Zen 101

Monday, May 31, 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 everyday minds. Do not do it. This precept points to a golden truth: silence is thunder.
Moreover, each of us is unique in our oneness. Each of us has value as we are from the farmer to the scientist and from the householder to the beggar. When we are criticizing our differences, we are not recognizing our value.

Let the thunder in our silence be our teacher.

Be well.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

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 tease and tickle us all the while acting as filters for our understanding so that while we think we are seeing clearly or thinking critically, we are in fact becoming near parrots of those who are the media.

Content from newspapers, books and blogs, can also be quite toxic. We often have our emotions charged over a news story, unable or unwilling to place something in a context, we experience the story, its images, and impact as raw data. Truth? No. Everything we see and hear is crafted to make a point, arouse a certain response, and masquerade as truth.

So what? Should we bury our heads in the sand? Should we listen to even more noise in order to catch the context? No and no. What we need to do is approach what we receive through our senses with great skill and mindful practice. We need to be aware of what is going on in the world, but we need that awareness to be bounded. We need to learn how to put things in context, we need to learn how to identify and sort. Most of all we need to learn how not to keep things we see, hear, and feel and instead practice with them.

The Buddha said the antidote for hate is love. The next time you find yourself watching ostensible “news” and talking heads are screaming, turn them off and heal yourself with love. Better yet, sell or give away your television. Remember, for every act of hate there are millions of acts of love. For every act of greed, there are millions of acts of generosity. For every delusion, there is a wise alternative.

So, while we should not cloud our mind with drugs and alcohol, sex and food, money and power, we should also work very hard to notice our vulnerability and protect our loving hearts.
Do not ingest intoxicants: Respect and value clarity of mind and health of body.

Be well.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

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 standard of ahimsa: do no harm. By this standard we must use wise, balanced judgment in dealing with each other.

All of his is the easy part, though, for those who face the wall. Our practice demands a view of interdependence and nurturance. Judgment arises from and is built upon this practice.
The hard part is coming to know ‘the truth’ at all. Take any class in history, philosophy, religion, art, music, etc., and you will discover the truth is intensely personal, situational, and obviously relative. Those of us who are loathe to take on the mantle of moral relativists are, by definition, living in a reality that cannot be true as it is a reality created from thoughts about what should be universal. In Zen we speak of truth then as both Absolute and Relative. The Absolute Truth is Non-duality itself, which subsumes the relative, the dualism of everyday life, and “Small Mind.”
Can we ever “know” the “Truth”? I doubt it. As a result we are all prone to live in a view of it which may not be shared by others. Our practice is to have our eyes wide open and be as authentic as possible in every life context.
Do not lie.

Be well.

Friday, May 28, 2010

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 breathing beings, we are also sexual beings. Just as killing and stealing can be disruptive to community life, sexual conduct has the power to destroy individual lives within community. Sex is at the center of much of our waking life. We spend an awful lot of time in denial about our sexual nature. We spend the rest of our time trying our best to act it out. Personally, I have little time and patience with our societal neurosis over sex. We do it or we don’t and we should not infuse sexual conduct with notions of moral purity or impurity.

Yet, in the Puritanized, sanitized, and neuroticized West, we have raised the domain of sexual conduct to inhuman heights. Sexual thoughts are often considered to be “impure” thoughts. Sex is understood as “dirty.” We fear our bodies, are loathe to look at our sexual selves, and as a result are often completely at the mercy of our impulses and feel incredibly guilty as a result. Get over it.

The litmus test is simple: am I nurturing through this behavior or am I harming through this behavior? If cases where it may be apparent that both are happening at the same time, we might ask ourselves, what produces the most good over bad for those involved? Using an absolute ethical/moral rule is not arising from prajna, but is inhuman and totally denies context.

Enjoy with due regard for the well-being of all concerned.

Be well.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

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? What does needing or wanting mean? Our response to the fact of possession is a critical teacher. We must pay attention.
Be well.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

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 understand pain as we are harmed. Likewise, to kill is to shoot ourselves in the foot, as the thought of killing arises out of the poison of a deluded mind.

