Zen 101

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Good Morning All,

This morning I would like to talk about the coming year. I have posted the retreat schedule on the Clear Mind Zen website. We have made some adjustments to our retreat schedules to accommodate to our Sangha’s needs. All of our intensives will begin at 8:00 AM and close at 5:00 PM. These will be either one day or five day retreats and oryoki lunch is included. We will ask for $15.00 per day as a donation to assist us in covering our expenses and we ask that these be offered in advance.

Private interviews are to be conducted either at my residence or at the Zendo. My Jiisha, Rev. Soku Shin will be responsible for scheduling private interviews with me. Her email address is kathrynmasaryk@yahoo.com. Dana to the teacher is part of our practice of generosity and is greatly appreciated. A bowl is provided.

As this year unfolds I will be focusing much of my attention on my own engaged practice. I have asked Rev. Dai Shugyo to help create a file of practice opportunities, contact information, and so forth for your reference so that you each might find something to do to help make a difference in the world.

I will likely be writing much less as my art seems to be eclipsing writing as my voice. Although I do expect to write some fiction or plays and perhaps some poetry, I will leave most of my teaching to my time in the Zendo and in private interviews.

Lastly, I want to thank each and every one of you for your practice and continued support of our small Sangha. 2012 will be my 65th year alive and I very much look forward to living it as fully with you as possible.

Our practice is our foundation. Let us maintain it, treasure it, and nurture it.

Be well.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011



The Buddha once said, “Let us rise up and be thankful for if we didn’t learn a lot today at least we learned a little. And if we didn’t learn a little at least we didn’t get sick, and if we didn’t get sick, at least we didn’t die; so let us all be thankful.”

Just as the Buddha, we often associate gratitude with thankfulness. The word gratitude comes from the Latin, gratis, which interestingly enough, means pleasing. I know when I am aware of feeling gratitude, it feels warm and fuzzy inside. I feel it in my chest and face. It is feeling as though I have been given a warm blanket against a cold night. It is, indeed, pleasing.

Studies of gratitude suggest that with an increase in our sense of gratitude comes an increase in our sense of well-being. Gratitude has been associated with improved mental health, improved personal relationships, increased personal growth and positive self-acceptance.

Having a sense of gratitude means that we have been open to receiving a gift. More, that we are in fact aware of having received a gift in the first place. So often we are not in touch; so often we do not notice. Because it is a treasure to feel gratitude, then, we might make noticing the gifts in our lives a daily practice. Some have suggested a “Gratitude Journal” as a way of accomplishing this. I know from my own experience, I tend to do that which I make note.

When we do feel gratitude we tend to feel a certain indebtedness or obligation to those whom we are thankful. It’s not that we are indeed obligated, its more that when we are on the receiving end of someone’s generosity, our hearts have been opened. As a result are able to express our own generous nature, a human quality we Buddhist call a “paramita” or “perfection.”

May we each be a blessing in the universe today,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Unification Rag

Good Morning All,

Last night was an exercise in practice. I had been working on a new painting and almost had it when I just could not go on… Kathryn and I did what we do and finally went to bed. All of a sudden at 2:30 AM, Suki and Binky were jumping up and down wanting desperately to go out. So, out we went. Cold and wet and dark they were in 7th Puppy Heaven. I, on the other hand, was in the Hell Realms.

After they did what they do, we came in and slipped into the studio where my work was waiting. A stroke here, a stroke there and the painting was painting itself. Meanwhile Suki and Binky were sound asleep on the sofa. So it goes.

At 7:30 we are now up, it is late, I finished the painting, am sipping my coffee, and am about to take the Pups out for a walk before going to the Zendo. Such is life. Hell and Heaven are simply the names we give to the relationships before us. When opposed to it: hell. When entering it: heaven. May we all practice the unification rag.

Be well.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Big Brother Actually Wears A Smiley Face

Good Morning All,

Big Brother Actually Wears A Smiley Face

If I were a member of the elite, I would not want to make sweeping changes to meet my needs, nor would I make changes dark and frightening. I would make them slow and nearly imperceptible, a little at a time, and always with your best interests on my face. I would make my needs your needs. I would make your fears my fears.

You might then say, “Oh, it’s not so bad.” Or you might defend me saying, “We really need to protect ourselves from ‘X’ so if we do ‘Y’ it won’t be as bad as ‘Z’.” Yes, and I would frame all the tiny little ‘Ys’ as nearly harmless and put little happy faces on them all. Much like using Happy Meals® with toys to make fast food not only OK, but downright desirable and affordable.

