Showing posts from April, 2006

The One and the Many

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

As we each sit down on our cushions this morning, each of us drops away, the universe seems to enter, and all drops join the sea. The sea is constant, the drops are momentary. The sea is momentary, the drops are constant.

What this means is simple. Everything is both one and many, this one and many is nothing other than words in the theatre of our mind however.

No one, not even the most solitary mountain hermit priest can be separate from anything. No one, not even in the most dense crowd is with others.

We are in each moment and are not in any other.

What does all this cryptic crap mean?

Sit Zazen and discover the truth for yourself.

Be well.


With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Some say we should never forget the bad things that happen. They inform us of what humanity is actually capable of, giving us a true sense of our power and a large look at our morality. Some say the past should be a testimony, victims of atrocity should be given a voice. That voice should echo through time.

I am not so sure.

While remembrance serves the above functions, I truly wonder to what end? I know that it has not been particularly useful or helpful for me to retain traumatic memories of combat. Images of killing and death that seem eternally there in technocolor, are easily tripped and like a trip-flare the explode in graphic sensory stereo. Like I really need this in a crowd at Disney World.

We bow our heads and pray. We recite blessings, or mantras, and become synchronous with all history. We sit on meditation cushions or pews in a church or Temple and commune with the Infinite, remembering what is possible, actually what is, just now in …

Home Leaving

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

Home Leaving or Shukke in the Japanese, is about many things but should mostly be understood in its pychological and emotional sense. When we leave home we are literaly leaving behind what we are comfortable with. All of our beliefs, our understandings, our connections near and dear, are left at our doorstep as we walk out into the desert. This preperatory act has been the same through millenia for those who are wishing to discover the deepest truths of existence. The Hebrews left Egypt, Moses left the Hebrews, Jesus went out in the desert for 40 days and nights, Buddha left his palace and wondered in the forests...when you think about it, every hero comtemporary or historical, spiritual or materialist, leaves what they know in order to receive that which they do not know.

There is a relatively new Zen story about this. An American comes to Japan and seeks the teaching of a Zen Master. The Master pours tea. As the cup overflows, the would be…

Transformation, eh?

With palms together,
Good Afternoon All,

Sitting in the Zendo this morning, I lit a stick of incense and sat with it. Some say the incense turns into ash through combustion. Maybe so. But when sitting, there is just sitting. I read this morning that meditation could be "transformational." No doubt, just as burning turns incense "into" ash. But sitting is just sitting.

Incense is incense, burning is burning, ash is ash. Transformation is a mistake. It presumes too much and takes away from the real pupose of meditation which is precisely nothing. So, then, why practice the art of doing nothing? So that we can learn to be present with what is. Perhaps that is, in itself,transformative. Only practice will tell us.

Be well.

Defining the Spiritual Situation

With palms together, Good Afternoon Sangha, I beg your indulgence here.  I am working out some thoughts. This morning I went out for the first time in three days.  My Little Honey dropped me off at the Bountiful Bakery where I ate a fruit cup and sipped coffee while the rabbi and I discussed meditation with the group.  We then got into a discussion about the Gospel of Judas, God, Jesus and the whole enchilada. Within this discussion the notion of our images of God became noticable. Images of God are so interesting to me, as they seem reflections of a person's spiritual presence and growth. If we are interested in people these images become very informative, revealing much of what is underneath the public surface. Those needing punitive images, mean old granddads, in the sky are on one side, those without need for an image at all on the other.  Most everyone is somewhere sandwiched in between and the sandwich is, per chance, getting tighter. Images of God can become in-service to poli…

The Present Moment

With palms together,
Godd Morning Sangha,

Typically I sit half lotus with left ankle on right thigh. My body has accommodated this stable position and I settle into it easily. Such habits are not good and we should arouse outrselves from them. This morning I sat reversing this half lotus and felt my body not settle. This tension assists me in staying in the moment and not falling asleep in the habit of body and mind.

I have talked at some length about birth and death. Coming and going, as it were, the processes of the life cycle of the universe. These are but imaginings. The past, as does the future, do not exist except in the mind's eye. They are chimera and take us away from what is real, this very moment.

