Zen in the Natural World: A Meditation on Awakening After Modernity

I’ve just read Seth Zuiho Segall’s contribution to the current issue of Tricycle, “A More Enlightened Way of Being.” I’m quite taken with it. A psychologist and teacher of psychology as well as a Zen priest, Dr Segall addresses the fact that a large percentage, I would even hazard possibly a majority of our Western convert Buddhists, do not adhere to the traditional Buddhist understanding of rebirth.This issue has been a bone of contention at least from the 1997 publication of Stephen Batchel … [Read more...]

Stopping that distant temple bell: a Meditation on a traditional Zen Koan

A while back someone suggested to me how the relationship between "spiritual and religious" might be a koan. My immediate reaction was no and yes, well, sort of.No, because when people use that word "koan" they usually mean it in the sense of a paradox or, increasingly, a thorny question. And, I think that was how my friend meant it. Now, he was simply using the definition that has been put upon it in its short history as an English language word.But this is not what koan means within … [Read more...]

Knowing Good and Evil: Or, Finding Zen Koans in the Bible

I stumbled on this in my archives. I have no memory of having written it, but it doesn't look like I can blame anyone else. So, for your entertainment, and who knows, maybe even some small spark of illumination, a look at a passage from Genesis treated in the manner of a Zen koan.The TextNow the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, … [Read more...]

Looking at Alternative Christianities: Recalling Jesus’ brother, James

In Eastern Orthodox circles today is the feast of James the Just.I usually mark it out as a particularly special day. In fact I notice that a couple of years ago I even shared a little reflection I called "my personal conspiracy theory about the origins of the Christian church." Actually my understanding about James the Just, also called James the Brother of Jesus is in fact a pretty mainstream view within the academic community, or, at least it isn't contradicted by the available … [Read more...]

The Eternal Dance Begins: Or, Wishing You all a Very Charles Dickens’ Christmas

The other evening Jan and I watched the 1951 film "Scrooge," the one featuring Alastair Sim. It was released in the United States as "A Christmas Carol," the title of the novella upon which the film is based. Even the hundredth time, I enjoyed it. Pulls out all the stops. Sentimental, schmaltzy, and drives right to the heart of a reason for Christmas that makes all the sense in the world.The author of the book was, of course, Charles Dickens. Dickens was a child of poverty, and he never … [Read more...]

A Unitarian Buddhist Meditation on Christmas

I recently saw a video clip that described how nineteenth century European immigrants brought Christmas to these shores. It was a reference to how the Puritans had outlawed the holiday, and that it was not observed from the late seventeenth and throughout the eighteenth century.The immigrants were very important. Essential. But, it required one more step to be absorbed by the culture at large. And, it was the Unitarians, who gave the whole thing the veneer of respectability which was … [Read more...]

A Buddhist Christmas

Among the many interesting and sometimes weird things that has happened with the movement of Buddhism into our Western cultures is how Christmas is dealt with by immigrant and convert Buddhists. Of course like most religions Buddhists have a midwinter celebration, Bodhi day or Rohatsu, observed in the solar calendar on the 8th of December. But, the proximity with and the ubiquitous nature of Christmas invites all sorts of things.Same? Different? Well, that has something to do with the eye of … [Read more...]

Reading Zen: Some Books of Relevance to a Student of Zen Meditation & Koan Introspection

I've just submitted the second draft of my current book, the Language of Dragons, to my publisher. Then my editor (curse you, sir) asked for a bibliography of the books I consulted in writing it. I'm moderately confident these are the larger majority of books I at least held in my hand while working on it.The book will be about Zen meditation with some focus on koans, and all of it contextualized within a larger reflection on Zen practice. I recall how when I first began the study of Zen in … [Read more...]

Noticing the Christian Saint of Doubt, and Recalling Zen’s Way of Doubt, Faith, and Energy

I see the ever lovely Anglican church celebrates today as a feast for the Apostle Thomas. Which, it turns out is the "original" date for this festival in the Western calendar, although in the middle of the twentieth century the Roman communion moved it to early in July.As a devotee of the spiritual discipline of not knowing, Thomas is my Christian saint. Thomas, for those of us less familiar with the scriptures, is the apostle who when confronted with the risen Christ is said to have … [Read more...]

Thinking of Doctors Without Borders on the Forty-Fifth Anniversary of their Founding

It was on this day in 1971 that the Group d'Intervention Medical et Chirugicale en Urgency and Secours Medical Francais merged to form Medicines Sans Frontiers. Doctors Without Borders has gone on to work tirelessly to aid people in the worst of circumstances, focusing on serving people in need during armed conflicts, as well as in areas plagued with endemic diseases.According to Wikipedia "In 2015, over 30,000 personnel — mostly local doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, l … [Read more...]