Showing posts from December, 2010

World Healing Day

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I offered a prayer at our local World Healing Day vigil. It is the third time, I believe, I have been invited by the religious community here to do so. Various clergy were present, as well as congregational members from different faiths. It seemed the theme this year was eliminating the things that separate us. I chanted the first part of the Heart of Wisdom Sutra and offered words regarding the three poisons, their antidotes, and the process of receiving and giving in terms of healing. My heart was with those who believe borders are necessary, as I see this need as based primarily in fear.

Afterwards, at breakfast, a participant talked with me about his concern that “illegal’s” are getting resources we cannot afford. He has a point. Medical care is expensive, especially when it is done through ERs. ERs are pretty much the sole source of care for the uninsured He thought children born in the US of illegal’s parents should not be…


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

At McDonald’s this morning getting an Egg McMuffin without Canadian Bacon, an order which baffles the young man taking it. He wasn’t quite sure what to do and, in spite of searching the little keys on the register, the price kept coming up as the same as that with the bacon. This, he said, was what caused his confusion. I agreed. It seems that a corporation as large and wealthy as McDonald’s could figure out a way to have the “No Canadian Bacon” key reduce the price of the sandwich, but apparently, this is not the case. We call this greed.

One might ask, “Roshi, why eat at McDonald’s then?” I might reply, “Brilliant idea!” The trouble is, these pesky critters are everywhere and open all hours. On the road, the consistency of quality can be pretty much counted on. Whereas, the Mom and Pop operations, which do not have fancy cash registers that lock choices to a very narrow range, are not known quantities.

Eating at McDonald’s is not a good …

A Trip

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

After an early morning Zazen practice with Student Yubao, Suki enjoyed a one mile run in the desert. I was less happy with it. My training has gone to pot and there is no way I will be able to run a 5k let alone a half marathon anytime soon. So, re-grouping, I will target a date in the spring. Vowing to restart my training program on the first, I will do what I need to do to make training happen. There is a Half Marathon in El Paso the first weekend of March. Hmmm.

Last night we visited Both Sides/No Sides Sangha in El Paso whilr Rev. Kajo graciously hosted Zen 101 for us. In El Paso, we arrived just as the bell was being invited to ring. Rev. Bobby Kankin Byrd was very warm and welcoming. I offered a Dharma talk on aspects of the Genjokoan. The drive home was a challenge though. I am certainly not as young as I used to be and, even though I am often awake late, suffer from serious sleepiness after 8:00 or so. We needed to stop and rest at t…


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

This coming Saturday Clear Mind Zen Temple will offer Zazenkai to any who wishes to participate in an extended practice period. We will begin at 8:00 AM and close at 4:00 PM. Practices will include Zazen (seated meditation), Kinhin (walking meditation), Samu (work meditation). Oryoki (eating meditation), and Study. If you are interested in joining us, please let me know ASAP.

Today: Zazen at 7:00 AM, Zen 101 led by Rev. Kajo at 6:00 PM followed by Zazen at 7:00 PM. Jiisha Soku Shin and I will travel to El Paso this afternoon to join Both Sides/No Sides Sangha for their weekly evening practice.

There are three study groups offered through our Temple: Zen 101 (currently studying the Fukanzazengi) on Tuesday evenings at 6:00 PM); Zen Group (currently studying the Compass of Zen at 4:00 PM Friday), and Women in Zen (meets on Thursdays at 5:30 at our residence).

Don’t forget Tai Chi Chih, the Joy of Movement practice on Wednesday at 4:00 PM! Clic…

A Day

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning dawns as we pulled together the Zendo after a lovely, if not odd, dinner last night. The meal Soku Shin and I planned failed at the very last minute! Thanks to Soku Sin’s daring we salvaged the meal by turning spinach gnocchi into an egg frittata. And then there were the pies that did’nt get baked well enough…Still, no one seemed to notice as everyone was thoroughly enjoying themselves.

We really do enjoy having people at the Temple for a meal together. There is something about eating together that is so human and so unifying. Perhaps we will establish a meal tradition where one day a week we open the Temple to the public for breakfast and Zazen.

