Zen 101

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Last night was wonderful. We had five of us in the Zendo for zazen. It was good to see zafus meeting butts. Someone asked a very basic question. Usually, these are the kind I like. The practitioner asked, “What does it mean to be “awake”? Well, I do not like this basic question. It’s rather like asking “What is Zen?”

Questions like this are really impossible to answer. As son as we say anything it is wrong. I think of lightning striking within a few yards of me: my response to that event is what I mean by being awake. Or my response to the sudden, jarring out of sleep, or the sudden dropping of a plate to the floor. All senses open and exactly present: no mind involved. To say anything about the interior world of that experience is to take us further away from the experience itself.

Then mind rushes in to fill the vacuum. Our eyes close once more, but not all the way. We cannot maintain a startled, mind-not-involved, state for very long, but we can maintain a sense of openness and wonder. We can maintain an open heart. We can be present and upright. We can practice what Uchiyama refers to as “opening the hand of thought.”

Be well

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bearing Witness

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Since this morning is a Zen in the Park day, I would like to address a reader’s question regarding our use of the phrase, “bear witness” as, for her, it has a strong “missionary” connotation.

First, let me say that often words and phrases, while initially having one meaning, can be co-opted by a group and be made to have a wholly different meaning. Sin is such a word, having one initial meaning used by Jews, only to be framed quite differently by a later group, the Christians.

Bearing witness is to offer evidence for, testify to, prove or show something. According to an on-line dictionary, it can also mean to attest, certify, manifest, or demonstrate something. In the Order of Clear Mind Zen, and I believe this is consonant with Roshi Glassman’s use as well, we use it to mean “manifest” and “demonstrate.” While sitting in a park or in some other public space, we are manifesting serene reflection and peace through our practice. We are also demonstrating the practice so that others might see how it is done.

We have a “mission” but are not “missionary” in the same sense as some Christian sects use the word. Our mission is to manifest the Three Pure Precepts through our practice, but we do not aim to attract adherents. We would like others to see that it is possible to be non-violent; it is possible to float like a duck, yet engage the world around us for the sake of an awakened existence,

Whenever we hear someone blaming a victim, we might call attention to that fact, provide a balance or counterpoint, additional information, etc. so that victims are fairly treated and perpetrators helped. If I say, for instance, that all Muslims are terrorists in their heart of hearts, you might bear witness to the fact that such a statement is prejudicial, incorrect, and even inflammatory. When I sat at the Federal Building with a small sign that simply read PEACE, I did so with my severely scared and dented skull in full view, bearing witness as to my price to pay for war.

I do not believe we who take the Bodhisattva vows can simply be Zen Center Buddhists. We have an obligation to engage the world round us, to practice what Jews call tikkun olam, repair the world, and one way to do this is through bearing witness.

Be well.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Morning came early today thanks to warring between pups. Tripper and Suki were playing tug-o-war with a rope toy when it turned ugly. Nobody was bloodied, but the growls were serious. “OUTSIDE!” I said in my most stern voice. That was 3:15. Since then the poor rope toy has been shredded. I am sipping coffee, having just enjoyed two pieces of toasted whole wheat bread with honey.

This morning at 9:00 AM, we will invite the bell to ring and we will sit with our own wrestling dogs. Zazen is sometimes like that, thoughts and feelings playing out a tug-o-war in the theater of our mind. Some of these conflicts are very difficult to “let go of” as they have a tendency to play out over and over. The trick is to get ahead of the wave. Practice teaches us to pay attention to nuance, from there, to the gentle rising of a ripple heading to full-blown wave.

Pay attention: Notice, let go; notice, let go. If the wave becomes overwhelming, surrender. Paradoxically, the wave resolves. In other words, give permission for something arguing to be, and it will lose its power. We are on the cushion to bear witness, not to change. Yet, in the act of bearing witness, everything changes.

