A Feast for a Zen Master: Recalling Master Dogen

Eihei Dogen died on this day, the 22nd of September, in 1253. He is recalled as the founder of the Japanese Soto school (Caodong in Chinese) and as one of the great spiritual writers of all time. Dogen was born on the 19th of January in 1200. It is believed he was the illegitimate child of an imperial councillor. His mother is believed to have died when he was seven and he was raised within his father’s family. At thirteen Dogen… Read more

God is Alive, Magic Is Afoot: Recalling the Wondrous Leonard Cohen

      Leonard Norman Cohen was born on this day, the 21st of September, in 1934, in Westmont, an English-speaking enclave of Montreal. His mother was the child of a renowned rabbi and scholar, his father the son of a founder of the Canadian Jewish Congress and its first president. The family was Orthodox and the themes of Judaism would become currents that informed his full life. The family was upper middle class, his father a successful clothier. Although Leonard’s… Read more

Drafting a Manifesto for a Western Zen Buddhist Sangha in the Twenty-First Century

      Drafting a Manifesto for a Western Zen Buddhist Sangha in the Twenty-First Century As most of my friends know, Jan & I retired from our professional lives and returned home to California intending on spending the balance of our lives closer to family. We were past fortunate in finding a lovely little condominium that we could afford in the Alamitos Beach neighborhood of Long Beach. Of course we started a Zen sitting group at the Unitarian Universalist Church… Read more

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Geeze! I almost forgot. Today is, I think, the twenty-second annual observation of Talk Like a Pirate. Sneered at by some as a “fake” holiday, this is a celebration of all things cheesy and silly attached to the myths of pirates. (And nothing about the nastiness either of historic pirates or the real ones on today’s high seas. We really are capable of holding two different thoughts in our heads…) So, shiver me timbers, recall Long John Silver if you’re… Read more

Three Pointers on the Zen Way: One by a Buddhist

Where were you when I planned the earth? Tell me, if you are so wise. Do you know who took its dimensions, measuring its length with a cord? What were its pillars built on? Who laid down its cornerstone, while the morning stars burst out singing and the angels shouted for joy? Book of Job God is not nice. God is not your uncle. God is an earthquake. Abraham Heschel When the morning star appeared, I and the sentient beings… Read more

Happy birthday, Beantown!

        There used to be a joke about Unitarians. It went, as unlikely as such a thing would be, that if the Unitarians were ever to embrace a creed, it would no doubt be (in the pre-inclusive language of the pre-consolidation with the Universalists day when the joke was coined): “I believe in the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and the neighborhood of Boston.” I have never lived in Boston. And, in fact I’m Californian… Read more

The Problem of Our Suffering: A (Modernist) Zen Buddhist Meditation

  I’ve found myself tangled in a conversation with the always wise Dosho Port. He is wondering what a modernist Buddhist might be. And as he is aware I worry about that issue a lot, kind of like a dog with a bone, he’s put some hard questions to me. So, modernist Buddhism. Other terms that have been used in addition to modernist Buddhism are “liberal Buddhism,” “secular Buddhism,” “naturalist Buddhism,” (my personal favorite) and also generally as a pejorative,… Read more

A Zen Buddhist Tries to Define God

When I was in seminary, and so much smarter than I am today, I was asked what I thought that word God meant? I replied that God is a hole in the language into which we throw all our hopes and fears. To which one of my friends replied, Oh yes. God is a whole in the language into which we throw all our hopes and fears.   Read more

The Three Steps on the Spiritual Path, Or, Maybe Five. A Zen Reflection on Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite

According to the late fifth early sixth century Syrian monk we know as Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, himself drawing heavily upon Neo-platonism, there are three steps to the path of holiness. As a Zen practitioner, I find them a useful if not complete map. Perhaps you might, as well. Writing in his Celestial Hierarchy, Dionysius names these steps, or, maybe modes would be a better term, “purifying, illuminating, and perfecting; or rather it is itself purification, illumination, and perfection.” In this… Read more

Noting the Beginning of an Interfaith Zen Community in Kentucky

As Jesus was greeted by crowds of people, he climbed a mountain. At the top, he sat down with his disciples and began to teach. Blessing them, he said: In the barrenness of your longing, you taste heaven’s riches. There is comfort in your broken heart. Open to life you are content with who you are and what is, you walk free on life’s path. In your hunger and thirst, here, in your very desire for righteousness, you are filled…. Read more

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