Showing posts from May, 2010

The Way, Part Seven

The Buddha Precepts, Part Seven.
Do not talk about other's faults: Respect and value others uniqueness.

In the Absolute world, everything is one. In such a world, there are no “faults.” In the Relative world, with each breath, each of us is born and born, and born again. Each birth is a unique event. I am looking at a cup of coffee I just brewed. It is wonderful. Does this “wonderful” make the coffee at Starbucks less so? Likewise, when I admire a pear, and I do love pears, does this make an apple less admirable? Things are what they are: in the Relative world different and unique; in the Absolute world, one.

When I talk about someone’s faults, I am in a perverted Relative world. My mind is creating a view of perfection against which it is measuring that person. In doing so, I am not living in non-duality, but rotting in judgments, diminishing us both. To what end? Does such talk make the world a better place?

This precept is about idle chatter, the mindless prattle of …

The Way, Part Six

Buddha Precepts, Part Five

Do not ingest intoxicants: Respect and value clarity of mind and health of body.

That hackneyed phrase, “garbage in, garbage out,” has abundant application in this domain of life. While this precept often is used as a basis for denying ourselves alcohol and drugs, it also applies to food, information, and all the other things we take in to ourselves. A clear mind is a mind that sees directly and does not filter sensory data through clouds of crap.

When going to a movie or watching television, we should exercise great care in what sort of material we are “ingesting.” Media presents us with the three poisons poison wrapped up very nicely. Psychologists and marketers, politicians and media executives understand this and exploit the processes involved through sensory input over extended periods.

What do we need; what do we want; how do we feel about world events: All of these are grossly and finely massaged from content to production values. Media messages …
Good Afternoon All,

A remembrance of my evening of the 28th and early morning of the 29th, 44 years ago.

25th Infantry Division

The Way, Part Five

Buddha Precepts, Part Five

Do not lie: Respect and value the truth.

Authentic being is grounded in non-duality. We present ourselves as we are, directly, honestly, and without spin. I am, for example, a monk. No more or less. I struggle to present myself as I am as that “I AM” is often clouded by “I Was” or “I Want to Be” thoughts. To present myself as I was would not be true; likewise, presenting myself as I want to be, a fiction.
Lying has to do with protection of an image, a view, of something about ourselves. Yet, paradoxically, every time we lie, we damage ourselves and that image. By lying we demonstrate or lack of faith in both ourselves and others. By lying we demonstrate we do not trust the universe.

While it is true, the truth will set us free and demonstrates our faith, it is equally true that the truth can often be used to cause harm. When approaching the truth know its effect. We live by a higher standard than “simply” telling the truth. We must also live by …

The Way, Part Four

Buddha Precepts, Part Four

No sexual misconduct: I vow to use my sexuality to enhance and nurture the lives of others

Consider this vow as it is written. How often do we understand our sexual behavior in the context of its power to enhance and nurture? It seems to me we spend an awful lot of time fretting about the morality of sex and far too little time on considering its humanizing, spiritual, and healing potential.

When we look at sexual behavior in the context of the bodhisattva path what happens? In our Zen practice, our tools are ourselves: our bodies, hearts, and minds. We vow to use ourselves for the benefit of all beings. In recognizing our human sexual nature, the question is, then, how do we use this aspect of ourselves to enhance and nurture? Our sexuality is a powerful medicine against dehumanization, alienation, isolation, and de-personalization. In Zen, we vow to use it to heal.

A few upfront observations: Just as we are eating beings, sleeping beings, or brea…

The Way, Part Three

The Buddha Precepts, Part Three
No stealing. I vow to respect the possessions of others.
No stealing goes far deeper than not taking a candy bar out of a store without paying for it. It also refers to borrowing and not returning, borrowing without asking, and not caring for the boundaries of the world around us.
This precept speaks to relational life. Respect for the possessions of others enables harmony in a community. It enables order. Moreover, in Zen, this precept is often taught as “do not take what is not offered,” which points to still another view of the point.
Respect for gift and giving is essential. Our lives are not about gain, especially gain at the cost of others, but rather, our lives are about the generosity of flow. When offered a gift, receive it with deep respect, and then pass it along.
Possessions might be thought of as brief encounters with duality. There true nature is not in their substance, but in their teaching. What does having or not having mean? …

The Way, Part Two

The Buddha Precepts, Part Two
Not Killing, I vow to respect and be kind to all forms of life.
The foundation of all precepts is our realization of non-duality. To kill others is to kill ourselves. Yet in that same absolute sense, there can be no “killing,”” as there is no “birth” or “death.” This is a koan.

