On Getting Upside-Down

I just discovered that the young woman/old woman above is from a German postcard by an anonymous creator from 1888. I’ve often used a version of it when working with teenagers prone to violence to help them learn about perspective. We might see a person, object, or event in a certain way but someone else might see it differently and that might be equally valid. Many young people get a lot of enjoyment from flipping the picture in the mind… Read more

Making Their Own Limits in Spiritual Partnership

Some of the ongoing issues in the transmission and adaptation of Buddhism to the West and to the postmodern world are love, intimacy, sexuality and their relationship to dharma practice. I am familiar with Geshe Michael Roach through his very useful book on karma and emptiness, The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Strategies for Managing your Business and Your Life. Thanks to E for recommending a recent NY Times article about Geshe Michael Roach and his spiritual partner, Christie McNally.After… Read more

Attaining Equilibrium

Last night we finished up the series of study group sessions that began last September on what Dogen calls “…the essential art of zazen:” thinking, not-thinking, and non-thinking. One important aspect of this study and practice lies in the portability of zazen when it isn’t limited by a certain state of mind (e.g., blank consciousness) or a certain pose.Dogen’s metaphor of the steelyard (a scale still used in the US in the various illegal transactions) referred to in an earlier… Read more

Dosho to a hostile fifteen-year old, ” Your anger appears to be misplaced.”Young man looking around at the floor, “Really, where did I put it?” Read more

Arhat or Bodhisattva?

The current issue of Buddhadharma includes an excellent article by Ajahn Amaro (“how we can transcend the debate of the true ideal of Buddhist practice”). I found it quite refreshing. One of the points he makes is that there are internal contradictions between the teaching and the ideal practitioner in both the Original Teaching (the arhat intent on individual liberation) and in the Mahayana (the bodhisattva intent on universal liberation). In all of the Pali Canon, no one asks the… Read more

Neural Buddhists

Here’s a David Brooks’ column from the NY Times on cultural trends given the ongoing debate between science and the belief in God – but with important thoughts about the role Buddhism might play.http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/13/opinion/13brooks.html?ref=opinion”My First Thought” Read more

A Question about Working with Trauma

Question: Can zazen be useful in dealing with trauma? I am studying zazen and MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) and I am a psychotherapist. I know zazen should have no-gaining in it…at the same time…is there some indirect effect on the mental-emotional side of the person?Response: Thank you for your question. In my view, “zazen” (by which I mean shikantaza – themeless, earnest, vivid sitting) is the form and activity of dropping body and mind manifesting the intention to practice… Read more

Burma Devastation

See http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/05/11/asia/11scene.php for a horrifying report of the suffering caused by last weeks cyclone. Read more

Zen That Works

Dogen, in his “Dream Within a Dream” (Muchu Setsumu”) fascicle offers this image for working dynamically in the world. This translation is from Hee-Jin Kim’s Dogen on Meditation and Thinking. We’ve been working through this text for the past couple years, I think, in the Thursday night study group. When I asked Tetsugan how long we’d been studying it, she said, “Forever.” I take it she meant “Timelessly.”I’ll say more about the image of the steelyard in posts to come… Read more

Keep Me In Your Heart for Awhile: The Haunting Zen of Dainin Katagiri

Here’s the catalog description (draft, I believe) for my book that explains the title.After my death I will come back and haunt over you, checking your practice.” Katagiri Roshi, one of the great pioneers of Zen in America, said this frequently, often teasing Dosho Port and his fellow students at the Minnesota Zen Center. For Dosho, Katagiri Roshi’s “haunting” still includes, to borrow a phrase from Warren Zevon, “keeping him in my heart for a while”—continuing to intimately explore the… Read more

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