How I Got Dōgen Wrong: Enlightenment, Just Sitting, and the Bodhisattva Heart

                “This mind is Buddha” is one of the most evocative teachings of our Zen school. It is a “teaching,” not a philosophical assertion or a faith statement, but rather a description of enlightening experience. Dōgen cites “This mind is Buddha” teaching in several fascicles in the Shobogenzo, eight dharma discourses in the Eiheikoroku, and also in his Shinji Shobogenzo (1). In this post, I will explore Dōgen’s working through of this kōan in relationship to enlightenment… Read more

Feet Frozen But Heart Assured: The Mutual Verification of Homeleaving and Householder Practice

              I just found this old photo of Tangen Harada Roshi, the last living successor to Daiun Harada Roshi, in the foreground, and my old friend, Jiku-san, in the background with the ring staff. I remember the morning it was taken during the winter of 1991. I was practicing as a Zen monk at Bukkokuji in Obama, Japan, and it was a day for takuhatsu (托鉢 “begging” or more literally, “holding up the alms… Read more

“It Came From Beyond Zen” and What Dōgen Did Not Teach

                In this look at Brad Warner’s new book, It Came From Beyond Zen: More Practical Advice from Dōgen, Japan’s Greatest Zen Master, I’m going to focus just on one issue – kōan. But for decorum sake, let’s start with this: Brad Warner has done a lot of good for Zen in the West. Most practitioners I talk with who are under 40-years-old found their way to Zen through Warner’s books, especially Hardcore Zen. Warner has cultivated an image… Read more

Dōshō the Dōgen Hater (Not): A Preemptive Blog For My Dear Critics

          I’ve been working on a review of Brad Warner’s new book, It Came From Beyond Zen: More Practical Advice from Dōgen, Japan’s Greatest Zen Master, to be posted soon. Given that I have a different perspective than Warner and nonkōan Zen folks generally on what Dōgen practiced and taught, and given the curious sensitivity of the kōan issue, I thought I might do some preemptive blogging. After I write about my views on Dōgen and kōan, you see, although there are… Read more

Who Am I? What Is Death? What Happens After Death?

                Above is Zenshin Tim Buckley, a friend and fellow traveller on this Zen way, who died on April 16, 2015. You can read more about Zenshin here.  We’re not here today, though, to memorialize Zenshin but to ask, “Who is it that dies?” You can read the run up to this post, “Birth Death and Intimate Self Knowledge,” here and listen to a talk about it here. In this post, I’ll unpack a kōan from… Read more

Birth, Death and Intimate Self Knowledge

            At the end of the day in most Zen practice centers, a student rises from zazen, goes to the han (wooden sounding board pictured above, given to the Nebraska Zen Center in 1977 by Harada Roshi), and before a series of roll downs, recites this verse (or some other version): I beg to urge you everyone, Life and death is the great matter. All things pass quickly away. Awaken, awaken, take heed. Make use… Read more

Zen in Fantasyland

          A few weeks ago in our Tuesday Evening Dharma Conversation here at the Nebraska Zen Center, we were talking about koan. A guy who was new to the center but who seemed to have been practicing for a while on his own, suddenly interjected, “You mean there are right answers? Isn’t a koan about what I or anybody sees in it as true?” Good question. I’ll come back to that. First, I want to tell… Read more

Long-Distance Train: Remembering Beginning Zen Forty Years Ago

Forty years ago today, I walked into the Minnesota Zen Center building (pictured), met Katagiri Roshi, and started this Zen journey. It was windy and cold. I was twenty-one and nervous as hell. I had dropped out of college because it no longer made any sense and instead spent my days working in a K-Mart warehouse, hauling boxes of plastic products from one trailer to another – stuff that people didn’t really need. I was looking for meaning. I was… Read more

Want to be a Sōtō Zen Priest? Fuhgeddaboudit

I was talking with an Zen teacher friend this past week and he mentioned that his next meeting was with a practitioner who wanted to become a Zen priest. “Any thoughts about what I might say to him?” he asked. “Just discourage him,” I said. We went on to talk about why someone might want to become a Zen priest these days. Lay teachers can do pretty much everything that priests can do to share the dharma, if that’s a… Read more

Luòpǔ With One Foot in the Grave

          What about when you feel that you just can’t do it? When you’re beset with tight, bitter feelings. When you’ve been wronged? What is practice at just such a time? Turns out that we’re not alone, of course, and that practitioners have long had these normal human feelings. If you’d like to dig deeply into these issues, this  post is for you. It includes my translation of “Case 41: Luòpǔ With One Foot in the Grave”… Read more

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