What is the True Buddhadharma? Reflections on the Transmission to China

                Katagiri Roshi, who spent most of his life sitting zazen and studying, said that the point of studying was to discover how stupid we are. I’d add that through familiarization with the subtlety and vastness of the dharma, study deepens our appreciation for this tradition. Study of primary sources, especially, helps to go beyond what might be trendy and superficial in our contemporary dharma scene. Another reason to immerse ourselves in study… Read more

What is a Sūtra? Chirp, Buzz, Woof

Zen doesn’t rely on words and Buddhism doesn’t have the equivalent of a Bible or Quran, although we have sūtras. Simply put, sūtras are Buddhist scriptures – and the plural there is important. Rather than just one book, we’ve got a large basket of teachings called “sūtra.” How large? That depends on what your definition of “sūtra” is. I’ll get to that in a moment. Tanya Storch, if you’re interested, takes up many sūtra related issues in The History of Chinese… Read more

Introducing Buddhamental Dharmadisorder 101: Dharmasplaining

                I’ve just learned that the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Buddhamental Dharmadisorders – 000 is now available and that there have been significant additions. Most notable is in the “Elimination Disorders” section, under “Mansplaining,” of the subtype, “Dharmasplaining.” In this post, I share that section with you: Dharmasplaining Defined The excessive need to verbally offgas about the buddhadharma, manifested either in person or online, by making lengthy assertions that far exceed one’s personal… Read more

A Modest Proposal: Facilitator, Teacher, Master

            Unlike in 1984 when the above photo was taken at the end of a practice period (Katagiri Roshi is up front and center, I’m in the back on the right), meditation and mindfulness are booming and widely available. You can pick up basic meditation skills not only at dharma centers representing dozens of different lineages but also at yoga studios, community centers, and churches (usually of the progressive variety) from coast to coast. No need to… Read more

Enlightenment in Dispute: Standards for Zen Teachers Now and Then

How does a Zen student know if a Zen teacher is a reliable guide, a verified representative of the Zen tradition? Read more

Did Dōgen Drop and What?

        “Some Sōtō Zen scholars and priests argue that Dōgen was against ‘personal’ enlightenment and that such an experience is out of tune with Dōgen’s teaching. Therefore, they conclude that later teachers must have made up the story of Dōgen’s personal enlightenment experience (you’ll find one version of this story at the bottom of this post).” I wrote that on April 1 (no joke), 2016. You can read the whole post here. In this post, I’d like to update… Read more

The Record of Going Easy: Who is Arising-Extinguishing?

Arising-extinguishing is the activity of this life-death. The kōan that I’ll be presenting today asks this question: “Who is arising-extinguishing?” First, a bit of background about the collection this kōan arises in – The Record of Going Easy, 從容錄, (Chinese: Cóngróng lù, Japanese: Shōyōroku), translated into English as The Book of Serenity and The Book of Equanimity. In my view, The Record of Going Easy expresses the characters fairly and better conveys what the text is about – going easy in the midst of… Read more

If You Get Silly Good at Zen, Will You Still Suffer?

Can Zen practice, even if you’re really good at it, lead us to freedom from suffering within the wild fluxes and flows of this life (aka, cause and effect or karma)? Remember that when the Buddha realized enlightenment, he thought that what he’d seen was too subtle for most. His post-enlightenment Plan A was to just sit under the bodhi tree and bliss out until his physical body’s karma was exhausted. But when he actually looked around at real people,… Read more

Illuminating with Grit and Ease: Gateless Barrier’s Mu Kōan

Wúmén Huikai (1183-1260, literally, “No-Gate Bright-Opening”), the compiler and author of the Gateless Barrier (無門關 Wúménguān), is one of the most important ancestors of our Zen tradition. Aitken Roshi notes: “An unconventional Zen master in many respects,Wúmén let his hair and beard grow and wore old soiled robes. He worked in the fields and carried his own slops. Called ‘Hui-k’ai the Lay Monk,’ he is a wonderful archetype for us monkish lay people in the West.” Wúmén was a contemporary… Read more

What Is Zazen? Dōgen’s Koan Realized

What is zazen? Everybody knows that Zen practice is largely about zazen, literally, “sitting zen” – but what is zazen? Through the ages, there has been a lot written about the subject, especially for a bunch that has spend so much time sitting down and shutting up. I got the bug for this inquiry (what is zazen?) from Katagiri Roshi. It involves investigating the ancient sayings, drilling in, and seeing how the ancients regarded this practice of sitting, and other… Read more

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