We also paid a visit yesterday to Rev. Kankin in El Paso at his home. It was very good to see him, again and his family, as well. Kankin is a poet of the first order with several volumes of his work in print. He took us into his poet’s office and it felt so much like home. From there w…


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning at 7:00 AM we practiced Zazen at the Temple. Student Yubao and I sat for two periods and practiced one short round of kinhin. I then went to the Veteran’s Park, but no one came to sit. From there, I went to the apartment and now am back at the Temple. I have cleaned the Zendo floor, oiled the wooden ceremonial items, and made a new practice schedule.

Work practice, or “samu” is considered a very important contemplative practice. We work with complete mindfulness. Samu is not about completing the task, but rather, its about entering the task and becoming one with it.

This is it. When polishing the floor, do it with exactly the same mindfulness as polishing the Buddha or cleaning the toilet. Samu should be a graceful practice, regardless of the task. A teacher might come by and say, “Not good enough!” To which we would bow and continue. The “not good enough” is, more often than not, not about the work itself, but rather, our atti…


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

Please indicate whether you would like to attend a Friday Discussion and Zazen tomorrow at 4:00 PM by reply.

My apologies to Member Rose for not getting back to the Temple in time for Tai Chi Chih. It seems we were delayed on business in T or C, NM. Soku Shin and I went there to meet our webmistress and re-imburse her for the new ISP service. We also shopped for statuary and found a lovely Kwan Yin for the ceremonial table. Soku Shin herself found a beautiful Medicine Buddha. On the way back to the Temple we needed gasoline and that became a techno-nightmare. Needless to say, we didn’t get into town until after 5:00.

Recently, I have begun training our evening students how to use the various instruments that are used during a service. We tend to have 3-4 people so one gets the mokugyo; one gets the large bell, one the small bell, and one, the inkin (acting as timekeeper).

It is a delight to see the ensemble at work. Students are getting the …

No Sound

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I am awake to the sounds of silence. What sounds are those? The sound of no-sound. No-sound is the sound of presence. Just this, as it is, with nothing added.

No-sound, like no-seeing or no-thinking, is a serious challenge for us and so it is core to our practice.

When we walk and we think we are walking are we walking? Is this Zen in motion? Or is Zen in motion just walking? Consider this.

When I say I am awake to the sound of silence, to no-sound, it simply means there is no I in the “I am.” “I am” is nothing more or less than a fiction derived from language. How can this be? Where is the “I” in the sudden close-by crack of thunder? Practice no-sound. Practice no-I.

Be well.

A reminder: Tai Chi Chih today at 4:00, Zazen at 7:00 PM

Morning Note

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

First, I want to thank you for your generosity of heart. It is important that our sangha finds support for itself through its members. Second, I want to invite each of you to write to me personally with your thoughts or questions or request a Skype personal interview. I am at your service.

Our online sangha is struggling right now. There is a conflict about our sangha asking for donations and the linkage between my teaching and donation. As I see it, my teaching belongs to the sangha and a sangha is composed of members. The question is what constitutes membership? In my view, the main element is a commitment to practice. The key word is commitment. A commitment is more than a word, it is an word turned into action. A commitment without action is hollow.

What sort of action? From my point of view, the very least is a communication stating one’s desire to be a member. Add to that a financial commitment (practicing generosity), a social action c…

Nothing to Attain

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

In the Heart Sutra we are told that everything is empty. Everything changes, that is, so nothing is either what it appears to be or what it is. We have no eye, ear, nose, tongue, no body, no mind and therefore there is no seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or touching, and no thinking. Yet, there they are when we look in a mirror: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. When we practice Zazen, when we enter the stillpoint, these fall away, meaning we experience truth.

In the largest context all things are not things at all. All is one, nothing is separate. This thing over against that thing is an illusion perpetrated on us by our brain. Yet, even so, when entering the stillpoint, even one is no more. For one to have any reality, there must be another, two. So, not even one is real: no wisdom and no attainment; there is nothing to attain.

This morning we practice Zazen at 9:00 AM in the Zendo. The Zendo is home to the Sangha. Please join us.



