What Can We Do?

In the Dogen study group, we're now working through the Genjokoan in usual Soto fashion - three sessions and we're done for now with the title. Along with various translations, we're also using Sen'ne's 13th Century commentary where we find this about the "ko" in Genjokoan, usually understood according to Sen'ne, to equalize the unequal:What can we use as a criterion to define equalizing inequality? Once we understand that to be equal and to be unequal are one, it is not possible to say that we … [Read more...]

On Shikantaza

Here's an email from a Zen teacher that I deeply respect, Barry Magid (a successor of Joko Beck) and my long-winded response. We had exchanged emails about my book and some concerns about "wholeheartedness."I highly recommend his recent book, Ending the Pursuit of Happiness: A Zen Guide. Barry's psychoanalytic training has given him an extremely valuable perspective and fitting language especially suited to clarifying barriers that many modern practitioners face, including our "secret … [Read more...]

Work World Koan

This old case bubbled up in zazen this morning:Yunyan asked Baizhang, “Every day there is hard work to do. Who do you do it for, master?”Baizhang replied, “For the one who requires it. ”Yunyan replied, “Why don’t you let her do it herself.”Baizhang replied, “She has no tools.”Questions for our work: What is our work? Who do we do it for? What is required? What does it mean that she has no tools? … [Read more...]

A Fence, a Hardware Store, and a Lexus SC

We're painting the white picket fence that borders part of the garden and we ran out of paint thinner. So I stopped at the local hardware store in White Bear - a suburb that used to be a small town (and before that a resort hot spot for Chicago mobsters like Ma Barker - but I digress...).White Bear still has a small town feel and people often say "hi" and strike up conversations (I love it) unlike the inner metro where everyone seems to pretend that no one else is around.Anyway, I found the … [Read more...]

“Followers” Added

I'm curious who is reading this blog and thought that it might be interesting for others too ... so I've added the "Follower Gadget" on the right just after my profile. I invite you to add yourself if you read regularly. Thanks. Dosho … [Read more...]

Deep down I don’t see my ordinary mind as the way

So said one practitioner on the training blog.I felt happy when I read that - a statement of fresh honesty full of possibility.Belief in the buddhadharma and doubt in the buddhadharma can create the energy for digging-in-deep practice. Here's one way to work with belief and doubt in zazen. The basis of zazen is the belief that we are already Buddha and the posture is the clearest expression of that truth.So when you sit down, pay attention to the specific ways in which the body is expressing … [Read more...]

On Becoming Buddha

Notes: the photo is a sculpture by James Hunoldt and this is a slightly modified version of what I just posted on the training blog.In the study group on Thursday we worked through part of a commentary by Sen'ne, a 13th century Zen guy, on the genjokoan. I'll try to present the heart of it here.And then there is digesting the material and actualizing it in our practice and life. After 30 years, I'm still amazed and the depth and subtlety of the presentation of our dharma ancestors and how this … [Read more...]

Finding Your Question

I suppose this is a postscript to the previous post, something that I find to be central about inquiry. For me and for many Zen students, a question emerges, gushes from the well spring, that must be resolved. I've written about my experience with such a "found koan" in Keep Me In Your Heart Awhile - "How can I go beyond self consciousness." Discovering my question and digesting it together with Katagiri-roshi was probably the single most important part of my training. So I want to support ot … [Read more...]

Inquiry, Patti Smith, and Deepening Zazen

In Omaha over the weekend, I worked with the group on how to do dharma study. I did this by asking questions and listening and in this case the medium was the message.Zen is questions and questioning. Zen is about learning to ask questions that crack the bunny life open. And about how to attend to those questions that erupt into our life.Sutras and koans almost all begin or pivot on a key question. Just pick up any sutra and pay attention to the beginning and you'll find it. Koans too, of … [Read more...]