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

"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

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

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

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

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...]

A Review of Kaz Tanahashi’s “The Heart Sutra: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classic of Mahayana Buddhism”

Kaz Tanahashi's new book is a treasure trove of Heart Sutra material, delightfully diverse and quietly quirky. I read the book enthusiastically in one day - an unusual thing for me (I usually like to go slow with dharma books) - and was energized by the experience.Kaz is an unassuming man who's long been an integral member of the Zen scene in the West, widely acclaimed for his vibrant calligraphy and wide-ranging translations including Dogen's Shobogenzo, the Tao De Ching, a delightful book … [Read more...]

Is Zen a Religion?

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...]