Be well.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

My goodness, this morning I woke at a quarter after eight! For me, that is very beyond late. I think my tardiness might have something to do with the fact that we are now past the Opening and Dedication of the Temple. In addition, Saturday is my day off. Whatever the reason, it was a delicious moment to wake up to light coming in through the windows.

I am one of those individuals who feels the need to always be working. Not physical work, mind you, but the sort of work that takes place in one’s heart/mind. It’s a sort of creation thing, like an artist, I suppose. For me life is this creation process and because it is what it is, it resides in every moment. It is very difficult for me to step away from my creation. Why? This question is what I call a ‘practice point.’

It has been said that we create ourselves through our work. If this is true, then it might mean that for me to stop working is for me to stop living. More, that my very self is dependent on my work; without work, the I that is me no longer exists.

So, the problem is that the work which should be for itself becomes something in service to me. A further question arises: What am I doing what I do for? This is also a key question. In a very real way it takes me to the central question of Zen practice: the matter of life and death.

There is hindrance of the mind and there is no hindrance of the mind. When we reside in no hindrance of the mind, there is no fear as we are beyond delusive thinking: no birth, no death. When we reside in hindrance of the mind, we are residing in delusive thinking: there, we reside in fear, because there reside birth and death.

Being awake means we are fully aware of both states of being and that each depend on the other.

At this point in our practice we should let go of it all. Aware that Big Mind requires Small Mind and that Small Mind requires Big Mind is delusion itself.

At this point, we set it all aside, let it all fall away, and just breathe. There is no work; there is no not work.

At this point, there is just the light coming through the window and dogs sleeping at my feet.

Be well

Friday, August 27, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Opening and Dedication today at 4:00 PM.

This promises to be a busy day and to meet it I decided to take the night “off” last night to rest. Rev. Kajo did the evening Zen service for the Temple. This morning I spoke with Rev. Dai Shugyo and arranged for he and Zen Shin will meet at Temple at 9:00 AM for Zazen and, later, planning.

Somewhere in between Zazen and the Opening, I need to get supplies, a shower, shave my head, print handouts, and prepare the Temple for lots of visitors.

I am practicing letting go of perfection practice. In this practice, we let go of our ideas of perfection and realize perfection as it arises naturally. I recommend this practice, but it only truly opens, I believe, through adversity and stress. Like a koan, we rarely actualize it until we are at the end of our proverbial rope. Once there, we can practice letting go of perfection and then take the practice into the everyday world.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Maturity in practice is critical and it only happens with a willingness to reflect, contextualize, and let go. As my friend Rudi, from Tricycle.com says, its prajna. Frankly, I think we expect far too much of ourselves far too early in our practice. Just practice. This is all that really matters in the Zen world.

And now, on to the Temple for my day.

Be well.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

May I Help You?

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Tomorrow we offer our new Temple to all sentient beings. I am very pleased that we have established, finally, a Temple for the Order of Clear Mind Zen. Interesting things are happening. We are experiencing “drop ins” for example. This morning after zazen I was making tea and preparing to go for a short walk when the door opened and in walked a couple. The man I had met before. He works nearby. His wife, a Chinese woman, was fascinated that a Buddhist Temple was here and she just had to meet me for herself. We chatted for a few minutes and then the woman asked if she could stay and ask some questions, and of course, practice.

We sat in formal interview style. She asked, I answered as succinctly as possible. She wanted to know about Zen. She wanted to know if she were a Christian, would it be OK for her to come here. Lastly, she wanted to know how to do the practice. I offered her instruction and invited the bell to ring.

After a few minutes of Zazen, she turned and said in an exasperated voice, “I cannot concentrate!” I replied, “Yes, it is a difficult practice: Our mind is a challenging monkey.” I offered her the practice of counting breaths. At the conclusion, we talk a few moments and then she left, amazed that we didn’t charge a fee.

Zazen is, indeed, a difficult practice. Zen is not for everyone because of this fact. I sense though that she will be back. May we eah engage this challenge and from it build equanimity, understanding, and peace.

