Showing posts from August, 2015

On Teachers

With palms together, Good Evening Everyone,
This evening I would like to address a topic that is quite challenging, to wit: What is a Zen Teacher and what does a Zen Teacher actually teach?  Who is a Zen Teacher anyway? The simple and most direct answer historically is a person who has gained Dharma transmission from his Teacher and/or has been authorized by that teacher to teach. I might add, this person must have a strong drive to teach.   Now this was good enough throughout the world since the Buddha’s time, but has recently been challenged here in the United States.  
Here we have people challenging Dharma transmission itself, and indeed, the whole notion of a clergy and teacher cadre. These folks believe in a horizontal organizational structure or, simply, no structure at all.  They argue shaved heads and robes put people off, separate clergy from the ordinary guy, etc. My response to that argument is equally simple: so?
Then there is the American Zen Teacher’s Association which…

On Birth and Death

With palms together,

From Shushogi: The most important issue of all for Buddhists is the thorough clarification of the meaning of birth and death. If the buddha is within birth and death, there is no birth and death. Simply understand that birth and death are in themselves nirvana; there is no birth and death to be hated nor nirvana to be desired. Then, for the first time, we will be freed from birth and death. To master this problem is of supreme importance. (As translated and published in Soto School Scriptures for Daily Services and Practice.)

These are the precious words of Dogen Zenji.  They can be comforting or terrifying or both.  They are about as spiritual a koan as is possible; they are also a derivative from the Great Heart of Wisdom sutra.

To apply a teaching from another of Master Dogen's works, the Genjokoan, birth has its own Dharma reality and death has its own Dharma reality.  In birth there is just birth; in death there is just death.  We typically don't …

Walking the Walk

With respect,

"There are lazy, self-important and -indulgent priests who do possess the "right" credentials, not because they have penetrated to the core of life-and-death, but because they are clever in a worldly sense." (Matsuoka-roshi, Moku-Rai, p.12.)  Here is the poison threatening Zen today. Reliance on credentials, robes, shaved heads, sutras, chants, deadly stares, or organizational imprimaturs will bring us nothing but the risk of inauthentic teaching. To find your way listen to that 'still, small voice" whispering in your ear as you sit zazen or witness your teacher. Listen, then let it go. 

For me, I often say I learned more about living Zen from noticing my own response to my teacher than anything he ever taught me directly. So, if we don't like to put our palms together and bow? We might ask ourselves, 'what is the resistance and where does it come from?  Don't like chanting, or reciting the Maka Hanya Haramita Shin Gyo?  We ask ours…