Politics and the Buddhist Precept “Do Not Speak Dishonestly”

13th century Zen master Dogen taught that "to study Buddhism is to study the self." Let me tell you, studying the self is a lifelong process! I constantly learn new things about myself, and much of what I learn isn't flattering.Most recently I have begun noticing how often I speak dishonestly when expressing my political opinions. Oh, don't worry - I'm not speaking dishonestly about how I feel. I'm completely honest about that. Here's how dishonesty creeps into my political speech:I ex … [Read more...]

The World Is Burning and Yet I Garden: Reflections after a Session on Climate Change at the Soto Zen Buddhist Association Conference

I feel that it is very important to say something right now, but it is very difficult to do so. I don’t think it’s so much that I can’t find the words. That’s not usually a problem for me. What’s difficult is to even get in touch with my current experience. Part of me is reeling from overwhelming shock and grief, another part of me is dumbfounded with confusion and disbelief, and yet another part of me continues to energetically and joyfully live my life as if the other two parts don’t even exist … [Read more...]

The Fallacy “It’s All In Your Mind”: Why What We Do Matters

Spiritual training can result in almost miraculous effects. People training in all different kinds of traditions have discovered that is possible to utterly transform their experiences; they have been able to rise above pain, find optimism in the midst of calamity, suffer injustice with grace, maintain equanimity while surrounded by chaos, and summon immense energy and strength. They do this primarily by redirecting their minds. A Christian might be able to find the strength and motivation to … [Read more...]

Enlightenment Is Real

In Buddhism we have a very useful but tricky concept called, alternatively, Enlightenment, Nirvana, Liberation or Awakening (in addition to countless other terms and phrases, like seeing your own Buddha-nature). As a practitioner or investigator of Buddhism, you probably find the concept of Enlightenment enticing, confusing, troubling or irrelevant - or some combination of those. You may believe Enlightenment is real and possible, and you work diligently at your spiritual practice inspired by … [Read more...]

Transforming the World by Transforming Your Heart

I suspect the phrase “transforming your heart” resonates with many of you, even if you aren’t quite sure what is meant by it. I think there are two reasons for this. First, we want transformation - of our selves, our families, our communities, our culture, our government, our economy, our world. Something needs to be done. Even if we are able to forget this for some periods of time because of our good fortune, all around us are reminders that weigh on us: the homeless person we walked by today; … [Read more...]

More Reflections on Activism as a Person of Faith

Yesterday I attended a rally in downtown Portland against fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. I went by myself and incognito (that is, no one could tell I was a Buddhist, let alone a Zen priest). That was fine, but I did find myself wishing a had bunch of Buddhist buddies with me, and that we could march together behind a banner saying "Buddhists for Climate Justice" or something like that. The rally was organized by the Oregon AFL-CIO, so the trade unions were there in … [Read more...]

Let’s Start a Global Movement!

Would you be willing to adopt the following Seven Principles and become a Global Citizen?I dream of a mass movement: People everywhere - regardless of nationality, race, faith, class, political party - committing to these core principles, or something like them. Our future depends on living according to these kinds of values - as individuals, communities, nations, and as a species.I've personally longed for something simple to devote myself to. There are so many causes, so many issues... … [Read more...]

My First Protest Rally

Just thought I'd write a little report about my first protest rally. I'm guessing my readers will fall into two basic categories with respect to protests: Either you have attended them before and they're no big deal to you, or you haven't attended one before and they present awkward, uncharted territory. Until yesterday I was in the second category.The rally was pretty cool and only took a little over an hour. It was held at noon next to the offices of our U.S. representative and senator, … [Read more...]

Back to the Drawing Board with Meditation for the Homeless

I thought it would be a good idea to post an update on my efforts, chronicled earlier on this blog, to work up close and personally with people experiencing homelessness. My downtown Portland meditation group is on a hiatus as I go back to the drawing board to create something more in line with my passion and with unmet need. Part of me hates to quit anything and worries that I'm flaky, but actually I think the last couple months were very informative (and enjoyable) to me and helped me clarify … [Read more...]

When It’s Time to Speak Out as a People of Faith

Last week one of the largest Zen Centers in the U.S. published an open letter urging California governor Jerry Brown to ban hydraulic fracking in the state. I was thrilled, but not all Zen folks will be, even if they agree on this particular issue. Speaking out as people of faith can be powerful, but it can also be divisive and confusing. When and where do we - as individuals and as faith communities - take a public stand?I'll offer this simple answer for you to chew on: we should take a p … [Read more...]