Process is a delusion. We only understand it when we take our mind's eye and leap out of the immediate moment as if to say we can thus see a panorama of time. Each moment contains all others, past and future. All birth and death are here right now. Yet how false this is. …

The Three Pure Precepts

With palms together,
Good Afternoon Sangha,

This afternoon I would like to talk to you about the Three Pure Precepts. These are the first precpets after the Three Refuges in the list of Sixteen Bodhisattva Vows. The Three Pure Precepts are as follows: Cease doing evil; Do good; Do good for all beings.

To cease doing evil is really simple. One just stops doing bad stuff. What bad stuff, you ask? Anything that harms another being. Within this precept are all the others. Ahimsa, that old Hindu concept of non-harming is at the source. If we at least do not harm, we are doing well.

Second, a positive precept, do good. What good? Anything that will be good to do. Good and bad do not exist independently of our behavior, We must bring good into the world, just as we cease bringing bad into the world. All it takes is a willingnerss to be present and do what is necessary.

Third, bring about good for all beings, now this one is a challenge. Its a call to social action, like the Jewish concep…


With palms together, Good Morning Sangha, Do not trust your point of view, it is as shaky as you are. Our points of view are all relative to our senses and the clarity with which they perceive. Even with the clearest perception, the result is a few chemical reactions in our brains which create a picture for us to see. A point of view is just that.  It is not the thing itself. What is the thing itself?  In Zen Buddhism we call it suchness. That which is before perception. It has no name, desires no name. It is vast emptiness manifest.  Emptiness refers to lack of substance, lack of permanence. Some might "name" this "God."  Names are odd, really.  They tend to be nouns in the English language. As such they can be very misleading. We often think because we name something, we either understand it or control it.  This is one of the psychological truths of biblical times. God tells Adam to go out and name all of the animals, suggesting that he will then have dominion ove…


With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

From Cheng Li's Tales of Kwan Yin
Adapted by a friend from a translation by John Blofield

Transcendence Now I have done with Su-tras and pious practices. Day and night I recite the Bo-dhi-sat-tva’s sacred name, rejoicing in the beauty of it’s sound. NOT for me it’s recitation in multiples of One-hundred and Eight, as though it were a duty. Does the runner count his breaths, the poet his words, or the stream it’s ripples? You sentient beings who seek deliverance, why do you NOT let go? When sad, Let go of the cause of sadness. When wrathful, Let go of the occasion of wrath. When covetous or lustful, Let go of the object of desire. From moment to moment, be free from grasping at the illusion of a permanent or separate “self.”
Where there is NO separate “self” to grasp, there can be NO permanent sorrow, NO graspable desire; NO causally-separate “me” to weep, NO compositionally-separate “me” to lust, NO circumstantially-separate “being” to die and NO percep…

A Blackened Nose

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

There was once a nun who carried a gold leafed Buddha everywhee she wandered. She would light her incense offering each day, but did not wish to share it, so she created a devise which kept the incense from moving about, instead it was funneled in the the Buddha's nose. Over time, the gold leafed Buddha became particularly ugly with a blackened nose.

When we practice our lives, we are practicing for all beings, not for Buddhas and ourselves. Our practice should be for the benefit of others. To practice othewise is not the Buddha Way.

So, when we eat, we eat for all beings, recognizing the many lives that went into the food before us, the sharing of so many hands in creating it and bringing it to us. When we drink, we drink with all beings, refreshing ourselves, and thereby all others. When we work, we work for the benefit of all beings, and when we sleep, we sleep with all beings restoring our bodies, rebuilding muscle, resting our minds, and…

Another Day

With palms together,
Good Evening Sangha,

Rev. Gozen, my disciple and abbot of the Zen Center of Las Cruces, gave a wonderful talk this evening. He spoke of the moment before the word. We are so caught in words and ideas that we fail to really see. When we see with words and ideas, we aren't seeing reality. I sat in silence there with him in the Zendo feeling a number of things. I was listening intently and the Dharma was alive and present in the room with us. The tea was excellent. Ryan did a good job as both Ino and server of the tea. I made some mental notes to assist him in the future.

A small Zen Center is an intimate place. We sit in rows facing the great white wall, the scent of sandalwood incense slips to and fro, and the soft flicker of the candle is just enough light to feel warmed by its presence. Our bell is large and sits on a wonderful cushion. I remember finding it in a shop in San Francisco one day while attending a retreat with the Dalai Lama. On that journey I …

Bodhidharma's Wake-Up Sermon

From the First Patriarch, Bodhidharma, in his Wake-Up Sermon (translated by Red Pine) Bodhidharma, founder of Zen, was born in the year 440. He came to China late in the fifth century of the common era.