Be well

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I woke at 4:00 AM. I got the coffee going, picked up a bit, took a quick shower, and enjoyed being still. There is something about the stillness of early morning that is healing. I really benefit from such time. It’s like a recovery period.

Yesterday was a challenging day for a variety of reasons I won’t go into in detail. Suffice to say I experienced anticipation and expectation as true causes of suffering.

The advice I give to myself when feeling overwhelmed or frustrated is, a. Take a break, and b. Relax into stillness. Allowing my breath to just come and go as it does, I am able to begin to appreciate everything in view. It is mindful attention in the given moment.

Now, just now,

Be well

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Disciple Dai Shugyo and I were talking yesterday morning. He is my Ino (the Zendo Disciplinarian) and, like my Teacher, a former Marine. We were talking about the phenomenon some Buddhists refer to as “”Monkey Mind.” He indicated that we needed to train the monkey. Although a commonly held and natural suggestion, I disagree.

There was a Teacher, I think it was Shunryu Suzuki, who had the right idea. He said if you want to get in control of something, give that something space. What he meant was, we cannot control anything. Therefore, the Way is through what therapists call “paradoxical intention.” Control through release, in this case. You want the monkey to settle down? Let him run amok. Tell him, “Go ahead, you can’t settle down, impossible for you to settle down, so go! Be wild and crazy!” In this way we open the mind’s field and let the monkey run free. Monkey begins to wonder, “What’s so special about running amok?”

Zazen, in spite of common wisdom, is not about quieting the mind, but instead, it is about releasing oneself from the mind’s grip. Paradoxically, the mind settles of its own accord.

Be well.

Monday, August 23, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday evening I came to the Zendo to offer Zazen and chant a memorial service for a list member only to find the deadbolt in the front door of the Zendo was seriously stuck. So, I entered the Temple through the back door, tried to open the deadbolt from the inside to no avail. II then got out my Philip’s head and took the lock apart. I finally got the door open, but could not get the lock back together as it takes two hands.

All while this was happening, my cell phone’s mindfulness bell brought me back to the actual moment. I took the bell as an invitation to stop and breathe. That app is a delight.

So, this morning I called disciple Dai Shugyo to come and help me with the lock.

I am reminded, through all this, of one of Dirty Harry’s comments: “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” As in running, the thing about limitations is the boundaries are either constantly shifting or are permeable. So one must constantly push against them in order to first, locate them, and second. get into the best shape. It is the same in Zen: we push against the limits, sit upright, and find the absolute edge. It is there we chose to live, because it is there we find our True Nature.

Be well.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

On Teaching

With palms together,

Hello Everyone,

This morning came in fits and starts. Up and down with barking dogs: wanting out, wanting in, wanting to eat Pete-kitty. Thank goodness I fell asleep after dinner last night which allowed for an extra hour or two of sleep. I did take my disciple, Dai Shugyo’s advice, and drank a cup of hot chocolate. It helped. Since there is nothing we can control, I resolved to accept what was, dogs and all.

I have been re-reading Kennet-roshi’s famous text, “Zen is Eternal Life” and want to say that every time I read that book I gain something of useful value. While a serious and quite strict Master, Kennet-roshi was thoroughly grounded in the Buddha’s teaching. Moreover, she took on the Bodhisattva ideal from the inside out. In writing about the rise of Mahayana practice from its “Hinayana” roots, she claims, quite obviously, that the Buddha’s life itself is evidence of his manifestation of the Bodhisattva ideal.

Just there, living purely in thusness, Buddha decided to teach and cure rather than enter Nirvana. She argues with the parable of the father and three sons in a burning house, the notion that skillful means may include teaching using differing means and levels of understanding, and that this practice is not deception. We must teach to what we understand our student may accept.

