Showing posts from February, 2006

Being Peace

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

This past Sunday I talked about the Four Noble Truths during my Dharma Talk at the Zen Center. Every once in awhile I think it is good to be reminded of these truths, especially the Fourth Truth, that of the Eightfold Noble Path.

The thing is, these truths speak to us about the virtue of moderation. The truth is rarely, if ever, in extremes, suggesting that there is great truth in the maxim, "too much of a good thing is a bad thing."

When we talk about "right" in the Eightfold Noble Path, we are actually talking about "correct." In this case, correct means balanced, moderate, middle: leaning to neither extreme. So, "Right Speech": is speech that is moderate, not extreme, not inflammatory. Also, it would be speech that is intended to heal people, to nurture them, rather than assault them or diminish them.

Moderation and balance are often difficult to attain and maintain. We live in a world with extremes cha…

A letter to the President

Dear Mr. President:

In the news this evening I read a story about the proposed budget cuts to the Department of Veterans Affairs. I know it is important to cut the tremendous deficit your administration has run up, but do you have to cut it at veteran's expense?

I have an idea, if you want to cut the deficit, how about eliminating our nuclear weapons, stop sending people to war in the first place, and reduce the military's size and role in the world? This war you started is costing us far too much money and lives, say nothing of our esteem and credibility in the world. I grew up in a country I thought was peace loving. I never thought we would ever start a war. And now that we have a war you started, and you are sending hundreds of thousands of people into harm's way, you have decided to cut the benefits of those who are serving you? This is shameful.

I urge you to reconsider your position on this war, end it as soon as possible, eliminate nuclear weapons, reduce milita…


With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

My wife just asked me what I was doing. My head was bowed as was gently stroking my less than functional left elbow sitting at the computer. Nothing but the soft whirring of the motor cooling the machine and the bright light of the morning sun. I said I was preparing to type my morning message. She asked, "Oh, you don't have a book of them?"

In truth, I do not. I try to settle myself a little, visit that interior world with the morning light at my window, and wait. When interior and exterior come together, I begin to type and the message takes shape, form, if you will, and there it is. It is a process I have trusted for several decades now.

Spirituality, though the term is often confusing and confused, is like that. Interior meets exterior, exterior meets interior, through the breath. At some point, the two are seen for what they truly are: expressions of the oneness of process. The stages are artificial, imposed by Small Mind as i…

Repeating Bullets

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

Some things we believe are like bullets fired from repeating rifles that eventually kill our hearts. One such thing is that people should "pay" for their crimes. Should they? What does "pay" mean? Think about it. When we say this, what are we really saying? What is the value driving the statement, undergirding the belief? It is a punitive belief, not a healing one. It suggests smacking someone will make them stop smacking someone else. Right. Very useful.

Yet the belief is nearly reified by repetition within the culture, thus blocking any real dialogue about the nature of criminal activity or the effectiveness of our response to it.

What are some other repeating bullets that kill our compassion?

Be well.


With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

If you are at work reading this, or at school, please consider that this moment is not a dress rehearsal for some future moment of life. This is your life. If there is something you do not like about this moment, as Thoreau once said, change it.

If our immediate thought is, "I can't", then you can't. You, yourself, are a hindrance to your change. If you say, "OK, tomorrow, I will begin." Then you are living in a delusion. This moment is it. Only this moment.

Now is the time. Now.

Be well.


With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

The trouble with violence is that it is too often used instead of compasssion, understanding, and a willingness to work out a solution to a problem. It becomes easy. It becomes a habit. It becomes automatic. When this happens, and we develop a rationale that enables the habit, then we lose civilization. We become addicts who can't stand to hear the word, "no."

Violence disallows a long view, it demands a short view. Violence does not consider others, it only considers ourselves. Violence is me first, you last. Violence is a statement of egoistic priority.

Non-violence demands a long view, it requires patience, a willingness to accept difference, and a willingness to think. Non-violence puts others first and ourselves last. Non-violence is a statement of mutual aid as priority. Non-violence is civilization.

