Zen 101

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


With respect,

Good Morning All,

While sitting with the morning light I caught a glimpse. Fleeting it was, Nothing can be held. Everything changes. Everything. Always. We say these things. Do we understand? And if we understand, do we realize? Words like everything and always offer an invitation to drop away the finite. Words like beginning, middle, and end refer to the finite and take away from the infinite. Moving, constantly moving, the universe seems a swirl when not in buddha’s eye. In truth, nothing is moving, nothing is changing, everything is nothing when all is one. Good grief. No wonder we say, don’t just do something, sit there! Or, in my case, eat toast with peanut butter.

Be well.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

This Week

With respect,

Good Morning All,

There is something about the morning that has forever inspired me. I think it must have something to do with the intersection of morning light and a fresh mind. Sleep, if one is so fortunate as to have had it, is a wonderful cleanser of the junk accumulated through a day and when we open our eyes to be greeted by the light, it is quite glorious.

This week we will practice Zazen today at 10, Monday at 10 and 6, and Thursday at 10. Zen Study group will be Monday at 7. We will also practice street Zen at the Federal Building on Wednesday at 4.

Saturday is our February Zazenkai. We begin at 8 and close at 4. A priest’s meeting will follow. Please let me know if you plan to attend the Zazenkai.

Be well

Monday, January 16, 2012

What Matters

Good Morning All,

Ever wake up in the morning and wonder just what was going on? I have. Many, many times. Each time I open my eyes, actually, a new day with new possibilities presents itself. On some mornings the sensation is deeper, perhaps more profound, like a thud on my chest or a knock on my head. It cannot be ignored. This was one of those mornings.

A little background: As a child, no one in my family went to college. I dropped out of high school, enlisted, then was shot in the head in Vietnam. Over time, I finished high school, went to college and moved on. When I moved to Las Cruces from Cleveland, I was considered an expert in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. I had completed my PhD dissertation at a premier university on the Meaning of Combat in Vietnam, traveled from coast to coast doing training seminars for psychologists, nurses, counselors, and social workers on PTSD, edited a clinical textbook on practice with difficult client populations, and just sold a rather large and successful human services corporation I had founded. Once here, I quickly rose to the position of head of outpatient operations at a local psychiatric hospital. From there, I became the head of mental health services for a school system. In short, I was quite used to being understood as the go-to guy for mental health issues, etc. I was used to being referred to as ‘the doctor.’ Very heady, full of myself crap, that life.

I left all of that to practice Zen. I went to a little known temple in the mountains, studied with a little known roshi who was the disciple of a little known Japanese Zen master, and was quite willing to let myself fall away.

Old habits die hard, though. Those who start from nothing, build. Starting from nothing, I re-established my teacher’s Zen Center. I left that to do street practice. I then established the Order of Clear Mind Zen. Again, building. Good grief, don’t I ever learn?

What I woke up to this morning was a profound truth. None of that matters. Not the PhD., the ordinations, the building, none of it. All that matters is whether I am awake in this very moment and as a result, how I am with you.

What we practice to do, is to do the best we can with what we have. If we sit still long enough, we realize we have the entire universe if we simply get out of our own way. What I am learning over and over and over again is that letting ourselves fall away is also an every moment practice.

Be well


Good Morning All,

The Zen of the Order of Clear Mind Zen is the simple straightforward living out of life as it is. Easy enough, right? Just take what comes and open yourself to it. Enfold it in your heart, care for it, and let it go. Yet, to do this requires an absolute faith in the cosmos and an intimate knowledge of your true nature.

What is this?

When we sit down to practice and breath in, what are we literally doing? On the most basic level, “outside” is coming “inside” and on the inside the outside is no longer outside, but is now inside. Conversely, as we breath out, the inside goes outside, becoming outside. When is outside, inside? When is inside, outside? What are these terms anyway and don’t they just confuse the actual situation?

What is this?

In each breath, the universe enters us, on each breath, we enter the universe. So in a very real way, universe and we are not two.

