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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

Celebrating the Diamond Sutra

This is sort of a holiday for me. I do like to mark it out. And, so, once again... The picture to the right of this text is from a Chinese edition of the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra, the Diamond Sutra. According to the date on the title page it was published on this day in 868.This makes it the oldest known printed book.  Now if you're concerned, this doesn't take a lot away from Mr Gutenberg's critical innovation of movable type. This Diamond Sutra is printed but from a carved block. … [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...]

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...]