Upaya Zen Center's Dharma Podcast
Summary: The Upaya Dharma Podcast features Wednesday evening Dharma Talks and recordings from Upaya’s diverse array of programs. Our podcasts exemplify Upaya’s focus on socially engaged Buddhism, including prison work, end-of-life care, serving the homeless, training in socially engaged practices, peace & nonviolence, compassionate care training, and delivering healthcare in the Himalayas.
What does it mean to love a city? Wendy Johnson speaks of heartbreak and connection on the 18th anniversary of September 11, 2001. Speaking of a visit to the World Trade Center Memorial site, Wendy describes her love for New York City and the sadness she experienced at the unfolding of the attacks on the Centers. Her talk moves to some of the central themes of her upcoming program on ecology and Dharma. Speaking on the voice of nature, Wendy quotes, “Do inanimate objects preach the Dharma loudly and clearly? Just because you do not yet hear them, do not hinder that which does.”
Kigaku Noah Rossetter introduces the theme of his talk with a quote from Buddha, “I have taught one thing and one thing only, dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.” So, what is dukkha? Noah explores the many facets of dukkha through passages from the Pali Suttas, as well as related concepts of tanha (thirst), upadana (craving), klesha (mental afflictions), sankhara (conditioning), and skhandas (aggregates), and how they inform a deeper understanding of the three levels of dukkha: the dukkha of suffering, the dukkha of change, and the dukkha of conditionality. Finally, Noah looks at ending suffering through an understanding of emptiness and an appreciation of the ephemeral beauty of life. His talk ends with a haunting chant from the Diamond Sutra on the conditioned nature of existence.
Roshi Joan Halifax has deeply explored the notion of hope. She began her talk reminding us that the young environmental activist Greta Thurberg has just arrived in the United States, and pointed out that people like her, Malala, and the Parkland students are igniting direction and wise hope in our fraught time. She was interested to touch into recent feelings of futility, especially since she does not consider herself to be a hopeless person. In exploring hope, Roshi discusses the important differences between hope and optimism; she explored the notion of wise hope, and the power of radical imagination and the Bodhisattva attitude as shared by recent writings by Roshi Norman Fischer. Roshi Joan asks her audience to reimagine hope through the stories of Nelson Mandela and Robert Desnos, a Jewish surrealist poet who used an act of contrarian joy to save condemned men from the gas chambers of the Holocaust. For Nelson Mandela, it was his bodhisattva attitude towards adversity which “opened his own capacity for empathy and compassion.” Roshi finished her powerful talk with vows directed toward dismantling war and cultivating peace.
What exactly is the role of respect in our life? Monshin Nannette Overley delves deeply into this often-used word, and infuses new feeling and meaning into an attitude which is too frequently bereft of its sacred manifestation. Her talk looks at respect through the eyes of a Yurok elder preparing a feathered wand for ceremony. It looks at the respect payed to each individual vegetable used in cooking for the homeless. Nannette explains three types of respect: respect for the other, respect for values and principles, and self-respect. Quoting Zen Master Dogen’s famous, Instructions to the Cook, she reads, “Treat utensils such as tongs and ladles, and all other implements and ingredients with equal respect. Handle all things with sincerity, picking them up and putting them down with courtesy.”
Episode Description: In this inspiring talk, Dekila Chungyalpa encourages us to “think of climate work as an act of love; it is giving back to the earth.” Dekila tells the story of how she came to create two faith based conservation initiatives, the Loka Initiative, and a World Wildlife Fund program called the Sacred Earth. A significant portion of her work has also involved carrying out the vision of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa who was looking to encourage an environmentally engaged Buddhism. This work has included coordinating over 50 monasteries and nunneries in the Himalayas, which are carrying out reforestation, climate preparedness, disaster management, and freshwater conservation projects. This talk is a call for compassionate action towards animals, people, and the world that we all depend on.
Episode Description: Sensei Hozan Alan Senauke and Petra Zenryū Hubbeling introduce the fourth course of the Supreme Meal, social action. Zenryū explains the relationship between social action and the third of the three tenets of the Zen Peacemaker Order, compassionate action. Compassionate action, also referred to as an appropriate response, is social action which grows out of spirituality and our livelihoods. Sensei Allan discusses “the four embracing actions of the bodhisattva,” which are sourced from relationship and guide our action in the world. For Series description, please visit Part 1. To access the entire series, please click on the link below: Upaya Podcast Series: SESSHIN: Instructions to the Cook
Episode Description: In this talk, Sensei Hozan Alan Senauke and Petra Zenryū Hubbeling discuss right livelihood, the third course of the Supreme Meal. Right livelihood is the spiritual attitude to a life of exchange. Zen Master Dogen maintained that “even selling voices in a marketplace expound dharma.” Sensei Alan comments, “we can think about livelihood, not just as our job, but really how we live.” Zenryū explains that if the livelihood is only about money and not about helping others, then you’ll find yourself in the hungry ghost realm. For Series description, please visit Part 1. To access the entire series, please click on the link below: Upaya Podcast Series: SESSHIN: Instructions to the Cook
Episode Description: What are the vital ingredients for a thriving community? Sensei Hozan Alan Senauke and Petra Zenryū Hubbeling continue a theme from the recent Sesshin, “Instructions to the Cook,” in which they discuss five main courses of a Zen “Supreme Meal.” The meal is a metaphor for a life that is lived fully and completely, and the five courses consist of spirituality, knowledge, livelihood, social action, and community. For Sensei Alan, the heart of community is zazen. Alan discusses a notion, “the beloved community,” from Martin Luther King Jr., which includes a triangle of love, respect, and accountability. Petra adds three central tenets of the Zen Peacemaker Order: not knowing, bearing witness, and compassionate action. She discusses her work in community with Upaya and describes the programs in engaged Buddhism which are offered here.