Our reality is interconnection and interdependence. Matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed: everything literally, is one. Therefore, we should not think of killing, putting ourselves in the shadows of delusion. Yet, we must eat, and our very breathing, in effect, kills. But only in effect. The issue is our intention and the thoughts arising from it.

To eat, then, is not to kill. To breathe is not to kill. These are processes that when done mindfully, act as dharma gates. When we eat, we sustain ourselves, when we clean, “killing” billions of bacteria, we are cleaning and through this, supporting life. When mindful, we are in the flow of the process, in non-duality.

Choice takes on the most significance when it is considered. Choosing the buddha way is choosing life as it actually is, directly, and without separation. No killing.

Be well.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

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 not a Buddha. Awake is the real deal: it is an open heart/mind.

When we open our eyes, facing the wall, walking along the way, eating, or even laying down, we are seeing with an open heart. Seeing with an open heart means realizing heart and mind are one, on the one hand, and all hearts and all minds are one, on the other hand. From this realization arise the precepts of being.

The first is the vow not to kill. In our Order we phrase this way: Not Killing, I vow to respect and be kind to all forms of life.

Monday, May 24, 2010

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 Order of Clear Mind Zen and a disabled Combat Veteran. Daiho-roshi has worked with trauma survivors as a psychotherapist for nearly thirty years, was a consultant to the Veteran’s Administration, the Vietnam Veterans of America, and has written and published extensively on healing from the moral anguish of combat. Other facilitators include: Rev. Dalene Fulller Rogers, M. Div, is a Board Certified Expert on Traumatic Stress. Ms. Susie Citrin, RN is a Certified Yoga Instructor. Rose Alvarez-Diosdado is an Accredited Instructor of T’ai Chi Chih. Reba Montero is Senior Dharma Teacher at Clear Mind Zen Temple and is a Teacher at the Unitarian Universalist Church. Rev. Ken Hogaku McGuire-roshi is Daiho’s root teacher.
Come Home on June 19th at 9:00 AM at the Unitarian Universalist Church. There is a minimal fee of $10.00 for food catered by during this workshop, but no charge for the workshop itself. Donations will gratefully be welcomed, however. For additional information, reservation and registration, call Rev. Daiho at Clear Mind Zen, 575-680-6680 or email at sodaiho@hotmail.com. For information about Clear Mind Zen, visit clearmindzen.org

Coming Home: a Day for Survivors of War and Violence
08:30 AM Open Registration
09:00 AM Welcome
09:15 What is Wrong With Me? Absolutely Nothing! Keys to understanding trauma and our response to it. (Rev. Daiho-roshi)
10:00 Meditation Practice / Walking Meditation Practice (Rev. Daiho-roshi)
11:00 Deep Listening Practice (How to listen to heal / Mindful Speech Practice (How to speak to heal) (Rev. Dalene Fuller Rogers)
12:00 Eating Meditation: How do we nurture ourselves? (Reba Zen Shin Montero)
01:00 Seated Meditation Practice / Walking Meditation Practice (Rev. Daiho-roshi)
02:00 Writing Practice (Rev. Dalene Fuller Rogers)
03:00 Movement Practice (Yoga, Susie Citrin, RN; Ta’i Chi Chih Rose Alvarez-Diosdado)
04:00 Mindful Speech Practice (Questions, Comments, Dialogue) (Rev. Hogaku-roshi)
05:00 Close

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 holding onto a piece of paper with the truth scribbled onto it thinking, one day, boy, one day! Buddha nature is an action.

I invite you to burn this piece of paper and all others like it. I invite you to practice being present now. Practice to just breathe in and then, just breathe out. Where there is greed in your heart, offer generosity. Where there is hatred in your heart, offer love. Where there is ignorance in your heart, offer wisdom. This is a moment to moment transformative process.
All it needs is your deliberate attention.

Be well.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

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 like a deep pit.