We avoid taking life if at all possible. Life is precious. Each life has a right to itself and is part of the whole. We avoid killing an ant, invite the ant to be our teacher, and ask the ant to leave our home. Sometimes this is not possible and to protect and nurture our lives or the lives of others, we must take the life of that which is the threat, but only as a last possible resort and only if there are no other options. Our trouble today is that we do not think of other options and killing is presented in ways that are sterile and palatable: we reason ourselves into duality.

Shooting ourselves in our foot, we would not have trouble explaining that it hurts as we each un…

The Way, Part One

The Buddha Precepts, Part One

With Palms Together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The Buddha precepts are a way of life. This “Way” is to practice from our nature to our nature. It is exactly our nature and nothing more. The precepts, then, are not rules or commandments: they are our actual being. As such they exist outside of time and space.

We say if we meet the Buddha along the way we are to kill him and do so without hesitation. Few accomplish this as it takes deep practice and complete integration of body, speech, and mind. We seem to need our buddhas to be objects of the mind, cowards that we are. Buddhas of his sort are not buddhas. Buddhas are not ideas, concepts, thoughts, feelings, models, or gods. Buddhas of that sort come in many shapes and sizes and reside in our world under many names. Break these.

Actual Buddhas, though, are rarely seen and even more rarely understood. Actual buddha is not a thought buddha or a sound buddha or a taste or touch buddha. Actual buddha is n…

Coming Home Announcement

Coming Home: A Day for Survivors of War and Violence
Violence is a nasty business and has a way of turning lives upside down, shattering our understanding of ourselves, and making home life difficult. Returning combat veterans, and other survivors of violence, often suffer from symptoms of traumatic stress. These symptoms are normal responses to abnormal circumstances. They are uncomfortable and can be crazy-making.
Coming Home is a one-day experience for survivors suffering from the effects of violence, including post-traumatic stress, and will offer specific skills toward healing and recovery. Opportunities to learn practice skills based in the mindfulness practice of Zen will be offered and will include: Meditation, Deep Listening, Writing, Mindful Speech, Mindful Eating, and Movement Practices. Movement practices will include Yoga and T’ai Chi Chih.
Coming Home Practice is a project offered under the leadership of Zen monk, Rev. Dr. Harvey Daiho Hilbert-roshi, founder of the Or…

Self and Zen, Last Section

Here a buddha, there a buddha, everywhere a buddha buddha.
Self and Zen
Part Five
Master Dogen points out that everything is a sutra: the sky, the birds, the bees, you, me, everything. Everything is our teacher, everything the potential to act as a wake-up call. But, of course we know all this from our practice, right? And, the Wisdom Heart Sutra teaches all dharmas are empty and that there is no attainment. Being, non-being are the same. Real and unreal, true and false, gentle or aggressive, not two, but one. The real question is what is necessary to bring into being.

As we often teach, “just take the next step” or “do what is there before you to do,” we also teach, “we are born in every moment.” Each moment is a new you, subject only to your choice in that moment.

To be fresh is not easy however! The Memory Me self wants to maintain itself. It has a stake in itself. Moreover, buddha nature does not exist. Just like Memory Me, it is a concept, empty, and no more useful than hol…

Self and Zen, Part Four

With palms together,

Good Afternoon All,

Me, Me, Me…You know Its All About Me!

Self and Zen, Part Four

As we grow, contact with other beings informs us of their traces. Social organizations, schools, families, friendship, and the like, touch us and leave traces we, in turn, organize. Some of these traces we bury, cover over, or put on that proverbial back burner, etc. Our Memory Me “self,” as an aggregate, organizes itself as an executive system, judicial system, and playground and develops a mission over time to aggrandize. This mission often comes into conflict with those other memory traces such as compassion, generosity, and patience.

Our practice is to face ourselves, which becomes a giant deconstructing activity. In doing so, these aggregates of memory begin to expose themselves for what they are. Ideas make themselves known as ideas, concepts as concepts, and what was hidden opens sometimes like a flower, sometimes like a flash of lightening with thunder, and sometimes l…

Time for Eternity

Time for Eternity

When Kannon

sprang a leak (oh shit),

All hell broke loose

And mountins

Sat down and refused to walk. (Them sleepy son's a bitches...)

