Just Sit or Wake Up? A Tale of Two Old Teachers

The tension over what to emphasize in dharma practice, just sitting or waking up (aka, meditation or wisdom), goes way back, probably to the time of the historical Buddha. And because we are in an emergency situation – born and soon to die – discovering the most skillful approach for resolving the great matter of birth and death - and throwing ourselves into it - is an urgent matter.If we make the wrong choice, well, lost time won’t be found again.In China, an atypical tension between tho … [Read more...]

Buddha’s Enlightenment: A Single Body is Revealed

Note: This is the fourth of five post based on talks from Rohatsu 2014. Students (Brian, Ryan, Erik, and Vera-Ellen – thank you!) transcribed them and I edited. The final one will be posted here soon. Click here for the first part:  “The Root of Zen.” Here for the second: “Sitting Through it All.” And here for the third: "Not Clear About the Self."---------For Zen practice, it is vital to become a zazen person and establish your seat firmly, just as the Buddha did. As Keizan says, “…sitti … [Read more...]

Full Moon, One Peace

Blue depths ten thousand ages old, the moon in an empty realm; You’ll only know it when you scoop it up two or three times. - One Peace 同安I stumbled on this lovely one last night – empty and full; deep and blue. From the beginning this way and yet “knowing” comes in scooping the light of the moon.The poem is in the notes to Dogen’s Buddha Nature, explaining this passage:“The words spoken by the Sixth Ancestor, ‘People have north and south; the buddha nature has no north and south, … [Read more...]

The Last Word On Dream Interpretation

What do dreams mean? Especially those dreams that haunt, that can't be shaken off with a cup of coffee and a traffic jam.First a caution. True Zen practice is exclusively about clarifying the Great Matter of birth and death. Other pursuits not directly in the service of this purpose are, at best, interesting and benign distractions.You might be able to know past lives through dream interpretation, for example, but from where I sit, it looks like wandering on the byways of spiritual … [Read more...]

Hanging Out With Homeleavers

Sometimes I get called "Reverend" and it just doesn't sit right.You see, I don't see myself as a minister in the Protestant mold or a priest in the Catholic/Anglican mold either. Neither molds approximate the Zen mold.Seems to me that in American Zen we're desperate for an English word that labels what we do but haven't found a good one yet. In grasping for a fitting cultural paradigm for those who've undertaken homeleaving, we resort to minister and priest speak.Maybe we have some … [Read more...]

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This

One of the central metaphors in the buddhadharma likens our usual world to a dream from which practice can help us awaken.But what about the nonmetaphorical dream world we live through while asleep? What practice can we do there? Can the world of dreams also be a field for awakening?In preparing for our upcoming practice period, "Expressing a Dream in a Dream," I've been reflecting and reading about dreams. Are dreams important to you? How many dreams from this life do you remember?I … [Read more...]

The End of History Illusion And Some Implications

"Life is a process of growing and changing, and what our results suggest is that growth and change really never stops," says [Daniel] Gilbert, "despite the fact that at every age from 18 to 68, we think it's pretty much come to a close."That's Gilbert on new research that you can read more about here: "You Can't See It But You'll Be A Different Person In Ten Years."This is a personal version of the "end of history illusion." I was just reading about the societal version in Collapse: How … [Read more...]

Dogen: the Patron Saint of Passive Zen?

I was pleased this morning as I reviewed the comments to my recent posts about Soto Zen going to hell. Seems like as real a cyber conversation as we've had in these parts. Not everyone agrees, of course, and sometimes feelings flare.One way to frame the disagreement is as a debate between inherent stability and full aliveness. As is often the case these days, Dogen is brought up as a proponent of inherent buddha nature with a slight twist - there is no enlightenment apart from practice and … [Read more...]

Cursing Form and Emptiness: Soto Zen, the Great Empty, and Going to Hell

A couple weeks ago I posted "Zen is Going to Hell and It’s the Boomers’ Fault!"Today's post is a follow up and in the blaming way of the moment, I'll say it's James Ford's fault.You see, I was all set to let the matter rest, but then this morning I read his lovely "the prayer of form and emptiness."As I've said before, James is a much nicer person than me and much more of a gentleman. He brings up an issue that I've been chewing on regarding the survey of Soto teachers that I men … [Read more...]