Showing posts from June, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning it is a delightful dark outside. The bulb in the door light has blown out and I am pleased at its passing. Darkness seems underrated, light overrated. In the darkness, we more easily access stillness. In the darkness, we more easily access ourselves. Light provides a myriad of distractions and takes our attention away that we might see what is there to see. So, a blown-out light bulb provides a respite from the light and I reside for a moment, with Suki, in the dark as she does her morning business.

Suki seems to be doing a little better. Less hacking, no blurry eyes, and her nose seems much better. I have an appointment with a veterinarian tomorrow. I am hopeful she will offer some medicines in addition to that which I am using. She has a lot of heart. Clearly, she struggles valiantly to be well.

Zen life is like that, putting one foot in front of the other aiming to complete the journey, but not really knowing what that mean…

Suki's Moment

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Life seems to test us. Life does not seem to test us. On the one hand, as our brain separates us from what life is, we can perceive it as something outside of us; testing us, embracing us, celebrating, or supporting us. On the other hand, if we realize there is nothing outside of us, that this inside/outside is just a function of our brain perception and organization and not reality, then nothing is presenting itself in any way, we are just living.

Suki is still sick. Another trip to the shelter revealed a threat to her life. The vet tech thought that maybe she had distemper. Since I do not “own” her yet, as the mandatory waiting period and spaying has not occurred, they could simply seize her and put her down. We are trying a heavier dose of drugs and a few other things. She seems to be doing well, but for the cough, and has no symptoms of distemper itself.

One way of looking at this situation is it is another loss in a row of losses. I co…


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning the air feels heavy. The rainy season is fast approaching. In the desert southwest we typically get rain, often heavy, in the afternoons each day through August and sometimes into September. It is a pleasant season overall, cooler due to the afternoon overcast sky, but the humidity rises and in can get quite uncomfortable, especially in large black robes.

Yesterday, we held our Zen discussion group and the section of the Platform Sutra we addressed was the Fifth Patriarch’s request for his students to show their understanding and the senior disciple’s poetic reply. He writes on the wall,

“The body is a bodhi tree

The mind is like a standing mirror

Always try to keep it clean

Don’t let it gather dust.”

As a corollary, I introduced a koan Student that John S and I were working on, Master Langye’s “Original Purity.” This is Case 6, from Master Dogen’s True Dharma Eye and puts forth the notion that all things appear and each of them…


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning is Street Zen at Sagecrest Park. I enjoy very much sitting under the trees at this pleasant little park. Birds do their morning dances and people walk their dogs, gathering in small pockets of the park to share stories.

Afterwards, I am going to T or C to talk with our webmaster. From there, its back to the Zendo for a Dokusan appointment followed by our weekly Zen Discussion Group at 4:00 PM. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Sesshin approaches for the second weekend of July. We have space for one additional person at this point. Confirmed registrants include Daiho, Bussho, Zen Shin, Dai Shugyo, Soku Shin, and from California, Ko Myo, Casey Cochran, and John Sorenson.

Donation for the weekend is $25.00. Meals included.

Please register now if you want to attend.

Lastly, we have availble copies of my booklet, "The Zen of Trauma" ($2.00) and the DVD short independent film, "Street Zen" ($12.00) . If you wou…


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

A morning like any other: wake, get up, and walk Suki around the building. She particularly enjoys wrapping herself around something and looking at me to see if I can solve the puzzle. Invariably, I do and she is delighted to be able to continue our walk together.

Suki is suffering from a case of Kennel Cough and we have been treating it with medicine the shelter gave us, and by using a humidifier. It is difficult to experience an animal suffer. I gave her pill this morning wrapped in peanut butter, and then sat on the floor brushing her while she licked the remains of the peanut butter from her chops.

We all need nurturance and more often than not, our best nurturance is that which we derive from nurturing others. Giving others the gift of touch or kind speech gives us the opportunity to open our heart and in so doing, our true nature has an avenue to manifest.

Caring changes everything.

Be well.

Social Action, Part Four

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone.

Social Action, Part Four

The Three Pure Precepts originate from the Dhammapada (v. 183). Here the Buddha says, “To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind -- this is the teaching of the Buddhas.” We in the Order of Clear Mind Zen argue that the impetus for social action comes directly from these. In the Mahayana tradition, cleansing one’s mind was replaced by the more socially responsible Bodhisattva vow, to bring about the awakening of all beings.

As Zen practitioners we understand the relationship between freeing one’s self and freeing all others is an intimate one. We are, in a very real sense, already free, already one. Yet, the clouds created by the Three Poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion obscure this fact. Our practice is to cut through these clouds in order to see with complete clarity: as we are already free, so are all other beings.