Yes, if I were an elite, I would be smiling pretty broadly as I go to the bank with bags of money noticing how everyone seems to be thinking maybe sometime it will be their turn to do the same, all the while knowing I have imperceptibly created conditions making this nearly impossible. All the while helping everyone else feel I am the champion of their moral point of view. Even God will be on our side.

We are all equal, right? And, as Mr. Orwell once had it, some animals are more equal than others. Oh, and any attempt to change the hierarchy will be considered treason and the best part? Most of you will happily agree with me.

Be well

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Brad Warner

Good Morning All,

We are excited! Brad Warner has agreed to come to Las Cruces to spend some time with us. I spoke with him the other day and we agreed he will do a talk in El Paso, Deming, and Las Cruces. We will host him at our residence. The dates are March 9th through the 11th.

For those uniformed, Brad Warner received dharma transmission from Nishijima roshi in Japan while he lived, studied, and worked there. Brad has written four books: Hardcore Zen, Sit Down and Shut Up, Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate, and Sin, Sex, and Zen. He has also edited with Nishijima-roshi a translation and commentary of the Fundamental Wisdom of the Way by Nagarjuna. He hosts the blog, Hardcore Zen, and is featured in an interview in this month’s Tricycle magazine. Brad is always refreshing.

We would like this visit to be a practice driven event and not just a public talk. So, each center, we are asking that we coordinate a practice period with a dharma talk by Brad Warner. In addition, we will offer a public presentation in each of the three cities, so look for possible venues.

Our hope is that the various centers in our area will assist us in defraying the costs arising from this effort.

We will, of course, be happy to receive any financial support you may be able to offer. We have agreed to fly him here from Akron, host him, and return him intact with Dana in hand.

I look forward to hearing from you. Be well.

Post Script

It is with a relief that I report our friend Gene survived his brain surgery yesterday. We had sat Zazen for several hours and chanted the Great Compassionate Dharani, the Kannon Sutra, the Life Span of the Tathagata, and the Heart of Wisdom Sutra, as part of our vigil. It is a good thing for a small community to come together in mutual support of each other. Our best to Gene and his wife Anna as they work together to live deeply in the days to come. To paraphrase an old teaching, “life is short, don’t waste time!”

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Good Morning All,

This morning I am ashamed to say that I lost my patience with someone on the Tricycle Community last night. I spent a good deal of time after I deleted both his and my comments thinking about what had happened. My conclusion is that I didn’t exercise good judgment and that I let the fever of concern regarding the political issues of the day cloud my heart/mind. In the end, the man referred to me as a “pathetic old man.” This sort of stuck. I rather think he was right-on.

In any event, I happened to have a review copy of a new book sent to me by Tarcher/Penguin entitled, “Patience: the Art of Peaceful Living,” by Allan Lokos.($14.95, paperback). So, I began reading. The book is an excellent study on the practice of patience, something I am apparently not as good at as I had assumed.

Lokos says, “…the development of genuine patience requires introspection over time so that we can come to the root causes of our impatience” (p. 21). Yes, agreed. So, I began to consider this as I both, sat at my desk, and stood glaring at my easel (which had a fresh canvas on it). Earlier in the text Lokos points out the connection between anger and impatience citing none other than Shantideva, the 8th century Buddhist teacher. And I was angry.

The thing is, I seem to expect so much of people and when my expectations aren’t met or when people are thoughtless or rude, I go to that place I went as a young soldier. I remind myself then of the Arlo Guthrie rant in Alice’s Restaurant, “I wanna kill…” So, here I am, an old fart, some sort of Zen teacher, and off I go. Ridiculous.

The good news is, I do in fact catch my errant self in short order and bring myself back to a degree of equanimity. The bad news is, once the anger cat is out of the bag, its out.

I think though, this is a good thing as we are each human beings and as such we must notice that we are easily caught in our own crap. How would we know if we were full of it if we didn’t let it out from time to time?

Be well.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Sand

Good Morning Y'all,

It is 0'Dark-Thirty here in New Mexico and we are awake sipping coffee and reading the news. I see that our Senate passed legislation allowing the US Military to arrest and indefinately detain US citizens without trial. Is it time to pull our heads out of ther friggin' sand yet?

I wrote a letter to our President and to my senator for all the good it will do. There is just something wrong with this legislatiuon and the irony is it was signed on the annual celebration of the signing of the Bill of Rights to our Constitution.

