Zen and the Boundless Way: Reflecting on the Blue Cliff Record, Case 61

Fengxue said, “If you raise a speck of dust, the nation flourishes. If you don’t raise a speck of dust, the nation perishes.”(Xuedou held up his staff and asked: “Do any of you, at the bottom, live and die like this?”)Blue Cliff Record, Case 61Fengxue Yanshao was born at the end of the ninth century, and became one of the great Zen masters of his era. Stories of his teaching or of encounters with him are the stuff of quite a few classical koan. And his two sentences in this three sent … [Read more...]

This Saturday: A One Day Zen Sit With Zen teachers James Ishmael Ford & Gesshin Greenwood

Zen in Orange CountyJoin us for a day-long Zen meditation intensive ledby Roshi James Ishmael Ford & Sensei Gesshin Greenwood.This event is sponsored by the Blue Cliff Zen Sangha & the Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church.This is our inaugural Blue Cliff (soon to be Bright Cloud) intensive Zen meditation retreat. It consists almost entirely of zazen in twenty-five minute sessions broken with five to seven minute kinhin (slow follow-the-leader walking … [Read more...]

Introducing Roshi Douglas Keido San’un Phillips

On Saturday the 13th of May, 2017, I had the great honor and enormous pleasure of publicly acknowledging my old friend the Zen teacher Douglas Phillips through the ancient and constantly renewed ceremony of Inka Shomei, "evidence of the mark."In addition to his work as a dharma teacher, Doug holds a PhD in psychology and maintains a psychotherapy practice in Newton, Massachusetts.Roshi Phillips has been practicing in the Zen and Vipassana traditions for more than thirty years. He began … [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...]

Reclaiming Enlightenment in Zen: A Small Meditation

In the Western Zen scene today words like enlightenment, kensho, and satori have been pushed to the background. Any emphasis on the experience of awakening has been minimized. There are reasons for this. And I think some of them are legitimate.However, that acknowledged, the great project of Zen is nothing less than awakening. And, sliding over that, shifting the point to something else, is making a terrible mistake.The Eighteenth century Japanese Rinzai master Hakuin Ekaku was blunt … [Read more...]

ZEN IN THE OC: A Zen Meditation Retreat With James Ford & Gesshin Greenwood

Zen in Orange CountyJoin us for a day-long Zen meditation intensive led by Roshi James Ishmael Ford & Sensei Gesshin GreenwoodWe will do zazen (zen meditation), liturgy, more zazen, have a dharma talk, still more zazaen, dokusan (formal practice interviews), and finally some more zazen.This event is sponsored by the Blue Cliff Zen Sangha & the Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church.Saturday, June the 24th, 2017, from 9am (promptly) to 5pm (with a one hour brown bag … [Read more...]

MY ZEN BUDDHIST EASTER

MY ZEN BUDDHIST EASTER A SermonJames Ishmael Ford16 April 2017 Unitarian Universalist Church Long Beach, CaliforniaI served most of my years as a parish minister among our New England congregations. They are generally more traditional in their structure, and, frankly, more comfortable with our Christian origins and heritage than either our Midwestern or Western churches usually are.What that meant was that I was always expected me to preach about Easter on Easter Sunday, and … [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...]

Following the Scented Flowers: A Small Meditation on a Zen Koan

One day Changsha went off to wander in the mountains. When he returned, the temple director met him at the gate and asked, “So, where have you been?”Changsha replied, “I’ve been strolling about in the hills.”“Which way did you go?”“I went out following the scented grasses and came back chasing the falling flowers.”The director smiled. “That’s exactly the feeling of spring.”Changsha, agreed, adding, “It’s better than autumn dew falling on lotuses.”Blue Cliff Record, Case 36 … [Read more...]