Is Zen a Religion?

(Photo by Susan Kaplan)

When I was about sixteen, I confronted the Catholic priest in my little northern Minnesota hometown with my criticisms of the Catholic doctrine. He listened with a stricken look to my many objections to the faith and then simply said, "It is not our job to understand. God moves in mysterious ways.""'Mysterious,' maybe," I thought, "but would an omnipotent God be stupid?"So I rejected religion and went searching for the truth. First, I tried drugs, sex, and rocknroll, then Western … [Read more...]

A Thanksgiving Prayer


May we all attain the way by giving the way to the way.May we give to each other as if we were giving away unneeded belongings to someone we don’t know, or offering flowers blooming on a distant mountain to thusness, or offering treasures we had in former lives.May we give ourselves to ourselves and others to others. Indeed, giving to ourselves is giving. Giving to our families is also giving.May we give even a phrase or verse of the truth; our valuables, even a penny or a blade of g … [Read more...]

Top Ten Issues for Zen Today


We've been settling into Portland, ME, since our move here in July. For one thing, Bodhi sure looks comfortable on my zafu, no?For another, people don't sound as "different" as they did when we moved. Heck, the other day I called my old health insurance company in Minneapolis and talked to a nice lady there about an issue that I was having. OMG, did she have a Fargo accent! We don't talk like that around here, that's for gall darn sure!Anyway, we've also been settling into the last few … [Read more...]

On the Embalming Fluid of Orthodoxy


To the left you see Sengai's wonderful rendition of the old masters Linji and Mazu. Are they embalmed or ruggedly themselves?And what's it matter, anyway?James Myoun Ford and his Monkey Mind has this recent blog: ON ASPECTS OF THE REFORMATION OF SOTO ZEN BUDDHISM IN NORTH AMERICA.In this post, James gives a brief history of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association and one of the central issues that the organization is dealing with now - standards for the training of priests before dharma … [Read more...]

On Putting Unitive Awareness to Work in an Online Community


      We're in the middle of a twelve-week practice period in the Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training and are having some conflict - a very good sign, imv, of practitioners digging in and taking this work personally. And then learning what needs to be dropped and how not to take it personally.First, a little background.Before the practice period begins, participants consider a personalized theme for their practice … [Read more...]

Review of “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion”


That's by Sam Harris and it's on the "New York Times Bestseller List" which I think is really interesting and cool - lots of people buying a book on waking up is wonderful.If only I'd gotten my act together here and alerted you earlier, you might have seen Sam in person in LA, New York, or San Francisco in September for $219 (about as much as a friend is spending to see Bob Dylan in concert next month). Sam's "...lecture and Q&A will be followed by a catered cocktail reception."You … [Read more...]

Twelve Points for Zen Practice


     The Buddha’s great discovery can be realized in this life. The Buddha’s great discovery is extraordinarily subtle and powerful. Zazen and Buddha’s enlightenment are in intimate relationship. Wholehearted zazen is a necessary condition for its rediscovery. A necessary condition for realized zazen practice is that it is undertaken with the intimate guidance of someone who has made this discovery. A necessary condition to become a “zazen per … [Read more...]

A Letter from Low Tide


Dear blog reader,A few days ago, Tetsugan and I met our friends Melissa and David at the Porthole - a local breakfast hot spot on a wharf in Old Port. Right behind our table was a large painting of a lobster - a large lobster. A lobster that might eat Portland.Anyway, I noticed that the painter had signed his name "Kenneth T. Murphy, aka, Low Tide." That gave us all a laugh - Tetsugan and I moved out here to Portland, ME, to start Great Tides Zen, afterall.But "Low Tide" seems like a … [Read more...]

Compassionate with Others, Strict with the Self


Today was the first day for morning zazen (aka, "Wake the Heck Up! Morning Zazen") for Great Tides Zen here in Portland, ME. We walked down the wharf and into the Pierce Atwood Building with the lobster fishermen and seagulls.Seven people showed up and it was a lovely session.Getting up early enough to be at zazen and in our seats at 5:25am might sound rather severe. A phrase that Katagiri Roshi used often in guiding our practice comes to mind - "Be compassionate with others and strict … [Read more...]