Showing posts from November, 2011

SWAT: Just what we need to feel safe and secure

Just read this about a militarized police force who feels it was justified to spray over 70 bullets in a home, 22 hitting the target, when they knew he was an employed man annd could have arrested him at work. Enough.

Cracking Open the Heart

Good Morning Everyone,

Something happened this morning . I was writing a reply to a comment on the Tricycle blog when, as I was sharing the back-story with Soku Shin, the reply itself was lost. I felt a real sense of loss, as I know that I will not be able to re-capture the thing. It’s not the words, you see, it’s the gestalt in the moment of producing the words that cannot be re-captured. I must be careful today not to allow this loss to infiltrate my perception. To do this I am going back into the sense of it now.

The theme of the reply was to an Open Heart. Open Hearts require strength. They require authenticity of their own. To be an Open Heart I must be willing to expose my heart to the suffering, anger, and hurt of others, whether those feelings are directed elsewhere or toward me.

Open Hearts require a relentless practice. A practice that involves going inside with hammer and pick to fearlessly chip away at all the walls I have built to protect myself, while calling those wa…


Good Morning Everyone,

“Spiritual” is a word commonly associated with religous belief and practice. I often say, from my friend Claude Anshin Thomas, Zen is a disciplined spiritual practice. Often people will refer to themselves not as “religious,” but as “spiritual.” In a class I taught for several semesters at the Academy for Jewish Learning, I used a text entitled, Jewish Spirituality, and most students seemed more comfortable with this reference to themselves than as religious people. Because Zen is often not thought of as a religion, it is usually relegated to the “Eastern Philosophy” sections or the “New Age” sections in bookstores, likewise in people’s minds. Clearly, Zen is not something we can easily put in a box, thank goodness.

What does it mean when we use the term, “spiritual”? Especially when posing it as a counter-point to “religious”? Our friend, Brad Warner, goes to lengths in his books, especially, “Sex, Sin, and Zen” to distance Zen from “spirituality” altogether…

Open Heart

Good Morning Everyone,

The season is upon us. A season of introspection and manifestation of good will. Every year I hope this season’s underlying feeling will spread out like a warm and loving pool supporting each of us with compassion and generosity through the year. My sense is this is exactly what is happening, although sometimes the subtle nature of the pool is difficult to see. Let’s endeavor to bring our heart out into the open not only this year, but the next, and the next after that.

Be well.

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all

Dear Readers,

Thank you very much for visiting my blog and taking the time to read my notes.  I am deeply thankful to you as only readers make a writer a writer.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Is Buddhism a Religion?

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I would like to address the word “religion.” Religion is a word that is like an intersection with many avenues for discussion. What does it mean to be “religious”? Some say they are “spiritual” rather than “religious.” Are “spiritual” and “religious” synonymous? Are they different? In what ways? Is Buddhism (or the Buddha Way) a religion? Is it a spiritual practice?

The Oxford English Dictionary says religion is derived from Latin roots which meant “bond,” “scruple” and “reverence.” So, the first definition of religion from the OED is, “a state of life bound by religious vows, the condition of belonging to a religious order.” The second definition suggests it means “a particular religious order or rule.” The third definition (and the most challenging): “Belief in or sensing of some superhuman controlling power or powers entitled to obedience, reverence, and worship, or a system defining a code of living as a means to achieve spiritual or material…

Enough Already

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I read a piece by a professor at UC-Davis in response to the savage pepper spraying of peaceful demonstrators on campus. It was heartening to see a voice rise up, as if in the wilderness, to say, “You know what? Enough!” His point was that we are reaping the rewards of a gradual, but escalating militarization of urban police forces. Our language has been one driver of this with phrases like, “War on Drugs,” “War on Terror,” “War on Poverty.” For goodness’ sake, to listen to us, it’s all we know how to do. So when people get fed-up with the 1% getting richer and richer while crying “poor me” at every effort to balance things out a bit, and decide to say “Enough!” using one of the few methods they have, peaceful demonstration, we now see a war on demonstrators.

