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...]

Guidelines for Studying the Way: Online Course Begins September 15th

Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training is a new way of integrating zazen, dharma study and engaging the world through our practice.For the first time, we are offering our introductory course (appropriate for students with a wide-range of dharma experience), Guidelines for Studying the Way, as an 11-week session, September 15-November 24, and invite you to join the cohort that will work through the course together.The Vine began just a year-and-a-half ago and I'm delighted wi … [Read more...]

Thirty Years a Zen Priest

Thirty years ago today, Nonin (front), Dokai (middle), and I went under with shukke tokudo with Katagiri Roshi. One of the most important days of my life, to be sure.I've written a few pieces about all this Zen priest business over the years. "What the Heck is a Zen Priest?" and "Hanging Out with Homeleavers," for example.August 18, 1984, was a beautiful summer day in Minneapolis. An internet search says the high was 82. The next day, I believe, we all went to the monastery for a couple … [Read more...]

How To Lose Friends & Alienate People: My On-going Failing Efforts to Express the Truth of the Shikantaza Koan

Myo Lahey, a San Francisco Zen trained Soto priest, has entered the shikantaza-koan fray with admirable spirit, offering a thoughtful restatement of the Soto orthodoxy (San Francisco Zen flavored neopolitan, I think) in response to my last blog post (Dogen and Koan: The Ultimate Truly Definitive Unquestionable Smoking Gun) with his "Plain or Sugar Koan."Myo's critique runs along these lines (not necessarily in this order): First, Myo asserts that although Dogen had koan training and fluency, … [Read more...]

Dogen and Koan: The Ultimate Truly Definitive Unquestionable Smoking Gun

There is a long-standing debate in Soto Zen circles about Dogen and the use of koans.Dogen, you see, is regarded these days as the founder of the just-sitting school of Zen (Soto) and his writings are used (selectively - I'd argue) to paint the great founder advocating for the style of zazen he taught, shikantaza, and the style that characterizes the modern Rinzai school, koan introspection, as different and not equal. This narrative became dominant about two hundred years ago - 550 years a … [Read more...]

Great Tides Zen Fall Program Offerings (and Beyond)

We've been enjoying the summer here in Portland, ME. One of the big highlights has been the times we've spent meeting and getting to know members of the local dharma community. The Maine Buddhist community is rich and wonderfully diverse.And we're eager to get the Great Tides Zen fall practice program underway - daily zazen, introductory sessions, practice period, zazenkai, and sesshin.Our first event will be Wake the Heck Up! Morning Zazen at Still Water Yoga from 5:30am - 7:00am on … [Read more...]

Green Tea, Udon Noodles and Zen Study

In my last post I addressed the issue of why we've chosen to place "Guidelines for Studying the Way" at the front of our study work here in Portland, ME, and on the Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training.In this post, I'll take up the issue of why we emphasize study at all. After all, didn't Bodhidharma say that Zen isA special transmission outside the scriptures No dependence upon words and letters; Direct pointing to the human heart Seeing one's nature and attaining … [Read more...]