On the Tips of the Hundred Grasses

"On the tips of the hundred grasses, the ancestors' true meaning," said the precocious Ling-chao to her dad, Layman P'ang.The issue of the true meaning of the ancestors is a significant one in Zen because we're an ancestral tradition, handed on person to person and not a revealed path. Buddha, Dogen, and all the great teachers, as well as all the not-so-great teachers in the Zen lineages (in the story of Zen, at least) have rediscovered this wondrous way and recreated it's presentation to fit … [Read more...]

Ahhh! Summer!

Finally my school year is done! I've got about 80 hours of work to do between now and August 8th when we go to the BWCA. I'm leery of teachers who say that their top three reasons for becoming teachers are June, July, and August ... but good lord, I love 'em. Now I get to settle in at home with my kids and Bodhi, the true Zen dog.Speaking of Bodhi, when one of my neighbors (a normal Minnesotan, I thought) met Bodhi, she asked what his name meant. When I said, "Enlightenment," she responded, … [Read more...]

Rolling Up Our Sleeves and Going to Work

A. asks: I've been practicing Zen for four years and it has become an important part of how I live. Like you, I am a single parent (of three boys) as their mother discovered she was gay three years ago. I am also a teacher in the public school system. I often become uncomfortable with being part of a system which promotes and requires a great deal of social conformity. I try and work as I think best, but this brings me into conflict with the goals of the system and others around me. I think this … [Read more...]

Zazen, Experience and Life

Question: Someone said, sitting in stillness is transcendent practice…to rise above suffering…not transformative. So it’s limited to glimpsing emptiness, not transforming your stuff/karma. The suggestion here is that when you return to your life, your meditation has had no real impact on the particulars. You still act-out conditioned and painful patterns. Anyway, that idea exists, more than one teacher has said so—outside of Zen. What do you think? J.Dosho's Response: Transformative or transce … [Read more...]

The New Dog

After some months of rolling around with the issue, we decided that although this wasn't the ideal time, the ideal time would very likely not arrive ... so we picked up Bodhi, 9 week old black Lab, last night. We'd intended to get another of T's sister's puppy posse (Bodhi is one of nine puppies) but Bodhi came to me right away and when I picked him up it was love at first hug.Bodhi's full name for "pure" breed registration is Hey-hey Dog-en Bodhi Zenji. We might throw a "Sama" in at the end too … [Read more...]

Just added a new feature: blog roll. Look over to the right margin and you'll see it. These are blogs I go to regularly. The roll will tell you when they've been updated and a blog blurb about the latest post. Sweet! Oh, if you have suggestions for blogs you enjoy, especially Buddhist ones, especially those that are alive with updates, please let me know. … [Read more...]


You’ve Got To Serve Somebody

(Above a Tibetan monk debates, highlightinig his point and sending it to his debate companion with a big clap)James Ford, a friend and inspiration to me, in his Monkey Mind blog has recently taken on my suggestion that there are a number of stances that characterize us as Zen teachers: authenticity vs. popularity, serving dharma vs. sangha, explaining Zen vs. providing the antecedents for discovery.I’m delighted to see that James doesn’t see it the way I do! I put these ideas out in the blog wor … [Read more...]

What is Authentic Zen? Or … You Gotta Lot of Nerve

When I think about authenticity and Zen, the first thoughts are about old Dogen-zenji. Soto lore tells of one of his disciple’s, Genmyo, accepting a large donation behind Dogen’s back from a military ruler after Dogen had refused the offer. It seems that Dogen wasn’t impressed by samurai Zen. Dogen threw the guy out of Eiheiji and then had the tatami under his sitting place cut out and the earth six feet under the platform removed as well. Dogen didn’t do anything half way.Not all of us are so pu … [Read more...]

Stances in Zen Teaching

Sitting at a bar and catching up with my brother last night, it struck me again how important is our basic stance. My brother and I have very similar bodies and as we age we seem to have lots of the same aches and pains in our backs and knees. How we hold our bodies, however, is quite different. My brother, influenced by studying and teaching law, holds his shoulders uptight, slouches a bit in the mid back and leans in squinting to make a point. As for me, I'm told by the teenagers that I work … [Read more...]