Such a practice does take us on a rough ride, however. We teach form first, explore its meaning second. We practice first, explore its teaching second. We do not put the cart in front of the horse, which is where many of us sit all the while wondering why we aren’t “getting anywhere.” Moreover, a cart without a horse is as useful as a horse without a cart. Both are essential for the horse-drawn cart to manifest its function.

Teachers are given authority to teach only after considerable practice. Practice is the horse; teaching is the cart. Too often, it seems to me, those coming to Zen come in through a book, which is fine, but then they stay there. Coming to the Way through a book or magazine is a good thing, but staying there is not. Any text on Zen, if it does not admonish the reader to practice, is misleading the reader. We cannot “know” Zen in the intellectual sense. Zen must be intuited through practice. Our practice may be through rigorous koan work or silent illumination meditation.

Lastly, Zen is not a word game. Get the drift of the teacher then sit down and shut up. The true teaching comes from your practice and you cannot practice when picking at words.

Be well.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Moment to Moment

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Change is our essential nature. Everything we think we know is incorrect by the time we know it. I am surprised at how much we tend to resist this fact. Just what do we think we would do if we could hold on to something and not have it change, and thus by definition, slip away? One thing seems certain: boredom would be a prominent feature.

So, while the nature of things is change, our brain builds a picture of an aggregate and holds on tightly to that picture. It is our brain that makes something something. The red cup I am sipping my morning coffee from came from the Panda Exhibit at the Memphis Zoo. I got it on a trip to see my daughter and grandson. It is special to me. Yet, as every day passes, so does its ability to retain itself. Moreover, its meaning shifts as my daughter and I are in opposing corners waiting for the bell to ring.

We want very much to hold onto an image of something rather than the thing itself, as we know (I think intuitively) everything changes.

Our practice is a straight up, moment-to-moment, appreciation, and letting go practice. Through this practice, we come to not only see, but actualize change. In this actualization is the heart of stillness we have come to call serene reflection.

May we practice this serenity in every breath.

Be well.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Day

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Last night I came “home” to a leather sofa with a hole in its corner: Suki did it. She is now spending her days in her cage. Somehow, I need to repair that sofa. My Daughter-in-Law suggested an automotive store. She knows things like this. So, sometime today I will visit the Auto Zone.

Anyway, I got to the Temple and opened her up at 6:00 AM. Zazen at 7:00 was followed by a talk with a neighbor who is very interested in Zen. I handed him a flier and invited him to visit us for Zazen.

We just need to be here. People will come and when they do, they will expect someone to be here to listen to them and to offer them instruction.

At 10:00 AM, I will meet a friend who will help me move bookcases and possibly our futon. Then I will attend a Clergy Lunch.

I want to thank all of you who assisted us in moving into the Temple: Reba, Joe, Ken, Celia, Colette, and now Ken S. You are all bodhisattvas.

Such a wonderful life this is.

Be well.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

“Trying to find a buddha or enlightenment is like trying to grab space. Space has a name, but no form. …The buddha is a product of your mind.” So says Bodhidharma in his Bloodstream Sermon. He goes on to say, “To find a buddha, you have to see your own nature. Whoever sees his nature is a buddha.”

If you should meet someone who claims to be a buddha or enlightened, offer prayers for them, they are deluded. To see our own nature is to see emptiness and emptiness has no name. Again Bodhidharma, “If you envision a buddha, a dharma, or a bodhisattva and conceive respect for them, you relegate yourself to the realm of mortals. …The sutras say, “That which is free of all form is the buddha.””

So, then what is a buddha? Your own true nature. There is nowhere to go with that. Nothing to do with that. Nothing that can be said about that.

When we touch that impermanence, there are no words that can capture it and no words to describe it: in fact, words destroy it.

Practice and allow buddha entry into the world.

Be well.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Just Do

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Moving day has arrived. Wouldn’t you know I have a low-grade fever! It is hovering between 99 and 100 degrees F. This will offer me a lesson about going out! Yesterday at noon I went to see the film, “Inception” and actually enjoyed myself. Then I came home, worked a bit to finish another sign (this one for the entrance). Then went over to the other condo and swept it out. My Ex and I finally came to an agreement to offer them for a short sale.

