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...]

Where Is Paradise? Commenting on a Zen Koan

In that wonderful anthology of Zen's koans, the Wumenquan, the Gateless Gate, the fifth case "Xiangyan: Up a Tree" goes like this:The priest Xiangyan said, "It is as if you were up in a tree. You're hanging from a branch by your teeth. Your hands can't grasp anything. Your feet are flailing about. Suddenly someone from below asks, "What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West?" If you don't answer, you fail your responsibility. If you do, you die. What will you do?So, a … [Read more...]

The Zen of Holy Saturday: A Buddhist Reflection on a Hard Christian Holy Day

A couple of years ago I wrote a meditation on the Christian day before Easter, Holy Saturday. It continues to haunt me, and as the calendar has rolled around to another one, I thought I'd give it another go.Holy Saturday. Jesus is dead. With that in the Christian story, God is dead. Resurrection has not yet happened. Actually there's no good reason to even think of something like a resurrection. If you've lived any time at all you really know that when someone dies, they stay dead.Yes, … [Read more...]

Mysteries of the Soul

If we’re not bewildered by the mysteries of the soul, we’re not thinking clearly, to paraphrase the scrawling on the subway walls. For the soul’s mysteries compress the most profound mythic questions that have always intrigued human beings: Where do we come from? Why are we here? Where do we go when we die? But there is some consolation built into consternation, as the Sufi mystic Mevlana Rumi knew when he wrote seven centuries ago that “Bewilderment is intuition.” From pharonic Egypt to Delt … [Read more...]

Soul Men: Gordon Tappan, James Hillman, and My Foray Into Archetypal Psychology

I'm futzing around with a memoir. Probably nothing that will ever be published, but at this moment in my life I see it as an opportunity to reflect back and consider. A privilege of aging. This is one passage about one mentor and something of how he marked my life.I began taking classes at Sonoma State University, studying psychology while Jan finished up some general education requirements at several local community colleges.I was working close to full time and I considered the BA … [Read more...]

Dreams. Memories. And, a Spiritual Path.

Spirituality is difficult for us to touch because it flows to and from the invisible, from love and the mystery of death. It comes out of the “meltdown” that we know as love and compassion and the surrender that we know as death. It flows from the ground of our relationship, not only between human beings, but also between all beings, including mountains and rivers. It is often born from suffering, and it evokes within us compassion, which allows us to see through the eyes of innumerable bei … [Read more...]

How Does Guanyin Use Those Many Hands & Eyes: Reflecting on a Zen koan

Yunyan asked Daowu, ‘How does the Bodhisattva Guanyin use those many hands and eyes?’ Daowu answered, ‘It is like someone in the middle of the night reaching behind her head for the pillow.’ Yunyan said, ‘I understand.’ Daowu asked, ‘How do you understand it?’ Yunyan said, ‘All over the body are hands and eyes.’ Daowu said, ‘That is very well expressed, but it is only eight-tenths of the answer.’ Yunyan said, ‘How would you say it, Elder Brother?’ Daowu said, ‘Throughout the body are hands and ey … [Read more...]

WHO IS OUR NEIGHBOR? A Buddhist Meditation on a Christian Text

WHO IS OUR NEIGHBOR? A Meditation for Hard TimesJames Ishmael Ford5 March 2017Unitarian Universalist Church Long Beach, CaliforniaThus have I heard.A lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus told a story.“ Once there was a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho who was set upon by thieves, who beat him severely, stripped him of his money and even his clothing, and left him lying in the road, half-dead. A series of people passed by the man. The first was … [Read more...]

Zen Lessons from the Bible: Eating Forbidden Fruit

The TextI stumbled on this in my archives. I have no memory of having written it, but it doesn’t look like I can blame anyone else. So, for your entertainment, and who knows, maybe even some small spark of illumination, a look at a passage from Genesis treated in the manner of a Zen koan.The TextNow the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to t … [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...]