What is the Withered Tree Way?

This reflection is a follow up to James Ford's post a little while back, Jiufeng Does Not Approve: A Brief Meditation.I've been chewing on this old case for twenty years or so - an important pointer in my ongoing search for what Dogen calls the wondrous method of practice-enlightenment (aka, shikantaza).Katagiri Roshi would often say that there are only a few people who really know this wondrous method. I took that to heart and launched a pilgrimage that has been dragging on for … [Read more...]

The Red Flesh Ball of a Decayed Tree

As I may have mentioned, in our Monday Night Dogen Study we've been working through the Thirty-Seven Factors of Enlightenment (click here for the list).Here's Dogen's explanation of mindfulness - something that appears five times on the list."The root of mindfulness is the red flesh ball of a decayed tree."This fascicle of the Shobogenzo is one of the most difficult in the whole collection and Dogen's comments on the Five Faculties and Five Powers, the source of the above line, are … [Read more...]

Dogen Zen and Vinegar

A couple days ago at work I was cleaning the coffee maker in my office by running vinegar through it. After the first person came in and said, "Wow, that smell brings me back. I'm in my grandmother's kitchen in Louisiana in 1960 and she's cooking greens," I began to ask each passing guest what they were reminded of by the smell.One person said, "I'm thinking of my dad on a hot summer day while we were growing up. He always used vinegar to treat sunburn."Another said, "Smells like taking … [Read more...]

What is Enlightenment and What does It Matter Anyway?

"When perceiving one side, the other side is concealed."So says old Dogen in his Genjokoan (translated variously but by Heine's work cited below as Spontaneous Realization of Zen Enlightenment).This little gem is quite a fulcrum for understanding dharma practice and making it real or as Dogen puts it in "Bendowa,""The endeavor to negotiate the way as I teach now, consists in discerning all things in view of enlightenment, putting a unitive awareness into practice in the midst of the … [Read more...]