Zen 101

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.