Zen 101

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Revamping Website

Hi All, Just a quick note letting you know I am revamping my website.  To quote someone famous, "Why don'cha come up and see me sometime!" Address: http://daihoroshi.org

Monday, December 29, 2014


With palms together,
Dear Readers,

Recently I retired from my leadership role at the Order of Clear Mind Zen.  A new abbot has taken my place and the three local Zen sanghas have come together under one roof to be now referred to as Daibutsuji Zen Temple with its headquarters at the Zen Center of Las Cruces.  I am pleased at these developments.  The new abbot, Rev. Shukke Shin-sensei, has tons of new ideas and brings a younger, fresher face to the Sangha.

The Order of Clear Mind Zen will continue but not as a formal corporate entity.  We are a religious Order upon which our priests and lay precept holders are trained and ordained.  I will continue to be its head teacher and will continue my work with my students.  While initially I thought I would no longer accept students, I believe I am changing my mind and will, indeed,  begin to accept new students and teach.  It's what I do.

If you should wish to become my student please email me at daihoroshi@gmail.com telling me something of your background and interests. We will then schedule an initial interview.  I accept students from all over the world and offer interviews through Skype or FaceTime.

I will be using this blog site in conjunction with Facebook and my website (daihoroshi.org) as primary venues for my written work and notes regarding my activities and so forth.  If you should wish to friend me on Facebook, please send me a friend request. My Facebook name is "Sodaiho."

Take time to practice Zazen today even if its just five minutes.,


Liberation, Part One


From Rev. Senzaki’s correspondence in “Eloquent Silence,” (p 386) a few noteworthy notes: 

“… present day Japanese Buddhists do not understand true Buddhism, but are clinging to sectarian ideas instead.”  

And of Priest emissaries here to teach Zen:

“With few exceptions they are not accomplishing anything here but propaganda and the advertisement of their titles and cathedrals, like sandwich men peddling their wares.”

…”They may think they can do things here in America just as they do in Japan, but they are badly mistaken.”

Yet, today, years later, some of us cling to the Japanese as final arbiters of what is and is not Zen.  Authenticity from mind-to-mind transmission, practice, and up-right living are not as important, it would seem, as what lineage we are from and whether that lineage is officially recognized by Soto Shu in Japan.  

Senzaki-roshi, like Matsuoka-roshi, wished to build an authentic Zen practice here in the United States, a practice not dependent on Cathedrals, titles, and brocade robes. Theirs was a simple practice, one Rinzai, the other Soto, but each engaged in a simple, straightforward practice of Zen.  As we so often say, it was “nothing special.” 

The quotes above remind me of Dogen Zenji’s travels to China and his desire to bring “True Buddhism” to Japan.  His True Buddhism was in the daily practice of Zazen.  As Dogen Zenji attempted to find an authentic teacher, he went through a lot of “advertisements” and those closely affiliated with governing bodies first.  His true teacher, like another Zen radical, Uchiyama-roshi, simply practiced Zazen.     

Many have written and spoken about Zen in America.  There have been retreats dedicated to discovering, or perhaps creating and directing, what Zen in America is or will become. I fear these are essentially a wasted effort, as Zen cannot be directed, especially from the top down, or by groups of well meaning priests.

My Dharma grandfather was a pioneer in Zen here in the United States. He had a fresh vision developed Zen from its true roots, practice.  When he initially taught, Zen Centers were rare.  He did what Senzaki did, he practiced living room Zen.  His centers often, if not always, began from establishing sitting groups in living rooms. Nothing fancy and no trained assistants. He made do, training an Ino when necessary.  Training a Tenzo when meals were needed. As was pointed out (as if a criticism of Matsuoka), by James Ford and Michael Elliston, he often ordained people before they were ready and trained them into their positions. Today we call that OJT.  It is not a bad way to teach.  Its hands on. In fact, we might say, “it's the American way.”

