An old and dear friend sent me a link to a reading of Wallace Stevens’ the Snow Man, suggesting here’s some winter Zen. I replied that I’d seen it used in the liturgy at at least one, and if I recall correctly two Western Zen communities. One must have a mind of winter To regard the frost and the boughs Of the pine-trees crusted with snow; And have been cold a long time To behold the junipers shagged with… Read more

        The Day I Met Kali A Meditation on a Naturalistic Mysticism A sermon delivered at the Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church Costa Mesa, California 6 May 2018 James Ishmael Ford   In my mid-teenaged years, I discovered the 19th Century Hindu Saint Ramakrishna. Mainly through the writings of Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood. They were deeply tangled up with a Hindu mission, the Vedanta Society. Isherwood in particular wrote a lot on the subject. And in… Read more

    Today is Cinco de Mayo. Out on the inter webs, if you’re moving in circles similar to mine you’re probably inundated with memes and video clips all making sure you know that today is not Mexican Independence Day. Good information. Unfortunately, the presentations are almost always without nuance. Lots of finger waging. Not a lot of love. However, Cinco de Mayo is a many splendored thing, and a subject worth knowing a bit about. I’ve fallen into the… Read more

      The Reverend Gyokei Yokoyama a Soto Zen priest currently serving the North American offices of the Sotoshu as well as minister of the Long Beach Buddhist Church recently shared some thoughts with a few friends. He reflected on the Soto school as it take shape in the West. And, he suggested five videos produced by the Sotoshu laid out the history and the present situation pretty well. One of the videos addresses Soto Zen in Hawaii, two Soto Zen in… Read more

          Some time ago I was corresponding with a Catholic priest about something or other, and almost as an aside he drilled down on what my theology was. I replied “I’m a ‘liberal Buddhist,’ which is a subset of the tradition of ‘liberal religion.'” He replied how he was confused how a political position can be collapsed into a religious term. I replied that “liberal religion” is a term of art, which dates back several hundred years…. Read more

    As it happens, it was on this day in 1394, the Zen priest Ekiho, abbot of Engakuji Rinzai temple in Kamakura successfully exorcised a pesky badger spirit who had been bewitching and otherwise annoying people in the vicinity. And people say priests aren’t worth much. While I admit not being fully schooled in the arts of exorcism, I was at least gifted with a manual for dealing with such things at my full ordination, along with some instruction…. Read more

        Zazen Yojinki Points to Watch in Zazen A classic Zen meditation manual by Keizan Jokin Translated by Reiho Masunaga Lightly edited from his study, the Soto Approach to Zen   Zazen clears up the human-being mind immediately and lets us dwell in our true essence. This is called showing one’s natural face and expressing one’s real self. It is freedom from body and mind and release from sitting and lying down. So think neither of good nor… Read more

The other day I was visiting with my friend Gyokei Yokoyama, the resident minister at the Long Beach Buddhist Church and a Soto Zen Buddhist priest. He shared a pile of copies of a pamphlet with me to distribute at the Zen groups I guide. The pamphlet was titled “Instructions for Chair Zazen.” It’s copyrighted by the Sotoshu Shumacho. No author is attributed, but a brief note credits Dogen’s Fukanzazengji (Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen) and Keizan’s Zazen Yojinki (Advice… Read more

            Okay, not really a “Buddhist” Hume. But, there are intriguing connections. And, at least worth noting today, his four hundred and seventh birthday. David Home was born the 26th of April, 1711 in Edinburgh. Later, he would change the spelling to Hume as that was how the name was pronounced. Hume came from a middle class family, his father an advocate. However, with his father’s death, finances were tight. A prodigy, he attended the… Read more

    In some circles there is quite a lot of back and forth of late about who is a Buddhist. Specifically, what is it one must “believe” to be able to call themselves a Buddhist with integrity. While I am inclined to accept anyone who says they are a Buddhist at face value, I do think there are three assertions about reality that trace right back to the founder and which I believe are at the heart of the tradition…. Read more

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