Once in awhile, I hear some trash talk about me and my practice and teaching in both just-sitting and koan introspection Zen. Builds character, you know. But some folks say it just shows a lack of understanding about just-sitting. Be that as it may be, on the other hand, my first teacher, Katagiri Roshi, once encouraged us to return to what he called “Zen before the Sixth Ancestor,” meaning, before the split between the Sōtō and Rinzai lineages. Another way to… Read more

              Here at the Nebraska Zen Center, we’re getting ready for the summer sesshin (a week of intensive practice) that starts on Saturday. Soon students will be packing their bags and on their way. In this year of blogging Hakuin, I think of this from Complete Poison Blossoms from a Thicket of Thorn, #332, “Hakuin’s Baggage:” “ON THE AFTERNOON of the seventeenth day of the first month of the first year of Kampō [1741],… Read more

James Myōun Ford Rōshi recently asked, “What would you say are the essential Dōgen texts?” Below you’ll find my response as well as what I’d say (if he’d asked) about essential Hakuin texts. But first, a word from Hakuin about the importance of study: “I have always lamented Zen’s ignorance of the sutras, Monks plodding ahead aimlessly like blind donkeys. Even after kenshō, unless you know Buddha’s words, You’re like a carriage only fitted out with one wheel. And if… Read more

In these later days of the buddhadharma, when most of what passes off as “buddhadharma” obscures the vivid truth – the essential nature of the self – it can be useful to study and reflect on the ancient teachers. The traces of their extraordinary development in self-knowledge still flows through their breath in their recorded words. One such inspiring resource is Urs App’s Zen Master Yunmen: His Life and Essential Sayings, recently republished by the good people at Shambhala Publications. App’s… Read more

This month at the Nebraska Zen Center, we’re working the theme of being on the outside. Bob Dylan expressed it like this: Always on the outside of whatever side there was, When they asked him why it had to be that way, “Well,” he answered, “just because.”  Turns out that many people who come to Zen practice resonate with old Bob’s sentiment. Given that I was raised from a young, feral pup in just-sitting Zen and then was adopted as… Read more

                                              Hakuin Ekaku Zenji (白隠 慧鶴, January 19, 1686 – January 18, 1768), the last national teacher of Japan, and a primary instigator of modern kōan introspection was also a phenomenal artist (see sidebar).  Subjects for his work were extraordinarily wide-ranging, from the sublime to the ridiculous, as he depicted the whole rolling ball of buddhanature in the… Read more

Why don’t you build a jointed bridge with your free mind for the people passing through the world? – Hakuin   The teaching of Hakuin Ekaku (白隠 慧鶴, January 19, 1686 – January 18, 1768) is one such jointed bridge, and now a lot of it is available to English-reading practitioners through the extraordinary skills of translator Norman Waddell, most recently through the publication of Hakuin’s record, The Complete Poison Blossoms in a Thicket of Thorn (CPB). A careful read is especially… Read more

In my last post, I shared a bit of the criticism that Hakuin (1686 – 1768) heaped on the silent illuminationists of his day, generally some practitioners in the Sōtō school. That lead me to reflecting on what Hakuin might have said about today’s practitioners of kōan introspection. First, it’s important to note that phrases like “kōan introspection” and “Sōtō Zen” are general categories and there is more difference within groups than between groups. That said, one of the ways that… Read more

Hakuin (1686 – 1768), the great revitalizer of Rinzai Zen, had blistering criticisms of practitioners of silent-illumination meditation. Indeed, Seo and Addiss identify this as one of the main themes of Hakuin’s teaching, “A continued denunciation of those who contribute to the decline of Zen, particularly through the incorporation of Pure Land Buddhist practices and/or the sole use of ‘silent meditation’ (1).” However, in The Complete Poison Blossoms in a Thicket of Thorn (CPB), much of the vitriol is directed at… Read more

A few days ago, the prolific James Myoun Ford Rōshi (fyi, “Rōshi,”老師, or “old dog” – see photo) extraordinaire, offered up his considered opinion about “What Makes a Good Zen Student?”  Because I have a few thoughts of my own (well, not really “my own” – mostly that I’ve borrowed from others – including from the likes of Tetsugan and Hakuin), I throw this to the wind. Although, in this post, as you can tell from the title, “What Good is… Read more

Follow Us!



Browse Our Archives