Here's the thing, suppose we gave another war. Suppose we are in severe economoc hardship. Lots of people out of work with little real hope. Suppose we have a population who cannot read much more than the instructions on how to operate a video game or turn on a big screen TV and who is mesmerized by the fundies in Black & White Churches who support capitalism to the brink. But their congregants can no longer afford to shop even at Wal-Mart. Now, suppose there are a few of us who really are unhappy with having another war. So we demonstrate at military bases, in front of federal buildings, etc. Now suppose Fox News decides to call us terrorists. In dark times without the benefit of civil rights protections seriously bad things can happen. It doesn't take long for fear to whip things into motion and out of control.

I fear for us as our world begins to crumble and governments respond by strengthening the powers of the military. It is exactly the wrong way to go.

Please write to president Obama and ask him not to sign this legislation.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Self: is it real?

With respect to all,

a preliminary exploration:

I have heard Buddhists argue there is no “self.” They argue that mental activity and the constructs derived thereby are an "illusion.” Not so. They confuse the Sanskrit Anatman, translated as “no-self” with no self, as is understood in contemporary English, but in fact these are two different things. The Buddha’s teaching on Anatman was directed at dispelling the idea that there was an independent “self,” or “soul” that might transmigrate. It was the springboard for his discussions of dependent co-arising, that frame that says everything is deeply interconnected and inter-dependent. He also tried to separate the material from the ideal, which is to say that our idea of something is our idea of something and that we ought not confuse the idea of something with the thing itself. But to say this does not deny the existence of the idea, only that idea and material are separate. So, if we say the self is an aggregate and it is impermanent, we are not saying it has no existence unless we are most narrowly defining “existence” as being in the realm of the material alone. To say that nothing exists independently, does not mean that an aggregate does not exist. Just so, to say that something is impermanent does not mean that it does not exist, only that its existence is in a constant state of change.

Just as energy can be measured, but has no form, so too, mental activity, thoughts, feelings, and, yes, the self has no form, but can be measured.

On an empirical level, thoughts and feelings exist as electro-chemical phenomena and can be mapped on brain scans. Just like we cannot see electricity, but can still feel its effects, so too, this aggregate we call the “self” as a construct has depth and can be grounded by empirical referents.

An illusion is, according to the OED, “the action of deceiving…an act of deception.” We tend to think that because something is not material it is not real, so we lead ourselves to believe that because thoughts, and the resultantant constructs of thoughts, are not material, they do not exist. This is a deception. We cannot see electricity. We do not even know what it actually is, but we would be deceiving ourselves if we thought that it did not exist as a result. Just stick your finger in an exposed light socket with current flowing. While I do not recommend this test, you will be shocked to find out that this immaterial, invisible, impermanent energy exists. Just so, the pain of someone saying something hurtful about us is no deception. We can measure its effects on our self esteem and self concept. So, while it has no material form, it does exist as a construct of thought and has a very real impact upon us.


There are people who when reading about Zen make the mistake of believing “emptiness” is “empty,” as a cup without coffee might be “empty.” This is an error. Empty is the English word chosen for some very strange reason to translate “shunyata.” From the Sanskrit sunya, shunyata has three levels of meaning which focus on appearance, impermanence, and according to Conze, liberation from the world around us. The basic thrust is that when we practice we begin to see all things manifest in relation to all other things and that nothing has an independent existence separate from other things. To be “empty” something, therefore, must be, even if it is an aggregate and constantly changing.


This is the crux of the matter. When we see through the veil of delusion to the essential non-dualistic reality of all existence, we realize just how powerful the Buddha’s teaching on the cause of suffering is. He saw that our insidious, ubiquitous, and subtle grasping is at the root of all of our suffering. How can we hold tight to the flowing stream? How can we wish with all of our might that our loved ones will not get sick or die? The essential nature of everything is twofold: it is inseparable from everything else and it is always changing. So, while we have a self, as does our loved ones, these manifestations are conditioned and are constantly changing. Attempting to hold someone or something in a form that is static and unchanging is derived from a poison we call greed.

The wonderful aspect of this is that we are all the same stuff. With practice we find that it is the operation of our mind and linguistic necessity, that create the conditions that separate us and cause us much suffering. Once we pierce this veil and see our true nature, words like you and me, we, us, them, are understood from a different starting point, the starting point of the Absolute.

If I am ocean, and a wave is formed from me, until that wave realizes its true home it will fear the shore. But once it realizes it is ocean, what is left to fear? Once this is realized, however, waves will talk to waves, they will need the convention of a language that is dualistic and deceptive. It is our practice, friends, that helps us maintain the clarity.