Here’s the thing, it seems to me that we are on the edge as a civilization, moving ever closer to a collapse. What has made it possible for the 99% to stay satisfied was the existence of sto…

On Religion

Good Morning Everyone,

As is sometimes the case, especially on a certain “Buddhist” website, my words create a bit of a irksome response. I posted my note on “Self” sometime ago. It and the follow-up note, “Blog” created a small stir. Some of us coming to Buddhism seem to think that this way will result in a state of peacefulness and serenity undisturbed by discord, words, or thoughts. Not so.

Some Masters have taught that silence is the way, that when we speak we make a big mistake. This is so in some ways, but not in others. The Buddha taught that we are not only wasting our time discussing ideas about something, but that such discussions themselves are an actual hindrance. This is so, but again, I think in a rather narrow context. When Masters say such things I think they are more often than not referring to achieving an aim of realization. When we are in a sociologically homogeneous group this is so. To get to homogeneity, however, we must discuss terms, compare and contrast pr…

The Self, part two

Good Morning Everyone,

The Self, part two,

Discussions of “the self” lead us too often in the wrong direction, the direction of the individual, as if the individual actually exists. When we practice deeply we can see that individuals are actually not individuals, but are rather aggregates of a deeply interconnected and interdependent whole. Care must be taken here, however, as even this is misleading: when we reside in the “whole” or “Universal,” the “Universal” itself is rendered meaningless.

One aim of practice, then, is to penetrate this. This is the place of “mind and body fall away.” With no mind and no body, there is no individual, but no universal either. Relative and absolute depend on each other, just as black needs white to render meaning to itself.

So, when we address “self” we should look outward from our individualistic view and attempt to see the vast, living web of complete existence. This is the true self, the self without a name, the self that existed before our fat…


Good Morning Everyone,

So, I have decided to use my blog as a true “blog” (web log), an electronic journaling device of sorts. My teaching as a priest will be offered at the Temple and online through and our Order’s Yahoogroup, “ClearMindZen.” This raises interesting questions as I will, if it is at all really possible, take off my priest’s hat as I both write entries and reply to comments. One such question is how to address morally and ethically ambiguous thoughts and feelings? Another is how much to reveal of my actual life? Still another is what to do with obnoxious, insulting, or attacking comments?

As a priest, I have an obligation to use myself as a teacher or advisor. I should try to understand and contextualize the thoughts and feelings of those addressing me no matter how crude, rude, or abrasive. I have to one degree or another been successful at this, but always have felt inauthentic in the process. It’s as if I have thought priests should not be angry or hu…

Self, part one

Good Morning Everyone,

Lately in dokusan and other venues, people are asking me about “the self.” What is “the self”? From my point of view, self is an incredibly complex tapestry in constant millisecond to millisecond development. If we were to freeze it, which we cannot, we would see billions of interactions processed from birth to the present moment from billions of sources all intersecting in the mind, which frames the whole as “self.” All perception from every sense organ in every moment throughout every contact with every object of the senses builds this “frame” we call “self.” Since we cannot “freeze” it, it is, itself, in constant transformation with both the interior environment of our mind, and the exterior environment of our perception of the universe.

This construction is so complex we cannot predict human behavior with any real degree of certainty. The most sophisticated regression analyses with thousands of variables, may yield a few degrees of explanation, leaving th…

The Measure of Things

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning we practice Zazen at 10:00 AM and again at 6:00 PM. We follow evening Zazen with Zen 101, our continuing study of the Bendowa. I am pleased. Today will be a day of practice and study. It is always good to fall deeply into study, whether it is of a book or of ourselves. In the end, both intersect and we find change is at the center of it all.

Yesterday we bought a fire pit. I tried to put it together. It had four legs which were to attach to a large metal bowl. The trouble was it was machined poorly and three of the four leg’s screw holes did not match up with the legs themselves. I spent considerable time attempting to adjust the legs this way and that, but to no avail. I suppose we will return it today, but I thought I would first ask the people at the store to try to put it together for me. But then I decided this would be cruel and, after all, the store clerks didn’t machine the thing anyway. This is happening more and more frequently it seems …


Good Morning Everyone,

There is no escaping the effects of our causes. Green houses gasses are at record highs. Capitalism’s churches of Greed and the American Way are shouting, “Let them eat cake!” as we bob in a sea of rising prices and diminishing wages. A perfect storm is brewing. There will come a time, fast approaching I suspect, when the distractions will no longer distract and the bubbles will no longer appeal and we will be left with ourselves sitting on the floor (if we have one) with nothing left to do.

