November 7, 2018

“The Great Way is gateless, Approached in a thousand ways. Once past this checkpoint You stride through the universe.”   This is the opening of the famous Zen text “The Gateless Gate”. It sounds like weird hippie nonsense. A lot of old Zen sayings like this are a little hard to unpack because sometimes they seem so weird. I think it’s worth a second look. The Great Way is the path we’re on. The path inspired by the Buddha, the… Read more

November 1, 2018

Some teenagers came to my door recently. They were Christian missionaries. I didn’t invite them in, but I also didn’t slam the door in their faces. In my estimation there are much worse things teenagers could be out there doing. They asked me if there was anything they could pray about for me. And when I told them there wasn’t they asked about the Buddha statue on my porch. So I told them that I’m a Buddhist. They said they… Read more

October 19, 2018

It was the 5th century. About 1000 years after the Buddha’s death. And Buddhism was in decline in India. The teachings of the Buddha had had a rough time. In those thousand years many Buddhist teachers had left. Many had spread the teachings far and wide and never returned. This was the world Bodhidharma lived in. And he left India too. He had heard rumors that Buddhism was flourishing in China and he wanted to go see for himself. When… Read more

October 10, 2018

I’ve been doing public meditation events for four months. 38 people came to my event in September. I never could have predicted that. 38 feels like a big number. I sort of accidentally stumbled into this but as it turns out there is a demand for public meditation. People want opportunities for stillness and silence for reflection and concentration and they like nontraditional opportunities like on the lawn of a museum. I think people value meditating in public for a few reasons. Because… Read more

October 5, 2018

“What is basically present is here and now. It does not depend on cultivating the path or sitting in meditation.” -Mazu We may tend to think of our spiritual path as a journey with a distant goal, like climbing a mountain. That’s how a lot of people like to describe it, I think. That’s what we’re used to. In other situations when we learn that’s how it works. We slowly accumulate knowledge and skills as we’re trying to approach some… Read more

September 21, 2018

Hongzhi (1091-1157) was a well known Zen Master in the Tsaotung lineage. It was in his lifetime that the lineage which had fallen on hard times, really took shape and underwent a revival. It became distinct in it’s emphasis on seated meditation and realization of our innate Buddha Nature through cultivating an open heart and mind. Hongzhi was a proponent (and maybe the first teacher) of Silent Illumination practice. He described this in poetic writings as a process where we… Read more

September 13, 2018

I don’t have my own temple or center or anything. There are several Buddhist centers here in Kansas City but I’m not a teacher at any of them. I do lead meditations in  public places. It’s my effort to meet people where they are. I suppose that’s as close as I come to building a community here.  I’m trying to make a space for people that don’t really want to go to Buddhist temples. When I lead a meditation outdoors I think… Read more

August 9, 2018

This is a passage from a teaching by Master Han Shan called “The Maxims.” What, ultimately, is the difference between hardship and pleasure? A hardship is an obstacle and an obstacle is a challenge and a challenge is a way to use one’s Dharma strength. What is more pleasurable than that? People are always so afraid of hardship. They go through life trying to avoid the difficult and embrace the easy. For me, it’s just the opposite. I don’t discriminate… Read more

July 26, 2018

People indignantly condemn thieves to steal material goods. I worry about the kind of thief who steals souls. People act to protect their property. They build walls. They hang every thief they catch. What measures do they take to protect their minds from corruption and loss? -Han Shan Deqing   Han Shan is being a little clever here. He’s making a comparison. The things that distract us from the path are like thieves. There are always things that are ready… Read more

July 12, 2018

The easy path is always so appealing. So why do I prefer the hard way? On the easy path we take things for granted. We get lazy and bored. This is a formula for trouble and loss. When we go the hard way, we know we can’t let our guard down for a moment. We have to stay alert to meet the challenges. Solving problems makes our mind keener and our character stronger. This is achievement! This is true gain!… Read more

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