In Zen, we realize evil does not exist as some force independent of us.…

Social Action, Part Three

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Social Action, Part Three

Master Dogen said in his Final Instructions, “This monastery is an excellent place. We may become attached to it, but we should live in accord with temporal and worldly conditions. In the buddha-dharma any place is an excellent place for practice.”

To live away from “the world” is a marvelous thing. It enables us to go deeply inside and experience ourselves intimately as we go through the tasks of living. At our Refuge in the mountains where we lived for three years, the first two years we lived without electricity. Our lives were very slow and very deliberate. If I wanted to make biscuits for breakfast I needed to get up at 4:00 AM and get the wood cook stove going. If we wanted water in out tap, I needed to make sure we had the gravity feed tank full. Once or twice a week we would start the generator in order to accomplish tasks that required electricity, such as pumping water, charging the laptop’s batteries, et…

Social Action, Part Two

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Social Action, Part Two

What would Buddha do? Who knows? Who cares? To have such an idea is to consider an ideal, a dream, and wish to impose it on the dharma in front of our eyes. Every situation presents itself as it is and requires our direct and immediate action, even if that action is simply to consider.

How would a buddha address racism? Religious intolerance? Social and economic inequity? War? This is a slightly different question, as we are not talking about a historical person, but rather ourselves when our eyes are open. Still, it takes us in the wrong direction as it asks us to guess by imagining two thoughts: ourselves as awake, and that we are awake in some scenario we might encounter. Next, we might ask is there any such thing as religious intolerance, war, social injustice, in the first place? Or are these, as well, just ideas?

Our common sense says, “of course there is such a thing, I have seen it!” You might say, “Roshi j…

Social Action, Part One

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

The workshop went very well, although I was exhausted by afternoon. It is a considerable amount of work to organize, market, and conduct a workshop. I am not as young as I used to be  and it shows.

We had a reasonably good attendance and wonderful participation by those who did. People shared very challenging stories from their past. We sat in mindful silence, practiced deep listening meditation, eating meditation, and writing meditation. Toward the afternoon, we practiced yoga and T’ai Chi Chih. My Teacher, Hogaku-roshi acted as the summation guide.

I would like our Order to do more of these in various parts of the country. We are looking to do one in Northern California in September. Survivors of violence need a little space and recognition of their suffering.

As I listened to people speak, I heard the voices of the perpetrators through the survivor’s mouths: “I am going to f*** you and if you tell anyone, I will hunt you down.” I marv…
When not sleeping, make ink, use brush, and create a world.


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

The other day I saw a book, one of the “Left Behind” series. Good grief.

There is no one left behind.

I recall my visceral yucky feeling when I first encountered this series of books. I listened to interviews of the author. I was not a happy camper. Actually, at the time, I was quite annoyed. In the world of religion, beliefs such as those espoused by fundamentalists are the most toxic. Fundies completely and deliberately misread text, stand on that misrepresentation, and live with their eyes closed in a world of horror, which they themselves have created and want to thrust on others. I pity them.

Life is deeply and completely organic. It is total, seamless, metabolic process. The “I” that “I AM” is just “memory me”. It has no independent reality apart from the organic processes that enable it to exist. Left behind? Say what?

This reminds me of a conversation we were having at PrayerWorks this week. Someone brought up heaven, what did we …

Everyday Practice

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Practice must be disciplined in order to be of help to us. When we do things as we feel like doing them or when we think we have time to do them, we give too much power to either our feelings or external events. A disciplined spiritual practice is a practice that assists the growing of the dharma from the inside out.

This self-discipline is something we moderns do not seem to want to hear about as regards ourselves. Yet, I often hear it is discipline that is most needed among others. We all have excuses, don’t we?

We practice according to a schedule. Adherence to that schedule is important, not for the schedule, but for us. Within a schedule of practice there is, paradoxically, great freedom. It is rather like being set free on a playpen. The borders of the pen keep us together, so to speak, and on task: it is a playpen, after all. Yet within those borders we can be open and explore.

Scheduled practice is only one side of a disciplined sp…

Notes for the Day

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning a short bicycle ride to Sagecrest Park for zazen at 7:00 is followed by Tai Chi Chih class at Mountainview Regional Medical Center, and then by Prayerworks at Cyrille Kane’s residence. A break for marketing the weekend workshop will be followed by a meeting with Dalene Fuller Rogers this evening.

I feel up to this day because I got a good night’s sleep last night. Its amazing what a few hours of sleep will do!

Yesterday we took Suki to the vet as she has developed a bit of Kennel cough. A half hour wait got us a few pills and instructions to use Robitussen.  Suki is happy.

