Cold as Hell!

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Cold as hell! And just to be clear, for Buddhists using "cold" to describe "hell" is not a contradiction. We Buddhists, you see, have cold hells too. Lots of 'em. So we've got that going for us too. As I was saying, though, now it's -15 wind chill in White Bear, MN, and getting colder. -45 or so by morning so the schools will probably be closed. It is so cold that if you walk into the wind for about 3 seconds, your eyebrows will hurt like hell. That's how cold it is. By the way, … [Read more...]

The Old Plum Tree Bursts into Bloom

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This is the third installment in the "Plum Blossom" series. Katagiri Roshi gave these talks twenty-five years ago and recently David Casucuberta transcribed them and I've edited them. Click here for the link for the second one, "Gassho Like Falling Snow," and that will bring you to the first one too. Take it away old Roshi: The old plum tree is the boundless actualization of truth with no end and no beginning, the actualization of the whole universe - pine trees, bird, your hair, boots, nose, … [Read more...]

Do Not Waste Your Time Admiring a Painted Rice Cake: Kukai and Dogen on the Art of Enlightenment

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Pamela D.  Winfield has undertaken a wonderfully detailed and intelligent study, Icons and Iconoclasm in Japanese Buddhism: Kukai and Dogen on the Art of Enlightenment, suitable for hopeless Dogen geeks (or Kukai geeks if there be such people) like myself and Buddhist scholars, of course, but maybe not the masses. This morning, Amazon has the book at #680,626 - so, okay, for sure not the masses. However, there is much here that informs the practice of Zen. And some that doesn't. In this … [Read more...]

Shikantaza: Busy, Busy Karmic Consciousness – When Will it Rest?

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My friend and teacher, James Ford, has a recent Monkey Mind post (click here), "Assuming the Position: Zazen as a remembrance of things past and Zazen as awakening," and has awakened me from a summer-time blog slumber. James begins by reflecting on the purpose of the dharma talk and whether it is "to encourage practice" or "direct pointing to the matter at hand." The venerable then goes on to address what has become a common perspective on practice in the Soto school, at least in the US … [Read more...]

Zazen: Just Turn the Light Around

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The essential instruction for zazen practice in the Zen tradition from Shitou's (700-790) "Song of the Grass Hut Hermitage" to Dogen's (1200-1253) "Universal Recommendations for Zazen" to today is just this simple phrase: "Just turn the light around to illuminate." Reading Charles Egan's Clouds Thick, Whereabouts Unknown: Poems by Zen Monks of China, I stumbled upon a striking little tidbit of context for this phrase. Egan translates the phrase as "shine the reflections back" and notes … [Read more...]

Tossing Out the True Teacher and Bringing in the Barely Good Enough

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In the Vine of Obstacles: Support for Online Zen Training, the first focus for study practice is Dogen's "Guidelines for Practicing the Way." Dogen makes ten points here, starting with the importance of clear intention, practicing for the sake of buddhadharma, and the importance of studying with a "true" teacher. Click here for a Wild Fox blog post about following a teacher, practicing yourself, following yourself from a couple years ago. In the Vine work, several people have gotten "true" … [Read more...]

What Good is Zen?

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What good is Zen? What can we expect from our practice? Is Zen about transformation? We do expect a lot, of course, and that's normal and healthy. When we tie ourselves up in knots of pseudo-no-gain, hiding our gaining ideas even from ourselves, we betray our simple humanity. Our gaining ideas are dreams, or course, and are equally the real deal. As are all the sights, sounds, smell, tastes and touches of this dream life. Yes, dream life. Sometimes even on a sunny day, it inexplicably … [Read more...]

The Life of a Dog: Dragging a Stick Horizontally Through a Vertical World

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This morning I came across pictures of Bodhi trying to thread a stick horizontally through a world of vertical obstacles. Sound familiar? I remember taking the pictures about a month ago. The determined Bodhi struggled through about fifty yards of undergrowth in this manner. At first I laughed at him ... and then encouraged him to drop the stick - but he was steadfast. After "Drop!" didn't save him, I related with his predicament and just stayed with him. He finally dropped the stick when he … [Read more...]

On Taking Refuge in Evil Buddhas

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In a recent fine talk,  Absolute Refuge, Jiryu Mark Rutschman Byler shares the practice of taking refuge in evil Buddhas. We had a lively conversation about this during our last Monday night Dogen study here. Turns out it's a theme that riles some folks up. Gentle Jiryu's riling talk, by the way, is one of the audio dharma talks that we'll use in the Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training. Jiryu has studied an old Buddhist school in China, the Three Stages Sect, who seem to … [Read more...]


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