The dam was damned

and people


Closed their eyes

only to feel their toes

in the mud.

Good grief,

what is that popping sound?

7-up and cherry ice cream, so wa ka!

Memory Me, Part Three of Self and Zen

With palms together,

Memory Me

Part Three of Self and Zen

My “self, then, is but a memory. This memory has awareness of itself and seeks to retain itself. The I AM seeking behavior of my body is purely a function of my brain. No brain, no self, no I AM. The most important point here is that the true nature of “self” is memory. Memory is never present moment. Memory is always a reflection.

Brain and memory work together, are one, but give the illusion of separateness. Memory is trace brain activity: footsteps in the sand. Memory is self, “I” is memory’s awareness of itself. This “awareness” gives labels to what it perceives through brain as parts. In the first and last, however, no actual “parts”” exist as parts from a whole.

Memory Me, that is, my “self” develops over time and through interactions of our sense organs. This development actually affects the physical structure of our brain. Brain and memory, recall, are one, not two. Interactive processes give rise, then, to shape…

Self and Zen, Part Two

The Zen of Getting Naked or Where Did I Go?

Part Two in a series, Self and Zen

Self is an “I Am” a couplet. Subject and object in dynamic process with its environment. If we stand in front of a mirror and ask ourselves, “what’s this?” We reveal ourselves. We point to this or that: this is what I am, that is what I am. “I” am tall, short, fat, skinny, handsome, and ugly. “I” am a father, lover, monk, son, doctor, scholar, helper, soldier, friend, killer, and healer. “I” am weird, normal, and strange. I am hot, cold, passionate, or sterile. I am mad, glad, sad, or scared.

Sitting down on a cushion, I face the wall. There, in that still moment, the I AM no longer is. The sound of the ceiling fan, the birdsong, perhaps a pattern forming in the texturing of the walls, these come and go. I am this? I am that? Good zazen. Bad zazen. Short breath, shallow breath, tight chest, loose shoulders, each of these sensations, thoughts, or feelings come and go: falling away like leaves fro…


With Palms Together,
Good Morning Everyone,

A discussion on Facebook and a confluence of intersecting lines has opened me to seriously looking at this topic: Shukke. Shukke means home leaving.

Zen embraces nothing, but holds a strong, sometimes overwhelming, sense of personal responsibility for all who practice it in earnest. My responsibilities as a monk are to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha; to the work of my Order; and to my students and disciples. To use a Zen phrase, I have left family life. This is a challenge and a mystery to me, but most of all to those around me.

This Home Leaving has been going on for awhile in fits and starts and I have actually made quite a mess of it. There are few manuals on the sort of Zen priesthood I am leading. A lay priesthood, a path without borders and walls. It has been complicated by my own need to hold on to the past, to friends, and to family. It was complicated by my desire to be in relationship with everything: Judaism, Zen, Friends, Fam…

From the Ground Up

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

First, thank you Dai Shugyo and Colette for sitting with me yesterday and for watching the film, and for helping with the bookcases. (Late last night I finished the first one and built a second one: one more to go!))

Second, thank you Bobby,Kankin Byrd, for being on Skype last night. I really needed a friend to talk with.

My student, Dai Shugyo, asked yesterday if it was something priests did, this sudden going into Zazenkai. I answered yes.

We used to have a Zazenkai scheduled once a month. I still think it is a good idea, and even a better, a good practice. One thing that happens over time with contemplative practice is that we become far more in touch with the deep, rolling, tides within us. Small shifts open wide.

I notice I am becoming very much more reclusive of late. It is importabt for me to pay attention to this, honor it, and practice with it.

I believe part of it is that I am now alone and need to be alone. In this space I f…

HHeart Sutra, Last Section

Therefore know that this wisdom beyond wisdom is the greatest Dharani, the brightest Dharani, the highest Dharani, the peerless Dharani. It completely ends all suffering. Know this as truth and do not doubt. So set forth this profound wisdom Dharani. Set forth this Dharani and declare: Gone, gone, gone to the other shore, attained the other shore, to beyond the other shore, having never left.