In truth, living room Zen is good, practice in parks and on the streets is good, and practice in our offices or on our motorcycles is good.  Each of these require nothing but the willingness to sit down and shut up.  Pandering to benefactors, holding out one’s lineage as something special, or making idols of dead teachers: these are our jailers, dear friends, not our advocates.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

With palms together,

Veterans Day.  What can I say?  Millions of American men and women have left the relative safety of home in order to serve in the Armed Forces. Sworn to protect the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, these citizen soldiers learn the skills necessary to close with, kill or capture the enemy. Its a scary thought on the one hand,  to turn a citizen into a human being that can, if need be, hunt fellow human beings. On the other hand, defense of our nation and way of life is crucial in a world gone mad with zealots, dictators, and insurgents willing to kill themselves in order to kill others.

This said, as a Zen Buddhist priest, I am ambivalent about this whole thing. We vow not to kill, but make exceptions for self defense.  We vow not to slander others, but easily refer to those who would harm us in dehumanizing ways, ways in which it makes it easier to kill. and if any of us believe we would not —-or could not—- kill, let me say this: you are deluding yourself.

For me, Veterans Day is a reminder to be grateful for those citizens willing to take up arms and move into harm’s way to defend us. These are people willing to offer their lives to defend us and, perhaps more importantly, they are willing to set aside their civilian and religious values in order to do so. But, at what cost?  

As a therapist I have treated a huge number of traumatized veterans: ordinary people like you and me, who have endured something extraordinarily dangerous and lived to tell about it.  Yet, here’s the rub: combat trauma changes us in unimaginable ways. No longer able to forget it and move on, these veterans suffer from intrusive thoughts, exaggerated startle response, feelings of anger, feelings of deep guilt, and a desire to be “normal.”  Yet, they are not able to do so, hence they see themselves trapped in nightmares that, for them, are as real as the sting of my kyosaku if I were to smack you with it.

Much of the hoopla around this national holiday is downright offensive to me and many veterans, veterans who see the use of the emotionally charged remembrances as methods to increase sales.  The sentiment is touching and embracing: we veterans are “heroes” simply because we put on a uniform.  Really?  For me, this sort of thing diminishes true heroism and true patriotism.  Moreover using patriotism, American flags, and so on to profit is a cheep trick done on the backs of those who have sacrificed so much. Its disgusting.

Many of us who survived combat do not feel as though we are heroes and are uncomfortable being referred to in that way.  There are true heroes in war, people who risked their lives to protect or care for their brothers and sisters under hostile fire.  True patriotism requires us to engage in serious dialogue about the nature of war, its use value in protecting us, and our nation’s motivations in entering into hostile relations with others.  

For me, I prefer a quiet period of Zazen, perhaps at our Veteran’s park, to honor my fellow veterans.  Or perhaps a visit to a Veteran’s home or VA hospital. To me, this is an engaged practice.  No words need be said, just a compassionate smile and hug will do.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Some Days

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Again it has been awhile since I posted any Zen-related musings. I'm not sure what's happening, but as I've said in earlier posts, I feel I have little to contribute that hasn't been said before. As it says in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun.  That being said, perhaps I might make a few comments on the state of Zen today.  

Frankly, I feel Zen is suffering from a sickness which is pervading our world.  It is a sickness that causes a perversion of Zen and assaults its very nature.  There is no name for this sickness, at least not yet, but its symptoms include: a desire for power and recognition by its priests, a desire for money to support bigger and "better" Temples and Zen Centers, an all too willing effort to kow-tow to those interested in "self-improvement," an unwillingness to take on politically dangerous or incorrect stances in a public way, and an interest in playing the part rather than being the part of a Zen practitioner.

I admit, this list exposes my own biases.  I am not interested in fancy robes, public recognition, recognition by other Zen teachers, or any of that ego-driven crap.  I am interested in piercing the veil, uncovering the truth of our reality, living an honest and morally upright life, and being in service to others (sometimes at a cost to myself and my relationships). 

When I look at the ads in Buddhist magazines I cringe.  They expose the sad truth that Zen as practiced in some centers is more about profit than anything else. The costs all but prohibit ordinary, blue collar people from participating and seem directed at the more "privileged" classes of our society.  Ads that promote self, as opposed to renunciation of self seem so common as to be the norm. 

