As Western Buddhist leaders, we unreservedly condemn the recently imposed policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the US-Mexican border. Over the past few weeks, thousands of children have been inhumanely taken from their parents by US Customs and Border Protection, in a policy that has been condemned by the United Nations and many international human rights observers. Indeed, no other country has a policy of separating families who intend to seek asylum. Whatever the legal… Read more

    The Church of England and the American Episcopal Church both observe today as a festival in honor of Evelyn Underhill, who died on this day in 1941. Underhill was born on the 6th of December, 1875 in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, in England. She would grow to become a novelist, poet, and most of all a renowned spoksperson for the mystical encounter. The author of many books, no doubt her magnum opus was Mysticism: A Study of… Read more

  Yasunarti Kawabata was born on this day, the 11th of June, 1899. He was the first Japanese national, and the only Zen Buddhist to win the Nobel prize in literature, awarded it in 1968. (Two other Buddhists have been awarded Nobel prizes, both the Peace prize, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama and Aung Sahn Suu Kyi. Another Japanese Buddhist, Kobo Abe (Kimifusa Abe) was apparently nominated for the literature prize several times, but never won it before his… Read more

    Me, I’ve long been a fan of Anthony Bourdain. I found his approach to food and travel and the ways he could dig into the contours of our human condition extremely compelling. So, I was particularly sad when he died, apparently the victim of depression. Something that echoes for me the deaths of too many men in my family. There are those who made sure we know he wasn’t universally loved (examples here and here). The truth is… Read more

  I see that Frances Ethel Gumm was born today in 1922. Most of us know here better as Judy Garland. Noticing this triggered a recollection of the Wizard of Oz and particularly one song. Roger Ebert wrote, “The Wizard of Oz has a wonderful surface of comedy and music, special effects and excitement, but we still watch it six decades later because its underlying story penetrates straight to the deepest insecurities of childhood, stirs them and then reassures them.”… Read more

            The Spiral of Awakening. An old friend tells about when he lived in a Zen monastery for a time they were visited regularly by a Catholic monk who was a well known spiritual director and confessor to a convent. My friend was the attendant to the Zen abbot during a visit where over tea the monk said, “It is so good to come to a monastery where so much training is going on.” The… Read more

I’ve been thinking about the various comments about Zen meditation I’ve seen around the inter webs. Some of those comments are quite helpful. Some are beautiful and provide authentic direction for people on the way, including me. Others not so much so. Too many, I fear, seem to simply offer mediocre paraphrases of the texts of preferred ancestors without much nuance. And some are simply offering salve for egos branded as “Zen,” but having no connection to our practice and… Read more

      Today the 5th of June is the official publication date of my book Introduction to Zen Koans: Learning the Language of Dragons. From the Prologue: There is a story about a man in ancient China who loved dragons. Unlike dragons in Western culture, who guard hoards of treasure and menace maidens and villages, dragons in China, while dangerous, are also carriers of great wisdom. In the Zen way, they’re often used as a symbol for our deepest… Read more

      As I write this I am sitting at SeaTec in Seattle waiting on the first leg of my flight back to Long Beach. I’ve just completed a four-day commuter Zen meditation retreat here in Seattle. The group was drawn primarily from the two Bright Cloud sanghas. They meet at two Unitarian Universalist churches in the area and the group was almost entirely composed of UUs. So, not a conventional Zen sesshin. We began and ended with partial… Read more

    As we continue on our Zen retreat up in Seattle, I offer another reflection. While it is actually sunny here, I cannot visit the Pacific Northwest without thinking, at least in passing, about rain. With that here are a few thoughts on a koan I wrote last year.   One of my favorite koans was anthologized in the Biyan Lu, in Japanese the Hekiganroku, in English, the Blue Cliff Record. Case 46 in the collection of one hundred koans,… Read more

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