We have to complete a ton of paperwork, though. We just cannot escape that side of the Relative world.

As the Ancients teach, though, just do what is in front of us to do. We should do whatever it is we are doing with care, compassion, dedication, and full attention. This is One Practice Samadhi

Therefore,, we will move today with appropriate care and presence.


Be well.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Practice Whispers

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Last night I decided to watch a little TV. I do not have “TV” myself, but my ex does and since I am house sitting/dog sitting, I decided to try it. Wasn’t much. Within ten or fifteen minutes, I was asleep.

When I woke up, I turned the thing off. It now sits there like a giant mouth desiring only to swallow those around it. I am glad I escaped if only through sleepiness.

After waking up, I was talking to my girlfriend (good grief, that sounds weird, do those in their sixties have girlfriends?) and I told her I felt bored. In retrospect, I think it is something else. I feel disengaged. I so easily fell asleep with the TV, and lately I find myself nodding off while practicing zazen. I have nearly zero desire to go out of the house. I pursue the causes of this with great effort.

The Sixth Patriarch says we should practice to speak what our heart/mind thinks; there should be no difference. “Don’t practice hypocrisy with your mind, while you talk about being straightforward with your mouth.” In Zen Group yesterday we talked about this and the sense arose that in order to practice in our way we must be fearless.

Is the issue ego, protection of self, or identity? We practice to let body and mind drop away, yet there is ego grasping to stay. When we move on, past self, there is no hindrance of the mind, no fear, or so teaches the Wisdom Sutra: Wonderful news for Shariputra, but another story for us mere mortals. The truth is we suffer to the extent that we hold on to our ideas about our self. So I ask, “who am I?” In a whisper, I hear, “No one.” Not very satisfying, but it will do.

Be well.

Friday, August 13, 2010


United Nations International Day of Peace Interfaith “Musical Celebration for Peace”. It will be held at First Presbyterian Church, 200 Boutz, on Sunday, September 19th. Round Table Discussions will be from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM. The musical celebration begins at 7:30 PM.


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

A few announcements:

We now have the key to the Temple. We plan to move the Zendo, the library/office/Dokusan room and the kitchen on Sunday Morning so there will not be services. The Temple will be operational on Monday the 16th. Internet service is scheduled for set-up on Monday, but there is a question as to whether or not there is a receptacle for the modem.

I would like us to host an Open House on Friday, August 20 from 4:00 to 7:00 PM. This will allow attendees to try a period of zazen at our evening practice period. Volunteers will be greatly appreciated.

We will have two ads a month for two months in the Las Cruces Sun. We will follow these with one a month in after that. These ads will be located in the Worship Directory.

I have prepared a rough wooden sign that will be set in the ground as soon as I can do it.

Our Friday discussion group will meet at the condo zendo today at 4:00.

The Temple will show the film, "Zen" at the "Center for Spiritual Living" in the downtown mall on Friday September 3rd from 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM. We will consider this the beginning of Ohigan Sesshin and start with an opening ceremony.

Ohigan Sesshin begins Friday the 3rd and will continue through Sunday afternoon. The first evening will be at the Center for Spiritual Living. Sesshin will continue at the Temple thereafter.

On September 21, we will participate in the United Nations International Day of Peace celebration It will be an evening of music, however, the program will open with roundtable discussions. I will moderate the group addressing the question, "What is Peace?" Last year we had approximately 400 people in attendance. We are expecting 600 this year.

Lastly, I am considering restarting a street Zen practice at the Federal building on Wednesday afternoons from 5-6:00 PM. Those who might be interested in sitting with me, please let me know.

Be Well.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What is Buddha

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Awake, I make coffee, let the dogs out, and open my notebook. Below me, under the table, I hear chewing. I check. Good grief, Suki has just chewed up a toy plastic knife! There are pieces everywhere. I pull a tidbit from her mouth and pick up the rest. It is what we do.