I really don't know what the "cure" might be for this sickness, but I believe it is our responsibility as Zen practitioners to do a fearless moral inventory of our practice and our relationship to power, authority, and wealth. Zen, in my humble opinion is, at root, iconoclastic, yet I rarely see the shards of our society's icons on the floor. While money is necessary to operate a Center and/or Temple, it is important, it seems to me, that we examine our needs to see if they are actual needs or, rather, "wants."  I would be careful of any Zen Teacher who values his or her robes above his or her relationship to the Dharma which teaches renunciation.  Personally, I think those who dress in fancy robes, carry whisks and/or teaching sticks about with them, should be carefully scrutinized.  This includes those priests who seem to pride themselves in who they know or whether they are members of the newly forming organizations that hold themselves out to be gatekeepers.

A true Zen teacher in my opinion is one who renounces such things and simply goes about his or her business teaching the Dharma in everyday life in an everyday way: nothing special.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014


With palms together,
Good Afternoon All,

I haven’t posted to my blog since way before I took the road trip I am currently doing.  Since leaving Las Cruces I’ve put nearly 4000 miles on the Dyna, endured pounding rain, major delays in miles and miles of construction, and blind drivers apparently unable to see (or hear) a Harley Davidson motorcycle. I’ve learned a few things through it all. First, my dislike of crowds and anxiety when within them was re-enforced by my experience at the national meeting of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association in Gettysburg, Pa. While not news to me, my response was awkward to say the least. It was rather severe. I pretty much stayed in my room and after two days acknowledged it wasn’t good for me to be there.  So, uncharacteristically for me (since I typically tough such things out), I simply climbed on the Dyna and left. 

On the ride towards home I had the opportunity to meet Student Tucker’s mom and step-father.  They were incredibly kind and gracious, offering me a room in their beautiful home and a terrific meal accompanied by delightful conversation.  Along the way I had the opportunity to sample fresh watermelon at the Arkansas border, see wondrous birds, find a hidden wild strawberry, and delight of delights, meet and chat with folks at my frequent stops. second lesson: stop often, enjoy what’s in front of you.

I am now sitting on the square in Georgetown, Texas in front of my son’s 
restaurant, “The Hollow,”  enjoying a beer in the heat of the afternoon.  Life, it seems, couldn't get any better with the exception that I miss the love of my life, Kathryn, greatly. So, in the morning I will saddle-up the Dyna and ride off toward the southwest.

Third lesson: I have discovered that I really do not have anything more to teach, as if I ever really did.  Being a “Zen Teacher” is somewhat an oxymoron. One does not, can not, “teach” Zen.  One simply experiences it. Perhaps “Zen Mentor” or “Fellow Practitioner” might be better terminology. These do not carry the bullshit narratives that often come with titles such as “Zen Master,”  Zen “Teacher,” or “Roshi.” Next to life lived as it is, my words are nothing.  So, if I have any practical advice it would be this” Live.



Friday, April 18, 2014

In the Night

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Thursday, April 17: It is 3:00 AM and I am awake because our lovable dogs decided to bark their heads off over some coyote in the distance.  The girls (our dogs) settled down and soon after fell asleep on pillows on our sofa.  While I, on the other hand, sat upright next to them. So it goes.

You know, I rarely have any real idea what I am going to say next when I write these blog notes.  What I do know is that I have a state of mind that, when I enter it, its as if I am in touch with all the buddhas and ancestors before me.  I feel my fingertips on the keyboard and realize Bodhidharma or Dogen or the Buddha. Sometimes its just a blank sheet of virtual paper staring back at me.  Other times its real paper and I use my fountain pen to jot down notes in my journal. In either case, Ancestors, words, and body are one.  At such times, something unfolds and presents itself. I am as often as surprised as, perhaps, you are. Painting and music seem to be like this as well.

What this says to me is that if we settle down and pull ourselves together while simultaneously focusing our attention on the moment and loosening our grip on the moment, our true nature has the opportunity to speak in various ways.  Just an observation.

Friday, April 18:  Yesterday I was part of an Honor Guard at the funeral of a deceased Vietnam Veteran.  It was a hot, sunny day and we stood for a long time in the sun.  I am finding this practice is similar to the practice of sitting with a decaying body, a practice the Buddha suggested we do in order to realize our karmic nature.  Sitting (or in this case, standing) with death brings us in touch with both the finite and the infinite. We reflect on the interconnected relationship of both. And so it goes.