Words like inside, outside, cosmos, us, and breathing, are just labels for concepts that are actually process: they are at no point, singular. There is never a moment that is not process. Therefore, there is, actually, never a moment which exits independently. Moment is a fiction.

Just so, we can only be, not become. As Master Dogen pointed out, ash is completely ash; firewood is completely firewood. Our practice is to live fully in our complete awareness of each awareness. Aware we are breathing in, we breathe in; aware we are breathing out, we breathe out. Nothing more or less than that.

So, what are we to do? How are we to be? Touch your heart/mind and there it is.

Be well.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Notes and Feedback

With respect,

To those who replied to my earlier posts, thank you. To those who did not, I assume meeting on Sunday the 22 at 11:30 AM is acceptable. After talking with John and Kathi in California, I have made a few decisions. First, our mission is to bring the dharma into the world. Discussing and practicing are two methods of bringing this about. Sangha members need encouragement to practice whether it is the practice of zazen or the practice of hospice care or the practice of prison work. This encouragement comes through contact with others in the sangha and through the support of me, the abbot. Skype is a powerful tool in this process. Our Internet presence will stay.

Second, I have heard from several members that we should be doing more things, as I said in my earlier email. I agree. I am asking those who wish to do more to do more. It is up to you to make "more" happen. Please keep in mind we are a small sangha. Expectations should be scaled accordingly.

Third, our liturgy and how we do the liturgy is minimal. It is clean. It is clear. It is not overbrearing. I am unwilling at this point to add more. How things are done in other centers and temples is of little concern to me. How things are done in our Order is of the utmost importance to me. I am therefore asking each of you who come to zazen to pay attention. There is a way the priest enters the Zendo and approaches the altar. There is a way the incense is offered. Please be respectful, bow as the priest passes. If you are standing, please stand as close to the tan as possible so he/she may pass you as he/she approaches the altar and returns.

Rev. Kobusshin will be offering a class on the Heart of Wisdom Sutra beginning at 7:00 PM this coming Monday. Zazen is at 6:00 PM. These two periods are important training opportunities. Please try to attend.

Lastly, try to come to the Zendo ten minutes early. We will begin all zazen periods on time and if you are not at your seat we ask that you sit in the foyer until kinhin begins. Entering the zendo while the opening service is in progress or in the middle of a period of zazen is not acceptable.

Harvey Daiho Hilbert

Friday, January 06, 2012

Notes: January 6

Good Morning All,

Our monthly Zazenkai (Intensive Meditation Day) is tomorrow from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. We will offer a vegetarian meal served oryoki style and I will offer a Dharma Talk on “Making a Commitment to Peaceful Living.” Our practice schedule is listed on the Clear Mind Zen website at clearmindzen.org. We ask for a small $15.00 donation to assist us in covering our expenses. If you have not registered, but would like to attend all or part, please let me know ASAP by return email or phone (680-6680).

I have received copies of the Heart Sutra text for Tamra/Shelley, Fred/Gloria and Leslie. They are in the Zendo. I would like to be reimbursed $8.00 for each copy. If anyone else should want a copy, please let me know. Rev. Kobusshin will begin her class on the Heart Sutra Monday the 16th at 7:00 PM.

Zazen at 10 today.

Be well.

Thursday, January 05, 2012


With respect,

Good Morning Everyone,

The day has opened with coffee and talk of our on-going Monopoly game. K and I are even at 1 - 1. In our current game I am in the poor house and she is Miss Moneybags. Life seems to be like that. One minute we are up, the next, down. These games have invited us to consider capitalism. Clearly, the one thing Marx never counted on was it's ability to morph. Or its power to seduce people. In the day when Monopoly was invented railroads were king, oil companies were apparently not so up there on the list of properties, and communications companies were in their infancy. What makes Monopoly, like real life, tolerable is hope that in the next throw of the dice, our fortunes will change...and capitalism hints at this everyday. When we aren't being distracted by football, basketball, or the latest reality show, we are deep in the delusion that we will be the next Donald. Or at least, we might find a better job, make a bit more money, or buy our way into bliss at Wal-Mart. There is hope. But you see, this is what makes hope a toxic handmaiden to capitalism. It keeps us out of reality and living in a dream. I say, enough.