At such a point, our understanding of ourselves presents challenges. For one, as we notice the things we are, we recoil. There often is a dissonance.

“I am not greedy.” “I am not prejudiced.” “I am not a fake.” “Oh, I hate what I have become.” “If I am nothing but a collection of self aware memories of past moments, then what is this I AM now?” “What, no now either?”

It is at this point, I sense, we either pull away from our practice or take that backward step more deeply and embrace it as the core reality of our lives. Fear is a powerful thing, however and self-awareness can be very stubborn and stingy. Our need to hold on to our self-absorbed flights of fancy is a precise practice point.

Just as we breathe in and breathe out, opening and closing and opening, so too we can let go of the “our” that is the grip on Memory Me. Fffffft!

And so, what is buddha nature and is it just as real as Memory Me?


Saturday, May 22, 2010

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. Use our brain one way, one shape develops. Use our brain in another way, another shape develops. These shapes are living, dynamic processes that have requirements for continued existence and growth.

These requirements take on a life of their own. Freud may have called them impulses. They are our “I Want” or “I Need” aspects of consciousness. Through interaction with parents, family, friends, teachers, and all other beings, we learn our requirements ar need boundaries and limits. Sometimes our needs and wants exceed the group’s expectations or norms. We are given messages that indicate we have run a red light. Our memories of these messages serve as monitors attempting to curtail our impulses. What we eventually come to call “ego” then acts as a director of operations. All three, “”I Want,” “I Shouldn’t” and “Director” are self-aware manifestations of Memory Me.

All are traces of sensory data stored in a brain that changes according to the needs of those traces. We, then, exist both because of and for the sake of these traces.

Zen practice burns away the gloss of those traces, exposes them for the transitory chimera they are, but does not deny their existence as they are. Memory Me is real and not real at once.

Memory Me has needs and like most organizations forgets its function and becomes quite self-serving. This will be the topic for tomorrow.

Friday, May 21, 2010

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 from a winter tree.
So, when, I Am? In front of the mirror? On the cushion? Naked? Dressed? When?

Perhaps the mirror is best understood as the universe around us. In this way, the “I AM” is dependent. I am nothing if not in relationship.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


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, Family, everything. These competing needs made it difficult on everyone, I think, and moreover, was confusing.

I find my Zen is strong and fully able to sustain me. I am grateful to everything that supports my practice and that enables me to walk in the way. I find myself today to be right where I need to be: dead center of the question, “What’s this?”

I put myself “out there” in such forums as Facebook, Tricycle, and YahooGroups not as a friend or to stay in touch with family members, but rather, to teach. It is what I am. Stumbling over, and through life’s processes are all a part of it. None of us gets a free pass or an instruction manual. Along the way, my mess has been yours, my friends, and my family’s. I apologize.

I wear the Buddha robe. I shave my head. I walk in my own authority.

Be well.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

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 find my heart/mind and allow it to express itself to me. Sometimes a whisper, other times a shout, this heart/mind is becoming my constant companion.

Throughout the day and night, I take a breath and open myself. Feelings and thoughts come and go, as do the bodily sensations that are a part of the everyday experience of living.

Zazenkai offers a short opportunity to pay attention longer and reside in the subtlties in such moments.

And the point? There is no point. It is said:

Spring comes

and the grass

grows by itself.

I choose to be

its witness.

Be well.

Rev. Harvey Daiho Hilbert-Roshi
Order of Clear Mind Zen
Clear Mind Zen Temple
Our Order's Store
Telephone: 575-680-6680
See Roshi's personal Calendar

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 interesting that the sutra asks us not to doubt, when the Buddha himself asks to doubt everything. The point here is not the words, my friends. Scripture is just ink on paper. It is essentially meaningless. Life is our practice and our practice is our teacher. The point is to discover its truth ourselves in our daily lives. When we set forth this Dharani, that is, walk our lives deliberately and sit on our cushions deliberately, with meaningful, purposeful and compassionate effort, keeping the teachings of this sutra as still points in our hearts, we can do nothing but be Buddhas.

