Early Morning Reflection on Awakening

There is obviously a pun of sorts in the title for this briefest reflection.Is "awakening" or "enlightenment" really like waking from sleep? In some ways, I think it is. But, the metaphor can be misleading, as well, if we cling to the image as the reality. For many this metaphor suggests being awake is categorically different than our ordinary lives. So, if one is awake one shouldn't feel inappropriate feelings, or act upon them. One shouldn't feel lust, for instance. Or, even, sometimes people … [Read more...]

Heart Sutra

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Delusion is Enlightenment

The Case: "Delusion is Enlightenment; enlightenment is delusion."Shortly after starting Zen practice, I got a free ride, one of those spontaneous instants where space and time don't apply. My assigned meditation technique4 at the time was counting breaths, and somewhere between six and seven, things landed in the numberless absolute. Everything known was wiped out in a swoop, yet nothing was lacking, nothing was anything, everything was utterly ordinary. The lesson was that perceptions can be … [Read more...]

James Luther Adams

A couple of years ago Jan and I went to the Cambridge Cemetery to lay flowers on the graves of the James brothers, she with a small bouquet for Henry and me with a rose for William. After we lay our flowers on the graves and offered up our thanks for their contributions to world culture we turned around to walk back to our car. That’s when I noticed the headstone just across the way that had a large flaming chalice engraved on it. That’s unusual, I thought. And we walked over to discover the gra … [Read more...]

Zen in China

I have enormous reservations about how best to encounter contemporary China considering their continuous repression of religions that don't fit neatly under government control as much as for their jackbooted occupation of Tibet.And, China is the spiritual home for all of us who walk the Zen way. Zen emerged out of the encounter between Indian Buddhists and indigenous Chinese culture and religion, particularly with followers of Taoism. So much about Zen is obviously about Chinese sensibilities … [Read more...]


LIKE AN EARTHQUAKE Facing Death and Embracing LifeA Sermon byJames Ishmael FordDelivered at a Workshop on Death and Dyingat theFirst Unitarian Society in Newton10 November 2007TextI am not ready to die, But I am learning to trust death As I have trusted life. I am moving Toward a new freedom Born of detachment, And a sweet grace – Learning to let go. I am not ready to die, But as I approach sixty I turn my face toward the sea. I shall go where tides replace time, Where my world will open to a f … [Read more...]

Neville Chamberlain

Arthur Neville Chamberlain, former Prime Minister of Great Britain, disgraced for his policy of appeasement in dealing with Hitler, died on this day in 1940.What is more immediately of interest to me is that Chamberlain was a Unitarian. At least he was raised a Unitarian and while he never joined a church in his adulthood (and was in fact buried from Westminster Abbey), was generally seen by his friends and his enemies throughout his adulthood as a Unitarian.It is arguable that his world-view … [Read more...]

Death and Dying: A Liberal Spiritual Bibliography

A long time and much beloved member of the Unitarian Universalist congregation I currently serve who has since moved out to California recently learned she has cancer and, it appears, not a long time to live. Being a good UU she asked me for a reading list. I solicited colleagues on both UU and Zen Buddhist listservs to which I belong for their suggestions. I gleaned the following from their responses.Pema Chodron When Things Fall Apart (for me perhaps the most helpful of the books on this … [Read more...]

Who Is Your Candidate?

ABC News has a delightful if apparently occasionally disconcerting questionnaire that reveals your "true" choices among the current crop of presidential hopefuls. (I gather more than one self-professed Democrat found a Republican or two on their list, as well as significant examples of the other way 'round...)While I never strayed from the Democratic fold in this test, I wasn't entirely happy with the list that popped for me. The first time I took it I ended up with Gravel (at least he's an old … [Read more...]

Koan Zen: A Brief Bibliography

This past Sunday I had the enormous pleasure of leading a small workshop on koan practice with particular emphasis on the Mu or No koan at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.In preparation for this workshop I cooked up a brief reading list.As it turns out there really isn’t much written on koan Zen that is directly useful to practitioners. Sadly the field is dominated either by spiritual tourists who for the most part have no idea of what they are talking about or scholars who have a s … [Read more...]