Dogen Did Not Practice Shikantaza and Even Had a Gaining Idea

More bad news for the orthodox Soto position that Dogen was opposed to koan introspection in zazen.Modern scientific historical research supports what some of us who have experienced koan introspection and Dogen Zen have been saying for some time - Dogen offers wonderful teaching by example of how to engage the wild and rich world of koan.Why does it matter? If you care about enlightenment, it matters. If you care about truth, it matters. If you care that Dogen's words can … [Read more...]

Practicing Through Snow and Cold (or Whatever Afflictions May Visit)


We are having one snowy and cold winter here in Portland, ME.Recently, a friend asked, "How are you liking Minnesota by the Sea."Indeed.So yesterday at Sunday Open Zen, I talked about the Zen way to avoid snow and cold. If you'd like to listen to "How to Avoid Snow and Cold," click here or here for iTunes podcast.Meanwhile, we have a home-based practice period starting on Sunday. If you're looking for a way to be one with snow and cold, rain and heat by making your practice more … [Read more...]

On Receiving Inka Shomei from James Myoun Ford Roshi

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On Friday afternoon, January 23, a small group of us gathered in Worcester, MA, in the Boundless Way Zen library. James Myoun Ford Roshi and his wife, Jan Seymour-Ford (a senior Zen person), and Melissa Blacker and David Rynick (Boundless Way teachers and also roshis), met with Tetsugan and I to discuss our wedding, scheduled for that afternoon, and to consider options for my inka shomei, scheduled for the next afternoon, but now the public portion was in question due to a snow storm bearing … [Read more...]

The Deeply Settled Heart: Home-based Practice Period Invitation

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Sunday, February 15 – Saturday, May 9Background:Practice periods go back to the time of the Buddha when monastics would gather together during the three-month rainy season. In that spirit, Katagiri Roshi was the first to offer nonresidential practice periods for householders.Our Vine of Obstacles, online, home-based training periods are a time to deepen and broaden your practice. We focus on developing home practice by encouraging creativity, transparency, accountability, and mutual s … [Read more...]

A Goose in a Bottle – How Will You Be Free?

photo by Low Tide

"A woman raised a goose in a bottle. When the goose had grown, she wanted to get it out without harming the goose or breaking the bottle. How do you get the goose out of the bottle?"Koans, like this one from the Miscellaneous Series, are reflections of our lives as they are. Here we have an impossible predicament - sound familiar?In this life as it is, we find ourselves as a goose in the bottle of a limiting career, with a certain physical malady, or in a home with upstairs neighbors … [Read more...]

Nothing is Concealed

Light snow on Back Cove at low tide.

Once Shishuang was in his room and a monk just outside the room's window called to him, "Master, why is it that I'm so close, yet can't see your face." Shishuang said, "Nothing in the whole world is concealed." I like this quirky monk, seeing his difficulty so concretely in the physical world."Why is it that I'm so close, yet can't see your face?"Seems to me that the monk must have been practicing diligently, throwing himself into zazen wholeheartedly, as if his hair were on f … [Read more...]

If Dogs Run Free

Bodhi running free. Photo by Low Tide.

I'm enjoying a quiet day off here - no zazen or other scheduled activities.Since I retired from the schools and moved to Maine, most days seem like "days off."I get to sit with others at the zendo in the early morning, walk the dog, bike the peninsula (yup, still biking and enjoying a mild winter), meet students online, and prepare talks or just play with developing Vine of Obstacles: Online Support or Zen Training (added two new courses this fall, "The Healing Point of Zazen," and "The … [Read more...]

Happy New Year and May All Conditions Be Favorable

Back Cove at low tide, Portland, ME, photo by Low Tide

May all conditions be favorable!So ends our dedication at the end of "Wake-The-Heck-Up Morning Zazen" and the recitation of the Heart Sutra. The full last passage goes like this:“We pray for the flourishing of the true dharma, harmony among all nations, earth-sustaining human actions, tranquility within the sangha, and that all conditions may be favorable.”This is my prayer for the New Year.What? You might ask. Pray for all conditions to be favorable when we know darn well that th … [Read more...]

Radical Vulnerability: The Three Sicknesses and Two Lights

Moon Garden, Portland, ME, photo by Low Tide

In a recent New York Times' opinion piece, Against Invulnerability, Todd May takes a stand against philosophies that advocate that we develop an invulnerable stance in the face of the vicissitudes of this life. "Invulnerabilism," he writes,"recommends that we secrete a distance between ourselves and the world so that ultimately it cannot touch us."And he includes Buddhism as one of these secreting approaches.Like most rich religious traditions, Buddhism is a category in which many … [Read more...]