For decades the social Darwinists have suggested dominance through violence, fierce competition, and placing winning between …

What I Heard About Iraq

With palms together, The following was forwarded to me by Precept Holder Bobby Byrd in El Paso, Texas.  I believe it deserves a close reading by all. For those who believe politics and Zen should not mix, I have nothing to say, but  this: the precepts demand our action.  They are not idle words written on paper to be recited lamely in Zendos. If we do not engage the world with our bodies, hearts and minds, then what good are we? Be well. What I Heard about Iraq Eliot Weinberger  world wide reading-20.03.2006 In 1992, a year after the first Gulf War, I heard Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense, say that the US had been wise not to invade Baghdad and get ‘bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq’. I heard him say: ‘The question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is: not that damned many.’ In February 2001, I heard Colin Powell say that Saddam Hussein ‘has not developed any significant capability with respect to …

The Challenge of Zazen

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

This morning I lit sticks of incense and said a prayer for all of those in the world who were suffering. It seems from the morning's news, there's a lot of that going around. Mudslides, wars, violence against individuals, communities, and religious buildings. I take a breath and sit down on my cushion, turn and face the wall. My hands rest gently in the cosmic mudra, left hand cradled in the right, thumbs lightly touching. I feel the presense of the universe wrap me like a blanket, creating a nest of safety and security. This, however, is not Zazen. It is just a good feeling.

It takes work to move against this, to press out the warmth, to lift off the blanket and open myself to the larger processes of life and death. To be one with the universe means some very challenging things. It means we do not hide from the suffering of others. It means we do not have the luxury of being overwhelmed by the global nature of the task or its seeming…

Healthy Day

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

This morning is a beautiful morning here in southern New Mexico. The sky is blue with just a hint of a cloud or two, the air is cool and the sun is getting ready to make its short winter journey across the sky. I have had some coffee. My Little Honey made the coffee and took out the dogs. So, I am left to compose this short message.

Today I would invite you to take one small step to improve your health. Eat a little less, choose a piece of fruit instead of a cookie. Park far away from the store entrance and walk to the store. Take a multavitimin. Drink a small glass of V-8 juice. Snack on almonds or walnuts, a small handfullk will do. Choose not to eat meat today. Talk to a friend about something personal. Sit Zazen. If you add or two of these daily you will begin to follow a program shown to prevent or reverse heart disease.

Now I must *run* to meet the Rabbi for breakfast at the Bountiful.

Be well.

On this day in history: 1940 - Five-year-old Tenz…


With palms together,
Good Evening Sangha,

For those of you who are thinking about commiting a crime tonight, please re-consider. Violence against people and property is never a good idea. Health and well-being are precious and cannot be replaced. Property comes and goes and never brings us the satisafaction we imagine it will. For those of you who will be victims of crime tonight, before you seek an eye for an eye, ask yourself if you want the world to be blind.

I have both commited crime and been a victim of crime. In my life I have stolen, lied, cheated and killed. I have also been robbed and assaulted. I have been shot. I have been molested. Being on both sides of the highway is a challenge sometimes, but it certainly gives one some perspective on behavior. I know when I was a kid and stole from stores, it felt good and I was able to get candy, chips, sodas and cigarettes. I wish I had never stolen, especially the cigarettes.I have lied. I have told people things that were not true in…


With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

So sorry for the delay in posting my morning message to you. I experienced some computer problems, but have them fixed at least temporarily. I have a very old laptop and its rather cranky.

This morning I would like to talk about emptiness. It seems we are often confused by this term. Shunyata simply means empty of something. It does not mean non-existence. So when we see ourselves as "empty," we see we are without a fixed self, a self that doies not change. Shunyata points to our interdependence for existence in both time and space. We are, in fact, a matrix that is infinate. It is just a matter of perspective that allows us to "see" a collection of molecules we call a "body" and a great interlocking chain of events (or causes) that allow us to become consciousness of a "self."

So, when we pinch ourselves we hurt, yet we "know" this pain is "empty" of an independent and permane…

So you want to learn Zen!

With palms together,

Good evening Sangha,

When we first consider Zen, what are we considering? What do we see in this Zen? Why are looking in the first place? What does it all mean?

Typically, westerners are curious. Maybe they heard meditation is good for them. Maybe they want to become better people. Maybe they feel stressed and have been told meditation is a stress management tool. Perhaps they have not had so good experiences in their Church or Synagogue. Maybe they read a book or two, possibly by Alan Watts, D. T. Suzuki, Phillip Kapleau-roshi or Shunryu Suzuki-roshi. Whatever. They come to Zen to meet a need.

Then they find themselves in a Zen Center. In the Center they are greeted by bald headed guys in black robes wearing brown or black bibs. What's up with that? They are asked not to talk much. Not to read much. Not to do anything loud. Then they are asked to stand, bow, put their hands together as if they were praying. There are statues, incense, bells. They are…

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Silence is thunder.

A Wise Life

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

The other day at the weekly Peace Vigil, I offered my support to a Quaker woman who was standing there with a sign. We talked about Mr. Fox, a Quaker Peace Worker who was taken hostage in Iraq a few months ago. She spoke of him clearly in matter of fact sentances. I saw only a few hints of admiration in the corners of her eyes.

