Showing posts from February, 2009


With palms together, Good Morning Everyone, Namu Kie Butsu Namu Kie Ho Namu Kie So. These are the three refuges. Zen Buddhists take refuge in these. An interesting notion, actually, and not at all what is commonly thought to be the case if we look deeply at the refuges themselves. Butsu means Buddha. On the superficial level this might mean we take refuge in the model of the man who became a Buddha, or the model of the Enlightened One himself. Yet, Buddha just means awake. In the deepest sense we are taking refuge in the state of being awake, present, mindful, and so on. So, refuge does not mean setting ourselves apart from something, but being completely in it. Ho means Dharma. Dharma is sometimes thought of as "teaching". So this refuge is about going to the teaching of the Buddha to live. Hmmm. Buddha taught only to be awake. Still deeper, dharma means reality. So we are taking refuge in the real world, the non-dualistic world of the present moment. We might call this &q…

Learning Life's Lessons

With palms together, Good Morning Everyone, Despite my respiratory woes, I am awake this morning at 4:30 AM, made the coffee and tea, took some medicine, and am now enjoying some juice. Thank you to each of you for your thoughts and condolences regarding my mother's passing. She had been dying for sometime and only her will had kept her from letting go. Sometimes such a will is a good thing; others, not so good. I believe when we are hanging on out of fear it is one thing, out of appreciation for the moment's breath, quite another. Zen practice conditions us to examine such things. We experience the gamut of human emotion and thought as we sit facing the wall. We come to know in intimate detail our motives. Eventually digging out our true self and experiencing its True Nature. At this point we attain no fear. We are released to appreciation of everything, even our illnesses and life disasters. I know as I am sick I have said to My Little Honey in no uncertain terms, "…

Who We Are

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

"To study the Way is to study the self, to study the self is to let the self fall away, to let the self fall away is to be enlightened by the myriad things." or so says Master Dogen of the 13th century..

Many "myriad" commentators have had their say about what this all means. I like to look at the lat line. When we have no self we are in a position to learn. What does this mean?

Learning requires a setting aside of what we think we know. It requires the ability and skill to listen deeply. We have lost this art in our society. As we have lost the ability to hold civil discourse.

Agendas rule. Self is so very important. We seek books, classes, and news that confirms our view rather than challenge our view.

As we practice Zen, we learn this truth. We see it in operation in our mind. We have the opportunity in the practice, to cut through the strings of delusion, anger, and greed, setting us free. In this free light, in this awaken…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Zen is so peculiar.
Its like the sword brandished by Manjushri
cutting through delusion,
but also like Kannon who embraces us as we fall.

To practice Zen is to practice without meaning.

There is the Buddha, kill him!

There is the Buddha, embrace him!

When is Zen not peculiar? When we live directly, authentically, and don't call it Zen.
When we see a rose and really see the rose itself.
When we meet a person and see that person for himself, as he is.

But also, when the alarm rings we get up.
When its time to eat, we eat.
When we have a problem to address, we address it.

Each moment an invitation to open.
Each moment an opportunity to undress.
As the kabbalists say, 'rung upon rung!'

Going nowhere we are not already.

Be well.

We Are Not Alone

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

We sat last night, a small group, in a very large sanctuary, bringing light into the world. I say this because we don't sit zazen for ourselves, but for all beings. As we open our eyes we see for all beings, as we take a step, we step for all beings, as we bow to our cushions, we bow for all beings. The entire universe sat in that small sanctuary last night.

Attaining this mind means some very important things. As we are one, we are all. Every action is a reflection of this oneness. To think, "I alone am responsible" is always incorrect. There is never a moment when we are alone and solely responsible. Our fathers and mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, generations of generations are with us here and now in our genes, our breath, our very touch. So too our friends and enemies, our coaches and critics: generations of generations, here, now, in this breath. How can we ever be alone?

To take a step is auspicious. Therefore, be m…

When Dogs Fly

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The morning sun has already risen over the mountains and its glaring light is blasting through our windows. Then, in the blink, cool shade. It is going to be a cloudy day here.
Or a sunny day. It depends on when your eyes are open.

Life is like that.

If our eyes are closed our world is self constructed in darkness. Imagination takes us to places unreal, chimera.

If our eyes are open and we do not see clearly, its something else again. We see our own creation, assign meaning to it, attach to it and suffer through it.