A Dharani is a chant, a brief scripture with particular power and elegance. It is often a core teaching that, according to Kennett-roshi, can “encourage a religious attitude of mind, such as compassion, gratitude, or faith” (see Zen is Eternal Life, Kennett-roshi, 1999, p.308).

The Heart Sutra itself is a Dharani that teaches us how to live in a way that allows us to transcend suffering by asking us to look deeply into our true nature, seeing the deep interdependence of all things, and the impermanent nature of the universe. When we live in this way, there can be no suffering.

It is interest…

Heart Sutra, Part Five

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Heart Sutra, Part Five.

Indeed, there is nothing to be attained; the Bodhisattvas live this deepest wisdom with no hindrance in the mind. No hindrance, therefore no fear. Far beyond delusive thinking, they finally awaken to complete nirvana. All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas of past, present, and future, live this deepest wisdom and therefore reach the most supreme enlightenment.

Once we “arrive” at a place where we realize ourselves fully and see deeply our true nature, we recognize immediately there is, indeed, nothing to be attained. When we live our lives in this way, with this understanding, there are no hindrances. A stone is in our path; we simply step around it. A problem at work; we engage in the process of solving it. Our children are injured, we take the time and offer the love to nurture and heal them. When we are in the present moment, fully, with nothing added, then what could possibly be a hindrance?

It is when we want to be …

Heart Sutra, Part Four

With palms together,
Good Morning,

Heart Sutra, Part Four,

Hence: in emptiness, no form, no feeling, no thought, no impulse, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no seeing, no hearing, no smelling, no tasting, no touching, no thinking, no realm of sight, no realm of thought, no ignorance and no end of ignorance; no old age and death and no end to old age and death. No suffering, no craving, no extinction, no path; no wisdom, no attainment.

Shariputra, one of the Buddha’s two chief disciples, was a master at analysis and a master of the sutras. His skill at comprehension was supreme. It is interesting then, that this sutra utilizes a form of logical phrasing. In this case and at this point, we are taught that the nature of everything is oneness, a state of eternal interconnectedness. And if this is so, then the conclusion is as follows: negation. This is sort of like the approach the great Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides used to define God. We can de…

Heart Sutra, Part Three

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Heart Sutra, Part Three

O Shariputra, remember, Dharma is fundamentally emptiness no birth, no death. Nothing is pure nothing is defiled. Nothing can increase, nothing can decrease.

This fundamental “emptiness” means that nothing that exists has an independent existence. Moreover, even the teachings and reality itself is empty in the same way.

All things, all processes, all energy is subject to change and is, indeed, in constant motion with no fixed point to be experienced or understood. When viewed in this way, our understanding of the acts of birth and death as separate, independent points in time, is false.

Birth and death are named points along a continuum of processes and not as static, independent events. Each are in themselves “empty.” That which has no permanence cannot be “born” as we in the west often understand the term, nor can it die, either. When we truly integrate this understanding, making it part of …

Heart Sutra, Part Two

Heart Sutra, Part Two

O Shariputra, form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form, form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form. Feeling, thought, impulse, and consciousness are likewise like this.

This phrasing is a core teaching arising from our practice. These words are only words: take them to mean nothing at all! They are simply the words we use to describe what we experience and “attain” on the cushion, walking, eating, and/or working in everyday Zen. When we practice with our breath and are deeply here, we see clearly the impermanence of everything.

As we go through our day and notice our breath enter and leave; we experience the comings and goings of mind, feeling, body, consciousness, and so on. Nothing lasts, nothing. Yet everything is here, always.

It is important to see that both sides of this couplet are true: form is emptiness and emptiness is form. If we reside in the first half we are like the monk in the koan sitting on top …

Heart Sutra, Part One

When Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, was practicing the deepest wisdom, he clearly saw that the five aggregates are empty thus transcending distress and suffering.

Kannon, Avalokiteshvara, Kuan yin: all are names for the personification of compassion. This is the aspect of being that listens to the cries of the universe and replies with him or her self. We just don’t sit there; we are compelled to act to relieve the suffering of others. This is a key principle of Zen.

Even Bodhisattvas, awakened beings, practice zazen. This sutra teaches us that when they practice deeply and as they see into the essence of existence they see a single truth: all existence lacks a permanent foundation. All is one and all is process. Constantly changing, constantly moving.