PLEASE NOTE:  After consideration, I have decided we will not practice in the Zendo this Sunday as it is Easter.  

Be well.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning brought a brilliant moon and chilly air.  I am sitting in my flannel robe looking out the French doors in our living room.  Outside, things are still.  The world hasn’t quite woken up yet….well, at least my world.  Kathryn sleeps, as do Binky and Suki, and I putter.  My mind is on the Google Hangout.  Only one of our several invitees showed up.  Interesting.  I know people have their own lives to live and things do, indeed, come up that interfere with our plans, yet, still, it is disheartening.  I think we will come on at an earlier hour, say 6:30 Mountain Time, on Monday evenings.

The trouble with ideas is that they come with expectations.  In Zen, we are taught that expectations come with attachments, and attachments lead to suffering.  Perhaps so.  But, this does not mean that we should not have expectations, rather, that our expectations should be held like loosely held reins.  We have them, but are not attached to them. We move in their direction, but assume an attitude of flexibility and float like a duck, if you will.  

So, we will try to do an Internet service this coming Monday at 6:30 PM Mountain Time. We will chant the Heart Sutra and the Four Great Vows, sit zazen for 20 minutes and then have a dharma talk with a Question and Answer period to conclude.  If you wish to participate send me an email with “Hangout” in the subject line and your Gmail address in the text box.

Lastly, Study Group this evening at my residence.  We will discuss Chapter Four of our text.  I hope to see you there!

Be well.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014


With palms together,
Good Morning All,

It is late in the morning for me at 5:57 as I sit down to write to you.  The air here in the desert is cool and the sun has yet to peak up over the mountains to the east. My usually slow Wednesday is sandwiched by two appointments.  The first, at 8:00 AM, is with my personal physician.  The second, at 7:00 PM, is with the director of the perpetrator’s program at our local domestic violence shelter. In the former, a check-up; in the latter, a planning meeting to see where I might fit into their curriculum.  

Our small study group met last night and we discussed “rites of passage” in terms of transformation in relation to our practice,  It is interesting to me how we distract ourselves from our inevitable death.  So, when confronted with it’s imminence, we are both surprised and frightened.  More, we are unprepared.  As a result everyone in our sphere of influence suffers. Yet, my sense is that such suffering is part and parcel of our human nature.  The resultant struggle makes possible a transformation.  What we become is impossible to say, but if we stay in the moment by moment expression of our lives, as they are,  we will be just fine.  

Now, by “just fine” I do not mean everything will be ‘lightness and light,’ no, I mean the sort of just fine that comes with serene reflection meditation within each breath.  Its a sort of deep acceptance, I suppose, that soothe our fears and normalizes the surprise. 

As we sit we realize the impermanent  nature of all things.  We witness the coming and going of our thoughts, feeling, and breath.  We also see the deep interconnected nature of the universe and realize in this witness that we do not exist as individuals, but are instead,  expressions of the Buddha Nature in each moment.   

Yet, these are just words.  Forget them.  Heed the words of our Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng:

Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky.  Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger.  The finger can point to the moon’s location.  However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger.

Be well.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Morning Notes

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning I woke at 4:30!  Yeah, getting a bit more rest!  I do love early morning: quiet earth, starlit sky, cool desert air, and birdsong.  All of these combine to make early morning very special in my heart.  And then there is the morning light of dawn breaking!  I longed for that light in Vietnam.  It meant the dark night was over and I had survived the treacherous night.  Naive.  There are, and continue to be, dark nights.  Today, I address them directly, however, although there were decades where I hid from them.  I guess I’m getting better at 67 years old.  Like someone mumbled at the “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans” rally last week, “Its about damn time!”

We should never hide from ourselves.  In Zen, it is nearly impossible to do so, although some of us manage.  I say nearly impossible because when we practice zazen we have nothing but ourselves to consider.  There is you, your cushion, and the wall in front of your eyes.  We sit and as we do, the wall becomes a mirror.  If we do not avert our eyes, everything has the potential to become clear. I need not say more about this, as it will be your experience, not mine.