Violence against people is such a horrible thing. It is irrational. It is hurtful. It creates pain and suffering.

Not too many years ago, some men broke into my daughter's home and raped her.

When I was younger a friend of my brother's lost his mind in our apartment in Miami. He took a large knife, raving, he huddled us together, turned on a stereo and waited for my brother to transform himself into the devil. He promised at that hour to kill him.

In the jungle in Vietnam I killed several men. One was a friend lost in the middle of a nighttime firefight.

When I was younger still a raging father, a medic in the south …

Bring Back the Draft

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

How easy it is to support a war when the army is volunteer. I have been thinking about the profound lack of anti-war voice here in the United States. It just occured to me that one of the reasons people in the 60s and early 70s were so opposed to the war in Vietnam had nothing to do with war itself, but rather, with saving the lilly white butts of silver spoon babies.

In 1968 I took part in the "moratorium" against the war. I was a student at the University of Miami at the time. I was also 19 years old, partially paralysed, retired from the army, a disabled combat veteran. I remember the crowds of people. It was invigorating. I also recall someone attempting to pull the Purple Heart medal from my jacket suggesting that I should not disrespect my father. But that Heart was mine.

In those days, men (boys, really) were all at risk of being whisked away by a masculine war machine. The draft was a real fear and almost every one of my classmat…

International Women's Day Peace Vigil: Share the Bloom

With palms together,
Good Evening Sangha,

I wanted to pass this information along. From a flier at the Peace Vigil today. Those in the southern New Mexico & far west Texas area might attend the Las Cruces vigil. Those in other areas around the USA and world, please visit the website included and/or create your own Peace Vigil.


Join the Weekly Peace Vigil

March 8, 2006

International Women's Day

Peace Vigil and Rally

This year on March 8, join women around the world to take action together to demand an end to the war and violence in Iraq. Sign the peace pledge at and find out more.

WEDNESDAY 4-6 pm in front of the Federal Building, downtown Las Cruces, corner of Church and Griggs.

"Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul." Coretta Scott King, The Mother of the Civil REights Movement

Call Laurie at 525-3225 for more information

Peace Vigil

With palms together, Good Evening Sangha, Please forgive this short post. I am just passing through my home on my way to another meeting.  We stood on the corner of the Federal Building in downtown Las Cruces a little while ago.  There were several people there with signs.  I had made a small sign that simply said "PEACE."  There was a good wind blowing, but the sun was out and the sky was blue and people in the passing cars seemed very happy to see us there on the corner. It was good to see some old friends standing there.  It was also good to meet new people who share a dream of a peaceful world. Rev. Dai Shin, thank you for attending.  Vicki, it was good to see you there as well! However much time you have to offer to this effort, please offer it.  War is such a waste, a painful, insidious waste, that accomplishes nothing, polarizes people, fuels hatred and mistrust, and drains resources while extinguishing lives.Find a vigil in your community, make a small sign, and take a…

A Valentine

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

May each of your hearts be warm and open.

In a world where the news is as an acid to our connections with one another, I ask that we hold hands in prayer. Love is the antidote to hatred. There is no more powerful antidote to its corrosive effects. Yet, to love requires courage and faith. Courage to love those that hate us; faith that in the process of loving, life will continue to blossom. If we are worried that our individual flame will be snuffed out, we are lost.

We must look deeply at this hate, see its fundamental cause as fear, and assuage that fear. In its place, we offer peace and compassionate regard. We offer support and nurturance. We do not feed the delusion of separation, we feed the truth of oneness and interdependence. Who here is a separate, fully self-sustaining individual who has "made it" with no help or support or teaching or encouragement or nurturance from others?

It is so easy to talk this talk. My challenge i…

Witness and Participant

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

Each day we are both witness and participant in our universe. As interactive players we both learn and teach simultaneously. So each day we should look to ourselves and ask, what do we want to teach? What do we wish to learn?

The most simple and routine tasks are often the best examples and offer the greatest teachings. Feeding the baby, feeding the dog, taking a bath, brushing our teeth, saying hello to our neighbor, driving our car, doing our work, preparing our food, eating, using the bathroom, making love, sitting zazen: teachers all. In each of these, it seems to me the most valuable teaching and learning is presence.

Can we be present when feeding the dog? Do we really see our neighbor? Do we feel the food as we prepare it, recall the various hands and lives it is? As we join our partner, can we allow ourselves to drop away and be union itsef?

