Zen Teacher Desmond Gilna received Denkai Transmission

As the hour approached midnight on the evening of the 11th of March, 2017, in a private ceremony, I gave Denkai transmission to Desmond Gilna, Keido Gando, Osho.(Here I originally said that with this Desmond became the first Irish koan Zen teacher. But, of course that isn't true. Maura O'Halloran was the first. And, today, there's also Barbara Joshin O'Hara, Sensei, heir to Josho Pat O'Hara Roshi. Thanks to all for the corrections.)In the Japanese inheritance Denkai, or precepts … [Read more...]

A Love Letter from the Deep: a Zen Reflection on Case 15 of the Gateless Gate

I opened my email today to find the poem of the day from Panhala was by the Medieval Japanese Zen monk and poet Ikkyu. In Sonya Arutzen's translation.Every day, priests minutely examine the Law And endlessly chant complicated sutras. Before doing that, though, they should learn How to read the love letters sent by the wind and rain, the snow and moon.Sojun Ikkyu is one of my favorite Zen teachers. He was born sometime in 1394 in a suburb of Kyoto to lower ranking noblewoman and, some … [Read more...]

Zen teacher Dosho Port on the Three Ways of Zen Meditation

There's a lot of confusion about Zen meditation, breath counting, just sitting, and koan introspection.Zen teacher Dosho Port's talk, the Three Ways of Zen Meditation lays it out as well as I've seen.Out of my years of practice and study, I feel much of what is presented about Zen meditation is not very helpful. This talk, however, is about as clear an exposition of what I understand to be the discipline, presented clearly, and compassionately. The talk itself is about twenty-five … [Read more...]

The World is a Burning Hut: A Zen Meditation

There was an old woman who supported a hermit. For twenty years she always had a girl, sixteen or seventeen years old, take the hermit his food and wait on him. One day she told the girl to give the monk a close hug and ask, “What do you feel just now?”The hermit responded,An old tree on a cold cliff; Midwinter – no warmth.The girl went back and told this to the old woman. The woman said, “For twenty years I’ve supported this vulgar good-for-nothing!” So saying, she threw the monk o … [Read more...]

Jesus as Zen Master, Love as the Koan

TextThen one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.Matthew 22:35-40 King James … [Read more...]

Zen Lessons from the Bible: Eating Forbidden Fruit

The TextI stumbled on this in my archives. I have no memory of having written it, but it doesn’t look like I can blame anyone else. So, for your entertainment, and who knows, maybe even some small spark of illumination, a look at a passage from Genesis treated in the manner of a Zen koan.The TextNow the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to t … [Read more...]

The Master Rujing Explains Mu

The current conceit would have it that in Zen koan introspection is something that Rinzai people do, but not Soto. Of course there is an element of truth in this assertion. In Japan where for some good and a fair amount of ill Buddhism is divided into denominations with much stricter demarcations than is true on the continent modern Soto has lost, actually it has suppressed koan introspection as part of its offerings of spiritual disciplines.But, this has not always been so. The great … [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...]

Reading Zen: Some Books of Relevance to a Student of Zen Meditation & Koan Introspection

I've just submitted the second draft of my current book, the Language of Dragons, to my publisher. Then my editor (curse you, sir) asked for a bibliography of the books I consulted in writing it. I'm moderately confident these are the larger majority of books I at least held in my hand while working on it.The book will be about Zen meditation with some focus on koans, and all of it contextualized within a larger reflection on Zen practice. I recall how when I first began the study of Zen in … [Read more...]