Anyway, about business:  I would like to ask that if you are planning to attend sesshin this weekend, please let me know the dates you will be here.  The same for our Google Hangouts “service” on this coming Monday evening at 7:30 PM Mountain Time.  I will need to know your Google email address. 

Our Tuesday Study group will meet at my residence at 6:30 PM.  For those of you with the text we will be discussing chapter three.  All are welcome.

Lastly, if you have not offered dana or dues, please consider doing so soon.  Our rent is due a week from this Wednesday.  

Be well.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

On-line Study Group

From my Disciple in Virginia, Ron Mitsugo Zacharski:

Hi all!

The Friday book study group is starting a new book this Friday: "What the Buddha Taught" by Walpola Ruhula. The book is free online at http://www.dhammaweb.net/books/Dr_Walpola_Rahula_What_the_Buddha_Taught.pdf

or at your local bookseller or Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/What-Buddha-Taught-Expanded-Dhammapada-ebook/dp/B003OYIG00/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1396226081&sr=8-1&keywords=what+the+buddha+taught

We will be discussing chapter 1. We meet at 4:30 Mountain Time in a Google Hangout. If you are interested let me know and I will add you to the invite list.

You will need a google hangout account (if you have a gmail account you are halfway there!). Info on Google Hangouts is at https://www.google.com/hangouts/

If you want to test out hangouts before the meeting let me know and we can arrange a time to try it out. If you need technical help, let me know.

Take care,


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pure Precepts

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

We stood at attention, each with an American flag held close.  The sun was on us, but there was a cool breeze and we were not uncomfortable.  There were a number of us, perhaps twenty, on that line outside the front doors of the funeral home.  Inside lay a fallen Vietnam Veteran, aged 65, and his family and friends.  We were part of an Honor Guard coming from all points in the southwest on our motorcycles and this was our mission: to stand with him.

On my left stood a man, maybe 60, who just had a round of chemo for a lung cancer developed as a result of working in a plastics factory.  He was not very strong, but he stood his ground as he related the story of his diagnosis and treatment. On my right was a former soldier, much younger, and I do not know what theater he fought in.  He was from Alamogordo and I did not know him.  He kept pretty much to himself as we stood there with our flags.  

I thought of myself as bearing witness to our military’s retired and discharged.  Those who stepped up and faced mortal danger and while I do not believe in war as a means to resolve conflict, I do believe in the men and women who offer themselves on their country’s behalf whether in war or in peace.  It seems to me each of us have our civic responsibilities: the military, the peace corp, volunteering to help at homeless shelters, in schools, or in other ways; selfless service to something larger than oneself. I am honored to know such people and I feel badly for those who believe there is no such responsibility and who believe there is no social contract between us as citizens of a nation or world. People who hold such a view must feel lonely and isolated indeed. 

In Zen we vow to cease doing evil,  vow to do good, and vow to bring about abundant good for all beings. For me:  Evil is an understanding that there're beings separate from others. Good is an understanding of no separation.  And creating conditions for good to arise, well, this is a natural outcome of living together, caring for and about each other, and having an understanding that what affects one affects all.  Being a person who has taken these vows, I cannot help but love my neighbor as myself.

May we each take up these vows and manifest them in our everyday practice.

Be well,


Friday, March 28, 2014


With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Last night I attended a Board meeting of our local Community of Hope. Their funding sources seem to be cutting back and as a result, homeless people will have less and less supportive services. They have a website so that people can help:http://www.mvcommunityofhope.org/
Today I will join other combat vets in riding to Alamogordo to be Honor Guard at a veteran's funeral. Saturday I will participate in a "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans" event and Sunday I will lead a service and offer a Dharma Talk at Treeleaf Zendo, A Soto Zen Sangha. A busy weekend...

Lastly, I have been asked to offer a "Google Hangout" for our Order.  I would be willing to give this a shot.  We would practice zazen, offer a Dharma Talk, and host a Q & A period. Who might want to participate? 