I know, I know...we think hope is essential, it keeps us going, yes, yes. I say this might be true of a realistic hope, but the sort of thing we get stuffed into our heads from childhood onward is Hallmark greeting card crap. Unrealistic, American Dream Hope deludes us. While it might offer us a direction to move toward, we must be very careful not to allow it to be unrealistic or act as a bromide to ease our suffering. More importantly, such hope inhibits our willingness to actually change the system, as we fear changing the system may destroy our chances at success and this is the hook capitalists have used for decades all the while getting richer as we become poorer. I say, enough.

My thoughts are these: in order for abundant good to be created for all, we each need to take ourselves by the hand and get our butts off the sofa. We must care for the other guy as much as we might care for ourselves. We must care that if the playing field of life is not fair, we are all made aware of this fact. We need to disallow that 1% its opportunity to cloud our judgement by teasing us with some dream or another. TV is a drug or, as Harlen Ellison called it decades ago, a glass teat. We need to quit sucking on it. We need to face our lives and our society and see it clearly without the dross or tinsel of an unrealistic hope. Things will not get better by themselves and if we ourselves do not define better we leave it to others, that 1%, to define better for us. I do not believe they have our best interest at heart. While Monopoly comes and goes with the roll of the dice, our lives do not depend on chance unless we abdicate our own responsibility in making our lives ours. As the existentialists say, our choices define us. I say, enough.

The view from the top of that 100 foot pole is clear, we simply step off.

Be well.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Best Teachers

With respect,

Good Morning All,

Last night I was working with Rev. Kankin over Skype. We are working our way through the Genjokoan by Master Dogen, actually using the text as a springboard to discussing immediate issues in our lives as priests. We came upon the line in the commentary by Okumura-roshi that says, “So, in a sense, our delusions, our view that we are separate from the universal reality and our desire to change, is very important because it is a motivating force in our lives that enables us to practice.”

This is very, very important to remember as we face each day. Our feelings about ourselves, our challenges and issues, are all teachers inviting us to learn something about ourselves and the universe. They invite us to practice. I have often taught that they are, more than any other teachers or teachings, our best teachers in the end because they speak to us personally and directly.

As Leonard Cohen says, its the cracks that allow the light to get in. So, let us bless the imperfections and welcome them as teachers.

Yours in the dharma.

Notes: Rev. Kobusshin and I have agreed that she will lead the services on Monday and Thursday mornings at 10:00 AM. I will lead on the other weekdays. I will occasionally ask her to lead on Sunday mornings, as well.

Rev. Kobusshin will begin her class on the Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra on Monday the 16th at 7:00 PM. I have ordered four copies of the text for those who have asked for them. We will be using Thich Nhat Hahn’s translation and commentary, “The Heart of Understanding.” As a supplemental reading, we highly recommend Red Pine’s, “The Heart Sutra,” available in paperback through Amazon.com (I will not order these as I cannot afford the upfront cost right now). We will conclude our study of Master Dogen’s “Bendowa” this coming Monday evening.

We still have openings for Zazenkai this coming Saturday. Please consider joining us. Register with Rev. Soku Shin by email.

Lastly, I would like to remind everyone it is time to offer your dana to the Order of Clear Mind Zen. Your generosity is deeply appreciated.

Thank you very much.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year's Day

Happy New Year to each of you! I hope your year to come is filled with joy, peace, and wonder.

Kathryn and I will be at the Cafe de Mesilla from 12 to 2 today having coffee, eating pastries, and enjoying the plaza in Mesilla. I might even bring a drawing pad, charcoal, pen & ink! Please consider dropping by. If we are out on the plaza, call or text me at 680-6680.

Rev. Tamra Kobusshin will be leading a New Year's Day service in the Zendo from 4 to 6 this afternoon. Please consider joining her!