Recalling the Fond du Lac Circus & the Remarkable Bishop Grafton

The 30th of August the ever delightful Episcopal Church celebrates a feast in honor of the life and ministry of Charles Chapman Grafton. Born a Boston brahman in 1830, Grafton was educated at Philips Academy and Harvard College. Originally he had prepared for the law, but theological interests overcame, and he read theology with William Whittingham, Tractarian and Episcopal bishop of Maryland. Beginning his ministry in Maryland he served as a curate as was normative, but also as chaplain to… Read more

Noting the Passing of American Buddhist Pioneer Alfred Bloom

The Reverend Dr Alfred Bloom died last Friday evening, the 25th of August, 2017. He was surrounded by family and close friends. I didn’t really know Dr Bloom. However, our lives touched for a few minutes. When I arrived at the Pacific School of Religion I noticed how in addition to the professional Master of Divinity degree, if I were able to squeeze another year of coursework into the three I would be there, and add in a thesis, I could… Read more

The Great Way is Not Difficult: Zen’s Koans & the Way of the Broken Heart

    This world of dew Is a world of dew Even so, even so Kobayashi Issa I’ve been writing a fair amount about koans in the last couple of years. My book An Introduction to the Zen Koan: Learning the Language of Dragons comes out from Wisdom Publications next year. So, various thoughts, observations, and pieces that didn’t go to the book ended up on this page. And, with increasing frequency I’ve scattered over this blog comments on one… Read more

The Zen Koan of the Buddha’s Teaching and Bodhidharma’s Intention

The Case An ancient worthy said, “Buddha’s teaching is expressed through reason; Bodhidharma’s intention is expressed through devices. Entangling Vines, Part Two, Case 170 For many of us who practice in the Soto Zen reformed koan tradition usually called the Harada Yasutani school, it was such a treat when the traditional Japanese Rinzai text the Shumon Kattoshu, rendered as Entangling Vines, became available in an English version. The American born Rinzai priest Thomas Yuho Kirchner gives us the English text of… Read more

The Buddha Takes His Seat: A Brief Reflection on a Zen Koan

The Case One day the Buddha ascended to the platform. Manjushri struck the board and announced “Contemplate clearly the dharma of the Dharma King. The dharma of the Dharma King is just this.” Blue Cliff Record Case 92 & Book of Serenity Case 1   Something in the neighborhood of fifty years ago I attend a talk by a Buddhist monk. He was an American, a convert disciple of a Chinese meditation master. So, in those days something of a… Read more

Recalling the Great Moon Hoax. No, Not the Eclipse. You Saw That One, Remember?

Every once in a while I notice this little anniversary as it rolls around. It was on this day in 1835 that the New York newspaper, The Sun, began a series of six articles that reported the discovery of a civilization on the moon by the renowned astronomer Sir John Herschel. It was quickly revealed this was a hoax. While the true authorship has never been conclusively determined, and various names have been floated, as well as co-conspirators, in all… Read more

Of the Raw and the Cooked: A Zen Teacher Reflects on Dharma Transmission and Spiritual Practice

One of the many things I delight in in reading Zhuangzi is how one his stories pointing to wisdom features a butcher. Meat is, legitimately, a complex thing for those of us on a path that acknowledges our profound interconnectedness. Of course, the same thing can be said about life in general. And, about our spiritual lives in particular. I’ve been caught up in some conversation with friends about preparation of Zen teachers. And, in pursuing those conversations two things… Read more

As Worlds Collide: A Western Zen Buddhist Looks to Bishop Synesius

I would hope that even school children know of the great mathematician and philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria, and sing her praises, and recall her terrible death at the hands of a Christian mob in 415. But, me, at least in this moment, I find myself thinking mostly of her disciple Synesius. Synesius was a student of philosophy, particularly Hypatia’s Neoplatonism. He had studied with her for several years and he would later continue to correspond with her for the rest of… Read more

Professor Lopez’s Biography of the Lotus Sutra

The Lotus Sutra: A Biography Donald S. Lopez, Jr. Princeton University Press, 2016, Princeton An Appreciation James Ishmael Ford One of my early encounters with the range of Buddhism, or maybe it is best said as Buddhisms, was being invited by a nice elderly Japanese woman that I met while working at Holmes Book Company in Oakland, to attend a “Buddhist meeting.” I’d just started sitting (meditating in the Zen style) with a Zen group and so that seemed a great… Read more

Zen Villages: Perhaps an Idea Whose Time is Coming

  Over on Facebook one of my friends posted about an event that opened a wound between her and the residential Zen center with which she has been affiliated for much of her adult life. It has caused a bit of a stir. Some saying it shared too much, others that it pointed to a deep shadow at that Zen center, and others, well, it has become something of a rorschach allowing all of us with concerns for and about… Read more

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