The Price We Pay For Everything

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Dear James Ford on and in his Monkey Mind has raised the issue of money and dharma in his recent post, Fee for Service Buddhism: A Small Meditation on Money and the Dharma. James cites several blogs that also wrangle with this issue and I have spent time browsing in that varied field. And, dang, the way some people talk to each other on the web. Good lord buddha. Can't we all just get along? Unlike the monk in the photo, most of us ain't in Kansas anymore. Nor Japan. Money and dharma … [Read more...]

The Future’s Uncertain and the End is Always Near

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"The future's uncertain and the end is always near," a line from the Door's "Roadhouse Blues," has been on my mind these past days. My little brother, you see, went into the hospital last week having trouble breathing and a couple days later found out that he has multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. Driving to work the morning after I found out, I played the Doors - really loud - working through the anger stage, I suppose. "The end is always near." We all know it's true. Of course. Of … [Read more...]

Flapping with Vitality: What’s the Point of Dogen Study?

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What's the point of study in Dogen Zen? Given my Dogenophile disposition, I'm asked this question from time to time, and especially now that I'm developing an online study program, Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training (which is full, btw, so if you're interested in doing this work, stayed tuned for openings or contact me in a couple months). The point, of course, is practicing enlightenment. You might wonder, "How the heck does reading some illogical stuff contribute to … [Read more...]

Practice Meeting Notes Hastily Scribbled

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During a recent bunch of practice meetings with students in Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training, I started taking some notes - just a phrase or two that struck me. Here's the list of things I could read afterwards: “I don’t have anything earth shattering to report.” “Oh, I had kind of a weird experience in zazen today….” “I was just sitting singing the song of poor me….” “All day sitting.” “Working with koans just makes me … [Read more...]

Vine of Obstacles Online Support for Zen Training: Applications Now Being Accepted

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Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training is a new way of studying Dogen Zen, integrating just-sitting and koan approaches. Designed for practitioners living at home who yearn to realize and actualize the great matter of birth and death, we acknowledge both the difficulty of following through with our practice aspirations in the midst of daily life and the truth that this very bind can be a dharma gate. We practice enlightenment through daily zazen, koan-inspired Dogen study, and … [Read more...]

What is the Minimum Amount of Asceticism Required?

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"What is the minimum amount of asceticism required?" That's the question a fine young practitioner put to me at Boundless Way Zen Temple during the homeleaving workshop last month. Reminds me of another fine young practitioner I once knew who slept on plywood, cushioned only by a thin cotton sheet. He denied any ascetic impulses - in the true spirit of asceticism - and claimed that he was comfy cozy. And then he almost always nodded out in zazen, providing a little clue that he might not … [Read more...]

Do Not Waste Your Time Admiring a Painted Rice Cake: Kukai and Dogen on the Art of Enlightenment

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Pamela D.  Winfield has undertaken a wonderfully detailed and intelligent study, Icons and Iconoclasm in Japanese Buddhism: Kukai and Dogen on the Art of Enlightenment, suitable for hopeless Dogen geeks (or Kukai geeks if there be such people) like myself and Buddhist scholars, of course, but maybe not the masses. This morning, Amazon has the book at #680,626 - so, okay, for sure not the masses. However, there is much here that informs the practice of Zen. And some that doesn't. In this … [Read more...]

A Gentle, Caring Way of Life: Dreaming of Dharma Transmission Plum Blossoms

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One of the many sweet things about teaching through the Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training (click here for the latest update - another due out soon) is sharing some of my old teacher, Katagiri Roshi, with the students through his recorded talks that are connected with the sections of the first course, Guidelines for Studying the Way. A couple practitioners have asked for transcription projects to work more closely with Roshi's teaching. Here's one that was transcribed by David … [Read more...]

Shikantaza: Busy, Busy Karmic Consciousness – When Will it Rest?

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My friend and teacher, James Ford, has a recent Monkey Mind post (click here), "Assuming the Position: Zazen as a remembrance of things past and Zazen as awakening," and has awakened me from a summer-time blog slumber. James begins by reflecting on the purpose of the dharma talk and whether it is "to encourage practice" or "direct pointing to the matter at hand." The venerable then goes on to address what has become a common perspective on practice in the Soto school, at least in the US … [Read more...]


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