When we do get to the other shore, a euphemism for awakening, we find that we were always there. There is no other shore. This shore? That shore? No matter: all shores are one. Indeed, all shores are empty.

With palms together,
Be well.


Conze, Edward, Buddhist Wisdom: The Diamond Sutra and The Heart Sutra, Vintage Press, 2001

Glassman-roshi, Bernie, The Infinite Circle: Teaching in Zen, Shambala Press, 2002

Gyatso, Tenzin (His Holiness, the Dalai Lama), Essence of the Heart Sutra, Wisdom Press, 2002

Hasegawa, Seikan, The Cave of Poison Grass: Essays on the Hannya Sutra, Great Ocean Publishers, 1975

Pine, Red, The Heart Sutra: The Womb of Buddhas, Shoemaker and Hoard, 2004

Hahn, Thich Nhat, The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra, Parallax Press, 1988

Monday, May 17, 2010

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 somewhere else, someone else, that we are dissatisfied with our present moment. This “want” is something we add to the moment taking us away from what is there right in front of us. Our lives are more projections than reality and as a result, dispair, and suffering.

When we live in the present moment, fully there, there can be no fear. Moment to moment we live. We breathe, laugh, feel, enjoy. We know from our practice that these moments are not permanent. Each will come and go. We accept this as the way things are, yet continue to live as fully as possible. Fear arises from grasping, a desire not to lose what we think we should have or what we think we cannot live without. In truth, we can live without most things really. We can live, that is what we do. As we appreciate the present moment as the entire universe, it is quite enough.

Living in this way is living nirvana. Living this way is to be a living buddha, the same as all buddhas of all time because all time and all places are here right now in this wonderful moment before us. Experiencing this is experiencing complete, unexcelled awakening.

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 define the Holy only by saying what He is not.

In emptiness there is nothing of substance. A great river flows and the water finds its way. There are no senses that last, no sense receptors that last, no objects, mental formations, nothing, not even ignorance or a lack of ignorance, that last. Indeed, it would seem that the point of our practice is to arrive at a place outside the paradigm of our usual thinking and understanding where we experience the great breath of the universe itself as our own. When we know this in every fiber of our being then there can be no suffering, no craving, no extinction.

Moreover, we are told there is no path, no wisdom, and nothing at all to attain. This is an exquisite exposition of samadhi. Just open your eyes! That is all there is to it. Open your eyes! See clearly what is right there before you. Don’t add a thing; don’t take a thing away. Just this.

Therefore, what is there to attain? We already possess everything there is. We are perfect just as we are. So, the outside and the inside are one in the same.

(For a history and good discussion of Shariputra, see “Great Disciples of the Buddha” by Nyanaponika Thera and Hellmuth Hecker, Edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi, 2003). Tags:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

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 ourselves, we move beyond birth and death, and remain untouched by them.

This is very difficult for us as we tend to see in both linear and static terms. We see things as “there.” A stone is a stone. This way of seeing arises from a relative view. If we see with an absolute view, a view of hundreds of thousands of kalpas, a stone immediately loses its independence from all other things in all times. It is just one blink in a very large and constantly changing process. In truth, we are all the component parts and pieces, energy and matter of all of existence. Right here, right now, aware of itself.

Notions of purity and defilement arise from delusion, as do notions of increase or decrease. Pure and impure are ideas on the one hand and two sides of the same coin, on the other hand. Our practice invites us to ask, “What’s this?” at each perception and therefore at each breath, as we retain beginner’s mind, we reside in realization.

We live as buddhas by embracing life with dark in one hand and light in the other. Guiding each step is our heart/mind. In such a mind, no birth, no death, no pure, no defiled, no decrease, no increase: just this.

Friday, May 14, 2010

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 of that hundred-foot pole, residing in emptiness, nihilistic and worthless. “Getting” that form is emptiness does not mean that it does not matter or that it won’t smack you upside your head. It simply means is like a river flowing, whatever the it of it is.

