Is Our Destiny in the Stars? A Small, Mostly Zen Meditation

  It was forty-eight years ago on this day in 1969 that Apollo 11 successfully landed on the moon. The next day Neil Armstrong and then Buzz Aldrin would be the first humans to walk on the surface of a natural body other than the Earth. Seven years later on this same day the unmanned Viking 1 successfully landed on the surface of Mars.I love these facts. Me. As a child I would look up to the stars and wonder. These events made my heart jump with dreams of the possible. For … [Read more...]

I Leave This Old Heart to the World: 3 Poems by the Zen Priest Ryokan

After our Boundless Way Zen West three day zazenkai in Seattle, while on my flight home I was reading a small collection of Sam Hamill's poetry and translations. I was especially taken with three of his renditions of the Soto Zen priest Ryokan's poetry.Alone in this strange machine hurtling through the air down the coast of the North American continent I found them catching my heart, capturing in some ways in my imagination my own life.It occurred to me you might like them, as … [Read more...]

FINDING THE MOON: Margaret Fuller, Liberal Religion, and the Path of Ordinary Wisdom

FINDING THE MOON Margaret Fuller, Liberal Religion, and the Path of Ordinary WisdomA Sermon delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Church Long Beach, California9 July 2017James Ishmael FordTextSilent friend of many distances, feel how your breath enlarges all of space. Let your presence ring out like a bell into the night. What feeds upon your face.grows mighty from the nourishment thus offered. Move through transformation, out and in. What is the deepest loss … [Read more...]

Noting the Birth of the Universalist Sufi Saint Hazrat Inayat Khan

One hundred and thirty five years ago on this day, the 5th of July, 1882, Inayat Khan Rehmat Khan Pathan was born in Vadodara Gujarat. He is more commonly known as Hazrat Inayat Khan, Hazrat being an honorific. And sometimes by the title Pir-O-Murshid, which could be understood as senior teacher and head of a Sufi order.Inayat Khan came from a family of poets and musicians. And, critically, he was an initiate within three Sufi orders. Principally he was a teacher within the Nizamiyya … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

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) Buddhism and the Unitarian Universalists

While rummaging around my blog, I stumbled upon this paper I delivered back in 2014. It's about some details of the meeting between Buddhism, really mostly the meeting of Zen Buddhism and Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists. I consider it an important subject. It certainly has been in my life.A MEETING OF THE WATERSA Preliminary Report from the Buddhist and Unitarian Universalist EncounterA Paper Delivered at the Fraters of the Wayside Inn Sudbury, Massachusetts27 January … [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...]

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...]