Student Shoji paraphrased a teaching yesterday. He said, “when everything is One, what is there to talk about?” This is a very important question as it points us in the direction of our aim. It is kindred to Dogen Zenji’s question raised in the Bendowa, if we are already enlightened, then why practice?

In Zen, our chief question is function. This function is within a context. What am I to do always depends on a context of relationship within a context of buddhahood. How am I to manifest my True Nature knowing that every act is a manifestation of that nature.

First, we must forget we are buddhas. To act with that knowledge is to act with a conceptualization of buddhahood and such an act would, as a result, be inauthentic. Second, we must act without hesitation. Form and function are one, yet not without practice. Without practice, to act “without hesitation” is to act out of self.

All of this gets us to Dogen’s teaching in the Genjo koan,

“To study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study oneself is to forget oneself. To forget oneself is to be enlightened by the myriad dharmas. To be enlightened by the myriad dharmas is to bring about the dropping away of body and mind of both oneself and others. The traces of enlightenment come to an end, and this traceless enlightenment is continued endlessly.”

Be well.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

It is 7:30 and I feel as though I am playing hooky. Condo Zendo practice has been canceled for this week. Staying at the Ex's house has truly disrupted my routine. Or should I say, changed it. I woke up this morning, made the coffee, and took care of the dogs. From there I wandered into the garage where I prepared the wood for our Zen Temple sign. I think it will only say, "Zen" on it. But in practicing yesterday, I discovered I needed a different brush. So, I water sealed the wood, cut strips with which I will frame it, and now the pieces await the brush.

Meanwhile, Trip and Suki are enjoying the yard, especially the underground "drip" system which Suki seems to want to dig up. They are both soaked.

What is the Zen of this? It is every moment practice. Noticing, doing what can be done, and letting go of the rest.

Be well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2 of 4

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Delusions are inexhaustible I vow to end them.

This morning I woke thinking I should write to you, as I have not been doing so for a few days. Life has a way of getting in the way of plans. I am at my ex’s house dog sitting. It is a bit of a challenge top be here, but I do enjoy the dogs very much and being here is giving me an opportunity to experience the changes in my life.

We move into Clear Mind Zen Temple this Sunday. I am very much looking forward to this move. I know with each move in the past I have said it will be my last, but I know better now. Everything changes. Everything.

Dharma gates are boundless I vow to enter them.

Our practice is to be with those changes as they come. Sometimes they come like little ripples. Other times, they are like tidal waves. I am beginning to think the really serious ones are the ripples. Unless we are awake, we do not experience the ripples. They are there, however, silently and gently transforming both our environment and us until one day, small is large and we cannot fail to see it. Because it is so, we were not party to the change process, but there we are, in its consequence.

Be well.

Friday, August 06, 2010


For tomorrow:

Clear Mind Zen Temple

Zazenkai Schedule

Stacking our bones upright on the flat earth, We each dig a cave in space...

Master Tendo Nyojo, Teacher of Dogen Zenji

Zazenkai is a daylong opportunity to practice Zazen. It is a period of intense introspection. We will observe Mindful Silence throughout the day. This means we ask talking of any kind be kept to an absolute minimum and should only be done when asking for or receiving instruction. Zazen periods are 25 minutes with Kinhin in between.

7:00 10:00 Opening Service: Zazen

10:00 11:00 Samu

11:00 12:00 Zazen

12:00 01:00 Oryoki

01:00 01:30 Break

01:30- 2:00 Zazen

02:00 04:00 Film and discussion

04:00- 04:30 Closing services.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Dog

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

It is 4:30 AM. I just took Suki out and am settling in to write. The morning air is delicious. I would love to sit outside to compose this message, but I am afraid Suki would be a maniac with the rabbits and birds.

