The Cedar Rapids Zen Center, and its community of peaceful members, stand in solidarity with the brave and sturdy citizens of Ukraine – and with their democratically elected government. The illegal, immoral, brutal and reprehensible invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces is being condemned by a vast majority of the world’s countries. Therefore, we stand with the world, and in our daily sittings, we send out peaceful energy for those innocents suffering so much right now in beautiful Ukraine.

The calendar has been updated for 2023.  Please check it for events that you may want to attend.

True Person of No Rank

vivian gruenenfelder

Rev. Vivian Gruenenfelder, of Still Flowing Water Hermitage in central California, gave the talk this morning.  She is a teacher in the lineage of Jiyu Kennett Roshi, who founded Shasta Abbey and a longtime friend.  Vivian visited our center some years ago – some of you may remember her.  Here’s a summary of her talk. 

The Chinese Zen master Hongzhi (Jp., Wanshi) writes in The Book of Serenity,

“There is a true person of no rank coming and going from the portals of your face.  Who is that true person of no rank?”  

I want to talk about this remark. We can get preoccupied and competitive about rank.  We’re concerned about who’s our superior, the relative prestige of our position or work,  the status of our contribution relative to others. 

We constantly assess and judge.  We do this with everything – our feelings, other people, the car next to us at a stoplight.  There’s no end to it.

We want or need to be better than someone else.  This is the ranking mind and it’s natural.  However, we know that comparing always leads to suffering.  Can we drop it and take things exactly as they are, right here and right now, and not need to do anything else with them?

Dongshan (Jp., Tozan) was once told by Yongyan, “Just this is it.”  Can this be enough for us?

The Pali Canon mentions the Eight Worldly Winds – gain and loss, fame and disgrace, praise and blame, joy and sorrow.  These are always blowing.  We can’t eradicate them, but we can refuse to be swayed by them.   What if someone criticized us and we just left it? 

Isn’t this ranking about “selfing” – constantly creating a self?  Clinging to self, the Buddha taught, is the cause of all suffering.  Any label I put on myself – there’s no end to those labels – creates rank.  Dogen advises us to just give up self-attachment gradually.

This brings us to “sunyata,” which is Buddha’s fundamental teaching that our idea of a separate, unchanging self is false.  Neither we nor anything else is ever the same from one nanosecond to the next. In addition, our being depends on myriad causes and conditions that have brought us to this moment.  We are completely interconnected with everything that exists.  To create a self is to try to arrest something that constantly flows. 

When we stop this, we are boundless – the true person of no rank.  This true person is this empty, boundless, ever-changing, completely ungraspable “what?”  We can’t name it because it’s always shifting, flowing.  When we are such a person, there can’t be any rank.  This person is much bigger than self or rank.  The true person is emptiness.  There’s no person and no rank.  Instead, we are each other as causes and condition intermingle beyond our control. Self will always arise, but we can always let go.  Each moment, letting go. 

“No rank” is a place to rest and be at peace. 

Let’s practice with this.  Guo Gu, a modern Chinese teacher,  writes “Buddha dharma has no higher love, no barriers or insight, no stages of practice … Barriers and insights and stages appear …because of our discriminatory mind which creates rank. We practice just to practice, with an attitude of leisureliness.”

He also writes,

“When you least expect it, self drops away.  At that time, responding to the world is like the wind blowing or the moon illuminating.  There is no contrivance.  There are no obstructions.” 

There’s no need for recognition and reward.  We respond without falling into achievement.  We act without thinking – naturally – for the benefit of all beings, for the benefit of all that is. 

A true person of no rank is someone who doesn’t put themselves above or below anyone or anything.   To be a true person of no rank is to be no one, a nobody, just an enlightened beginner.

Picture – Rev, Vivian Gruenenfelder.

To learn more about Rev. Gruenenfelder and Still Flowing Water Hermitage, go to https://stillflowingwaterhermitage.org/

Upcoming Events

March — Monday Night dharma discussion  7:00 pm to 8:00 pm –on Zoom – email us for the link

March 15Introduction to Zazen – 7:30pm – 9:00pm – hybrid – please register

March 19 – Guest dharma talk by Rev. Vivian Gruenenfelder.

March 26 – Sangha Meeting

April 9 – Buddha’s birthday celebration

Weekday Activities

Noon Zazen

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
12:15 – 12:55 zazen

Evening Zazen

Wednesday and Thursday evenings
6:30 – 7:10 zazen

Weekend Activities

Sunday zazen – by Zoom

9:00 –  9:40 sitting
9:45 – 10:15 dharma talk
10:15 – 11:00 check in and discussion

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Quote of the week

One Leaf
One day in a lecture Suzuki Roshi said, “When you see one leaf falling, you may say, Oh, autumn is here! One leaf is not just one leaf; it means the whole autumn. Here you already understand the all-pervading power of your practice. Your practice covers everything.”


Excerpted from:


Zen Is Right Here: Teaching Stories and Anecdotes of Shunryu Suzuki, author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
by Shunryu Suzuki,
Edited by David Chadwick,
page 18

CEDAR RAPIDS ZEN CENTER 1618 Bever Avenue SE Cedar Rapids, IA