While researching an article on Zen’s meditation manuals I ran across a few references to the Four Scriptural Texts of the Zen School. While three of those four texts are readily available, the fourth a meditation manual is not. One reference said it was Dogen’s Zazengi. And, I may even have repeated that. But, I quickly realized that as this is a Rinzai text, it was unlikely.  So, I wrote to several of my friends who are both Zen… Read more

  While I started out my Zen life within the warm embrace of Soto Zen and was ordained unsui and lived in a monastery following the Japanese inheritance for several years, the vast majority of my Zen formation was within a lay lineage that emphasized little beyond regular meditation, frequent retreats and dedication to the practice of koan introspection developed by the Soto master Daiun Sogaku Harada at the beginning of the twentieth century. The discipline was adapted from the… Read more

    BEHOLD THE SPIRIT A Meditation on Alan Watts & His Brief Experiment with a Mystical Christianity James Ishmael Ford (slightly polished up from a sermon written in 2013)   Text It is all too clear that our age suffers from a vast hunger and impoverishment of the spirit which the organized Christian religion, as we know it, rarely satisfies. It would be easy to blame the modern world for ignoring Christianity… if Church religion showed any strong signs… Read more

        I haven’t read Michael Pollan’s new book on psychedelics, so I cannot comment on it directly. Although I admire him for his earlier books on food. And, I have no doubt he makes a real contribution to our societal considerations of the human mind. That said, me, I’m getting old. And I have found I don’t actually have to read everything people say is important. I don’t even have to read everything that is important. Actually,… Read more

        There are two Suzukis who stand large at the dawn of Zen breaking forth into North American culture. The first is Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki, best known as D. T. Suzuki, a scholar, translator, and essayist, whose writings both directly and through the popularizations by his sometime disciple Alan Watts, first introduced many of the basic principles of Zen Buddhism to the American public. The other is Shunryu Suzuki, Soto Zen priest and missionary teacher who introduced Zen… Read more

    Jan & I have spent some time of late exploring Middle Eastern cuisines – that constellation of foods that range from the pillars of Hercules to somewhere within the Indian subcontinent. I even have to admit it is giving our long-time love, Mexican cuisine a serious run as our go-to comfort food. And among the many dishes that have captured our hearts and stomaches (a special shoutout to chicken koobideh here), the real treat is the spud gone naughty,… Read more

    The other day I gave a talk on the Ten Oxherding Pictures. It was livecast on Facebook and there were a few viewers who joined in during the question and answer session at the end. One person asked where I would place the kensho experience among the pictures? Fair question. And one I hadn’t been thinking about. In the moment I suggested how perhaps it could be at the second picture where the kid notices the traces of… Read more

    Kuoan Shiyuan’s Ten Oxherding Pictures In Zen’s history there have been a number of attempts at mapping the spiritual journey. The metaphor of taming an ox has been the most popular of these maps. During the Song dynasty (racing between the middle of the tenth century of our common era and the last decades of the thirteenth) as Zen as we understand it today began to take shape, there were several such attempts showing an oxherd and that… Read more

  It was on this day in 1373 that Julian of Norwich recovered from a serious illness during which she experienced a series of sixteen visions. And it is on this day she began to write down what had happened to her. She kept working on that text for several years. This writings would eventually become the Revelations of Divine Love. Beyond her writings we know almost nothing about her, not even her name. About all we are sure of… Read more

    Zen priest Claire Gesshin Greenwood asked on Facebook what exactly was the source of the oft cited bit of Zen counsel that life or training or Zen itself is “one continuous mistake”? It led to various thoughts and suggestions, some of them even informed. Facebook is like that. Some opine she was offering a koan. In all likelihood the source of that particular phrase is the Zen master Shunryu Suzuki, who wrote in Zen Mind, Begninner’s Mind: “When we… Read more

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