Also yesterday I saw my psychiatrist who gave me a journal with tons of articles about recent work with gunshot wounds to the head. He thinks there might be something modern medicine can do about my degenerating brain. Medicine Man, he! Still, I will look at them.

The world is a place we live in. We should be at home in it, but this means we should be taking …

Mokusho Zen, Part Six

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

There are birds. I hear them as they speak. Their sound is my sound: one. Where are they?

What a nonsensical question! In a formless field of emptiness, there is no “where”: “they” and “me” do not exist independently.

I eat my morning toast with all beings:

You eat your eggs and bacon with all beings.

Sun, moon stars, wind and rain;

Trucks, roads, refineries, sales clerks, cooks, and dishwashers;

Pigs, farmers, chickens, worms, ladybugs, ants, and bacteria;

Everything is here now with us as we enjoy this moment together.

When we practice Mokusho Zen, which is to say, living awake in the everyday, every moment world, we reside in this field free and easy, and live for the benefit of all beings.

Be well.

KRWG: Dalene Fuller Rogers and Harvey Daiho Hilbert Roshi (2010-06-11)

Mokusho Zen, Part Five

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Mokusho Zen, Part Five

This morning I woke to the calm stillness of my inner world. The field of boundless emptiness, as Hongzhi refers to it. Master Hongzhi was a 12th century Master who laid the groundwork for what is called Silent Illumination, which came to be known through Master Dogen as Shikantaza, and that I am offering as Mokusho Zen. In this field of emptiness, self has fallen away and as a result, everything is present exactly as it is.

One of the reasons I recommend waking so early is that the day has not shrunk nor has it intruded. The day is still there, but unfolding, if you will. The silence of the morning is silence of the infinite. As a quiet, but persistent presence, we see with fresh eyes, undisturbed, and clear eyes. Our heart has an opportunity to speak and be heard.

The day is not a” day.” The day can be experienced as one singular moment after another singular moment. Lived as we do in walking meditation: we breathe i…

Zazen in the Park

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning we sat at Sagecrest Park under some rather large trees. The birds were up, the bees were up, the flowers and the trees were up, it was clearly “upsy-wupsy” time. Student Dai Shugyo and I sat alone amid the torrent of morning sound.

As I sat I considered the universe. No small task, no large task either. All one need do is look deeply at the ground in front of him or her. Under the grass: ants, worms, and other small critters. Above the grass: birds, dogs, and humans. In the sky: birds, clouds, and planes. All being in place as they are, moving on the one hand, not moving on the other hand. Everything is point of view. The universe resides in the ant crawling across my foot. No need to see the Grand Canyon or Angel Falls, or the Earth from the moon: Everything is there right in front of us if we only open our eyes to see.

Zazen in a park does that. Crazy, isn’t it?
Be well

Mokusho Zen, Part Four

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Mokusho Zen, Part Four

Hongzhi was a 12th century Zen Master who formulated much of the “Silent Illumination” teachings which powerfully influenced Master Dogen. Hongzhi writes, the whole purpose of practice is to “graciously share yourself with the hundred grass tips in the busy marketplace.” He teaches us to “Stay with that, just as that. Stay with this, just as this.”
In Hongzhi’s teaching of shikantaza there are no ranks. He teaches the field is already with us, this field being Buddha Nature. As Taigen Dan Leighton adds, “Nothing is external to this luminous present mind.” (Cultivating the Empty Field: the silent illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi)

How do we experience what is already there hidden in the bushes of our mind?

Simple. We relax. We notice.

Dogen suggests we turn the light inward and take a backward step. By this, he means we open our attention to our internal world as the external world cradles it. As we sit, wal…

Mokusho Zen, Part Three

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,
Mokusho Zen, Part Three

Master Dogen writes, “If a human being, even for a single moment, manifests the Buddha’s posture in the three forms of conduct, while that person sits up straight in Samadhi, the entire world of Dharma assumes the Buddha’s posture, and the whole of space becomes the state of realization.” Bendowa, section 20

Dogen Zenji has said a mouthful with this utterance. In one broad stroke, he sets the stage for Every Moment Buddha practice. A little later in the text he says, “The practice is not confined to the sitting itself; it strikes space and resonates, (like) ringing that continues before and after a bell.”

So, what is meant by manifesting the “Buddha’s posture”?

When we gather mind, body, and environment together and reside with them as one, we are manifesting the Buddha posture. In this context, then it does not matter the “form of conduct” at all. We can be sitting, walking, or lying down. In fact, as we live i…

Mokusho Zen, Part Two

With palms together,
Good Afternoon Everyone,

Having ground some ink on a grinding stone, I am now holding my brush upright above the paper. The brush is wet and seems to anticipate. I wait and consider. Where am I? The ink I mixed with tightly pressed, circular strokes. In a moment, the brush will fall and be committed to simple, broad strokes. Zen is like this.

