Greetings to all dharma friends!
"Enlightenment and clarity of mind occur only in response to the sustained efforts of study and practice. Although you have your own capacity, you practice the way with the combined strength of the community. So you should practice and search with one mind with others." --Dogen
Several years ago I attended a dharma teachers retreat at the Providence Zen Center. It is a beautiful place with paths wending through 50 acres of wooded land. Set behind the zen center on the hill is the Diamond Hill Zen Monastery overlooking a small lake. It was October and very cool, having rained all weekend. But this particular morning was clear and cloudless with a cold breeze and heavy dew on the grasses. Zen Master Bon Haeng brought us outside to begin our morning walking meditation. I got in line behind one of the teachers in our school waiting to begin walking. Before we began our walk, the zen master told us, "Walk as one person and as one with the universe." So carefully following the footsteps of the teacher before me, I matched his every step, trying to place my foot in his footstep, and moving my leg with his in strong together action. As we entered the large lawn in front of the zen center, I realized he was tromping down the wet, dewy grass for me, showing me exactly where to place my foot and that in turn I was flattening the grass even further for the person behind me so that the others in line behind us avoided having wet, muddy feet and could see where to walk with greater clarity -- each footstep a giving to the person behind.
This is what we do for each other everytime we practice together, showing each other the way, each adding our own capacity for meditation to aid one another in finding the way. In the dharma room, we bow, chant, and sit as one body. Doing this is a symbol of the true nature we all share and it helps us to continue practicing meditation even when alone. Practicing together helps us to see our karma more clearly as we abut up against others opinions and likes and dislikes and they in turn see ours. The combined energy of each sangha member brings forth the dharma in ways we can scarcely imagine. As the seed needs water to grow, we need each other to grow -- bringing forth that "mind of minds" that is always present within us and around us.
I am having surgery in a few weeks and so cannot be with you physically for awhile, but I send you all the blessings of the Buddha dharma and look forward to the time that I can be with you all again.
Good and evil have no self-nature
Holy and unholy are empty names
Outside the door is the land of stillness & light
Spring comes, grass grows by itself
Rebecca Otte is Director of the Prairy Erth Zen Center in Topeka, Kansas. She is a Senior Dharma Teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen.