Zuisei Sensei’s Talks

Not Leaving the Monastery

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“What I saw or heard or felt came not but from myself—and there I found myself more truly and more strange.” —Wallace Stevens

Zuisei Sensei speaks from the heart about her own spiritual journey and her ongoing commitment to practice as she steps further into lay life.

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery, 12/30/2018

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01 : At Blackwater Pond by Mary Oliver

02 : "Expressions” by Master Dogen

03 : Tea at the Palaz of Hoon by Wallace Stevens

Daring to Ask

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We have to be willing to take a risk in order to see clearly.

In this talk on case 31 of the Gateless Gate: Zhaozhou Saw Through the Old Woman, Zuisei Sensei speaks of the spiritual life as a perilous journey. “Every time we ask,” she says, “we expose ourselves. But when we don’t ask, we also expose ourselves. So we might as well take a risk—be wild and daring — and see what comes of it.”

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery, 10/14/2018

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Ancestors (with Hojin Sensei)

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We are never practicing alone—not in the darkest pit of hell, not in the brightest state of bliss. When we know this, the natural response is to bring forth our buddha ancestors and look at them in veneration. We formally bow and meet them, which is none other than meeting ourselves.

Zuisei Sensei and Hojin Sensei speak about the importance of honoring and connecting to our ancestors in spiritual practice. This talk was given at Zen Mountain Monastery’s Annual Women’s Sesshin, Wild Grasses.

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery, 09/16/2018

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The Mother of All Buddhas

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“Prajna Paramita is unguarded, but she is not naïve. She is ferocious and kind, both strong and soft. And when she becomes embodied in one of us, she is none other than who we are. She knows the ground upon which she stands, and she does not fail to cover it.”

How do we reconcile the systemic harm perpetuated through the construction of gender with the ultimate truth of selflessness? In this talk, Zuisei Sensei speaks about reclamation of identity as a form of embodiment of Prajna Paramita, wisdom beyond wisdom.

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery, 09/14/2018

Mind at Ease, Part 2

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In part two of this talk on Gateless Gate 41, Zuisei Sensei speaks on the five overarching disturbing emotions: attachment, pride, envy, anger, and ignorance, and the collective journey we are on to wake up to these patterns and remember our innate goodness.

As the Buddha said, all of his teachings were for the purpose of seeing the truth of suffering and its cessation. The way to put at end to suffering is to realize ourselves, but we cannot do it while caught in the storm of strong emotions. So we need to have a way to recognize and deal with them, and this is what so much of practice is about.

Recorded at Zen Center of New York City 08/05/2018

Mind at Ease, Part 1

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“We look out at the world and we see nothing but conflict, nothing but clamor and strife and forces that seem to feed on our discontent. And we think, how can I be at ease in the midst of all this?”

In this talk on Gateless Gate 41, Zuisei Sensei speaks on waking up to the state of our minds and the ongoing journey of cultivating ease and peace in the midst of all that life brings us.

Recorded at Zen Center of New York City 08/04/2018

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01 : Gateless Gate 41

02 : Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

03: The Work of Happiness by May Sarton

The Incalculable

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“The Incalculable” is a chapter in the Avatamsaka or Flower Garland Sutra whose purpose is to blow open our ideas of reality.

In this talk, Zuisei Sensei uses this chapter, as well as readings from Hildegard of Bingen, Master Dogen’s “Sound of the Valley Streams” and excerpts of the modern mystic’s Flora Cortois’ record of her enlightenment experience to speak of the beauty and extraordinary nature of our most ordinary moments.

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery, 12/30/2017

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01 : The Book of Divine Works by Hildegard of Bingen

02 : “Sounds of the Valley Streams” by Master Dogen

03 : The Incalculable

Human Action

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This talk, given the day after the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, speaks of the importance of transcending the labels of political, social, or environmental action to take care, through simple, compassionate human action, of the most pressing issues facing us today.

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery, 01/22/2017

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01 : “Genjokoan” by Master Dogen

02 : "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin

03 : Letter from Birmingham Jail by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Balance in the Midst of Turmoil

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Equanimity is the fourth of the Four Immeasurables, four virtues that also include loving-kindness, compassion, and sympathetic joy.

In this pointed talk after the 2016 presidential election, Zuisei Sensei speaks of equanimity in relationship to the practice of taking refuge in the Three Treasures of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. She also offers an expression of welcome that became incorporated into Zen Mountain Monastery’s Inclusion Statement.

Recorded at Zen Center of New York City 11/13/2016

Determination Paramita

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In the eighth talk in this series of ten talks on the paramitas or perfections, Zuisei Sensei speaks on determination as “the unshakeable resolve to do whatever benefits others.”

Determination helps us to keep moving forward and keep discovering what there is to uncover along this path. It is a fierce commitment to realizing our potential and awakening, despite all hardship and possible resistance.

Recorded at Zen Center of New York City 01/09/2016

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Diligence Paramita

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In the fifth talk in this series of ten talks on the paramitas or perfections, Zuisei Sensei speaks about our relationship to diligence or discipline and its place in and importance for the path.

Instead of seeing discipline as doing what we have to do because it’s ‘good for us,’ we can think about it as the exercise of self power—as wanting to do what we have to do. This means aligning our actions with a deep desire and a carefully thought-out intent. Diligence is not a vague sense of responsibility or actions that come out of our fear of consequences, but the practice of being in harmony with ourselves and our environment.

