Here are some more questions about zazen that come from comments to the last post. I welcome addressing these issues because zazen is the heart of Soto Zen – and I love Soto Zen.Before I get started, I want to acknowledge that I’m addressing the issues as best I can from my experience and using traditional sources soemtimes to clarify or amplify. I don’t suggest that you believe what I’m saying or the source. I suggest you focus on verifying… Read more

Another good zazen question from the e-mail box:Does this bit of Fukanzazengi seem to you to emphasize the mental/thinking side of things as “the secret of sitting-Zen”?”Sitting in balance in the mountain-still state, “Think the concrete state of not thinking.” “How can the state of not thinking be thought?” “It is different from thinking.” This is the secret of sitting-Zen.” (Mike Cross trans.)Recently I have been maintaining more of an awareness of, or alertness to, my thinking in zazen; a sort of… Read more

Here’s the excerpt from a talk by Katagiri Roshi that inspired the name for our little practice place, “Transforming Through Play Temple:”In “Points to Watch in Buddhist Training,” Dogen-zenji says, “To listen to dharma is to cause your consciousness to disport itself freely.” In Japanese to “disport” is “yu-ge.” “Yu” is to play. “Ge” means to transform. “Yuge”means that we can transform our self in the process of playing freely.“Transform” does not mean to change. It means without changing your… Read more

Sesshin here over the weekend so no blogging, then work all day and afterwards a green tea latte with an old friend – an ex-Roman Catholic priest, retired Episcopalian minister, and now a practicing Quaker. One very chilled and wonderfully grumpy old guy. Thanks to those of you who commented on the issue of immanent and transcendent. Here’s a question from email, one that lots of Zen students have, that gets at this issue in a relationship kind-of-way:”How can a… Read more

Is Zen practice about getting out of the stinking hole of human life or about finding perfection within our shining life itself just as it is? Is the Buddha way beyond the phenomenal world (transcendent) or ensconced within it (immanent)?I see no other underlying stance that more powerfully impacts our zazen and attitude toward daily life than this one. And because our life is a projective exercise, we tend to see the Buddhadharma as we are rather than how “it”… Read more

Here are some recent questions and my responses (your comments welcome too): What is good work for the teacher-student relationship? For example, did you discuss personal issues much with Katagiri? Was he open to that? With students, can you do that–or is that kind of thing a problem?Good work in the teacher-student relationship is case-by-case, depending on where the student is at and how the teacher can serve the truth in any given interaction. Therefore, there is no such thing… Read more

Last night the intro class had its last session. I presented the Ordinary Mind koan with Nanchuan delivering the knock out punch: “Who would insist on affirming or denying it.”I pointed to how this practice of neither affirming nor denying holds up the practitioner, how this is the very point of practice. It occurred to me there and then that there are several meanings for the phrase – “holds up the practitioner.”Great Faith Way:Katagiri Roshi often said, “The dharma holds… Read more Read more

Yesterday I spent some time working on my Last Will and Testament. I’m not sick or anything, just taking care of business. I found it quite fun, really, especially planning “my” funeral. My home crew seemed less than joyful about the topic – a good thing, I suppose, especially given the teenagerness of one significant faction. Anyway, the above old John Prine tune has been bubbling up ever since. It’s on the play list for the my funeral so if you make it… Read more

Near the end of the last comment string, Al asked, “How would you recommend cultivating seamless zazen?”By sitting zazen as not a means to an end.  Maezumi Roshi creatively spun the characters for zazen to read as “Showing Oneness.”Once upon a time, the emperor asked his teacher, “After you die, what will need?”The teacher said, “Build me a seamless monument.” The emperor said, “Please tell me what the monument would be like.”The teacher was silent for a long while.Then he said, “Understand?”Tenkei… Read more

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