"Whoever knows that the mind is a fiction and devoid of anything real knows that his own mind neither exists nor doesn't exist. Mortals keep creating the mind, claiming that it exists. And arhats keep negating the mind, claiming it doesn't exist. But bodhisattvas and buddhas neither create nor negate the mind. This is what is meant by the mind that neither exists nor doesn't exist. The mind that neither exists nor doesn't exist is called the Middle Way." (p. 53)

This is a profoundly deep teaching. It at once delineates between an awakened person and a non awakened person, but goes beyond that to suggest that an awakened person must go past awakening to become a bodhisattva and a buddha. By a "mortal" Bodhidharma is referring to a ordinary person livi…


With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

When practicing Zazen we should be present with ourselves and our environment, experiencing without thinking, feelings, tasting, smelling or touching. As we sit, our mind speaks to us, sometimes through thought, sometimes through sensation.We feel an itch, or something crawling, or a twitch, a stitch. We think. We see our thoughts. We might smell something, hear something, taste something. What is it?

This question arises and if we are not very careful, we are exploring it. Big mistake. Our Zazen is not to explore the interior and exterior of our minds and bodies. Our Zazen is to simply practice serene reflection: presence without attsachment/.

Shikantaza is the practice of wholeheartedly hitting the mark while seated. What is the mark? What is this present moment, exactly, before a thought or perception arises? That is the mark.

Be well.

A Seasonal Message

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

We have an opportunity today to be reminded of the blessings of the yearly cycle. This is spring, Easter, Passover, Hannamatsuri, a time of hope and re-generation. Many cultures come out of an agrarian background. Life cycles were closely connected to our planet's seasonal cycles. In this modern era, we seem to have lost that connection on many levels, As a result ofthis dis-connect, some of the real meanings of the season are lostto us. To compensate we fall back on belief. Belief is a wonderful thing, in some ways, a hindrance in others.

When living in belief, we live in the world of the mind. Hopeful, we are looking for tomorrow, not living in the experience of this moment. This is why, in some sense, Zen sees hope as a problem. Hope takes us away from the work at hand, though it also can inspire us and motivate us to move into the future.

As in all things, a balance is very important.

For those who are Christian on the list, Happy East…

Being One

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

We have been exploring reality from the point of view that both objective and subjective experience are one. One makes the other, the other makes the one. In fact, they are the same reality experienced in different ways, from different perspectives: very functional. We must be able to see subject and object at certain times, use thought to plan, etc. But we must also not lose sight of the fact that this is an artificial device created through the way our brain works in order to enhance our survival. Reality itself, is not two, but one.

When we approach our life, our practice, in this way, we begin to see that everything is sacred, nothing is profane. Indeed, such categories are local devices, rather than universal truth. As we light a stick of incense, all beings are lighting a stick of incense. As we bow, all beings are bowing. As we bring ourselves to the other shore, all beings are brought to the other shore. You and God share the same s…

Re: [Zen Living] Evaluation of Soto

With palms together,
God Morning Sangha,

Guy has written an excellent post below. He asks similar questions Master Dogen asked many centuries ago.

Let me try to walk through this as a morning message.

We are indeed, enlightened and perfect as we are. Why practice? Dogen asked this very question. Because we possess Buddha nature does not mean we arer in touch with it. Because we can run or walk or talk, does not mean we can do it without practice. We inherently possess, but we must manifest.

The Sixth Patriarch uses a similar metaphor in his Platform Sutra. A rival for the robe suggests the mind is like a mirror and that practice must be used to clear the dust from its surface. Hui-Neng argues back:

Bodhi originally has no tree,
The mirror also has no stand.
Buddha nature is always clean and pure;
Where is there room for dust?