If our eyes are open and we see clearly, our reality is as it is...or as Suzuki-roshi was fond of saying, we see "things as it is". In this "state" (which is no state at all), A bird is a bird and a dog is a dog. No problem.

As the kabbalists say, though, come and see...

We say a dog is a dog and a bird is a bird. We say on the one hand they are the same, buddha nature, empty, and so on. Yet there they are, one ba…

Keep Yours Close

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Having a Teflon mind is not always such a good thing. We teach ourselves not to grasp onto things, especially desires or material things, but some things are important to keep nearby, not in front of your nose mind you, but nearby.

One such thing is our love for and relationships with people.

People are the conduits for our energy flow, people are part of our whole. Relationships with friends and family allow for this flow in the least constricted fashion, keeping in mind, of course, a degree of respect and ettitquette (the forms we sometimes use as transfer and control mechanisms of our emotional energy).

Currently I have several friends who are suffering. I am still dealing with my own illness. Yet, as friends, we call on each other, rely on each other, and support each other. The result is far less suffering, free flow of our love and compassion for each other, and a clear sense of belonging.

When we reside behind self-built walls erected…

Another Flip of the Coin With No Sides

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

In Zen, we often will say something is so, then say it is not so. Some call this paradox. Some call it hooey. We would be mistaken if we thought it were "deep" or anything like that.
Master Seung Sahn happily points this out with his typical question, "are they the same or different?" Whack! to any thoughtful answer.

Someone on the Zen Living list writes: "I thought they were never "unwell" - they are just as they are."

In one post I say I am ill. In another I suggest illness does not exist. In still another I sign, "Be well". Very confusing, no?

Even more so: there is never a time when a non-moving mind is sick, well, happy, sad and never a time when a non-moving mind is not sick, well, happy, sad.

A non-moving mind is just mind experiencing mind or what Uchiyama-roshi calls the self becoming the self.
No thinking!

No making dreams, fantasies, expectations, desires at the cost of just being.


Note regards my absence

With palms together,

I have not been well. I am just on the mend from pneumonia and will begin blogging soon.

Be well.

Mystic is as Mystic Does

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Last night at Temple Beth El, after two periods of seated meditation where I silently recited the Heart Sutra, the Sh'ma, and the Elohai N'Shama, I talked about emptiness and nothingness from a Jewish mystical point of view. The Wisdom Heart Sutra directly addresses compassion and understanding doing the twist on the head of deep samadhi. The Sh'ma declares God is One. The Elohai N'Shamah thanks God for creating a pure soul. Many words: one existence. My head dances at times.

From One comes everything. The kabbalists say God pulled Himself together creating a huge void, then created the universe to fill it. He created it with His words, that is, His breath sounds. Imbuing everything with His presence. We hold up a mirror, there is God.

The Sefirot are a sort of map of this image, detailing the attributes of God with human terms. There are ten of these, but I will only mention a few: On the top is Keter, the crown, understo…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

There is a slate sky becoming light blue outside my house. I study these things. Ever since Vietnam I have had a near obsession with morning light. The nights were so dark and dangerous there and the light of morning bathed me with a sense of hope. Yet, I also feel drawn to the night: soft, hidden. A time when our ears turn from human sound to nature's sound.

So, now it is later in the morning. Zazen is done. Yoga is done. And the house is clean.

Livvie, our granddaughter, is with us this morning. She is not well and had to stay home from daycare. So, I made us all pancakes and sent her to play on the organ. she loves to put on a recorded tune and either "play" along or dance to it.

Three year olds are so interested and expressive!

Anyway, I am not sure how to wrap this note into a spiritual practice other than to say its often enlightenment itself to be with children.

Be well.


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I woke feeling better than I did when I went to bed. Always nice. Our robot went to cleaning; I dusted, made coffee and tea, did the dishes, and picked things up a bit. Order is an important trait.

In Zen, as we enter a Zendo, we remove our shoes, place palms together and bow. We step in on our right foot. We walk in slow, measured steps. We bow to our cushion, bow to the room, take our seat. As the priest enters he or she goes through a set of motions, all prescribed, all measured. Order. We place palms together facing the wall and bow when the bell is offered. We sit in silence and with great concentration. The bell rings, we relax. Order.

Life is a process that has its own order. Sometimes it is hidden, sometimes it is as plain as the nose on our face. Sometimes gentle, sometimes stormy, but know this: there is no stormy, no gentle: we create these in our mind. Become one with the storm, no storm. Become one with gentl…