Suki lives in Buddha-nature. It is direct living, living that is in actualized contact with function viz a viz the world around her. For Suki it is automatic; for human beings it must be a choice. We choose to live deliberately or not. We choose to keep our eyes shut or open then. We choose to open our heart/mind or not.

Some may argue that eyes shut or open is duality. It is. Asleep or awake is duality? Yes. Dogen Zenji says the following in the Genjo-koan: “When all dharmas are the Buddha-dharma there are delusion and enlightenment… When the myriad dharmas are all without self, there is no delusion, no realization…” Yusatani comments, “”It’s the relative position that has the absolute position as its ground. In other words it’s the relative in the midst of the absolute.” Duality and non-duality are the same, just as we in the Mahayana tradition say nirvana and samsara are the same. A whole awake to itself cannot be divided: its every facet will be awake to its wholeness.

Our practice is to live seamlessly. Thoughts and feelings, mind and heart, do not respond to the environment; they are the environment. When we practice and our body/mind falls away, the shell that seems to separate us from the universe falls away. We are water in an ocean of water, aware we are water in the ocean of water. As we come to be a wave, are we not still water in water? Even so, waves are waves and have their function. So too, we. What is wave? What is water? What was our face before our father and mother were born?

This face is no face at all. Just walk the dog.

Be well.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Last night we nearly had a full house for evening Zazen. There were four of us facing the wall. In my small Zendo, this is a considerable number. After practice, Rev. Kajo served tea and I told the story of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

It is quite a story, you know: Leaving his family, seeking a cure for suffering, finding it, then wandering around the countryside through cities and villages, practicing and teaching the Way. Recently, on my Tricycle.com’s community page, a friend and I came to be on “the same page.” This page has to do with emptiness on the one hand, and teaching on the other. He comes at things as a Daoist: that which can be spoken is not the Dao. I find him delightfully challenging, especially since I came to Zen through a Daoist POV (one of my very early online IDs was Taoist).

In my opinion, the Buddha never taught anything but method. He declined comment on the philosophic arguments of the day. His sutras are about how to practice, thus how to live, because from his POV they were the same. He was the ultimate pragmatist. While it is true that he did establish rules and guidelines for the Sangha, understand these rules are about how to live, they are not forms to be mindlessly revered or taught as dogma.

The trouble is, as forms develop they often become replacements for the aim of the forms themselves(awakening). Dogen Zenji was somewhat guilty of this, becoming quite dogmatic in his assertions regarding Zazen as practice realization. In some ways, his teaching de-mystified the enlightenment experience. He took the magic out of it. Just sit down, take up the Buddha’s posture, and there you are.

I believe this is so, as I experience its truth each moment. Yet, it takes much practice to understand what Dogen was actually saying. An unpracticed understanding misses the mark and is rather like sliding stones along the surface of the pond.

Our forms should be contemporaneous, not mindless repetitions of the past. Forms have a context, indeed they are a context, for practice. It is the practice, friends, that is the point not the derivatives.

Be well.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Last night before evening practice period, I opened all of the windows and shut off the air conditioning system. Suki enjoyed barking at every passerby and soon enough she required the blinds to be drawn. When the one student arrived for Zazen, the Zendo was in its own energy: warm, soft, and inviting,

Candlelight and incense are quite a potent combination. When our bodhi mind has been aroused, a place like a Zendo is a marvelous place to come in order to let go and manifest our true self. Each aspect of the wall in front of us opens, blooms, and begs to be filled with ideas, memories, and feelings. Yet we simply witness.

Students just coming to practice seem either lost in this open expanse or frightened. Those who are lost, seek shelter in the forms. Forms offer a container or a ground, something they can sit with. Those who are frightened seek shelter in their ideas and pick up books, books, and more books.

I steadfastly invite everyone who comes to our center to sit. Practice is the ground upon which everything is planted. Nothing grows without its soil, sun, water, and fertilizer.

Serene reflection meditation is available to you. Just put your palms together, face a wall, sit upright, and remain fully present.

Be well.,