Be well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Outside Lessons

Good Morning All,

The sky is gray, overcast with wet clouds hung low and the air is cold and damp. I do not really want to go outside, but the dogs think otherwise. For them, weather is never really a factor (other than snow, which they initially love, but which quickly turns to serious discomfort as their feet get cold). Rain and damp mist? No problem! The scents abound for their noses to enjoy. What do they care if the humans they are walking are miserable as they follow along behind them? So, in a little bit we will tether them to our hands and go out the door for them to play. Oh joy.

I am happy that we have our dogs, Suki and Binky. They demand that we live. Their walks are important to them and to us as they force us to get a grip, get dressed, and go out even if we don’t feel like it or that it might be unpleasant to do so. And, you know what? it is almost always a very good thing. Along the way we begin to feel better, more alive, more awake, more….present in the actual world. As Zen practitioners, however, we do not have something demanding that we get our butts to the Zendo to practice. This has to come from within each of us. The arousal of the thought of enlightenment just isn’t enough in today’s world.

This is unfortunate as our practice enables us to live more full and joyful lives. It allows us to shed the weight of our thoughts and feelings and helps us get in touch with the truth of our existence. Almost always, I feel better, stronger, more alert, more peaceful, and more engaged with the world when I practice Zazen. I am always happier with myself for getting past the negative thinking about going out in the cold to get to the Zendo to practice, just as I feel better after having walked the dogs.

Today and through Friday we will practice at 10:00 AM. Thursday we will also practice at 6:00 PM and on Sunday at 10:00 AM. We hope to see you there. Be well.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


I shave my head that I may

See how by freeing

Myself from attachments

I am released from suffering.

Thus I begin this morning's activity at 4:00 AM.

Next is washing my face, then brushing my teeth, then putting on my robe, then taking my seat in the Zendo. Of course there are a variety of other chants and practices done before, during, and after each of these, but in the main, mine is a simple, straightforward life of coming to attention.

This is Rohatsu and I take it very seriously. It is the culmination of my year of practice and I dedicate myself to doing it with great diligence.

In our tradition, we just sit. But this "just sitting" is not at all about simply folding one's legs and facing a wall. It is far more than that. Just sitting is all encompasing, pervasive, and foundational Buddha Nature made manifest through our relentless activity of just sitting. It is, as Master Dogen refers to it, jijuyu zanmai, the self creating and living out the self wholeheartedly in everyday life.

Rohatsu points to this king of samadhis and demands our complete and total attention as the pinnicle of our year as monks. Just as the Buddha sat relentlessly under the tree 2600 years ago, so we sit in the zendo relentlessly today.

Now, with a clean head, clean body, clean teeth, may I sit with a clean heart to bring the Buddha Dharma into the world.

With palms together,

A bow to each of you.

Monday, December 05, 2011


Good Morning Everyone,

Over the last few days I have given some thought to operations at the Order of Clear Mind Zen. We are lacking a few things organizationally and I am moving to address them. First, I have asked Shelley Tenborin to become our Public Relations person. She will handle all media on our behalf which will include press releases and our minimal advertising. Second, I have asked Rev. Soku Shin to once again act as my executive assistant. She will handle my calendar. If you wish to see me, please call or email her directly. Third, the appropriate venue for asking questions about your practice is in private interview with me. Please, if you have a concern about your practice, make an appointment through Rev. Soku Shin to speak to me. Her phone is: 644-8673. Her email is: kathrynmasaryk@yahoo.com

There is some confusion about our hours. I ordered cards before we decided to change our practice times to 10:00 AM Monday through Friday. So here is the Temple’s schedule:

Zazen: Monday through Friday at 10:00 AM, Sunday at 10:00 AM and Monday and Thursday Evening at 6:00 PM

Zen Group at 7:00 PM on Monday Evening

I am available for Private Teaching Appointments at Temple on Monday through Friday at 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM I am also available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons at my residence. I am trying to keep Fridays free and would appreciate “bundling” appointments so as to maximize my ability to have free time.

Lastly, our sesshin begins tomorrow at 10:00 AM with opening ceremonies. You are invited to attend any part of sesshin. I will have the schedule posted on our website today and throughout sesshin for your reference.

Thank you.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Cold and Warm

This morning comes

whether I like it or not,

and how I face it

is up to me.

The cold wet air

finds a place to rest

on my cheek

and is warmed

by the blood

flowing through my veins.

