As Worlds Collide: A Western Zen Buddhist Looks to Bishop Synesius

I would hope that even school children know of the great mathematician and philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria, and sing her praises, and recall her terrible death at the hands of a Christian mob in 415. But, me, at least in this moment, I find myself thinking mostly of her disciple Synesius. Synesius was a student of philosophy, particularly Hypatia’s Neoplatonism. He had studied with her for several years and he would later continue to correspond with her for the rest of… Read more

Professor Lopez’s Biography of the Lotus Sutra

The Lotus Sutra: A Biography Donald S. Lopez, Jr. Princeton University Press, 2016, Princeton An Appreciation James Ishmael Ford One of my early encounters with the range of Buddhism, or maybe it is best said as Buddhisms, was being invited by a nice elderly Japanese woman that I met while working at Holmes Book Company in Oakland, to attend a “Buddhist meeting.” I’d just started sitting (meditating in the Zen style) with a Zen group and so that seemed a great… Read more

Zen Villages: Perhaps an Idea Whose Time is Coming

  Over on Facebook one of my friends posted about an event that opened a wound between her and the residential Zen center with which she has been affiliated for much of her adult life. It has caused a bit of a stir. Some saying it shared too much, others that it pointed to a deep shadow at that Zen center, and others, well, it has become something of a rorschach allowing all of us with concerns for and about… Read more

Remembering Zen Master Philip Kapleau

Philip Kapleau was born today, the 20th of August, 1912. I wrote a biographical sketch of this pioneering Western Zen teacher for my book Zen Master Who? Last year the good folk at Lion’s Roar edited it and printed it as part of an acknowledging of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Rochester Zen Center. What follows is my rewrite of Lion’s Roar’s edit of my original essay. Philip Kapleau is widely acknowledged as an important Zen master,… Read more

The Buddha and the Non Believer: A Meditation on a Zen Koan

The Buddha and the Non Believer A Meditation on a Zen Koan James Ishmael Ford Blue Cliff Zen Sangha, Boundless Way Zen West The Case: A non-believer opened his heart to the Buddha, saying, “I am not asking about words, I am not asking about the wordless.” The world honored one sat quietly. The non-believer replied to this, “With your wisdom and heart you have parted the clouds of my confusions, and showed me the way through.” He made bows… Read more

Zen Priests and Zen Teachers Within Boundless Way

I had originally put up a reflection on the differences between Zen priests and teachers here. But not long after publishing it, I felt dissatisfied with the product. Too jumbled, not explored enough, it just didn’t work. So, I took it down. Instead, here’s our attempt at describing that difference within the organization to which I belong. What’s the difference between a BoWZ transmitted Teacher and a BoWZ priest? The Boundless Way Zen Mission Statement says, “The great project of… Read more

Daniel Terragno on (Lay) Zen Practice

    My wonderful dharma sibling Daniel Terragno talking about Zen. He is not as well known here in the English speaking community as he should be. He is a lay Zen master, principally teaching using the Soto reformed Harada Yasutani koan curriculum. When I looked at Youtube I saw nearly all the clips available are in Spanish. If you have Spanish speaking friends who have an interest in Zen, you might point them toward those clips. He lives mostly… Read more

Leaning In: Or, How Does a Zen Person Do Conflict

Leaning In Or, How does a Zen Person do conflict? Chris Hoff A Dharma talk delivered at the Blue Cliff Zen Sangha in Long Beach 15 August, 2017 I want to acknowledge Charlottesville, and the state of the nation in some way, but tonight won’t be speaking specifically about Charlottesville. For that I will direct you to Roshi James’ FB page for his recent sermon on the topic, or his recent writing on the subject that can be found online… Read more

Layman Pang’s Snowball Fight: A Small Zen Meditation

        I was revisiting a case in the Blue Cliff Record. In Chinese the Biyan Lu, the Twelfth century classic anthology of koans. Koans are those lovely fragments of poetry, stories of encounters, and fairy tales that point us to the heart of the great matter. Case number 42 in the anthology goes: Layman Pang was leaving Yaoshan. Yaoshan ordered ten of his Zen students to see Pang off at the temple gate. Pang pointed to the falling… Read more

The Calm Mind: Shodo Harada Roshi’s Introduction to Zen Meditation

Taigen Shodo Harada is a Japanese Rinzai Zen master, dharma successor to the renowned Mumon Yamada Roshi. He has been leading sesshin in the West since 1982 and since 1995 has been centered at the One Drop Zendo on Whidbey Island, in Washington State. He is sometimes considered a teacher of teachers as Western Zen teachers in a variety of schools from Soto to the Harada Yasutani have all sat with him at one time or another. This simple introduction… Read more