One Precious Human Life
by Byakuren Judith Ragir
Guiding Teacher, Clouds in Water Zen Center
As I drove down to Hokyoji to lead sesshin, I was filled with gratitude for Zen practice in my life and for this particular monastery. I have been coming to Hokyoji since it started around 1977. It has been a place of many 7-day sesshins and practice periods. It is a beautiful environment for practice, in the bluffs of the Mississippi River and very intimate with nature, the weather, the birds, trees, tiles and pebbles. We are studying Dogen’s Jijiyu Zanmai here and you can really feel all the dharmas intimately and imperceptibly assisting each other.
Grasses and trees, fences and walls demonstrate and exalt the deep, wondrous dharma for the sake of living beings, both ordinary and sage;
And in turn, living beings, both ordinary and sage, express and unfold it for the sake of grasses and trees, fences and walls.
This brings up for me how lucky I am to have had an opportunity to study Zen and Buddhism and to practice in these special places. They have taught me how to seize the day and seize my life. As I am getting older and as my children are leaving the nest, I look over my life and see how much Zen teaching and practice has allowed me to live with vitality and without too much regret. Zen practice has continuously brought forward for me the fragility and impermanence of my life span. We have many admonitions to understand this fragility and therefore to take great care of our life, our specific karmic life with its ups and downs, its beauty and difficulties. We take equal care of both sides of the coin, success and failure.
From the Sandokai:
I respectfully urge you who study the mystery,
Do not pass your days and nights in vain.
Or the evening message:
I beg to urge you everyone,
Life and death is a great matter,
All things pass quickly away
Take heed, take heed
Make use of your precious life.
I am feeling profound gratitude, which leads me to take care of the next sequential issue: Zen is an unmistakenly handed down tradition. …..This is because each teacher and each disciple has been intimately and correctly transmitting this subtle method and receiving and maintain it true spirit.
Some of the Zen centers in the Twin Cities are in a transition with their buildings and teaching (including Clouds in Water Zen Center, where I teach). Hokyoji is currently running a capital campaign. Ryumonji, another monastery in the Katagiri Roshi lineage, has just finished its building project. There is a great flux and organic urge to allow the next generation of teachers to flourish and the next generation of young people to find the teachings and the dharma.
When I look around the world, when I look at my son’s generation, when I look at our electronic life, I feel more and more that the world needs Zen, meditation and dharma teaching. There are many of us who have gotten so much from the teaching. Now our job is to turn around and take on the responsibility to provide this for the next generation. If we take Zen life and temples for granted, if our attitude of service is lackadaisical, then I think, what I have so graciously received in my life from Zen practice will eventually not be available for others.
With this in mind, I have become inspired again. The work we do for Zen centers is not in vain. Teaching, scrubbing the floors, cooking, real estate, mortgages, fundraising; all this is not in vain. It’s for a very good purpose. The purpose is to allow the practices and teaching to have a forum for the next generation. This is our lineage and the world needs it. The world needs us to continue to make places for people to come and experience this!
“At this time, because earth, grasses and trees, fences and walls, tiles and pebbles, all things in the dharma realm in ten directions, carry out Buddha work, therefore everyone receives the benefit of wind and water movement caused by this functioning, and all are imperceptibly helped by the wondrous and incomprehensible influence of Buddha to actualize the enlightenment at hand.”