We resist each other

Or we care for each other.

May my heart/mind embrace them both.

Be well.

Saturday, December 03, 2011


Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday afternoon we met with the director of Holloman Air Force Base’s Outdoor Recreation program. They have a resiliency project intended to help airmen deal with the stress of deployment. Rev. Soku Shin and I have volunteered to offer a contemplative practices piece in this project.

It is always interesting to me to see my response to being on a military installation. I am at first pleased to see so many young faces engaged in service to their country. This is followed by remembrances of how my own young face aged so during combat and after when I was one of them.

Resiliency, like endurance, doesn’t come without cost. All of us today are encountering these costs. The prices of gasoline, heating oil, food, and medical care paired against tighter credit, lack of insurance, lower wages, and fewer and fewer meaningful and productive jobs: these are the everyday bells of mindfulness demanding our adaptation in today’s world. Are we taught how to encounter and deal with these changes in our society?

There are always effects of causes: change will happen and consequences follow. Practicing to open our heart/mind in the flow is a principal way of encountering and dealing with the onslaught of change. This requires faith in the cosmos. It requires a big view, an all encompassing view, of time and being. We cannot get this view without practice.

Next we must practice to engage our world in ways that are meaningful and productive, which is to say, healthy and open. Open systems have the opportunity to give and receive. Open systems are living systems. Without meaning, as Victor Frankl pointed out from the horrors of concentration camps, human beings lose the will to live.

From Victor Frankl: For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment. Read more here: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/v/viktor_e_frankl.html#ixzz1fTksbdRp

So, find something meaningful and do it.

Be well.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Nothing to Say

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I look at the blank screen of my notebook and see the blinking curser. More deeply, I see there is nothing to say that will help you. So I think I won’t say a word. Instead, I will invite you to practice Zazen with us on Sunday at 10:00 AM. I will invite you to practice with us each weekday morning at 10:00 AM. I will invite you to practice at home as you can.

Be well.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Rohatsu Sesshin

Good Morning Everyone,

Our Rohatsu Sesshin begins Tuesday (the 6th) at 10:00 AM and closes Saturday (the 10th) at 2:00 PM. I have included the schedule below. We have decided to try something new and allow participants to enter and leave sesshin through the week. This will allow participants to come at certain hours through each day if they have the time for practice. We have created a schedule that is in two hour blocks with ample break time where a person may go home to check on pets, etc. This is a very flexible schedule and sesshin orientation designed to maximize the potential for participation. Rev. Tamra Kobusshin, Rev. Soku Shin, and myself will participate during the entire week. Rev. Bobby Kankin Byrd will join us on Thursday. Please consider joining us during the week.

Opening Day

10:00 – 12:00 Opening Ceremony, Recite Three Refuges, the Heart Sutra, Tea Service, Teisho, Zazen 3@25

12:00 –01:00 Lunch

01:00 – 02:00 Break

02:00 – 04:00 Zazen 4@25

04:00 – 05:00 Samu

05:00 – 06:00 Dinner

06:00 – 07:00 Break

07:00 – 09:00 Zazen 4@25

09:00 Closing Ceremonies

Full Day Schedule (Repeats Every Full Day)

05:30-06:30 Zazen 2@25

06:00-07:00 Oryoki

07:00-09:00 Zazen 4@25

09:00 -10:00 Break

10:00 – 12:00 Opening Ceremony, Sanpai, Robe Verse, Verse of Atonement, Three Refuges, the Heart Sutra, Tea Service, Teisho, Zazen 3@25

12:00 – 01:00 Lunch

01:00 – 02:00 Break

02:00 – 04:00 Zazen 4@25

04:00 – 05:00 Samu

05:00 – 06:00 Dinner

06:00 – 07:00 Break

07:00 – 09:00 Zazen 4@25

09:00 Closing Ceremonies: Hannya Shin Gyo, Four Great Vows, Incense Offering, Fueko

Closing Day Schedule

05:30-06:30 Zazen 2@25

06:00-07:00 Oryoki

07:00-09:00 Zazen 4@25

09:00 -10:00 Break

10:00 – 12:00 Opening Ceremony, Sanpai, Robe Verse, Verse of Atonement, Three Refuges, the Heart Sutra, Tea Service, Teisho, Zazen 3@25

12:00 – 01:00 Lunch

01:00 – 02:00 Zazen 1@25, Closing Ceremonies: Hannya Shin Gyo, Four Great Vows, Incense Offering, Fueko