As human beings we often miss this because of our perspective. We are often in a mental world, a dualistic world, a time-focused and time obsessed world. Self and other appear different, separate, yet, shift the perspe…

Life Unfolds

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning, awake early, I am considering my practice. I have decided stop attending the Discussion Group and Torah Study at Temple Beth El and am committing to expanding my street practice to six days a week, each beginning at 9:00 AM.

I am re-working a teaching I prepared years ago addressing Post-traumatic Stress and will use it as a foundation for offering a one-day retreat I will call, “The Zen of Trauma: Practice for Life.” Over the next few days, I will post segments of the teaching, and then place the entire piece on Clear Mind Zen’s various websites and blogs. I would like to offer the retreat in about six weeks.

Life events are often very much like a kyosaku. Something happens that, making no mistake about it, opens our eyes, and causes us to be present. I experienced a small version of this last night and spent much of the evening with myself facing myself as a result. I noticed how needy I was for distraction: I walked …


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

It is 43 degrees outside and I see evidence of the sun rising over the mountains. We will sit at Veteran’s Park at 10:00 AM, although I am thinking of placing street practice Monday through Friday at 9:00 AM beginning next week. In this way, all of our street Zen practices will begin at the same time (and place) and these will integrate with Sunday Zen Services at Mokusho Dharma Center, also beginning at 9:00 AM.

Yesterday morning I completed the filing forms and mailed them to the State in order to become a State of New Mexico Non-profit corporation and I have an appointment to look at a space this afternoon for the Dharma Center.

The space is near the Federal Building in downtown Las Cruces that will make it especially convenient for people. Disciple KoMyo in California has made us a few gifts for the new Center: a set of Taku and a Han. We will install the Han at our July sesshin.

Mokusho Dharma Center plans to offer daily zazen, per…


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Last night, my son and his fiancé came over for dinner at Mokusho Dharma Center. The condo has been transformed. It is the temporary housing of Mokusho, but is nonetheless, a practice center inside and out.

He picked up my fly whisk (hossu) and set it on his head asking if it helped. I served him Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda and he returned the whisk to its place on the altar.

My hossu was offered to me by my Master, Rev. Hogaku-roshi, at my Dharma Transmission ceremony. I have kept it close, but rarely pick it up, preferring instead the small, well worn, teaching kyosaku of Rev. Dr. Soyu Matsuoka-roshi, my Dharma Grandfather. They are each the same yet different.

Master Dogen cites as his very first koan, the case of Qingyuan’s Whisk. “Where are you from?”
“Caoxi” (the place where Hui Neng taught).
Qingyuan held up his hossu, “Do they have this in Caoxi?”

What is being held up? It is just a stick with horse hair? Is it just a sliver o…


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Zazen begins at 9:00 AM this morning and I have readied the Zendo. It is good to do this practice. It invites us to stop and sit down, shut-up and listen, and in so doing, open ourselves to the universe in the most incredible way possible: to just be present.

We still have a year of retreats and ceremonial days. This is the list. Please consider joining us.

2010 Retreat Schedule
April 2-4, Hannamatsuri Zazenkai, Both Sides/No Sides Zendo, El Paso

July 9-11, Obon Sesshin, Mokusho Dharma Center

August 5, Hiroshima/Nagasaki Memorial Day, Veteran's Park

September 3-5, Ohigan Sesshin, Mokusho Dharma Center

October 5 Bodhidharma Day, Veteran's Park

November 20, Founder’s Day, Mokusho Dharma Center

December 3-5, Rohatsu Sesshin, Mokusho Dharma Center

Be well.


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday’s morning street Zen was a challenge. We sat in the cold wind at Veteran’s Park. For some reason the flags were at half mast. Dai Shugyo and I were not prepared for the cold wind. He left after the first sit. I left in the middle of the second sit. Colette was the trooper, sitting through both.

After the first sit, we chatted a bit about the wind and cold. Dai Shugyo asked about the veteran’s retreat. Colette asked about the veteran’s retreat. I asked myself about the veteran’s retreat. I said a few words, and then could not speak. What happened?

The bell of suffering sang and I began to cry in its wake. My heart held the thousands and thousands of surviving soldiers now facing a lifetime of shit: guilt, sadness, rage, drugs, alcohol, and violence. For the sake of what?

My tears were also for myself. They arose out of the nearly inexpressible rage I have felt the need to bridle over my life. My tears were also for those I …