May own sense is that the planet itself will cause an adjustment. If we do not stop emissions, do not stop warming the planet, the planet itself will stop us. Our planet could care less if we exist on its surface. It simply does what it does within its biophysical parameters. In the process, if there are conditions for human life, human life will exist: if there are no conditions for human life, human life will not exist.

At such moments human history suggests both scapeg…


Good Morning Everyone,

Zazenkai was a challenge yesterday. Rev. Kobusshin (Tamra) and I travelled to Anthony, NM to offer meditation training to young Peace Campers there, and while gone, Zensters at the Temple practiced Zazen, did Samu, and ate Oryoki lunch. I spent most of my Zazen time in the foyer-turned-Buddha Hall-dokusan room. While there, I heard the murmurings from the kitchen, sat through breaks, and listened to my heart speak to me.

Several folks left before the close. Intensive practice is wearing on our bodies, especially if we do not have a daily practice. One cannot expect to run 26.2 miles without having first run one, then two, then three, then five on a regular and incremental schedule. The benefits of intensive practice are enormous, however, so the building of our stamina is essential.

One of the things that “worked,” I understand, was Rev. Kobusshin’s introduction of contemplative yoga practice after lunch. We have eliminated study and writing practice periods …


Good Morning Everyone,

Today we will practice wholeheartedly throughout the day. This Zazenkai should not be any different from any other day. The life of a bodhisattva is a life of living Zazen. We live our lives in practice. This means we live in the Great Outdoors, life outside the box of filtered perception. Open your heart/mind, take a breath, and thoroughly enjoy this actual moment: it is the universe itself. Be well.


Good Morning Everyone,

(Warning: rant follows)

So, we get a call from Jerry at the Mountain Music store. He has a drum set I can buy for $250.00, “Come look at it.” We do. It is delightful. A bass drum, chain foot pedal, snare drum, floor tom, and a mounted tom. It includes a floor cymbal with stand, a hi-hat stand with cymbals, and a drummer’s seat. They are made by “Peace” percussions so “Peace” is writ large across the front of the bass. We say they are beautiful. He says, “Take them.” Adding, “Pay me when you can.”

There is something about Vietnam veterans, combat vets in particular. He says we are “brothers.” I feel this. The man was a door gunner. One of the more brutal jobs in Vietnam. I was a grunt. Brutal enough. I cannot put my finger on the what of it, but what I felt was a deep connection with someone I didn’t know, but knew a whole lot about.

Combat vets are a little loosey goosey we might say. We do not abide by manuals well, nor do we appreciate crap. It is said that…

Bodhisattvas are Everywhere

Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday for the first time in more than 40 years I picked up a pair of drum sticks. It was a moment that terrified me on the one hand and made my heart feel warm, on the other hand. It seems I used to be a drummer in my teens, but being shot in the head changes everything. Anyway, we found ourselves at Mountain Music, a small used musical instrument shop in Las Cruces. There we met a Vietnam vet named Jerry. As we walked through the pulled high drums, I pulled a pair of old, used drumsticks from a cowboy boot and clutched one in my atrophied left hand holding it firmly on a snare drum. Some old folks were jamming with guitars in a corner and I quietly kept the beat with them. Jerry must have approved as he gave me the pair of drumsticks as we began to leave the store. Maybe I will duct tape the stick into my hand. Maybe I will just do what I can. Jerry promised to find me a used drum set we could afford. Bodhisattvas of compassion are everywhere. Be well

News for 11/2/11

With respect, Good Morning Everyone,

Our water has been turned off at the temple due to our landload not paying the water bill :( So, we will not be open today. We will check on the water's status later today and let you know what's up.

We have created an online Blog Radio talkshow called "Zen Living" and our first "episode" is schduled for 1:00 PM MT. We will talk about Zen 101. The show is only 15 minutes long as we are not purchasing a "premium" account. We are setting up this show to repeat weekly at the same time. People can call in and we will send out information on Monday morning about how to do that.

Other news, we will represent our Order at a local interfaith religious conference tomorrow evening at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM in support of an effort to stop the flood of foreclosures in our area.

It was good to see everyone last night at Zen 101! Thank you so much for coming and we look forward to se…