I’ve been rereading a small book by the late Zen teacher Philip Kapleau, called the Wheel of Death. In the chapter “Dying: Practical Instructions” he begins by quoting three writers from diverse perspectives, pointing in one direction. A man who dies before he dies Does not die when he dies.   Abraham a Sancta Clara One who sees the Way in the morning can gladly die in the evening.   Confucius Abandon life and the world that you may know… Read more

The Zen master Yuan-chih of Chang-China Hall in Fu county once addressed the monks in the Dharma hall: “For thirty years I lived on Mount Wei and during that time I ate the monastery’s rice and gave it back in the latrine. I did not learn the Zen of Master Wei-Than. All I did was raise an ox. When he wandered from the path into the grass, I pulled him back; when he ran amuck I someone’s garden, I chastised… Read more

      I was driving home from a meeting with a friend who has decided he would like to formalize his relationship with me as his primary Zen teacher. A powerful meeting requiring both of us to be honest with a lot of issues as we explored what that studying Zen and, well, studying Zen with me, might actually mean. As is often what I do while driving alone, I turned on NPR. And there on the Terry Gross… Read more

      Mapping Our Spiritual Journey A Meditation on Our Broken World, Zen’s Ten Oxherding Pictures, & the Intimate Way 18 February 2018 Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church Costa Mesa, California James Ishmael Ford We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding Vision without action is a dream Action without vision is a nightmare…. Read more

    Recently on a Facebook group to which I belong one of the members asked what one non-Buddhist book was most important to me as a Zen Buddhist. I realized I had one title pop up immediately. Others followed, but this was absolutely the first to come to heart. It was Thomas Merton’s The Wisdom of the Desert. That book was terribly important to me as I began to deeply feel that there were currents common to all the… Read more

    In my view there are two great American original religions. One is the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints, the Mormon religion. The other is New Thought. While people who write about New Thought give it a hundred mothers, I think we can actually start with Phineas Quimby. Phineas Parkhurst Quimby was born on this day, the 16th of February 1802 in Lebanon, New Hampshire. His father was a blacksmith. He received negligible education before being apprenticed… Read more

In various parts of East Asian Buddhism today, the 15th of February (for some the 8th) is marked out to observe the death of Gautama Siddhartha, the historic Buddha. The occasion is called Nirvana day or Parinirvana day or, in Japanese Buddhism Nihan-e. Many Western Zen communities spend the day or sometimes the week in meditation. According to tradition the Buddha was eighty years old when he died. His long life was dedicated to a great search, a finding, and… Read more

      Somehow I love that this year the Christian holy day of Ash Wednesday and the semi-sort-of Christian holiday St Valentine’s Day fall on the same day. Basically. You’re going to die. And I love you. Works for me. I think a lot about love. What it is and what it is not. I’m particularly taken with the two assertions “God is love” and “Love is god.” I know people who rail at one assertion or the other,… Read more

      There’s a saying floating around the interwebs, “We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” I like it. A lot. I’ve always assumed it a slight misquote of the Zen poet and singer Leonard Cohen’s magisterial song Anthem: Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack, a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in However, digging around I found it is sometimes actually attributed to Ernest… Read more

  Charles Darwin was born on this day in 1809. Me, I mark it out as a time to pause and reflect on many things. An interesting article at Wikipedia notes how his birthday has been observed as something special pretty much since his death in 1882. However in 1909 on the centenary of his birth a number of events marked the day out. These included a gathering of over four hundred scientists and others at Cambridge where papers were… Read more

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