(Yoplansky translation, p. 132)

The questions raised in this post are essential. The go to the heart of the matter. What is "reality?" Why do we even concern …

A Day

With palms together, Good Afternoon Sangha, This morning I went out the door early. A full sun, a cool breeze, and an appointment at the dermatologist's office.  The doc and I are buds, we went to the same graduate school. Anyway, I ran down to his office and entered.  It was a three mile run and by the time I got there, it was a tad warm.  I arrived 15 minutes early, as I had planned so that I could have a little time to cool off and wash up in the restroom. As I began washing off with cold water, the nurse told me he was ready to see me, so sweat and all, I walked into the exam room.  He enters right away, we chat for a minute comparing babies (his) grandbabies (mine).  He asks why I'm so sweaty.  I tell him I jogged to his office.  He said I was crazy.  I agreed. He did, however, support my craziness. He numbs the skin on my neck, cuts a chunk out and gave me a couple of scripts. I go back in two weeks. Well.  Added up, I was in and out in 15 minutes.  Way early. My Little H…

Self and the Relativity of Truth

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

On my Yahoo 360 blogsite, there is a place called a "Blast." It enables the blogger to make a quick little statement, ask a question, etc. Every morning I create a new "Blast" statement and change the color theme of the blog. I feel this keeps things fresh and present.

This morning's blast thought was about individuality. When we allow our indentification with "self" to fall away, then all sorts of things are made possible. Dogen suggests that everything becomes our Teacher. This is so because we have no self acting as a hindrance. It goes deeper than that, however.

When we cease indentifying with this "self" and this "body" then death and life themselves cease to carry weight. We can become aware of the great stream of living and dying, like the ocean's tide, eternally flowing.

More, with no individual self, everything can be more clearly understood in its relation to everything else…

Is everyone eating leftovers?

Master Dogen writes: The ordinary states, the outer ordinary states --- bamboo in the mountains, cypresses in the yard. Partial sage,ultimate sage --- spring flowers, autumn moon.
When you have attained the realm of Zen, there is no Zen; when you clarfy the realm of desire, there is no desire.
There is no one in the whole world who understands Buddhism --- everyone is eating leftovers.
To say it is like something would miss it --- it is not in the company of myriad things. What stages are there? What do you want with the beyond?

Eihei Koroku (translated by Cleary)

Our practice of the Buddha Way is our practice of the Buddha way. Yours is not mine. Each of us must enter the gate ourself. My words to you are like shit. They mean little to nothing, mere tracks of one who has gone before.

When we experience the wind in our face, the shock of a sound, or the smell of a corpse or flower, we are experiencing ourselves. As I paint a picture, it is just a painting of a picture. Quite …

Doing and Not Doing

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

Is there time in your day for yourself? A moment where you can stop and be still, opening yourself to everything by not doing?

If we do not create such time and opportunity, we waste away. Living well requires both motion and stillness, doing and non-doing. If we tend to a plant too much it will die. If we tend to it too little, it will also die. We are the same.

How much of each is sufficient? In human terms, what is tending and non-tending?

Very excellent questions. Questions these are for your practice of living your life.

The most important thing is to both answer them, then practice!

Life is short, you have a precious opportunity, get going!

Be well.

Life or Fiction, Which is Your Preference!

With palms together,
Good Afternoon All,

In the world of the everyday, we are prone to easily lose our grip. We think constantly, telling ourselves all sorts of things, creating worlds upon worlds of thoughts and feelings about the ideas we create. At some point we need to clearly understand that this world we create is not real, but rather, a fiction. It is a mental construction and truly means nothing. In fact it can become a hindrance to our life.

When we are living in the fictional world of our thoughts, ideas, and feelings, we are not experiencing our true, actual lives. When we live in a "belief system" that system organizes, colors, and frames our experience. This is not actual experience, this is filtered and distorted thought-as-experience.

How can we truly appreciate our life when we are so busy thinking about it?

When practicing Zazen we are experiencing our self. There is no other self. Just this self, just this moment. All moments past are seen as thoughts in…

unwanted Advertisements

Hello All,

I have turned on the word verification for the comments section of this blog. We have received a number of unsolicited comments that are ads. This will help reduce this problem, but will add a small step for you to add your comment. I apologize for this inconvenience.

Be well.


With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

We begin our Hannamatsuri Sesshin this evening at the Refuge in the mountains. We gather ourselves to sit in meditation in order to both relieve suffering and prepare ourselves to relieve suffering. In this period we recall the birth of the Buddha, honoring this man with sweet tea and flowers. We will sit for the next few days, eat in mindful silence, work in mindful silence, and practice deeply together the six paramitas of generosity, morality, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom.

