The Newsletter

July 15th – July 21st, 2019

WEDNESDAY, Community Night: July 17th 7-9pm: The Dream Within the Dream with David Weinstein

‘In the midst of a dream, we can’t know it’s a dream. When we’re awake, we know it was a dream – but only after a great awakening can we understand that all of this is a great dream.’ – Zhuangzi

Last week we spent time with a line from the Diamond Sutra that states: ‘All things are like a dream, like a fantasy, like a drop of dew, like a flash of lightning.’ The exact date of the composition of the Diamond Sutra in Sanskrit is uncertain—arguments for the 2nd and 5th Centuries have been made.

The first Chinese translation dates to the early 5th Century and the first printing of the Diamond Sutra is dated as 868. As such, it is the world’s oldest known printed book. The quote from Zhuangzi about all things being a dream dates back to the 3rd Century B.C., preceding the composition of the Diamond Sutra by six to seven centuries. The Diamond Sutra is most closely associated with the Chan/Zen tradition of Buddhism. Recently we have been spending time with Taoism, going back to our last long retreat in January, which focused on the Tao te Ching, extending to our summer retreat, this month, focusing on the Zhuangzi. With that soaking in the Taoist tradition, the way Taoism and Chan/Zen are intertwined with each other has become increasingly evident.

It appears to me that there is much more Taoism in Chan/Zen, than Buddhism. At its best, there is not a trace of Buddhism. Of course, at its best, there’s not a trace of anything, not Taoism, not Chan/Zen, not even ‘nothing’. Dreams are a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, like koans, like us. Inquiring into the dream that we are, provides the opportunity to appreciate that even when we awaken from our dream of the world, the dream of ourselves, we are still in a dream and that it is a feature of our existence, not a bug to be fixed.


SUNDAY July 21st, 9:30am-12pm: Was Zhuangzi A Butterfly Or A Dung Beetle?
with Jack Calvert

Jack Calvert has generously agreed to be responsible for opening up and closing the building on the two Sundays that encompass our long retreat at Mount Madonna. I’ve asked Jack to facilitate the meditation by ringing the bell at the beginning and end of each period of meditation, and by inviting other folks in to a conversation about the koan which we will be sitting with at Mt. Madonna, during our long retreat. 

I have long felt that being a member of the community provided me with the opportunity to receive the benefit of attending a retreat, even if I was not physically able to attend. The members of the community who are able to attend the retreat do so for all of us, as well as for themselves. It occurred to me that if people unable to attend the retreat were hanging out with the same koan as we were in the retreat, the benefits might be amplified.

Here is that koan:

Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, he didn’t know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakably Zhuangzi, but he didn’t know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly Dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.

Recently we had the opportunity to sit together with the koan about the earth bearing us witness on two consecutive Sundays with Corey Hitchcock, which was a quite rich experience, as it always is when we can hang out with a koan longer, getting to know it and ourselves better.

So, I invite you to join Jack on Sunday the 21st and Sunday the 28thto explore this dream together. As part of my own exploration, as I’m writing this, the question comes to me is: I wonder what Zhuangzi’s reaction would have been if he had dreamt that he was a dung beetle?



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