Episode Description: Sensei Hozan Alan Senauke and Petra Zenryū Hubbeling talk about the second course, knowledge or study. This course represents the “how” of living or the “how” to cook your life. Quoting Zen Master Dogen, Sensei Alan says, “You can only see and understand as far as your eye of practice can reach.” He interprets this as an assertion to really understand and know what it is you’re looking at and what you’re seeing. Zenryū discusses her way of practice, which is plunging into an experience in a state of not-knowing. This allows her to be with others and see with greater intimacy. For Series description, please visit Part 1. To access the entire series, please click on the link below: Upaya Podcast Series: SESSHIN: Instructions to the Cook
Series Description: Zen Master Dogen wrote these classic instructions —at once highly practical and deeply spiritual —as he was establishing his treasured monastery Eiheiji nearly eight hundred years ago. This series explores Dogen’s teachings, as well as their contemporary application within engaged Buddhism. Each episode explores different aspects of life. Together, these aspects form a five-course meal, which is referred to, in Zen, as the “Supreme Meal.” The meal is nothing short of a life that is lived fully and completely, with nothing held back. Episode Description: Sensei Hozan Alan Senauke and Petra Zenryū Hubbeling set the theme of this sesshin by introducing the Supreme Meal. Commentary from Bernie Glassman Roshi lists five main “courses,” or aspects of this meal: spirituality, knowledge, livelihood, social action, and community. Sensei Alan Senauke complements this, listing the traditional administrative temple roles in ancient China and Japan and describing the vital role of the Tenzo, or head cook. The Tenzo was someone carefully chosen for the spiritual qualities that they embodied. To access the entire series, please click on the link below: Upaya Podcast Series: SESSHIN: Instructions to the Cook
“Screaming is sane in a world dying from its own inventions,” reads Sensei Zenju Earthlyn Manuel from a poem she composed during our recent program on Hanshan. Zenju asks, “How are we living and dying from our own inventions?” Her talk relates teachings from the Dhammapada on the relationship between mind and wellbeing to current inventions such as nuclear power and communication technology. Zenju asks us to consider the full implications of our inventions in a world of interrelationship and invites us to engage with our creativity in a way that brings us into greater harmony with each other and with nature.
Petra Zenryū Hubbeling chose to live this year as if it were her last…. again. In this honest and practical talk, Petra describes five common regrets people have on their death bed, the focus of each month of the year-long program, and the ways the program has changed her life. Quoting Stephen Levine, author of A Year to Live, she says, “when people know they are going to die, that last year is often the most loving, most conscious, and most caring… So don’t wait to die until you die. Start practicing now.” And indeed we can start practicing now, as Petra includes a guided forgiveness meditation.
Between an intimate poetry retreat with Sensei Peter Levitt and the upcoming calligraphy retreat, Sensei Kazuaki Tanahashi discusses his work as a peace activist to address the connected issues of our times: a potential U.S. attack on North Korea, climate change, immigration, and population explosion. Sensei Kaz shares about his strategic website No War With North Korea and art from his exhibit “Peace or War,” which debuted at the Peace Museum in Nagasaki earlier this year. Calling us to collective action he says, “it seems that the Earth is a sinking boat. When we are in a sinking boat, we all try to work together. We are not trying to sell more things on the boat or make some profit. We should really change our priorities. Saving the boat is the priority.”
As a prelude to the “Poetry of the Legendary Hermit Hanshan” retreat, Sensei Peter Levitt shares many of the poems he and Sensei Kazuaki Tanahashi translated to English. Shulin Bergman treats us to some of Hanshan’s poems in the original Chinese. Thus, we can “hear what Hanshan heard in his mind when he wrote these poems and recited them.” We feel Hanshan’s “pristine sensitivity” and “naked heart and mind” in poems such as: The sound of birds chirping is too sad to bear– I lie down in my grass-thatched hut. Crimson cherries sparkle and shine, willow branches hang so softly. Morning sun embraces the blue peaks, clouds clear off, washing in the lake’s green water. Who would think I could leave the dusty world, just charging up Cold Mountain from the south?
On the heels of the meaningful Sakhyadita International Conference on Buddhist Women, Roshi Joan Halifax explores integrity, and when integrity is violated, how we suffer. With examples from the lives of Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Buddha, Roshi Joan examines moral nerve, moral injury, moral distress, moral outrage, moral apathy, and how they “inspire us to take action; to be a force for good.” Discussing the climate catastrophe, racism, sexism, and the caging of refugees, she says “it is actually important to experience the landscape of moral injury today, but not to let it overwhelm us. Let it be an engine for our commitment to end the policies and behaviors that are fueling the current situation, giving rise to such egregious suffering.”