Be well,

Thursday, March 27, 2014


With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning I woke late at 5:30.  Its always a challenge when that happens as I tend to have my little morning routine, or shall we say, ritual, that gets compressed as a result.  So it goes.  Flexibility is an important ingredient for a serene life.  When we hold to a ritual or schedule tightly, we will inevitably suffer. 

On the ride home from the therapist’s office I was struck by the beauty of the day.  Even though (or perhaps because of) it was windy, the sky is brilliant, the sun is shining, and the views of our mountains just amazing.  

We should always take a moment within a moment to appreciate our lives.  Mine most notable appreciative moments occur most frequently in a zafu (meditation cushion) or my Harley Davidson Dyma Super Glide as I ride through the desert southwest.  No matter where we are or what we are doing, we should appreciate our lives.  Getting to the ability to do this on the fly is a result of daily practice.  So, if you are available, and are so inclined, please join us in our Zendo at 6:30 this evening.



Friday, March 21, 2014

Engaged Practice

With palms together,
Good Afternoon All,

I am kneeling on my seiza bench at our rough cut wooden table in our living room.  It is nearly 1:00 PM and by the time I am done with this missive, I am certain it will be well past the hour.  No matter.  What I have to say is important at any hour.

I particularly enjoy kneeling at this table.  It is just the right height and angle for my one-handed typing.  I have found, as in a prayerful hand gesture, (a mudra), it is difficult not to be at peace when knelling.  There is something about the posture that demands stillness.

I am reading, once again, Bernie Glassman Roshi’s book, “Bearing Witness,” as I prepare for this coming Sunday’s Dharma talk over at Treeleaf Sangha  (8:00 AM).  My topic is to be Engaged Practice.  I talked with my therapist about this.  She asked what was meant by the phrase. I politely responded that engaged practice was similar to the Jewish notion of tikun olam, to “repair the world.”

You see, as Zen Buddhists we take the Three Pure Precepts, to cease doing evil, to do good, and to bring about abundant good in the world.  So right there, built into our lives through vow is a commitment to engaged practice.  Some of don’t quite see it that way and feel it is perfectly OK to just sit in a zendo for hours on end. Even some of our credentialing bodies suggest the amount of time in retreat (i.e., on the cushion) is a major criteria for admittance to the realm of the OK, versus not OK amongst us.  I say poppy cock.  What is OK about measuring our credentials by the amount of time we sit on our ass?

The Buddha sat.  Indeed he did.  But then he got up and did something: he taught, he healed, he brought the hope of an end to suffering to the world.  And us today? Too many of us are so attached to sitting that we fail to live out our precepts smug as we are in our cloistered Zen world.  Oh, to be so enlightened that the world around us goes wanting.

And I am not innocent in this.  For weeks now I have not practiced in public spaces.  While I have assisted in feeding homeless folk, I have been, for the most part self absorbed in my own aging.  

Somewhere along the way, I lost my direction.  Perhaps it is because I am newly married.  Or perhaps because I have become a tad too comfortable in my home.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that siting at home, while providing a much needed respite, is not my practice.

So, it is time to put on the robes again and take to the street.  Hallelujah! 


Now Available:

 Living Zen: a book by Daiho

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

So Here We Are

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I woke at 4:45!  Late for me.  After siting a bit, I watched an episode of a James Spader show called,"Blacklist" and it got me thinking.  Big problem! :)  Anyway, I acknowledge we all do things in our lifetimes which erode our sense of self-esteem.  And we all witness and do things that raise our sense of hope and open our hearts to love.  Sometimes these are events that are coincident. Which can be one way of saying at times the end justifies the means.  Yet, we must ask ourselves, "is our sense of self-esteem and the warming of our hearts so important that we can justify an action otherwise judged as horrific?" If it feels good it's ok to do it?  Not always. 

Today our study group will take up the question of the meaning our our own lives.  As we approach death, which by the way, is an every breath proposition, we may begin to wonder about the value of our lives.  As an aged person, I am obliged (I suspect I have little choice) to address these issues as one of the final unresolved conflicts in Erickson’s life stage model.  But, I suspect such a reflection and introspective task may be a god idea for any of us no matter where we are on life’s so-called “highway.”

What have I learned that I believe has value to my children and the world at large? Has my life been meaningful, and if so, how?  In what way?