Our Zen Center practices extended periods of Zazen monthly as a day of mindfullness (Zazenkai) and quarterly as weekend Sesshin. During these periods we practice as monastics with a long sitting schedule, periods of samu (work meditation) and study periods. The time is spent in mindful silence with a minimum of verbal interaction. The purpose is to deliberately slow down both mind and body, cast our senses inward, and develop and deepen our personal awarenes…

Love and Hate

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

There is a lingering coolnesss, fresh and crisp, in the air this morning at my window as I type. Although the desert sun is rising and quickly warming the air, it is still a delicious taste of spring. It is important to experience directly. Feel the air. Smell the plants. Taste the interior of your mouth in the morning. It is important to do so without commenting mentally about the experiences. It is the commentary that takes us away from the truth. Within split seconds we are in the mental world of ideas, likes, dislikes; the world of labels and categories. While this world has its place and its function, it is a world that separates us from ourselves, internally and externally.

The Buddha taught that hate produces hate. He taught that love produces love. He also taught, more deeply, that both hate anmd love are part of the same thing, that we and the world, the entire universe are one. In this teaching if we attain it, we see that to hate …

The Present Moment

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

There was once a monk named Tanzan. Tanzan was an older monk and did not pay close attention to the rules. He ate when he was hungry, slept when he was sleepy. He drank wine on occasion even though intoxicants were forbidden.

One day Tanzan and another monk were walking along and they arrived at a stream. There was a young woman at the stream trying to cross without muddying herself. Tanzan simply picked her up and carried her across the stream, placing her back on the ground, he put his palms together, bowed and continued on his way. Sometime later, Tanzan's companion criticized Tanzan for having touched the young woman by carrying her across the stream. Tanzan simply said to his younger brother, "I put her down miles ago, why is it you still carry her with you?"

Each of us has an opportunity each moment to renew ourselves. Carrying the burdens of the past prevents this. In each moment, be a buddha. When you are angry, be ang…

Home Again

With palms together,
Good Evening Sangha,

We arrived home a hour or so ago. It is very nice to be back in the desert southwest. We enjoyed our trip 'back east' but I confess, its not my favorite region. Way too many people, and even in the south, moving way too fast for me. I was good to hold and care for our grandson, though. We took care of him pretty much night and day for five days.

One of the things I do admire about the south, however, is the way people instill basic social manners in children. I held a door open for a young mother and children, for example, and mother was quickly to ask the child to say "thank you" by saying out loud behind her, "We say 'thank you,' darlin.'" People often addressed me with a respectful, "sir."

We have such manners among ranch folk out here, as well. But I'm afraid it seems to be a disappearing value. So accustomed we are to being addressed by our first name by total strangers. Many seem to …

In Motion

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

This morning is overcast and drizzling. The rain is wonderful. The air is cool and heavy, unlike the desert. Green is unfolding all around. I saw beautiful flowers in bloom this morning. Lots of early birds getting their worms, as well. Life is a good thing when kept in perspective.

I urge each of us to get outside today. Enjoy the weather, whatever it is. It is always a good idea to go outside. It gives us perspective. Sitting on grass. A park bench. Or just walking along and listening, smelling, feeling, that life around us. After a short time, whatever heaviness that we might be bearing, lifts.

We breathe in, knowing we are breathing in, we breathe out, knowing we are breathing out. Short step, long step, jog, walk, run, skip: no matter, we are Zen in motion.

Be well.

Zen is Work

With palms together,
Good Morning Sangha,

Being a Zen Buddhist is much more than words and a good feeling, more than hours on a cushion staring at a wall, more than vows and commitments to some ideal. Zen is work.

Rise in the morning with an intent to see clearly, to help every being. Eat with awareness of all of the lives and hands that went into bringing your food to you.

Breathe with awareness, walk with awareness. Feel with awareness. Work with awareness.

Awareness is what? Of everything: the air, the scent in the air, the feel, the sound, the thought, the taste of life lived in interdependence with the universe. This is true 'multi-tasking.'

We see a hungry person, we offer them food. No question. We see thoughtlessness, we correct it. We see injury, we help nurse it. We see fighting, we help stop it.

We don't just say, "I believe!" and go on being a jerk, thinking our belief will save us. Belief of this sort is for cowards and dilitantes. Living in a worl…