These take practice. These take deliberate effort. A seeming contradiction: practice-effort and simu…

Political Zen

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

Lately I have posted a number of political messages. Some may argue these are "off topic." I wonder. It seems to me that Zen Living is political living. The question we each face as we rise every morning is how are we to steer ourselves in the world. Zen informs us of that steerage. Zen is the compass we use, a tool, if you will, of discovery. We investigate ourselves through Zazen and through this practice realize ourselves, so to speak, in the universe. Zen in this sense is not an individual activity, but a dynamic interaction with everything in all places. It is in this sense that Zen becomes political. Politics, according to Webster, is the art or science of government or governing. Law and policy are nothing more than a group's precepts stated as rules and guidlines. Precepts then become political statements.

When I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, what does this mean? When I vow not to kill, steal,…

Back Home

With palms together,
Hello Sangha,

We are back in New Mexico again. How wonderful! The sun is shining and the sky is clear and blue and very beautiful! I had an opportunity to practice much Zazen on the way back home: long flights, nothing to eat. The airline did not even have tea. I read some of an old friend, The Eight Gates of Zen, but mostly sat Zazen in the air.

Tomorrow morning I will be at Zen Center to practice Zazen in the morning. I will have lunch at the International Delights Cafe and will be happy to meet with anyone interested in Engaged Practice. At 1:00 PM we will re-convene at Zen Center for Precept Study, then at 2:30 we will continue our study of Master Dogen's Bendowa.

Be well.

Cleveland and the Snow

The Zen of Flying. Set yourself aside and allow others to be in control. Eat what is offered. Drink when possible. Seated in the tight seats of the aircraft, I cozied up to a copy of The Eight Gates of Zen by Daido Loori-roshi. I enjoy this book and admire the work he and his students have done to create an American monastic setting. At times I listened to my MP3 player, but mostly I read or sat Zazen in the seat. Judy knitted.

Arriving in Cleveland the ground was covered in snow and ice. It is in the low 20s heer and overcast. It is interesting how the weather can be so very different from one place to another. And how it seems reflected in the faces of those around you.

In the morning we drive deeper into the city and I will be staying in a home without a computer. I look forward to this adventure with daughter Sam. I told her I was scared to death at my defense. It was the truth. Maybe this helped. She is a dedicated researcher and an excellent student. I am sure she will do…


With palms together,
Good Evening Sangha,

It is dark outside. And cold. The desert does not hold the heat of the sun. I am sitting by my bedroom window thinking about the next few days. Visiting our daughter will be a delight. Her dissertation defense will be stressful. They always are. My hope is that we will get through it, enjoy the process as best we can, then celebrate and come home.

Moments are what they are. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good, sometimes a real pain in the ass. Still, being present is all that we have really. Yesterday and tommorow do not exist. It is pointless to fret over what was or over what might be. So, in this very moment what I experience is love.

My breath enters my body and my breath leaves my body. I am still. My heart is warm. I love.

When we have love in every present moment what else is there?

No room for hate. No room for fear. No room for worry. Just a deep and abiding love.

I have faith in this universe and its processes. It is way larger than…


With palms together,

Good Afternoon Sangha,

We have a local newspaper here in Las Cruces called "The Grassroots Press." It is a tiny little thing devoted to social action. I noticed that there is a weekly "Peace Vigil" at the Federal Courthouse every Wednesday from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM. The ad says people should bring sunscreen, water, and signs. I think this is a great idea. Beginning next Wednesday, I think I'll be out there. This Wednesday coming I'll be in Cleveland for our daughter's doctoral defense.

One of the things each of you might do in your area is find a similar "Peace Vigil" or create one of your own. Place a ad in a local paper to spead the word, or better yet, write a short press release indicating your intention, time, and place. Often local papers are online and you can get the editor's email address to send in a press release. Newspapers will often print these free.

There is only one way we are going to make a difference …

Cartoons and Hammers

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

The display of Mohammed in cartoon form would seem to some a frivolous thing. Yet, embassies are burning and millions of people are outraged. Lives are being threatened, products banned, and people are rioting in the streets. The newspapers who printed these cartoons stand behind their freedoms. The cartoonist is expressing an opinion. A point was being made. A limit was being tested. On balance, what can we say?

Sensitivity to the beliefs and faith of others is an important tenent of civilized life. While it is wrong for Islam to portray rabbis as cannabals and the clergy there to remain mute, it is equally wrong for us to portray Mohammed in pictoral form and for us to remain mute. We must learn to respect each other.

Freedom of the press is very important, we should strongly defend it. Yet, just because we can do something, does not mean that we should do it. People hold the symbols of their faith close. As Zen Buddhists we might say too clos…