And A Glorious Harvey Milk Day to You!

Harvey Milk Day

American politician, San Francisco City Supervisor, and civil rights activist, Harvey Milk was born on this day in 1930. He would have been eighty-five today, but in 1978 he was assassinated together with Mayor George Moscone. The reasons were complicated, and the presenting issue was how the murderer had resigned his position as a Supervisor and realized Harvey and George had blocked his attempt at returning. But in fact the driving reason at the heart of all the others, was as simple as … [Read more...]

Happy B’Day, Fats!

Fats Waller

Thomas Wright Waller, better known to most of us as "Fats" Waller, was born on this day in 1904. … [Read more...]

A Passing Reflection on the Christianity of my Childhood


As someone raised a poor people's Baptist, I heard any number of sermons that declared it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven, and with none of that liberal wishy washy idea that maybe there was a low gate into Jerusalem called the Eye of the Needle that required people to get on their knees to pass through. The sermons I heard thundered a message that one cannot serve God and mammon, and that the rich, by which they meant people with … [Read more...]

B B King Dies

BB King

Riley B. King, the great B. B. King, "king of the blues," died last night after two weeks of hospice care at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada. One of the greats, and a loss for us all... … [Read more...]

A Very Small Meditation on Last Things

Ikkyu & the Courtesan

Yesterday afternoon I returned from a two-night "retreat" with Unitarian Universalist clergy down on Cape Cod. My use of scare quotes around the word retreat is simply because as a Zen person there's a bit of a cognitive dissonance between my usual experience of retreat and what happens in any retreat outside my Zen context.Setting the Zen aside, it was a retreat, a withdrawal from the regular. It featured a series of presentations and breakouts by a very accomplished younger minister … [Read more...]

DANCING IN THE KALI YUGA: A Story of My Life Up Until Now

packet jan & james flea market

DANCING IN THE KALI YUGA A Story of My Life Up Until NowJames Ishmael Ford12 May 2015Presented as a Personal Odyssey at the Annual Spring Retreat of the Ballou Channing District Gathering of the Unitarian Universalist Minister’s AssociationPREAMBLESomewhere in my adolescence I prayed a prayer.I told God that if he or she or it would just reveal himself or herself or itself, in that moment the divine could kill me.I thought it a fair deal.What I received w … [Read more...]

The Diamond Sutra is Printed

Diamond Sutra Frontispiece

According to the date on the title page, an edition of the Diamond Sutra, one of the central texts of the Prajnaparamita Cycle of Mahayana Buddhism, was published on this day in 868. Making it the oldest known printed book. The book was discovered as part of the treasure trove of documents found in the Mogao caves at at Dunhuang, China by Aurel Stein in the early part of the twentieth century.Important throughout Mahayana Buddhism, this is a central document in the Zen way. In the Platform … [Read more...]

Doug Phillip’s Zen Ordination

Doug's ordination

Doug Phillips has been a student of the way for many, many years. Originally an Episcopal priest and these days a practicing psychologist, he has studied the Dharma with Maurine Stuart, George Bowman, and Vimala Thakar. He received authorization as an Insight meditation teacher from Larry Rosenberg, and not long ago I gave him Dharma transmission in the Zen tradition.Doug is the principal teacher of the Empty Sky Sangha in West Cornwall, CT.And now I'm happy to announce, that on the … [Read more...]

Marking the Birth of John Brown

John Brown, American terrorist, American hero, was born on this day in 1800. "John Brown was John the Baptist for the Christ we are to see" sang those who saw his Quixotic raid on Harper's Ferry as the beginning of the end for slavery. And how that holds some terrible truth, a challenge to all of us who wish for a better way. I think of those who say without the Civil War slavery would have ended on its own in time. I don't find that argument particularly compelling, and wonder who would … [Read more...]

Gary Turns Eighty-Five

Pulitzer Prize winning poet, social and particularly environmental activist, and general all around Zen person, Gary Snyder was born on this day in 1930.The "poet laureate of deep ecology" is eighty-five.May he celebrate many more birthdays among us...Here Gary reflects on Jack Kerouac and a bit on the novel Dharma Bums, which as nearly everyone knows features Gary under the name Japhy Rider.And, then reading his own poem Riprap. … [Read more...]