Creatures of Pain and Joy: A Meditation on a Zen Koan and the Abiding Reality of Human Hunger

      A student of the way asked master Zhaozhou, “I have just entered this monastery. Please, teacher, instruct me.” Zhaozhou responded, “Have you eaten your breakfast?” The student replied, “Yes, sir, I have.” Zhaozhou responded, “Wash your bowls.” Gateless Gate, Case Seven, Book of Serenity, Case Thirty-Nine. Zhaozhou Congshen was born in the last decades of the eighth century China and flourished and taught there throughout the larger part of ninth century. One of Zen history’s great teachers, he… Read more

Simplicity: Twenty-Seven Quotes & a Song

An old and dear friend, a Zen teacher, posted on one of the listservs to which I belong the question, “Is there a quote about simplicity that particularly touches your heart? I’ve been thinking a lot about simplicity and what it means and what it doesn’t mean when it touches on walking a spiritual path. A couple of people offered quotes. And then I went off on a small search for some more. What follows are a near random collection…. Read more

For Some Paradise is a Bar in the Tropics

Thinking of my brother. He would have been sixty-eight today. Instead he never saw fifty. We grew up cheek by jowl. Our family was always on the move. In our formative years we only had each other. When we grew up I wanted to be a priest. He was cool and wanted to have a good time. In my imagination he’s running a bar near the beach in Belize. Every day is a walk on the beach. And every night… Read more

Martha: Still Extinct

Last year on this day I noted that it was on this day in 1914, one hundred and three years ago, that Martha, the last known living passenger pigeon died. It is said that when Europeans first came to this continent the sky would be blacked out by the flight of passenger pigeons. While always hunted for food the killing of the pigeons moved to an industrial scale in the nineteenth century. The last confirmed killing of a wild bird,… Read more

A Small Meditation on Buddhisms, Traditional and Modernist

Yesterday on Facebook I was pointed to an article that purports to compare “traditional” Buddhism with “secular” Buddhism. The author appears to belong to a Traditionalist school of one sort or another, and, interestingly, to me, at least, is also a pretty far right person politically, identifying, it appears with the alt-right. This generated several trains of thought for me. One has to do with Traditionalism and how it appears to be co-opted on occasion by rightists of various sorts…. Read more

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

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