June 13, 2021

Water and Light Soaking into the Earth  Seeking a Common Ground for all Religions James Ishmael Ford Guiding teacher, Empty Moon Zen Delivered at the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles The Text After ages of practice, the nun Chiyono went out on a full-moon night to draw some water from the well. The bottom of her old bucket, held together by bamboo strips, suddenly gave way, and the reflection of the moon vanished with the water. When she saw… Read more

June 9, 2021

  Jalaluddin Rumi is one of the great figures of world spirituality. He was born in what is now Iran in 1207 and died in what is now Turkey in 1273. He was a mystic, a scholar, a poet, and the founder of the Mevlevi Sufi Order, perhaps best known in the West as the “whirling dervishes.” What captures me in the moment is his poem the Guest House. It is a perennial favorite of Insight and Zen practitioners as… Read more

June 6, 2021

    On this day, June the 6th, 1944, seventy-seven years ago, and, for what it’s worth, a month and change beyond three years before my birth, my parents generation experienced a great turning. The Allied forces, led by the Americans, stormed the beaches of Normandy, in France. D-Day, as it has come to be recalled, remains the largest seaborne invasion in history. A month less than a year later, Nazi Germany would surrender. Three months after that the Japanese… Read more

June 3, 2021

    A note from James Ford and the Empty Moon Zen in Long Beach and Orange County organizing team: As we begin to contemplate resuming in person gatherings, our Long Beach and Orange County part of Empty Moon Zen is beginning to wonder what we want to be. I find myself wondering, here at the beginning of my eighth decade, landed here in Long Beach, while I can feel the sands slipping through the glass, feeling called to help… Read more

May 30, 2021

    The Disobedience Sutra, the Duty Sutra, and in the End, a Sutra of Interdependence James Ishmael Ford   I’m quite fond of the science fiction cartoon series, Futurama. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it follows the adventures of a late twentieth century Pizza delivery man accidentally frozen and then revived in the thirty-first century. One of the principal characters is a robot, as Wikipedia tells us, “foul-mouthed, heavy-drinking, cigar-smoking, kleptomaniacal, misanthropic, egocentric,” and “ill-tempered.” In other words, pretty… Read more

May 23, 2021

      I’m working on a fairly large writing project. I hope, although I cannot say it will be a new book. It’s pretty intimate in parts, and because of that I wanted to be sure I wasn’t simply reworking an earlier book, If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break. The subtitle is “field notes from a Zen life,” and I usually refer to it as my sort of memoir. I’ve jut re-read it, fast, I admit, but all… Read more

May 16, 2021

    Unitarian Universalism has long had a comfortable association with Buddhism. As a radically non-creedal community, approximately ten to fifteen percent of UUs identify as Buddhist.  At this point two Zen priests have served as parish ministers in UU congregations, although in both cases they had trained in conventional western seminaries. In this case the congregation is naming an affiliated minister based solely upon his training and credentials as a Zen Buddhist priest. An Announcement from the Unitarian Universalist… Read more

May 16, 2021

      Recently I posted a request for recommendations of a single book on Zen. I put it on a couple of lists to which I belong that are limited to Zen teachers. I added for this query some direct emails to a couple of old hands who don’t have formal titles but are particularly knowledgable about the Zen literature. A few of my friends made fun of the project. One, maybe two suggested the pillow (if you’re not… Read more

May 9, 2021

    Mother’s Day. I find myself thinking about my mother now long dead. My auntie, my “junior mother,” more recently dead. And, looming behind their mother, my grandmother. All now among the great cloud of witnesses. A few years ago I wrote a sermon for Mother’s Day. And in it I outlined my experience of these women. It was my grandmother who was our family anchor and spiritual center. Boline was a prayer warrior, who I admit in my… Read more

May 8, 2021

    Oh my. I can hear him! Right now! The guy who drives through our neighborhood using a bullhorn to announce his one dollar tamales. He’s a recent addition to the neighborhood. And we haven’t yet taken him up on his offer. I love tamales, but there’s a reason they’re often called lard sticks. And. Well. I’m so happy to live here… And. It set me to thinking. One of the delights of living in Long Beach (and specifically here… Read more




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