With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning was lazy. I woke with my alarm, but immediately went back to sleep. Suzuki-roshi said that he had to learn to jump out of bed as soon as his eyes opened in order to get up. I failed to jump. Consequently, I did not get to the temple and am at home working. Besides, Qwest lost Internet service at the office yesterday afternoon. Another one of those “24-48 hour” question marks as to when service will be back up. So, Suki and I went for our little business walk at a reasonable hour. And I am now cozy with my coffee and computer. Still, I need to get to the Temple, as one never knows…

Yesterday a young man walked into the Temple and wanted to tell me about his knowledge of Zen. I invited him to practice, but he really wanted to talk. His presentation of himself went from what he had read to how so many others were so judgmental, to how Buddhism changed his life and helped him turn his life around. I admire him. He came from a commun…


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,


Today we will host Zen 101, our Introduction to Zen Study Group, at 6:00 PM. We follow this with Zazen at 7:00 PM. This is a very enjoyable group as we are taking a close look at the fukanzazengi written by Master Dogen at the beginning of his career teaching in Japan. Anyone is welcome to attend, but the group is for lay people relatively new to the practice.

Our Women in Zen group is getting started soon. If you are interested, please contact Rev. Kajo at This group will be podcast, as well.

We are changing web providers for our Clear Mind Zen website soon. Be advised the site will go down for 24-48 hours when the switch happens.

We are producing a handbook for the practice of Zen in our Order. We will make it available to anyone who wishes to purchase a copy. I expect it will be in the neighborhood of $25.00 plus shipping, but as it is not yet completed, I cannot say for sure the price. If you would be i…

A Closed Society?

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

So, the morning arrives with a whisper. I shave my head and clean the razor, make the coffee and read my morning mail. It is a typical morning, but for the hour. For some reason I woke at about 2:30 AM…it might be due to the fact that I went to sleep just after dark. Hmmm, note to self, try not to do that.

I re-read that post by Naomi Wolf from Huffington. I then took a look at the Espionage Act itself and how it has been enforced, as well as some other acts. The Military Commissions Act of 2006, for example, gives the president or his appointee the power to declare anyone (including ordinary American citizens) an “enemy combatant.” I fear Naomi Wolf is onto something.

Here are her ten steps to a closed society:

10 steps that close an open society

1. invoke an internal and external threat

People who are afraid are willing to do things that they wouldn’t otherwise do.

2. establish secret (unaccountable) prisons where torture takes place

In a…

Books and Friends

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

Finally, we are completing a serious task at the Order. We have the initial version of our “Shingi” or standards for the Order collected into a book form. Rev. KoMyo and I will have a pdf version available soon. I have sent all of the sections to each priest within our Order for their review. I want to make this text available to any member of the Order, including lay members.

I also have my book, “Living Zen: A Diary of an American Zen Priest” in the process of being a print on demand text through’s company, CreateSpace. It will be available as a paperback and as a Kindle downloadable book. It is currently being copy edited by student Jill Freeman in PA., as well as by my Teacher, McGuire-roshi, who has agreed to author the preface. My partner and Jiisha, Soku Shin, is also adding her valuable insight to the text.

I will keep you apprised of the progress of these texts and let you know when, exactly, they will be available.


The Zen of...

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

When we talk about Zen, we do not talk about Zen. Zen is impossible to actually talk about. Its rather like the Dao, if it can be spoken, its not the Dao. We “talk about” rather than experience. Zen is not even to be experienced, though, as to experience it is to be it and to be it means there is no one separate from it. All of our talk should be nothing more than fingers pointing to it: we must release ourselves into it and the “it” I refer to is reality.

As Daido Loori-roshi pointed out, there are many Gates of Zen. He catalogued eight, but in fact, there are myriad gates. If our attitude is correct, anything we do is a dharma gate. My use of attitude here is similar to the one used by pilots of aircraft where attitude is four-dimensional.

To enter the gate, we must release ourselves. This release is really very simple, children do it all the time, as do adults: we all just are not aware that it is what we are doing when we are doing it.…

Monthly Dues and Dana Request

Good Morning Everyone,

We have had a very good year with lots of Temple building and Sangha building efforts. Feedback has been nothing but positive. Our sesshin fees are very, very low at $25.00 for a full weekend. I am suggesting we increase these fees to $50.00.

This is the last month of the year. For those who wish to offer dana to the Temple, please do so, we are always in need. I think it would be wonderful if those who consider themselves sangha members make a monthly pledge.

I propose the following:

Friend of the Order: $5.00 per month

Associate Member: $10.00 per month

Member: $25.00 per month.

Sustaining Member: $50.00 per month

Great Benefactor; $75:00 + per month.

