October 16, 2018

  Layman Pang’s Beautiful Snowflakes The koan followed by comments and then a Dharma talk by James Ishmael Ford The Case 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 snow in the air and said, “Beautiful snow-flakes! — they don’t fall on any other place.” At that time there was a student named Zen, who said, “Where then do they fall?” Pang gave… Read more

October 15, 2018

            In the early Ninth century the renowned Chinese master of both Zen and Huayen, Guifeng Zongmi, spoke of five styles of Zen. In the Twentieth century the Japanese Zen master Haku’un Yasutani adapted this list to express his own observations about the various ways people engage Zen. That adaptation of Guifeng’s list is captured for us in Philip Kapleau’s Three Pillars of Zen. Yasutani took Guifeng’s lifelong attempt at reconciling the indigenous wisdoms of… Read more

October 14, 2018

        Jan & I’ve just completed a three-day sesshin with the Empty Sky Sangha in West Cornwall, Connecticut. The leaves are turning, but it’s been a warm and wet season and there’s not a lot of color, many leaves simply falling to the ground. Even so this rural Connecticut area is astonishingly beautiful. We sat and ate and laughed and cried, all the things one does at sesshin. Sesshin does mean to touch the heart/mind, after all…. Read more

October 11, 2018

        Over the last couple of years I’ve found a shifting in my interior life. As a Zen practitioner I’ve been focused for many years on the profound and subtle pointing expressed succinctly within the Heart Sutra: Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form. It is an approach to that religious perspective generally tagged as nondual. And I believe it contains the great secret of our lives, our past, our future. Within Zen we find a perspective somewhat… Read more

October 9, 2018

      One of my absolute heroes is the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. He walked the mystery between Christianity and Buddhism in ways that have called to my heart over the many years. He has been a companion, a guide, offering correction and encouragement every step I’ve taken. He counts in my life as central, along with Eihei Dogen, Hakuin Ekaku, the author of the Book of Job, and the Heart Sutra. Possibly my favorite of his books is… Read more

October 8, 2018

    So, today, Jan I took our pretty regular stroll down to the beach in Long Beach. As we walked past the big Life guard central station we were taken aback to see that it was now the headquarters for “Malibu search and rescue.” I’d long had my suspicions about Malibu, but that they had actually invaded us and taken over our beach seemed pretty aggressive. Then we looked down the parking lot and saw the traditional set up… Read more

October 5, 2018

      According to Matthew Ciolek’s interesting Zen Calendar, today, the 5th of October, is celebrated as a festival in honor of Bodhidharma the semi-historical, semi-mythic founder of Chinese Zen, as well as some branches of martial arts, and, let us not forget, the originator of tea in China… I reflected on him last year. Here I repeat and slightly expand my reflection from last year… In the Zen tradition Bodhidharma is the twenty-eighth heir in direct transmission from… Read more

October 4, 2018

        Many years ago I ran across a book describing a visit to Japan sometime before the second world war. I don’t recall a lot about that book. Well, except, for one thing. The writer described encountering a small Buddhist society whose members were following an adaptation of the rule of St Francis. I’ve long since lost the book and have never been able to find anything else about this little band, almost certainly consumed in the… Read more

October 2, 2018

          The Indian spiritual and political leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on this day in 1869 in Porbander, a town in present day Gujarat. Later called Mahatma, or Great Soul, a title bestowed by the poet Rabindranath Tagore, Gandhi would become a singular figure on the twentieth century public stage. Of course there’s much that could be said. He has been praised. Wildly. He has been condemned. With just about as much abandon. People have… Read more

October 1, 2018

        Annie Wood was born on this day in 1847. At 20 she married an Anglican priest, Frank Besant. They would have two children together before their marriage collapsed. Apparently spurred on by Annie Besant’s increasing distaste for organized religion and equally increasing devotion to the work of justice. In 1877, as a leader of the National Secular Society, she and a colleague, Charles Bradlaugh were prosecuted for publishing the American physician Charles Knowlton’s Fruits of Philosophy,… Read more

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