William Flees the Pope & the Razor is Sharpened

"It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this."Bertrand RussellIt was on this day in 1328 that the minister general of the Franciscan order and three other friars, including William of Occam, fled the papal court at Avignon. They were reasonably confident if they stayed they would be condemned as heretics and executed at the order of the pope.As it turned out that feared condemnation indeed followed, but … [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...]

Recalling A. Durwood Foster

I’ve just received a communication from the Pacific School of Religion announcing the death of Professor Emeritus A. Durwood Foster.Writing for the school, Dr David Vasquez-Levy briefly outlines Professor Foster’s teaching career. He was “An ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, Dr. Foster was a graduate of Emory University and Union Theological Seminary. He also served as a Fulbright Scholar at Heidelberg, and was a visiting scholar at Gottingen, Columbia, Basel, Berlin, and Oxfo … [Read more...]

Constantine Makes Himself a Church

It was on this day in the year 325, that the Emperor Constantine the Great who had invited all the bishops of Christendom to a conclave convened that gathering.There were an estimated eighteen hundred bishops in the known world and of that number somewhere in the vicinity of three hundred took the emperor up on his invitation. They came from as far away as Britain and Persia.The conclave has come to be called the First Council of Nicaea.If one was in a harsh mood, you could say it … [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...]

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...]

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...]

Dreaming of Steinbeck’s Country

It was today, May the 6th, in 1940, that John Steinbeck was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his novel the Grapes of Wrath. He also won the National Book Award for the book, and when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, it was cited as principal among his writings.That novel has been celebrated, occasionally castigated, and summarized in film and song. I even wrote a sermon about it.I consider the Grapes of Wrath one of the great novels of our American heritage.He was a life … [Read more...]

My Zen Life: A Brief Reflection on Boundless Way Zen

My Zen life is filled with relationships. They include affection, affinity, and sometimes mutual obligation together with a profound accountability. These range from my membership in meta organizations such as the American Zen Teachers Association, which I served for a decade on its membership committee, and the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, which I'm just ending up serving a term as a member of its governing board. And the affection end of the spectrum, I have dear friends and people I count … [Read more...]