Hakuin Walks into his Therapist’s Office for a Family Session with Dogen…

But it turns out they don’t have any real conflict after all so they end the session early with a long tender stare, an explosive fist bump, and a warm (yet pelvis inverted) hug. Then they go out for sake.

More on that in a minute.

First, though, I want to note that my last post, “Did Hakuin Need Therapy?” was kidnapped by pirates over at Zen Forum International and as of this writing has had 900-some views and 90-some comments.

I skimmed through the comments for those that support or assault my self-serving dream and wasn’t disappointed, especially in the latter case. Apparently, I write these things for admiration (it isn’t working so well) and donations (not working so well either but there is a PayPal button over on the right side bar in case you’d like to rectify that – I threw it up in a particularly difficult financial period and I invite you to exercise it liberally).

No offense taken.

Nevertheless, the interest in the “Did Hakuin Need Therapy?” post is surprising to me. In my world, therapy is a wonderful, normal thing (given the right time, place, therapist, and client willing to work). And because there are few things I enjoy more than sitting around and talking about myself, I’ve done a bunch.

Also, don’t you know, a lot of what I say here is “tongue in cheek.” I’ve even been accused of being way too glib for a Zen priest. Having given up being holier than you (whoops, maybe not!), all I can say is, “Guilty as charged.”

I have wondered a bit if those who think Hakuin didn’t need therapy, need therapy. However, I don’t want to go all Brad Warner on you so will just move on.

In all seriousness, I meant old Hakuin no offense nor did I intend to diminish his enormous contribution to our practice.

So here’s the second point of this post – Hakuin’s work is not in conflict with Dogen’s (as is commonly believed) but is more like a software upgrade or two.

First and foremost, Hakuin and his successors clearly and precisely defined the essence of practicing enlightenment and with stunning brilliance that I believe would even awe the great Dogen, operationalized it. They also organized the koan system, especially the checking questions and miscellaneous koans, so that we too could clearly and precisely re-discover what practicing enlightenment is all about.

Secondly, Hakuin’s humanity is so available to us today through his rolling discourses, rough letters, and his powerful paintings and calligraphy. He viscerally brings Zen, the same-one Zen of Dogen, down to earth.

The Rinzai vs. Soto spats of the past few hundred years don’t need to be replicated here now in the global culure. But if they are, we would be better served by going to therapy together than hanging onto “whose founder is bigger?” arguments for another few hundred years.

Restraining the Nevertheless Deluded One: Vine of Obstacles Turns Two
The Way of Tenderness: the Form and Emptiness of Race, Sexuality, and Gender
Dogen Did Not Practice Shikantaza and Even Had a Gaining Idea
Practicing Through Snow and Cold (or Whatever Afflictions May Visit)
  • http://arielpork.blogspot.com Austin

    Ironic- yesterday, a friend asked me what I thought about therapy and Zen and I thought I didn’t really see them connected, but also not in conflict. Sometimes while sitting Zazen I feel hungry, or flabby, or crazy, and maybe later I’ll eat, do sit ups, or go talk to a therapist…and maybe not.

    So, in the way that doing sit ups might be connected to Zen practice, I figure therapy is, too.

    But neither of these things seem to be a substitute.

    Good field of comments, too!

  • http://thoughtsonthecauldron.blogspot.com/ Desiree


    Soto & Rinzai unite!

  • Harry

    Damn you, Port. Why can’t you just be a good little priest and tell us what we want to hear!

    (might prove more financially viable too).


    Hurt Religious Type.

  • Dan74

    Hello Dosho-Sensei!

    I guess I was one of those pirates who had “assaulted” your post. Guilty as charged – having read and enjoyed other things that you’ve written, that one didn’t work for me.

    I am not quite sure where the second part “Apparently, I write these things for admiration (it isn’t working so well) and donations” comes from – certainly not me. Yes, the responses may have been a touch too serious, but if you were mostly tongue-in-cheek, perhaps you could follow up (you have a nik at ZFI right?) and clarify what you had wanted to convey.

    Thank you for your blog and the good work!


    • doshoport

      Hi Dan74,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I think the nutshell of the post was this – Hakuin was a great master and by modern psychological standards, was rather messed up. Like all of us, he seems to have had his “issues.” That humanness leads me to respect him even more.
      Thanks also for the invite … and I’ve got too much on my plate to enter the forum as anything other than an occasional visitor.


  • Stephen Slottow

    As I read more in the letters, I wonder how many of us would receive Hakuin’s approval in the dokusan room. Precious few, I suspect. He’s probably chase me out with a stick.

  • Harry

    Hi Dosho,

    Maybe this is a ‘biggie’ for a nice Saturday, but what is your take on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness… how do they (or do they!) relate to shikantaza?

    Came across an interesting article from Trungpa on the matter:




    • doshoport

      Thanks for the link. A quick read and I’m surprised to find a strong congruence with Dogen Zen. Especially the last paragraph. I’m cooking my next blog post on something like this … and suggest the 37 Practices (#73 in Shobogenzo) for Dogen’s working and reworking of mindfulness in koan-ese.

      It is a lovely Saturday morning here. Sun with some deep blue clouds rolling in.


  • http://www.susuddho.blogspot.com Matthew Gindin

    Great post Sensei. I’m loving the blog in general.

    Thank you