Great Awakenings: A Small Zen Meditation on Hope After Teleology

Teleology: “A noun meaning the study of evidences of design in nature & particularly the use of design or purpose as an explanation of natural phenomena” (adapted from Merriam Webster)I was reading an article at the always interesting Lion’s Roar, when I stumbled upon a quote attributed to the poet and Zen pilgrim Gary Snyder. “To be devotional is to take great faith in life as it is.” I admire him both as a writer and for a life devoted to the Zen project. And that line, well, it just ca … [Read more...]

My Uncertainty Principle: A Modernist, Or, Perhaps Its a Post Post Modernist Zen Buddhist Priest Reflects on What’s What

Early morning thoughts...I find my heart and mind wandering to the thought of axioms. By axiom I'm thinking of an assertion that a person thinks is self-evidently true. And by a person, I'm thinking me.What are those things that are the foundations of my conscious life? For the most part they're derived from my Zen and Buddhist experiences wandering through the depths of my heart and mind. There is a rationalist and broadly humanistic sense as well, which has led me to align with the … [Read more...]

ZEN AND A HOLY TRINITY A Zen Priest Meditates on the Vagaries of Love

ZEN AND A HOLY TRINITY A Zen Priest Meditates on the Vagaries of LoveJames Ishmael FordThen one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang … [Read more...]

COME, HOLY SPIRIT, COME! A Universalist Meditation for Pentecost

COME, HOLY SPIRIT, COME!A Universalist Meditation for PentecostJames Ishmael Ford4 June 2017 Unitarian Universalist Church Long Beach, CaliforniaOne of the lovelier things that can happen for a writer is when something they’ve composed takes on a life of it’s own. In my Unitarian Universalist life this has in fact happened twice. Maybe twenty years ago I wrote a little piece called “An Invitation to Western Buddhists.” It was basically a suggestion that convert Buddhists who wer … [Read more...]

Zen for Humans

A while back I posted on my blog a note about the anniversary of the convening of the council now called Nicea I. I opined how this could be seen as the end of the glorious mess that was early Christianity as the emperor Constantine began to remake the Christian church in his own image.One of the commentators at the blog opined that he saw some parallels between this and the creation of an organization of Soto Zen clergy in the United States. I tried to respond. But, I found my words were … [Read more...]

My Heart Sutra: A Zen Teacher Reflects on the Spiritual Life

My Heart SutraWhen the heart of compassion walked through the gate of wisdom, she looked into the body of the world and each of us, seeing each of us and the world itself is boundless. And with this all suffering vanished.Dear one, all things are boundless; the boundless is nothing other than all things. Everything in itself is boundless; Boundlessness is all things. This is true of us and our feelings, experiences, and consciousness itself.Dear one, the stuff of the world is … [Read more...]

Malcolm X: A Meditation

Malcolm Little was born in Omaha, Nebraska on this day, May 19th, 1925. I consider him one of the signal figures in the spiritual history of the United States. I've written here about him before. But, I never feel I've quote captured what I hope to share. So, one more time...Malcolm was the fourth of seven children. His father a Baptist preacher and an outspoken advocate of Black self-reliance. The family moved first to Milwaukee and then to Lansing.His father was killed when he was six … [Read more...]

Let All Mortal Flesh: A Zen priest attends an Episcopalian Mass

This past Sunday I attended an Episcopalian mass celebrated in a tiny chapel in West Cornwall, Connecticut.Eighteen of us gathered there, which I understand to be on the larger side for this little community. The church they usually meet in is under repairs and so we were at a little stone chapel that is the heart place of a retreat center now administered by Trinity Church in Manhattan.The service itself was Prayerbook Rite II with all that means. For me as a progressive filled with … [Read more...]

Awakening and Zen: A Reflection on the Range of Awakening Experiences

On facebook in the comments to my recent posting on awakening and Zen there was a bit of a thread which included some pretty heavy weight Zen teachers. Jiryu Rutschman-Byler raised the term "kensho-spectrum" to summarize some of what he saw suggested in my writing. He then invited me to speak more fully on the subject.The point as I read it was that often we're given the sense that awakening as it is described in Zen is this one big thing that changes everything. But, as Jiryu noted, I … [Read more...]

Saving Ghosts: A Zen Tale

Master Wuzu asked one of his students, “The woman Chien and her spirit had separated. Tell me, which is the true Chien?”Wumenguan, The Gateless Gate, Case 35.The Zen teacher Wuzu loved to formulate spiritual questions out of folklore. This koan is based in a much loved tale from old China. Like the best of ghost stories, no one knows from where it originally comes. I gather there are at least three traditional versions floating around. Here’s a fourth as I've heard it.Once upon a time … [Read more...]