Is Our Destiny in the Stars? A Small, Mostly Zen Meditation

  It was forty-eight years ago on this day in 1969 that Apollo 11 successfully landed on the moon. The next day Neil Armstrong and then Buzz Aldrin would be the first humans to walk on the surface of a natural body other than the Earth. Seven years later on this same day the unmanned Viking 1 successfully landed on the surface of Mars.I love these facts. Me. As a child I would look up to the stars and wonder. These events made my heart jump with dreams of the possible. For … [Read more...]

Great Awakenings: A Small Zen Meditation on Hope After Teleology

Teleology: “A noun meaning the study of evidences of design in nature & particularly the use of design or purpose as an explanation of natural phenomena” (adapted from Merriam Webster)I was reading an article at the always interesting Lion’s Roar, when I stumbled upon a quote attributed to the poet and Zen pilgrim Gary Snyder. “To be devotional is to take great faith in life as it is.” I admire him both as a writer and for a life devoted to the Zen project. And that line, well, it just ca … [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...]

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...]

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...]

One of Those Moments: Another of Zen’s Small Intimations

I was at a retreat with my teacher John Tarrant, one of many held at St Dorothy’s Rest, a somewhat run down Episcopalian retreat facility in Camp Meeker, up in the redwoods of Sonoma county. We were in the interview room each sitting on pillows in the interview room, knee to knee.It was a period after I’d “clicked” with koans. And, I was responding to his questions, one after another. Like the old line “two arrows meeting in mid-air.” Then he paused, looked at me, and smiled wickedly. John le … [Read more...]

A Zen Priest Watches as Kali Swallows the World

Until I’d discovered Ramakrishna through the writings of Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood and their associates, my idea of what gods looked like was informed by my conservative Baptist upbringing modified by my father’s bare and no doubt reductionist atheism. Anyway, Ramakrishna prayed constantly for a vision of his goddess, Kali, the Divine Mother. He wanted to know her as she was, desperately. I personally understood this prayer. It was my own longing from some aching place in the pit of … [Read more...]

Tolstoy’s Buddhist Christian Awakening

In his Confession and Other Religious Writings, Leo Tolstoy tells us:“There is an old Eastern fable about a traveler who is taken unawares on the steppes by a ferocious wild animal. In order to escape the beast the traveler hides in an empty well, but at the bottom of the well he sees a dragon with its jaws open, ready to devour him. The poor fellow does not dare to climb out because he is afraid of being eaten by the rapacious beast, neither does he dare drop to the bottom of the well for f … [Read more...]

Waking Up With the World: A Brief Zen Reflection on the Four Noble Truths

I gather there is some confusion about how what we call the Four Noble Truths became the central exposition of Buddhist teachings. They are found in two versions in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the "Sutra or Discourse of the Great Turning of the Wheel." There are both Pali and Sanskrit versions, and, yes, neither was the language the Buddha actually spoke, but that the two versions largely agree is meaningful. And while many critics can and do point to textual inconsistencies as evidence the … [Read more...]