Emptiness is form is a statement of perfect faith. What goes, will come again. The out breath is only half of the story, as is death, as is life, as is pain, as is pleasure. Moreover, each of the aggregates is the same.

We must trust in the processes of the universe, and when we let our ego-self go, we rise and fall on the waters of form/no form, tranquil or stormy, with perfect equanimity. And we take the next step. We always take the next step. We have vowed to do so.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

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 perspective, change the paradigm, and there it is, revealed to us, our true nature.

If we were oak trees, our lifespan would be a very long event relative to that of a human being. Yet, even so, we would each still be born, grow, and die. Nothing remains forever.

To practice the deepest wisdom is to live the deepest wisdom, not just think it or even be aware of it or awake to it. The “deepest wisdom” must be us, revealed through the oneness of our actions. In doing so, we “transcend” suffering.

This is to say we still experience pain, of course, but we take care of the pain as it is and as it arises. If I cut my finger; I take care of the cut. My dog is hurt; I take care of my dog. I break a glass; I sweep it up. Nothing special, this is just the seamless activity of living and dying.

So each of the basic elements that comprise our human life: form, feeling, thought, impulse, and consciousness are also without an independent self-existence. They are “empty.” To realize this in our lives is to relieve our suffering in the deepest sense. Form comes and goes, as do feelings, as do thoughts, and so on. None of these exist independently of each other, each must have each other in order to arise and when the conditions for their existence are no longer there, they release, making room for others to arise. For us to become invested in maintaining a thought or a feeling or even our lives beyond our natural life spans or independent of each other is a sort of greed, certainly folly, and always results in suffering.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

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 a bit, took a short drive, washed clothes, and sat still. It was in that latter posture that I was able to settle down.

Our practice is this: notice, do; notice, do; notice, do. In each, we make small adjustments, take our breath to our heart, and live deeply in the moment.

Be well.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


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, personal Zen instruction, weekly Zen Services, monthly Zazenkai, and quarterly Sesshin. In addition we will offer Yoga and body shaping classes several times a week.

I am getting very excited about opening a new Dharma Center here in Las Cruces and look forward to working with you to bring about abundant peace in the world around us.

Be well.

Monday, May 03, 2010


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 of wood, sanded smooth?
Zen question, always: “”what’s this?!”
Zen answer always, to quote Master Seung Sahn, “Open mouth, big mistake!”
Later in the Case, the master says, “It’s not that I mind saying something, but I fear it will be misunderstood later.” On this point, Master Daido argues this master should be hit.
While silence is thunder, inaction in the face of need, is a grave error: no need to go somewhere to find something. The truth we need is within us always.

Be well.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


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.

Saturday, May 01, 2010


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 have harmed throughout my life because of my exposure to violence in childhood and in the service of my country.

I, we, simply must do better. Violence, the considered need for violence, and the ease with which we go to violence to resolve conflict are poisons. We are a very sick world as a result.

The Buddha taught that the antidote to such poison is compassion. I experience deep compassion for those suffering in and from violence. We have been violent together. We are complicit partners in violence. We support and nurture violence. It is part of living and dying.

Being with suffering, which is the heart of the matter, requires us to be with ourselves then. Opening our hearts to our own suffering, embracing our own weaknesses, failures of conscience, silence in the face of horror, and so on, allows us to care deeply for each other and ourselves.

Doing better means, we cease to do violence in this moment. At the same time, doing better means that we stop supporting violence. We must stop enabling a culture of violence to continue without challenge.

This is challenging as it goes against our grain. It therefore requires a sacred vow, a dedicated commitment to be diligent, and a willingness to suffer change.

Consider enacting our Three Pure Precepts:

I vow to cease doing evil.

I vow to do good.

I vow to bring about abundant good for all beings.

I invite each of you to explore within yourselves your own seeds of violence. I invite you to nurture those seeds in such a way as they become seeds of deep joy and love instead.

Be well.