Week 2 of Bonnie Myotai Treace’s Tricycle Retreat begins today. In this week’s talk she elaborates on last week’s theme of generosity and introduces the theme of attention. While stressing the importance of attention in practice she tells a story of a Japanese Emperor that visited a Zen master asking for a great teaching. In response to the Emperor’s request the master painted a calligraphy of the character for ‘attention.’ The Emperor thanked him but stated he was looking for more of a teaching than one simple character. Upon being asked to elaborate on this teaching, the master’s response was simply to once again paint the character on another piece of paper and hand it to him. This apparently went on for quite some time. Eventually the Emperor saw that this repetitive action WAS the great teaching—that one must come back to attention again and again and again.
Myotai Sensei also discusses the shared pain people are feeling regarding tragic oil spill in the gulf. She explains,
For most of us there is an experienced common pain around what has been happening in the Gulf of Mexico on a daily basis. For most of us, we awaken and its not too long into the day until we are reminded of the visceral reality of the situation—the pain of the organic physical death of a life system and the coating of oil onto dolphins, sea turtles, pelicans, and plankton. The pain is real and is in our bodies. “What to do?”, “how to do”, and “where to place our mind, our effort, our attention”, are real questions.
The challenge of attention when in pain is how to not deny the pain as it is and also not to reify it. I want to take a moment together, in terms of that kind of challenge—the call of attention when there is pain present, whether it is physical, environmental, or psychological—and practice together the generosity, the dedication to be true, real, and awake, and the skillful attention that does not deny or reify our pain.
Bonnie Myotai Treace is the Founder and Spiritual Director of Hermitage Heart, and Bodies of Water Zen. Myotai teaches from Gristmill Hermitage, the retreat house of Hermitage Heart in Garrison, New York. Bonnie Myotai Treace established and was the Abbess of the Zen Center of New York City (Fire Lotus Temple) and served for over a decade as the Vice Abbess of Zen Mountain Monastery. Rigorously trained in koan Zen as well as in the subtle school of Master Dogen’s Zen, she studied for over twenty years both the Rinzai as well as Soto lines of Zen Buddhism. The first dharma heir of John Daido Loori Roshi of the Mountains and Rivers Order, she received full transmission in 1996 in the Harada-Yasutani lineage.
Watch her first video, “Nothing to Give: Giving It All” here.
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