Friends, Associates, and Members will pay $25.00 for sesshin/zazenkai/retreats and will be asked for $25.00 for any ordination ceremony

Sustaining Members will pay $15.00 for sesshin/zazenkai/retreats and will be asked for $15.00 for any ordination ceremony.

Great Benefactors will pay nothing for any service of…

A Voice

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

Who listens to a voice of protest when business is on the line?

Apparently nineteen countries won't. They will not attend the United Nations Nobel Awards ceremony awarding imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize “for various reasons.” Some of these refusniks, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, are supported and bolstered by the United States. Some are countries we are in bed with such as Saudi Arabia. China insists the award is political and that a “few clowns” are attempting to interfere with its judicial affairs.

Liu Xiaobo was part of the Tiananmen Square protest and was an author of a paper asking for multiparty democracy and increased human rights in China. For this, he was found guilty of inciting subversion and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Everyone and every country has the right to show its true colors. The US is hardly exempt here. Our ethical and moral reputation has been shot to hell by our recent wars and how we…

The Cold

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

The air this morning was cold and, as I walked Suki, I felt my body grow tense. Partial paralysis is a funny thing. In the winter, muscles contract and tense to the point they simply will not release. My partial paralysis of my left arm and leg makes it nearly impossible to walk. Everything becomes tight; everything clenches. I feel myself tighten against the cold. It is an emotionally and psychologically challenging experience.

I practice my own version of kinhin. I deliberately breathe out, telling my leg to open, telling my arm to relax, and telling my chest to breathe. I take a step, the tension returns. Another breath. And another. Sooner or later I get to where I am going.

This morning was no different. I relaxed the grip cold air had on my limbs and took one step, then another. Suki helped by doing her dance and pulling on my arm. Her friskiness in the cold air, and her obvious joy in it, made my struggle worthwhile.

Sometimes it tak…

Post Rohatsu Notes

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

Rohatsu sesshin concluded with a wonderful luncheon dinner at the Village Inn. If anyone has pictures of the ceremonies or of the group afterwards, please email one or two of them to me. Sesshin was attended by fourteen of us: four from the American River Sangha in Sacramento, CA., two from Both Sides/No Sides Sangha in El Paso, one from Deming, NM, and the rest from Las Cruces, NM.

Ceremonies included three Kie Sanbo Tokudo and one Jukai Tokudo: congratulations to Susan “Hakushi” Beckett (student of Priest Kajo), Heather “Kishin” Ogston (student of Priest Komyo), Kathi “Ryugin” Sorenson, and John “Shoji” Sorenson (students of Priest Daiho).

A highlight of the sesshin was a somewhat unorthodox activity. We each wrote out a commentary on our Dharma name. If we were not yet in possession of such a name, participants were asked to consider what they might think their name would be. It seemed this exercise was deeply touching and emotionally mov…


With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

Preparations are in full swing for sesshin. The California Sangha arrived safely yesterday and are now busy getting things ready. The Tenzo, who is the abbot of the Texas Sangha, will arrive in a couple of hours. It is very exciting to see so much activity at the Temple!

Today at CMZT we did Zen at Veteran’s Park at 9:00 AM followed by the samu of completing the altar platform. Afterwards, we will check the oryoki bowls sets and then prepare for our weekly Zen discussion group at 4:00 PM. Rohatsu sesshin begins at 7:00 PM. We will be sitting through the weekend until noon on Sunday. Sunday Zen service is at 9:00 AM.

I will not write to you over the weekend. May you be a blessing in the universe.

Be well.

Zazen Tonight!

With palms together

Good Morning Everyone,

Thursday morning and Rohatsu sesshin is nearly upon us. Still there are many small things to take care of. We will have a full house and it is exciting to see that happen. People are coming in from California and Texas, as well as other New Mexico cities such as Deming. I am turning sesshin over to my able assistant, Rev. KoMyo. He has a small staff to assist him. Rev. Bobby Kankin Byrd will be the Tenzo (Head Cook). Rev. Celia Kajo Villa will be the Ino (Zendo supervisor). Rev. Bonnie Bussho Hobbs will be the Head Priest’s Jiisha (Assistant). I get to be just the old teacher in the corner.

There is something very comforting in knowing that the Order has people who are trained in the various roles of temple life and who can step into these roles and do them well.

Zen is not just sitting. It is everything. How we walk. How we talk. How we treat the trash (knowing there is no trash is a first step there!). So, the various roles are important…