The Mu Koan and How Some Zennists Just Wanna Have Fun

I'm going to roll back into the "mu koan" here.One thing I'm not going to do is try to convince any nonkoan Soto practitioners that koan training is in line with Soto Zen or that contemporary Soto Zen and Dogen's Zen are only indirectly related. I renounce these topics! They are among my favorite topics, to be sure, but let's look at the data. It seems that I wrote about a thousand posts about these two themes in the earlier incarnation of this blog with the 100% predictable result … [Read more...]

Shaking Up the Buddhadharma With Online Practice

Quick question: what sparked the compassion revolution in Buddhism that we now call the Great Vehicle (aka, Mahayana)?One answer: Writing.Yup. A new theory has it that the proliferation of the ability to read and write that took place a bit more than 2,000 years ago changed the Buddha Way by inviting a level of intersubjective reflection that was previously not as readily available.As Alan Cole puts it in "The Diamond Sutra as Sublime Object: Negation, Narration, and Happy Endings," " … [Read more...]

Watch Out for the Dog!

I stumbled on a Zen story a little while back that's been tugging at me. I'm sure I've read it before but somehow it didn't bite the first few dozen times through.Then Steve Heine pointed to it in Like Cats and Dogs: Contesting the Mu Koan in Zen Buddhism (review by yours truly here) and it sunk it's teeth into my behind.One place the story shows up in classical literature is in the Blue Cliff commentary on Case 96, "Zhaozhou's Three Turning Words" in the section for "A gold Buddha does … [Read more...]

The Old Plum Tree Bursts into Bloom

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...]

What Good is Zen?

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...]

What is Refuge?

"Taking Refuge in Evil Buddhas?"What you say?In my last post, I discussed this odd practice based on a talk that Jiryu gave a Green Gulch last month. Talking about refuge in evil Buddhas online and here at Wild Fox, sounds like one of the catches is about "refuge" - what is it?Very nice question, worthy of sitting calmly and contemplating so I won't get all preachy here. This is just a little post with a bit about the meaning of the word "refuge," a place of safety.The phrase in … [Read more...]

Invitation to Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training

   “Practice intimately, working within, like a fool, like an idiot. If you can achieve continuity, this is called the host within the host.” - Cave Mountain Virtuous Servant Overview This post-traditional Zen training is designed for practitioners living at home who yearn to realize and actualize the great matter of birth and death. “Vine of Obstacles” acknowledges the difficulty of following through with our practice aspirations in the midst of daily life and the truth that this very bind can … [Read more...]

It’s Not So Easy: The Apprenticeship Model for Zen Training

During a sesshin dokusan in 1981, after practicing with Katagiri Roshi for three or four years, I asked him if he'd ordain me.During this period, I'd been living a few blocks from the Minnesota Zen Center and like my fellow committed students, I attended most morning zazen sessions, 5am - 7am (including a short service) and evening zazen, 7:30pm - 9pm.Roshi gave a talk every Wednesday night on a sutra or a koan, usually as part of a long series, so I didn't miss many of them. We also had … [Read more...]

If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break: Sparklingly Refreshing

"Sparklingly refeshing," says one of the blurbs on the back cover.And also, "Ford's mature, playful, multifaceted Zen has been slow-cooking for forty years and is now ready. Read and delight!"That was some guy named "Dosho" and I really can't beat  his blurb this morning.Now I confess that when it comes to James Myoun Ford, I'm really biased. Frankly, I love the guy and am deeply indebted to him.Through working with him in the koan way - and getting to know those near and dear to … [Read more...]