This winter at Tassajara the weather has been very unusual–glorious, mild and clear, which we have all so deeply enjoyed. The pool has been in continuous use, and on warm days there are even sunbathers . Yet the enjoyment was mixed with deep concern about the drought. The trees never really dropped their leaves, Tassajara Creek was low and murky, and the deer were so hungry that for several months they were living side by side with us in the valley, seemingly undisturbed by our presence.
Then the recent storms brought us lots of very welcome rain.
Tassajara Creek has been completely refreshed, running deep and clear again, and Cabarga Creek is running too. The deer have gone, tender grass is pushing up everywhere, and the trees are rapidly leafing out. Spring is stirring.
This practice period is unusual too, in that Sojun Mel Weitsman and Ryushin Paul Haller are sharing responsibilities for leading it, with Sojun leading the first half and Paul leading the second half. In Sojun’s zendo talks, he has been commenting on Suzuki Roshi’s lectures, one of his favorite topics. Recently Sojun commented that soon the people who actually knew Suzuki Roshi and were able to hear his teachings directly will be gone. With Abbot Steve’s recent death and Sojun’s comments in mind, I asked him, “What is the essence of your way?” He said, “My way, Suzuki Roshi’s way, is about egolessness and warm-heartedness.” For Sojun, the essence of egolessness is “Just let Buddha do it.” He also said that whatever we do has to be done in a warm-hearted way, whether it’s bowing or speaking with someone. It’s a joy to practice with that old Buddha, Sojun Roshi.
Now in the second half of the Winter practice period, Paul brings us back from the “flowers” of the Mahayana (Sojun taught on the “Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi” and the “Five Ranks”), to our roots in zazen and the path of practice. In Paul’s first class, he said, “Ok, you heard about the Five Ranks from Sojun. Now I want to hear about your understanding. When you sit down in zazen, what is your intention? What are we doing here? How do we do it?” These questions are so refreshing and invigorating in all phases of our practice, in the beginning, the middle, and the end.
Through the many changes this winter, both the seasonal changes in nature and the sudden changes in our community, the warm heart of our practice has encouraged us to meet whatever arises with the trust that we can “just let Buddha do it.”
—Linda Galijan, Tassajara Director
Sojun Mel Weitsman will be leading Presenting Suzuki Roshi’s Teachings from Aug. 29 – Sept. 1. Ryushin Paul Haller will be co-leading The Spirit of Practice: Christian and Zen from July 18-25 with Brother David Steindl-Rast, and Words Under the Words from May 23-28 with Naomi Shihab Nye.