We enter a Zendo with deliberate and mindful steps. As we approach our cushion, our hands move from shashu to gassho. With palms pressed together, we might rest in the moment just before we bow to our cushion, that which supports our practice, and then turn and bow to the Sangha, a community which supports our practice, then we take our seat.

Where else is there to be? Wherever we go, there we are, and so the task is to be there. In the moment before taking our seat, there should arise the question of our commitment. In this moment, we draw our self together and make a decision. The brush falls to paper and we make ou…

Mokusho Zen, Part One: Shikantaza

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Mokusho Zen, Part One

Zen itself is the Way, walking its path, a delusion.

Shikantaza is not just sitting. It is “just” sitting, “just” walking, “just” eating, “just” talking, and “just” lying down. It is “just” seeing, hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, and thinking. The shikantaza of the ancients is the gateway, the beginning practice of practitioners. It was a tool to aid us in the development of every moment buddha. Somehow, we got stuck, though, and every moment buddha was left in the Zendo. The practice of shikantaza is actually an invitation to every moment practice.

The ancients thought of Shikantaza as the highest practice of Zazen. Shikantaza, which means, whole-heartedly hitting the mark while sitting, was the way Zazen was taught by Master Dogen. He learned it in China as “Silent Illumination” practice. We teach it today as Mokusho Zen, the upright practice of living with what some call “the third eye” open. It is here that …

The Way, Part Eleven

The Buddha Precepts, Part Eleven
Do not speak ill of the Three Treasures: Respect and value all aspects of the Great Way.

This precept is a sort of capping verse to the whole enchilada. All of the precepts, indeed all moral behavior, flow from non-duality, the great Oneness of Everything That Is. To speak ill of any one part takes us away from our true selves and allows evil to arise.

Old Homeless Kodo used to say, “The person who has left home must create his own life.” The Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are our refuge, they are the home we let arise when leaving home. They are our natural inherent state of being. It is said, ‘one minute Zazen, one minute Buddha; five minutes Zazen, five minutes Buddha. I say every moment Buddha

I say this because Buddha is universally present, it is only that we need open our eye to see. To speak ill of the three Treasures is to duck with closed eye under the cover of delusion and wrap ourselves in the cloak of ignorance. When we understand the Budd…

The Way, Part Ten

The Buddha Precepts, Part Ten

Do not get angry: Respect and value tranquility of heart and mind.

It is telling that the only feeling addressed in the Grave Precepts of Zen is anger. We do not vow to be happy or vow not to be sad or afraid, but we do vow not to get angry. What is this about?

Anger is a destructive feeling. It separates rather than unites. It enables us to do great harm and feel good about it in the process. Most of all, anger blinds us. Anger is one of the Buddha’s three poisons. Anger is a poison that takes away our sight, binds our reason, and kills our heart.

In Zen, we take the attitude that we create our universe through our thoughts. It is not that the universe does not exist apart from us, but what the universe is, what it means, is our creation. Our universe can be threatening and dangerous or it can be a peaceful refuge. We turn people into devils hell-bent on causing us harm one day and on another, those very same people can be our friends. The unive…

The Way, Part Nine

The Buddha Precepts, Part Nine
Do not be greedy: Respect and value generosity of the material and spiritual.

We do love our things, my things, your things, everybody’s things. No problem! Love values. Yet, when we want our things, need our things, when we cannot live without our things, big problem. This precept teaches us that the way we live with our things is relational. We live with our things by being generous with them. Looking deeply, we see our things are not our things, that we have a hand on them only briefly and that they actually are the universe. Understood in this way, generosity means letting go our grip on what we do not possess in the first place.

Greed is one of the three poisons, the Buddha taught. Greed means possessiveness, it means aggrandizement, it means wanting more and more, even at the expense of others. Greed is short sighted. It separates us from others and diminishes our capacity to see clearly our interdependence.

Greed involves both things mate…

The Way, Part Eight

Buddha Precepts, Part Eight

Do not elevate yourself by criticizing others: Respect and value yourself.

This precept is about us. When we criticize others for the sake of elevating our selves, we are actually lowering ourselves. The precept before this is about separating ourselves through gossip, it is about them and our relation to them. This precept is more about our relationship to our selves.

When in the presence of others and we see someone else doing something in a way different from how we might do it, what do we do? Internally, we tend to evaluate it as “not right.” While this is a problem for many of us, as we just cannot seem to resist either the valuation or the sharing of it. This precept goes to our intent.

We can evaluate for the sake of helping, for the sake of protecting, or for the sake of efficiency, as long as those evaluations are both necessary and sought out by the other. But when we evaluate for the sake of showing our superiority, for the sake of demo…