I don’t know.  I do know that any answer I might give right now will be an advertisement.  It will be a refection of a construction, the result of selected memories pasted together to form some sort of cohesive idea of who I think I am and what import I have or what impact I have had over the 67 years of my lifetime.  

My sense at this point is that what I say or what I believe about myself is far less important than the journey we each take in discovering this truth.  To sit in Zazen, facing ourselves, ids to sit facing our construction.  Over time, the construction begins to come apart.  Our stories about ourselves begin to erode or the light of introspection clarifies the distortions, opens new pathways to  a changing, constantly changing, understanding of ourselves.  We are left with nothing substantial.  And so it is.

Our lives exist on a constantly shifting stage.  Our lives themselves are a fiction, as our lives are not what we believe them to be.  We are not independent creatures living without the need for others.  We depend on others, others depend on us.  Yes, form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

Be well.

Monday, March 17, 2014

On Coffee and Other Matters

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

The taste of coffee in the morning is like an old, old friend.  There was a time when I would drink several pots of coffee a day. I often worked 13 hour days, nearly always six days a week, for years and and a cup of coffee with every client was a welcomed way of taking a break without appearing to do so.  I could pour the cups, stir, breath a few breaths, then come back into the consulting room and sit down.  After chit chatting for a few minutes over the coffee we were ready to begin the therapy. 

In the before time, I was a psychotherapist and businessman.  I started a private practice with a hundred bucks while in the PhD program at CWRU and after ten years sold the practice and escaped the “corporate” world.  It was an exciting time to be in the field.  Lots of innovation, lots of money, and lots of stress.  It was in that climate I began to see the value in, and do the more formal practice of, meditation.  

Of course in the beginning most of us clinicians saw meditation as a tool.  We did not see it in the larger context of a “spiritual” practice, yet there it was.  I remember taking a seminar on meditation put on by some ‘self-hypnosis’ group or other and found myself actually amazed at the power of guided meditation. 

One of the most important things I took away from those years was the practice of mindfulness. I was dedicated at it’s practice.  I literally saw myself doing, feeling, seeing, tasting, smelling, and touching everything, and, at some point with true mindfulness, which is to say, without tagging it.

It’s beautiful and effortless. My coffee is getting cold.  To exist in mindfulness, do not say, drinking coffee, I am aware I am drinking coffee.”  Instead, just drink the coffee as fully and completely as you can without separating yourself from the coffee and the cup.  

Try it, you’ll like it.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

In the Still of the Night

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

There are nights while, when sitting still, the universe reveals itself. It seems to whisper in the stillness as if its breath comes from the lips of God.  On such nights I am comforted by such fancy thoughts, knowing full well the universe and the breeze are just the universe and the breeze. Still, the comfort comes.

I listened to a rant by Bill Maher earlier about the story of Noah.  Bill was beside himself.  He cannot believe human beings actually believe this story and take it as the literal truth.  Frankly, neither can I.  However, Bill nearly always misses the point, blinded as he is by his hatred of religion as he understands it. I admit, if my understanding of God and religion were as shallow and superficially fundamentalist as his, I would hate them as well. The thing is, God is a concept (pardon me John), But what that concept hides is something else again. 

To offer an example:  I am Harvey, yet “Harvey” is a concept.  What is Harvey is far more or less than the concept “Harvey.” It would be a mistake to think that Harvey, in the concrete, empirical sense, is Harvey in the metaphysical sense.  One is a finger pointing to the other. What we need is to understand one is not the other.

Sitting outside under the stars in the middle of the night allows for something to emerge.  What shall we call it?  Rudolf Otto called it the mysterium tremendous in his seminal book, The Idea of the Holy. We can touch this only when we have released our own protective coverings.  When “body/mind fall away.” And when this actually happens?  Words fail us: not even the moon is the moon anymore.

When I listen to Bill, or any other fundamentalist, I feel for them because I know their ownership of their ideas is locked up tight and as such they will never truly be alive…or awake. Instead they will self-righteously miss the poetry as the universe itself recites.

