Our Lady of Good Counsel

Our Lady of Good Counsel is one of those things that make me love Catholics. And, yes, there are tons of things that take me in other directions, since you ask. But, this version of the great mother is a bit of the good stuff.The story is simple enough. It was 1487. The church of Santa Maria in the Italian town of Genazzano, which had been established in the fifth century, and which had weathered the vicissitudes of history and become a place of miraculous cure and pilgrimage experienced a … [Read more...]

Shunryu Suzuki: Branches of the Sandokai

I am coming to the end of my whirlwind visit to San Francisco's Zen Center. I'm here on the business of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, and we're hard at it, yesterday a full day focused on the work of the board, and today a half day equally focused. After which, home.Still, while I've not wandered too far from our meeting room at 310 Page, its impossible not to have had some glimpses of life here. And I will be carrying home some images and encounters, however brief, lodged safely in my … [Read more...]

Marking 400 Years with the Bard

(This appears to be the only authentic portrait of the Bard)As I was just reminded today is the four hundredth anniversary of William Shakespeare's death.I think about how we are who we are as people. The content of our minds are filled with images and phrases and assumptions derived from this and that, bits of feather, and fur, pebbles and random stars. For those of us who speak English William Shakespeare becomes a source, astonishing in its range, for much of that magpie nest which … [Read more...]

A Quick Visit to the Storied San Francisco Zen Center’s City Center

Today I'm off on a whirlwind run up to San Francisco for a meeting of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association board.We're being hosted by San Francisco Zen Center's City Center. While over the years I've been on campus a number of times this will be the first time I've slept there.I actually began my Zen life receiving instruction in zazen at the SFZC in 1967, although the center was at that time still housed at Bush street in Japantown. I sat at the Berkeley zendo for the next near two years. … [Read more...]

Mr John Waters Turns Seventy

In the midst of all that is going on, we should also note that John Waters has turned seventy. Given the givens, who would have thunk? … [Read more...]

Holding Up the Moon: Thinking a Little About East African Plains Apes and Zen

I recall back in the late nineteen sixties when Desmond Morris published his book with the at the time provocative title, "The Naked Ape." it caused quite the stir.Now, I've just run across the term "East African Plains Ape" to describe homo sapiens. Still provocative. Although maybe part of why I really liked it.And, I wondered if it were in fact a scientific term. Sadly, a quick google search reveals it isn't in common usage. And in fact may be a bit too specific to even be accurate … [Read more...]

Celebrating Our American Moses: Harriet Tubman

It is so wonderful to learn that Harriet Tubman is going to grace our American twenty dollar bill.In case you aren't familiar...She was born a slave somewhere around 1820.At about the age of twenty-nine Harriet escaped to freedom. However, her first act after that dramatic escape was to return and gather up her family and lead them to freedom. She would eventually lead some thirteen bands of escaped slaves out of bondage.In the run up to the Civil War she assisted John Brown in … [Read more...]

You Start With Two Tablespoons of Lard: Making a Goulash Pie

So, I'm talking with my friend, Ed. And he says he has to cut our conversation a little short because he is making his mother in law dinner that evening and its a bit time intensive. I ask, and what bit of deliciousness are you preparing? Okay, slightly sarcastic because I know his taste buds go in the general direction of what I'm going to call groats. Goulash pie, says he. Ah, all for the love of family. I said, you have to send me the recipe. He said, okay. And, added, it's good. Well, here … [Read more...]

Not Forgetting: the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Sometimes memory is the art of not forgetting, even against the passing of time, even after those who were involved have all died.Not forgetting because it is important.Here's something that should be seared into memories.It was on this day in 1943 that when German troops entered the Warsaw ghetto and were met with an armed if rag tag resistance. Left and right united in the fight. Armed mostly with handguns, some grenades, often handmade, and just a few rifles and even fewer … [Read more...]


A WESTERN SOTO ZEN BUDDHIST STATEMENT ON THE CLIMATE CRISISApril 2016As Buddhists, our relationship with the earth is ancient. Shakyamuni Buddha, taunted by the demon king Mara under the Bodhi Tree before his enlightenment, remained steady in meditation. He reached down to touch the earth, and the earth responded: “I am your witness.” The earth was partner to the Buddha’s work; she is our partner, as we are hers.From the Buddha’s time, our teachers have lived close to nature by choice … [Read more...]