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery 12/12/2015

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01 : Ten Paramitas

02 : Understanding Our Mind by Thich Nhat Hanh

03: No Coward Soul is Mine by Emily Bronte

Meditation Paramita

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In the fourth talk in this series of ten talks on the paramitas or perfections, Zuisei Sensei speaks of meditation as the practice of seeing ourselves in the totality of our beings.

Meditation is about exercising both sharp concentration and clear seeing. It is recognizing that there is much in our lives that is extraneous but, as the author of the Cloud of Unknowing says, there is one thing that is necessary. What is that one thing?

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery 11/20/2015

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Renunciation Paramita

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In the third talk in this series of ten talks on the paramitas, Zuisei Sensei speaks on the importance of renunciation:

“What if we think of renunciation as the protest against anything that gets in the way of our clear seeing? Renunciation of noise, of distraction, of self-serving thoughts, of doubt, of arrogance, of greed and fear and laziness, harshness and the need to control.”

Recorded at Zen Center of New York City 11/14/2015

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01 : Ten Paramitas by Thanissaro Bikkhu

02 : The Four Immeasurables

03: Dhamma Fighting by Ajahn Chah

Virtue Paramita

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In the second talk in this series of ten talks on the paramitas or perfections, Zuisei Sensei speaks on the importance of cultivating virtue as a quality that brings us to regard all beings fully.

So instead of thinking of virtue as purity, we can think of it as a careful, loving, seeing of all things and all beings. This kind of seeing involves a letting go, an emptying of ourselves so we can meet another fully.

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery 10/18/2015

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01 : Ten Paramitas by Thanissaro Bikkhu

02 : Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

03: Breast cancer surgeon who sings to patients , New York Times

Patience Paramita

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Paramita in Sanskrit is translated as “gone to the beyond”, or “gone to the other shore.” It is is also known as “perfection,” in the sense of “wholeness” or “completeness,” and refers to a set of qualities that are based on the realization and cultivation of wisdom.

In the first talk in this series of ten talks on the Paramitas, Zuisei Sensei speaks on the importance of cultivating patience: “Patience arises out of seeing what is. It’s accepting what is. It’s not opposing what is. It’s enduring what is. Patience is not fighting, not rejecting or resenting or begrudging. Patience is wholeheartedly embracing reality.”

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery 09/25/2015

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01 : Ten Paramitas by Thanissaro Bikkhu

02 : The All Embracing Net of Views Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi

03: No Time to Loose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva by Pema Chodron

Right Concentration

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Right Concentration, the eighth and last factor in the Noble Eightfold Path, is made up of the four jhanas or deep meditative states that the Buddha experienced leading up to his enlightenment. They are ever more intimate states of meditative absorption whose purpose is the development of insight into the nature of the self and reality.

As the Buddha said, Right Mindfulness, the seventh factor in the Noble Eightfold Path, is remaining focused on the body, on feelings, on mind, and thoughts or “mental qualities.” In other words, being mindful means being aware of the totality of human experience, in order to see whether our actions create suffering or alleviate it.

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery, 08/28/2015

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01 : Right Concentration

02 : The Four Jhanas by Henepola Gunaratana

03 : Working with Thoughts translated by Thanissaro Bikkhu

Right Mindfulness

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“And what is right mindfulness? There is the case where a person remains focused on the body in and of itself—ardent, alert, and mindful—putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. They remain focused on feelings in and of themselves... the mind in and of itself... mental qualities in and of themselves—ardent, alert, and mindful—putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. This is called right mindfulness.”

As the Buddha said, Right Mindfulness, the seventh factor in the Noble Eightfold Path, is remaining focused on the body, on feelings, on mind, and thoughts or “mental qualities.” In other words, being mindful means being aware of the totality of human experience, in order to see whether our actions create suffering or alleviate it.

Recorded at Zen Center of New York City, 08/02/2015

Right Action

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As the fifth factor in the Noble Eightfold Path, Right Action is traditionally understood as not taking life, not stealing, and not engaging in sexual misconduct. More broadly, we could understand it as actions that are affirming, live-giving, and in harmony with the truth of things—that is, our deeply interconnected nature.

Sensei quotes Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, who says that dharma means “the unmistaken.” And he says that the way to be unmistaken is to first learn, then reflect, then training in being unconfused. How? By taking actions that will lead to our clarity and awakening.

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery, 06/26/2015

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01 : Right Action

02 : This I Believe by Robert A. Heinlein

03 : Upajjhatthana Sutta

Right Livelihood

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Opening with a Spanish reading of Pablo Neruda’s famous poem “Ode to Common Things,” Zuisei Sensei speaks of Right Livelihood, the fourth factor in the Noble Eightfold Path.

Sensei speaks of work, both as sacred labor, and as the act of relating to other people and to things. We have to work, we have to make and buy and use and eat things. The question is how do we do this so we don’t hurt ourselves, each other, and our planet. So right livelihood is about living rightly—about caring deeply about our work and one another and the things that support our lives.

Recorded at Zen Center of New York City, 06/07/2015

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01 : Ode to Common Things by Pablo Neruda

02 : The Responsible Company by Yvon Chouinard

03 : Right Livelihood