Here’s a link to his rant: Bill

Be well

Saturday, March 15, 2014


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

It is a Saturday morning and I have been awake since about 2:30 or so.  Funny how that works: the earlier I wake, the earlier I fall asleep at night, the earlier I wake…and so on.  I was playing chess online with a friend in California through the early morning.  She won.  This is good.  She really needed to win.  

Sometimes we need something good to happen, something to help us along in feeling the world is a good place. Now I’m not suggesting that winning a game of chess in the middle of the night is such a thing, but it helps.  Yet, here’s the thing: when we feel as though the world around us sucks (and often there is ample personal evidence this is so) it is also true that the world around us is everything but sucky.  New born babies, freshly blooming flowers, stories of children doing incredible things, and the countless random acts of kindness that become visible when we have eyes to see.

And that’s the key, isn’t it? To get eyes that can see.  What are eyes that can see?  Eyes without filters, eyes that see clearly, that reflect exactly and only what is there.  But there’s more.  These eyes must not be attached to a self.  They are the eyes of a buddha.

May our eyes open today. 

Be well  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Roshi's New Book!

Living Zen, the Diary of an American Zen Priest, is now available on Amazon.com in paperback!

Please give it a view and review at Amazon.com!  Click here.

Thank you very much!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Amazon Rules!

Apparently Amazon.com has taken it upon itself to lower the asking price of my book!  It lists at $16.95 and they are selling it much cheaper!  Enjoy!

Friday, March 07, 2014

My Book is now available on Kindle

Hello All,
My book is now available for Kindle download.    
It is priced at $9.95
 Be well!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

My book is now available!

With respect, 
My book, "Living Zen: the Diary of an American Zen Priest," is now available for purchase.  Just go to Amazon.com and type in my name, "Harvey Daiho Hilbert" or the book title.  I am pleased with it and am thankful to both students Heather and Tucker for their very generous assistance copy editing the text.  Best wishes, Daiho

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Someone reminded me yesterday that I promised a flood of email teachings after receiving my MacBook Pro for my birthday.  No flood is coming.  I have, however, been working on my book, “Living Zen: the Diary of an American Zen Priest,” and it should be ready for distribution in a week.  I have a “proof” copy in my hands and will tell you that it looks good.  Its hefty, weighing in at 410 pages, and I’m told it is an interesting read.  

The book is an edited collection of my writing from the year 2007.  It includes my understanding of my life at that time and how my life and Zen became one. There are teachings on a variety of issues, the Diamond sutra, the Paramitas, Zazen, etc., but more importantly for me, anyway, is that they reflect my reflection on how Zen offers us teachings regarding ourselves as we interact with the world.  

Zen is not a thing.  It is life itself.  Life lived awake and direct.  From a Zen point of view, everything is a teacher, a source of awakening.  How we live, where our mind is in any given moment, is all there is: it is this that we practice.  All the rest, the robes, bells, altars, incense, all of it is just an invitation to enter the stream. 

I’ve found many of us reject these invitations.  And with good reason.  The objects and rituals are not the thing so attachment to them is just as serious a mistake as attachment to mu, perhaps an even larger mistake.  Attachment to forms make us impostors. Consider that.  

For those who reject the invitations, may I ask you to reconsider.  For those who accept the invitations, may I ask you to reconsider, as well. I ask you, by way of invitation, to just live.


PS, we will meet in the zendo this evening at 6:30 for Study.  Please remember to bring your book.  I think it is time to wrap up this text and choose another.  

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Important Notes

With palms together,

Good Morning All & Happy New Year to each of you!

First, please consider coming to practice Thursday evening with Rev. Shukke Shin who will be addressing the Eightfold Noble Path as it applies to everyday life. She suggests people arrive at 6:00 PM.

Second, unfortunately, I must cancel this month's Zazenkai as I am needed in Albuquerque to assist in an escort for a funeral service of a fallen brother.

Third, please consider offering your dana and dues for the month of January. You may do this in person at the temple, by mail to CMZ, 642 S. Alameda Blvd, Las Cruces, NM 88005, or through the PayPal button on our website at http://clearmindzen.org All donations are greatly appreciated and are used to pay the rent on the temple.

I look forward to practicing with you through this new year. May you each be a blessing in the universe.