Recalling the First Analog Computer

In the summer of 1900 some sponge divers came across an ancient wreck offPoint Glyphadia on the Greek island Antikythera. The salvaged a number of artifacts most of which were packed up and sent to the National Museum of Archeology in Athens.Two years later, on this day, the 17th of May, 1902, Valerios Stais, the museum's director noticed a particularly unusual artifact among the collection. It has come to be called the Antikythera mechanism among the more technical crowd and the first … [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...]

Enter the Mouse

It was on this day in 1928 that Walt Disney Studios showed Plane Crazy, a single reel silent cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse. However the Mouse failed to pick up a distributer. Later that year Disney tried again with Steamboat Willie to wild success.So, while this is actually Mickey's birthday (In case the math is difficult he turned 89 today.), this particular film wasn't seen until the next year as the fourth of the now voluminous adventures of Mickey Mouse. … [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...]

The Last Witchcraft Trial in America. Well, Sort of…

It was on this day one hundred, and thirty nine years ago, in 1878. that the last trial on a charge of witchcraft was initiated in an American court. Somewhat awkwardly for all concerned, the case was heard in Salem, Massachusetts.At the age of fifty the life long invalid Lucretia Brown of Ipswich, Massachusetts, embraced Christian Science. And it seemed she was cured of her spinal injury. However not long after being cured she suffered a relapse. When Mary Baker Eddy heard of this she was … [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...]