The Wolf Takes Possession of the Hen House

Well, here we are.Enough people who are terrified at how the rich have been getting richer and the poor getting poorer while the middle class upon which our civilization has been based is rapidly falling apart, have elected as president of the United States a man who has spent his life enriching himself while screwing his vendors, and then ran a campaign long on hatred of all perceived "others," while promising as he knows how to game the system better than anyone, once elected as president … [Read more...]

Finding Myself Thinking of “You Nazty Spy!” Can’t Imagine Why…

While Charlie Chaplain's Great Dictator was in the can, in fact the very first film in popular distribution in America to mock Adolf Hitler and his Nazi movement were, of course, the Three Stooges.Today in 1940 the Three Stooges' 44th short You Nazty Spy was released. As, I noted, best anyone knows, the first of what would become a bit of an industry.Don't know why I find myself thinking of Alec Baldwin... … [Read more...]

Thinking of Zen Master Bernie Glassman on his Seventy-Eighth Birthday

I notice I usually write appreciations of people after they're dead. I thought, well, for once, perhaps an appreciation of someone while they might get a chance to see it would be in order. So, here you go...Bernard Glassman was born in Brighton Beach, in Brooklyn New York on this day in 1939, the fifth child and only boy in the family. His parents were both Jewish immigrants, his mother was Polish, who had lost much of her family to the Holocaust, his father was from Russia. While Bernie's … [Read more...]

The Master Rujing Explains Mu

The current conceit would have it that in Zen koan introspection is something that Rinzai people do, but not Soto. Of course there is an element of truth in this assertion. In Japan where for some good and a fair amount of ill Buddhism is divided into denominations with much stricter demarcations than is true on the continent modern Soto has lost, actually it has suppressed koan introspection as part of its offerings of spiritual disciplines.But, this has not always been so. The great … [Read more...]

Our Fucking City: A Review of Patriots Day

My interest in going to see Patriots Day was a mixed bag. I don't have much of a taste for disaster films or their closely related. And I was, I admit, mildly put off by the idea of a "heartfelt tribute" or "inspiring story" as was said of Patriots Day. I like uplift as much as the next person, but I have a pretty deep aversion to treacle.On the other hand Jan and I spent a fraction shy of fifteen years in Eastern New England, half of that in Newton, an inner ring suburb of Boston, the … [Read more...]

MARTIN’S DREAM: A Meditation on Dr Martin Luther King, Jr & the Dreams that Connect Us All

MARTIN’S DREAM A Meditation on Dr Martin Luther King, Jr and the Dreams that Connect Us AllA Sermon by James Ishmael Ford15 January 2017 Tapestry Unitarian Universalist Congregation Mission Viejo, CaliforniaWe are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. There are some things in our social system to which all of us ought to be maladjusted. Hatred and bitterness can never cure the d … [Read more...]

Recalling John Biddle, Unitarian Saint and Martyr

One of those memories I treasure for the years I served at the First Unitarian Society in Newton, Massachusetts, was the pulpit. I was always careful when speaking of the church and various things about it to say "our," after all it was our church. But, I always said, "my" pulpit. Even though I held it in trust, it had been presented to me within that trust and it was "mine" for eight years.As an object it was a wonder to behold. Among the delights of the thing were the carved figures that … [Read more...]

Kensho, Samadhi, & the Practices of Zen

As Zen first came west, kensho, or satori, was the great prize. The Zen priest scholar Victor Sogen Hori tells us, “The term consists of two characters: ken, which means “see” or “seeing”, and sho, which means “nature”, “character”, “quality.” To “see one’s nature” is the usual translation for kensho.” Satori, which derives from the Japanese verb satoru, is for all practical purposes a synonym for kensho, although some suggest kensho be used for the initial insight, and satori for the deeper matu … [Read more...]

When the Need is Great, the Swami Appears: Recalling Swami Vivekananda

Narendranath Datta was born in Calcutta on this day in 1863 into the Kayastha caste, and a professional family, his father an attorney. From childhood religion was his great obsession. Studying religion and philosophy, Eastern and Western, Narendranath earned a formal degree. He then became interested in the Hindu reform movement the Brahmo Samaj, joining a breakaway branch, the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj.He also met Sri Ramakrishna. For a time Narendranath remained more interested in the Western … [Read more...]

Zen Communities Confronting Mr Trump’s Assumption of the American Presidency

I understand some scholars suggest that it was yesterday in the year 49 before our common era that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon.I have no doubt with our recent election we have crossed another Rubicon.At the current moment there is a great deal of conversation going on about how to respond to what is happening. As with other spiritual traditions within our Zen communities we are torn, largely between those who feel compelled to speak out and those who want to make sure that everyone … [Read more...]