My Heart Sutra: A Zen Teacher Reflects on the Spiritual Life

My Heart SutraWhen the heart of compassion walked through the gate of wisdom, she looked into the body of the world and each of us, seeing each of us and the world itself is boundless. And with this all suffering vanished.Dear one, all things are boundless; the boundless is nothing other than all things. Everything in itself is boundless; Boundlessness is all things. This is true of us and our feelings, experiences, and consciousness itself.Dear one, the stuff of the world is … [Read more...]

Introducing Roshi Douglas Keido San’un Phillips

On Saturday the 13th of May, 2017, I had the great honor and enormous pleasure of publicly acknowledging my old friend the Zen teacher Douglas Phillips through the ancient and constantly renewed ceremony of Inka Shomei, "evidence of the mark."In addition to his work as a dharma teacher, Doug holds a PhD in psychology and maintains a psychotherapy practice in Newton, Massachusetts.Roshi Phillips has been practicing in the Zen and Vipassana traditions for more than thirty years. He began … [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...]

Saving Ghosts: A Zen Tale

Master Wuzu asked one of his students, “The woman Chien and her spirit had separated. Tell me, which is the true Chien?”Wumenguan, The Gateless Gate, Case 35.The Zen teacher Wuzu loved to formulate spiritual questions out of folklore. This koan is based in a much loved tale from old China. Like the best of ghost stories, no one knows from where it originally comes. I gather there are at least three traditional versions floating around. Here’s a fourth as I've heard it.Once upon a time … [Read more...]

My Zen Life: A Brief Reflection on Boundless Way Zen

My Zen life is filled with relationships. They include affection, affinity, and sometimes mutual obligation together with a profound accountability. These range from my membership in meta organizations such as the American Zen Teachers Association, which I served for a decade on its membership committee, and the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, which I'm just ending up serving a term as a member of its governing board. And the affection end of the spectrum, I have dear friends and people I count … [Read more...]

Zen & Gender: A Meditation on the Koan of our Lives

I find myself thinking about the horrors being inflicted upon gay people in Chechnya. On the one hand the government there officially denies what is happening. Although in the most terrifying way. Today, the 3rd of May, Chechen President Ramzan Hadyrov is reported in the Independent saying "You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic." Do not exist.On the other hand there are numerous reports of mass arrests, of imprisonment, and of torture.This week … [Read more...]

On the Nothingness of God: A Zen Meditation

Back in 2008 I read a review of the book Merton & Buddhism: Wisdom, Emptiness & Everyday Mind edited by Bonnie Bowman Thurston. The reviewer cited a particular line that I’ve not been able to shake. “(W)hen the Dalai Lama was asked if he believed in God, he replied ‘It depends on what you mean by ‘God’: if you mean by ‘God’ What Thomas Merton means, then yes, I do.'”This very much caught my imagination. And, I wrote on the subject, on the yes, and the implied no, and within that the p … [Read more...]

MY ZEN BUDDHIST EASTER

MY ZEN BUDDHIST EASTER A SermonJames Ishmael Ford16 April 2017 Unitarian Universalist Church Long Beach, CaliforniaI served most of my years as a parish minister among our New England congregations. They are generally more traditional in their structure, and, frankly, more comfortable with our Christian origins and heritage than either our Midwestern or Western churches usually are.What that meant was that I was always expected me to preach about Easter on Easter Sunday, and … [Read more...]

The Zen of Holy Saturday: A Buddhist Reflection on a Hard Christian Holy Day

A couple of years ago I wrote a meditation on the Christian day before Easter, Holy Saturday. It continues to haunt me, and as the calendar has rolled around to another one, I thought I'd give it another go.Holy Saturday. Jesus is dead. With that in the Christian story, God is dead. Resurrection has not yet happened. Actually there's no good reason to even think of something like a resurrection. If you've lived any time at all you really know that when someone dies, they stay dead.Yes, … [Read more...]

Zen and the Four Commitments: A Small Meditation

In 1993, a hundred years after the renowned World Parliament of Religions met in Chicago a second parliament gathered. The highlight for many was an address by the Dalai Lama. And certainly a worthy thing.For me, however, the most important thing to come out of that gathering was a document, “Towards a Global Ethic.” The principal author was the Roman Catholic priest and scholar Hans Kung. Father Kung is something of a controversial figure within his church, I once heard him described as the … [Read more...]