Saturday, July 11, 2009


"Guidelines" number 102 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.

From WoodenZen

It doesn't matter if they are for writing, for woodworking or for zazen, guidelines help us navigate our activities. They are not rules in the sense that it is a mistake or bad to ignore them. They are more like signposts, intended to encourage and give points of reflection.

Zendo procedures are guidelines for our practice together. They are designed to keep everything running smoothly. As guidelines, these procedures allow the mind to relax. All the little decisions that the mind usually dramatizes are predetermined. All we have to do is give up to the procedures and to the schedule.

Here are guidelines for the practice of walking meditation, kinhin.
At the end of a sitting period, the jikijitsu or time keeper, will strike the bell twice. The first bell ends the sitting mediation and the second signals you to gassho in the sitting position and then quietly stand, facing in. Hands in gassho. When jikijitsu strikes clappers, gassho and place hands in kinhin position, at the level of the navel, right hand holding left hand, left hand holding right thumb. Turn to your left and promptly step out to follow the person in front of you. While maintaining your practice, walk slowly keeping the distance between you and the person in front of you the same as you proceed around the room. As people step out of line to use the restroom, let the gap remain as is. When they return, allow them to rejoin the kinhin line by entering at their place. When the clappers sound, maintain the same pace until you are in front of your cushion and stand facing in toward the sangha. Bow facing the sangha, then turn and bow to your cushion. Sit facing the wall to resume zazen.

Guidelines can also be a way for us to connect with our mentors. Robert Aitken points out in this miniature that we get specific guidelines from specific people. The guidelines are connected to actual guides. These guides are interconnected in a web that Buddhists can "The Jewel Net of Indra". Robert Aitken also points out that it is up to each of us to acknowledge our guides, recognize the guidelines given and then "it's up to me to follow through."

In the end, guidelines only work if we follow through. Guidelines are lines connecting us to our guides.

I was told by a couple of people that this book would become a bit tedious. That these miniatures were, well, a bit miniature. Without enough substance. 

I disagree. Robert Aitken, packs both obvious and hidden chunks of the wisdom in each miniature. Sometimes I see this wisdom, sometimes not. This is a reflection of my energy and effort and not Aitken's. Because these writings are called miniatures, doesn't mean I'm off the hook and can be miniature in my reflection.

Besides, I'm having fun!

Any error or confusion created by my commentary on
Miniatures of a Zen Master
is solely a reflection of my own delusion and ignorance.
Any merit generated by this activity is solely the result of
Aitken Roshi's clear teaching and is dedicated to
all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout space and time.

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