On the Embalming Fluid of Orthodoxy

To the left you see Sengai's wonderful rendition of the old masters Linji and Mazu. Are they embalmed or ruggedly themselves?And what's it matter, anyway?James Myoun Ford and his Monkey Mind has this recent blog: ON ASPECTS OF THE REFORMATION OF SOTO ZEN BUDDHISM IN NORTH AMERICA.In this post, James gives a brief history of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association and one of the central issues that the organization is dealing with now - standards for the training of priests before dharma … [Read more...]

On Putting Unitive Awareness to Work in an Online Community

      We're in the middle of a twelve-week practice period in the Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training and are having some conflict - a very good sign, imv, of practitioners digging in and taking this work personally. And then learning what needs to be dropped and how not to take it personally.First, a little background.Before the practice period begins, participants consider a personalized theme for their practice … [Read more...]

Review of “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion”

That's by Sam Harris and it's on the "New York Times Bestseller List" which I think is really interesting and cool - lots of people buying a book on waking up is wonderful.If only I'd gotten my act together here and alerted you earlier, you might have seen Sam in person in LA, New York, or San Francisco in September for $219 (about as much as a friend is spending to see Bob Dylan in concert next month). Sam's "...lecture and Q&A will be followed by a catered cocktail reception."You … [Read more...]

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...]