a state of surrender. I ask my new sponsees, ‘Are you willing to go onto Step 4?’ ”

Instead of “faking it,” I prefer using the Taoist concept of wu-wei (pronounced wu-way), which in a way is surrendering, too.  Wu means nothing and wei means action; in other words, not doing. When I hear the word “turn” in Step 3, it’s an opportunity to practice wu-wei. Ultimately I am doing by not doing.

We never know where a koan, or any part of a koan, will take us. Elsie and John gave examples of this.  In the morning Elsie tells her Creator, “You can have all of me. I’m willing for you to take the good and the bad. And because I take my will back, I have to repeat my practice of turning it over and over and over. He has a reason, without selection, for me to do this.”

Without selection: “When I try to select is my will,” John said, "Without selection, without control, I go deeper where anything is available.”

In times of struggle when I don’t know what to do about something or a particular situation, I’ll take a break from it all. As it says in the Big Book, it’s a good time to relax and take it easy.  How often have you decided to “sleep on it” and see what happens tomorrow? Wu-wei.

In doing this there seems to be a level of trust that those things may work themselves out later. This trust expands as I realize how many things work out without my help.

To the newcomer, it really doesn’t matter that there doesn’t seem to be anything at the other end right now. This will come later on if you continue working the Steps. What’s important is the practice of turning it over to God, to the universe, or collectively to everything that’s happening right now. The process is about getting out of the self who wants to run the show and placing trust in wu-wei. Answers, results, or resolution appears, seemingly out of nowhere. It’s amazing how this happens, over and over and over. Could “out of nowhere” be the source of one’s Higher Power?

Step 3 calls on us to find a God of our own understanding. I find trying to understand my HP an exhausting and pointless exercise.  In his book Holy Rascals, Rami Shapiro* writes about a God just beyond my understanding. Instant relief. I don’t have to understand my Higher Power.

With long-term sobriety, this was Bob’s first time sitting with us at 12 & Zen.  He showed us his newly made meditation bench and wanted to give it a “test ride”.  As we settled into our meditation period, I peeked.  He looked very solid and comfortable in his practice with the koan and Third Step.  He would tell us why.

“I didn’t do anything to get here,” he began, “Rehabs, meetings, an atheist...even threw my first Big Book into the fireplace … I knew my life was doomed with no hope. Into about six weeks of white knuckling, it all changed for me on a fire escape on a building in Sausalito. I experienced a profound and life-changing event. Complete peace of mind and body overcame me. That was more than three decades ago and tonight’s koan reminded me of that moment.  The koan enveloped me with Steps 1, 2, and 3.  I am blessed to be here. Doesn’t his remind you of Bill W.’s story where he writes; “God comes to most men gradually, but His impact on me was sudden and profound” (page 14).

There were no burning bushes when I did my Third Step with my sponsor thirty-plus years ago . We read the Third Step Prayer together (p. 63) “God, I offer myself to Thee…” Is that all there is to this I asked myself?

Today it’s more a feeling I have for my Higher Power and its inter-being with everything happening and with nothing happening, just beyond my understanding. When I practice Step 3 to the best of my willingness, I feel the abundance that comes out of nowhere, pouring into every nook and cranny of my life. In moments like this, all my needs are met.

Early in my sobriety when praying, I had this thought about my words. The words that come from my mouth go somewhere. I got this notion that they keep going out and out and out into the universe. It was like asking myself, “How far can I point?” How far do my words go? It's beyond my understanding to question who or what, if anything ever hears my words?  Sending my words out is enough. It’s still important for me to pour my abundant words out loud, without selection, into every nook and cranny.  This was enough because I went onto Step 4.

What a delightful and full evening we had…obvious to me that It poured its abundance without selection into every nook and cranny of our gathering. Can you feel the abundance in your life today?

Bill K.

Friday, March 8, 2019

March Koan for Step 3

My apologies...

I sent a reminder to local people but neglected to post the March koan here.
There's still time to sit with it! ; [ )

Bill K.

 
Step 3:  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.



Koan: “It…pours its abundance without selection into every nook and cranny...”



This was the koan on Monday evening at CityZen last December,
a phrase from The City Limits, a poem by A.R. Ammons (1926-2001).