Recalling John Biddle, Unitarian Saint and Martyr

One of those memories I treasure for the years I served at the First Unitarian Society in Newton, Massachusetts, was the pulpit. I was always careful when speaking of the church and various things about it to say "our," after all it was our church. But, I always said, "my" pulpit. Even though I held it in trust, it had been presented to me within that trust and it was "mine" for eight years.As an object it was a wonder to behold. Among the delights of the thing were the carved figures that … [Read more...]

Kensho, Samadhi, & the Practices of Zen

As Zen first came west, kensho, or satori, was the great prize. The Zen priest scholar Victor Sogen Hori tells us, “The term consists of two characters: ken, which means “see” or “seeing”, and sho, which means “nature”, “character”, “quality.” To “see one’s nature” is the usual translation for kensho.” Satori, which derives from the Japanese verb satoru, is for all practical purposes a synonym for kensho, although some suggest kensho be used for the initial insight, and satori for the deeper matu … [Read more...]

When the Need is Great, the Swami Appears: Recalling Swami Vivekananda

Narendranath Datta was born in Calcutta on this day in 1863 into the Kayastha caste, and a professional family, his father an attorney. From childhood religion was his great obsession. Studying religion and philosophy, Eastern and Western, Narendranath earned a formal degree. He then became interested in the Hindu reform movement the Brahmo Samaj, joining a breakaway branch, the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj.He also met Sri Ramakrishna. For a time Narendranath remained more interested in the Western … [Read more...]

Zen Communities Confronting Mr Trump’s Assumption of the American Presidency

I understand some scholars suggest that it was yesterday in the year 49 before our common era that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon.I have no doubt with our recent election we have crossed another Rubicon.At the current moment there is a great deal of conversation going on about how to respond to what is happening. As with other spiritual traditions within our Zen communities we are torn, largely between those who feel compelled to speak out and those who want to make sure that everyone … [Read more...]

Death Comes for the Archbishop of Canterbury

Within the Anglican communion today is marked as a feast for William Laud who lost his head on this day in 1645..I find him a very interesting person, and a pivotal figure in the formation of the Anglican tradition.I commented on him this past October on the occasion of his birthday on the 7th, some four hundred, and forty three years ago. And, I think it worth revisiting.William Laud eventually rose to the rank of Archbishop of Canterbury and was the close advisor to King Charles … [Read more...]

Want to Feel a Little Hope for Humanity? Go See Hidden Figures

Jan and I, when possible, like to take in a movie on Sunday late afternoons and then go out to dinner. We seem to pull this off nearly three times a month. This Sunday we went to see Hidden Figures.In his review of Hidden Figures, Peter Debruge, the chief film critic at Variety said, approvingly that this movie is "empowerment cinema." I looked around a bit and apparently Mr Debruge coined the phrase. I think he means by that term movies that uphold success in the face of adversity.Now, … [Read more...]

The Golden Door: Some Brief Remarks on Immigration & Deportation

The Golden DoorSome Brief Remarks Delivered at a Forum on Immigration & Deportation at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach8 January 2017James Ishmael Ford I am here to address the spirituality that informs our liberal religious community and why it calls us to engage and actively the immigration debate in this country.First, a small prologue.Back in 2010 I traveled from Rhode Island, where I was serving as minister of the First Unitarian Church of … [Read more...]

The Method of Zen: A Small Meditation on Galileo’s Wonderful Telescope & Bodhidharma’s Marvelous Not Knowing

Toward the end of the year 1609 Galileo Galilei, who had been tinkering with lenses and telescopes for a while was able to improve one to a 20x magnification.He promptly turned this vastly superior telescope toward the skies. In a letter he wrote dated today, the 7th of January, 1610, he stated he had discovered three new celestial objects near Jupiter. In another day he found one more. At first he believed they were stars. But, he quickly figured out they were in fact moons circling … [Read more...]

The Wisdom Way: A Zen Buddhist Reflects on the Feast of the Epiphany

Today is the feast of the Epiphany. A wonderful celebration within the Christian tradition. And one that I as a Buddhist find worth reflecting on. Back when I was serving as a Unitarian Universalist minister I rarely missed an opportunity to visit this holiday. And, even today I continue to see value in it for all of us.There are many perspectives on our human condition, and I've found whatever our particular path might be, we can be enriched by looking at how others engage the great … [Read more...]

La La La La Land: A Perfect Entertainment

Jan and I saw La La Land on Sunday. The headline: it was a delight!Not exactly a throw back to an earlier era, but not not, either. La La Land brings tinges of musicals of days long gone. And, at the same time, it is very much a movie for our day. A pitch perfect entertainment.And we are mostly talking an entertainment. I was aware that several brief descriptions called it a "drama." Musical. Comedy. Drama. All of that. But, most of all it is a romance. And, along the way, a bit of a … [Read more...]