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...]

Death Comes for the Archbishop of Canterbury

Within the Anglican communion today is marked as a feast for William Laud who lost his head on this day in 1645..I find him a very interesting person, and a pivotal figure in the formation of the Anglican tradition.I commented on him this past October on the occasion of his birthday on the 7th, some four hundred, and forty three years ago. And, I think it worth revisiting.William Laud eventually rose to the rank of Archbishop of Canterbury and was the close advisor to King Charles … [Read more...]

Want to Feel a Little Hope for Humanity? Go See Hidden Figures

Jan and I, when possible, like to take in a movie on Sunday late afternoons and then go out to dinner. We seem to pull this off nearly three times a month. This Sunday we went to see Hidden Figures.In his review of Hidden Figures, Peter Debruge, the chief film critic at Variety said, approvingly that this movie is "empowerment cinema." I looked around a bit and apparently Mr Debruge coined the phrase. I think he means by that term movies that uphold success in the face of adversity.Now, … [Read more...]

The Golden Door: Some Brief Remarks on Immigration & Deportation

The Golden DoorSome Brief Remarks Delivered at a Forum on Immigration & Deportation at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach8 January 2017James Ishmael Ford I am here to address the spirituality that informs our liberal religious community and why it calls us to engage and actively the immigration debate in this country.First, a small prologue.Back in 2010 I traveled from Rhode Island, where I was serving as minister of the First Unitarian Church of … [Read more...]