A few weeks ago in our Tuesday Evening Dharma Conversation here at the Nebraska Zen Center, we were talking about koan. A guy who was new to the center but who seemed to have been practicing for a while on his own, suddenly interjected, “You mean there are right answers? Isn’t a koan about what I or anybody sees in it as true?” Good question. I’ll come back to that. First, I want to tell… Read more

Forty years ago today, I walked into the Minnesota Zen Center building (pictured), met Katagiri Roshi, and started this Zen journey. It was windy and cold. I was twenty-one and nervous as hell. I had dropped out of college because it no longer made any sense and instead spent my days working in a K-Mart warehouse, hauling boxes of plastic products from one trailer to another – stuff that people didn’t really need. I was looking for meaning. I was… Read more

I was talking with an Zen teacher friend this past week and he mentioned that his next meeting was with a practitioner who wanted to become a Zen priest. “Any thoughts about what I might say to him?” he asked. “Just discourage him,” I said. We went on to talk about why someone might want to become a Zen priest these days. Lay teachers can do pretty much everything that priests can do to share the dharma, if that’s a… Read more

          What about when you feel that you just can’t do it? When you’re beset with tight, bitter feelings. When you’ve been wronged? What is practice at just such a time? Turns out that we’re not alone, of course, and that practitioners have long had these normal human feelings. If you’d like to dig deeply into these issues, this  post is for you. It includes my translation of “Case 41: Luòpǔ With One Foot in the Grave”… Read more

Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment by Robert Wright  One reason that this is an important book is obvious – at number 5 or 8 or 11 on the New York Times Best Sellers, depending what you’re looking at – it’s reaching a lot of people. It could, of course, be important but not a fair or positive presentation. Fortunately, after reading Wright’s ambitious undertaking Why Buddhism is True, I can say that, in my view, it is… Read more

The point of this post is simple. Whether you identify as a Traditionalist Buddhist or Modernist Buddhist – don’t get your frickin hackles up! I’ve been a bystander on this issue for some time, but after reading some hostile posts coursing through the internet, most recently about the new best-selling book by Robert Wright, Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment (including one by a guy who starts off saying that he hasn’t read the book… Read more

                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

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

                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

            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

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