May 29, 2020

      A Zen Priest Offers a Couple of Pointers on the Spiritual Way After Religion James Ishmael Ford   We look around us and we see the world’s religions in turmoil. Too much certainty, too much violence, too much of the things that make little sense in a world where tribalisms of various sorts seem at the heart of much of this planet’s ills. And yet many still feel some calling. It’s the deep urge at the heart… Read more

May 28, 2020

Religious Studies emerged within European & American academic circles in the Nineteenth century. The attempt has been to unravel some of those threads of human cultures that have distinctive features that can be described as religious or spiritual. The kick off was a bit of a mess, a ton of unexamined assumptions were packed into the project. But, over the years, as people have learned and reflected something kind of wonderful has emerged. If one belongs to a particular spiritual… Read more

May 25, 2020

    I’ve just finished Irvin Yalom’s novel, the Spinoza Problem. It’s one of those “novels of ideas,” and a lovely example. Irvin Yalom is no doubt best known as as an academic and principal theorist in the development of Existential therapy. Here he shows how he can bring that passion into literature. The story interweaves an imagined, but plausible life of Baruch, or Benedict, or, mostly in the novel Bento de Spinoza with the life of Alfred Rosenberg, a… Read more

May 23, 2020

      THE CONNOISSEUR OF SADNESS Exploring The Hurt & the Healing of Our Lives Through a Zen Koan James Ishmael Ford The Story Our founding ancestor was facing the wall. A student on the intimate way, Huike, while standing in the snow, cut off his arm, and presented it to the master. He said, “My mind is anxious. I beg you, teacher, please set it at rest!” Bodhidharma replied, “Bring me your mind, and I will set it… Read more

May 17, 2020

    ARE ALL RELIGIONS ONE? A Zen Perspective James Ishmael Ford   Here’s the question. Are all religions one? Are all those paths winding up the same mountain? For me, this is more than an abstract question. The greater part of my life has been dedicated to the spiritual quest. For me sorting through the many differentpossibilities, separating any possible dross from any potential gold has been and remains enormously important. To me. And, one other factor. I came… Read more

May 11, 2020

      MY RELIGION IS KINDNESS A Zen Meditation James Ishmael Ford   The Dalai Lama once famously declared, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” I find it joins for me with an anecdote about the writer Aldous Huxley. As he approached his death he said, “It’s rather embarrassing to have given one’s entire life to pondering the human predicament and to find that in the end one has little more to say than, ‘Try to… Read more

May 9, 2020

    Listen, Listen: Or, Rumi as a Zen Master James Ishmael Ford A few days ago I posted a Rumi quote on my Facebook page. It goes, “Sit, be still, and listen, listen, because you’re drunk and we’re at the edge of the roof.” My friend and colleague in UU world, Roger Butts, challenged me as a Zen teacher to explain what is it, exactly, that I see in this quote. If you’ve been living in a cave somewhere… Read more

May 8, 2020

Zen in Five Minutes WHAT ABOUT VISIONS ON THE SPIRITUAL PATH? James Ishmael Ford In the Christian calendar today is the feast of one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Julian of Norwich. One of the cool things about her for me, anyway, is that we know almost nothing about Julian, we don’t even know what her real name was. What we have is her record of a series of visions and her reflections on them, the Revelations of Divine Love…. Read more

May 4, 2020

  Zen in Five Minutes: Is Zen a religion? James Ishmael Ford A number of years ago I served on the membership committee of the American Zen Teachers Association. It had been formed largely out of a list of names compiled by some of that second generation of Zen teachers such as Bernie Glassman and Mel Weitsman. But as it grew, we found it important to explore whether a potential candidate fit the definition of “peer.” As a peer support… Read more

April 30, 2020

    ZEN IN FIVE MINUTES The Eight Worldly Concerns James Ishmael Ford Several people have asked me to address the eight worldly concerns and how they relate to Zen practice. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re a description of the distractions of our lives. In the Lokavipatta Sutta. In Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s translation we are told, “…(T)hese eight worldly conditions spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions. Which eight? Gain, loss, status, disgrace,… Read more

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