Zen’s Kensho: Anne Sullivan as Zen master, Helen Keller as Zen student

Perhaps you're wondering what Zen's kensho might be? Kensho or satori are the experiences (although some will challenge, and for good reasons, the use of that word experience) of insight into our deepest reality.While perhaps most closely associated with the Zen tradition, if there’s a natural insight into reality, then obviously it is owned by no religion.There are just a ton of stories that illustrate the moment. Here's one.In the early middle of the nineteenth century the bri … [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...]

LOVE & MONEY: A Zen Reflection that Starts With a Christian Text

LOVE AND MONEY A Zen Reflection That Starts With a Christian TextJames Myoun Ford Blue Cliff Zen SanghaI stumbled on a version of what follows that I'd written a couple of years ago. Thought I could tighten and tweak and that it might be useful. Especially right now...Paul in his first letter to Timothy asserts, “For the love of money is the root of all evil…”I recall that line being thundered from the pulpits of my childhood. Ours was a poor people’s religion, and our preache … [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...]

Love Beyond Beliefs: Or, My Unitarian Universalism

The other day I posted a letter I wrote to a Unitarian Universalist ministerial search committee. In it I pointed out what I consider a terrible problem facing UU churches, particularly smaller ones.For complex reasons much of it involving a generational shift which I mention in that post, there has been a shifting in the broader theological perspectives of people coming into our congregations. Shifting perspectives are part in parcel with Unitarian Universalism with its deep belief in the … [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...]

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...]