November 26, 2018

          We humans have been looking in the mirror for a long time, constructing selves that we project out to the world. It’s an especially developed characteristic of our species – the particular ways we fake being somebody important – like male peacocks and their crazy tails. As I’ve been focussed on studying Hakuin Zenji this past year, one of the striking things I’ve noticed about him is how modern he was in just this way…. Read more

October 16, 2018

                The Record of Empty Hall,  Case 67: Iron Grindstone Liú’s Upside Down (1) Raised: Zǐhú asked Iron Grindstone Liú, “For a long time, I’ve been favorably inclined to ‘Iron Grindstone Liú.’ Is there someone for whom this [name] would be suitable or not?” Grindstone said, “I won’t go there.” Hú said, “Turn left, turn right.” Grindstone said, “Venerable, is there someone who goes upside down?” Hú then struck. [Xūtáng’s] alternate saying for… Read more

October 2, 2018

            WE finished a three-day weekend sesshin at the Nebraska Zen Center on Sunday. The theme for dharma talks was the Zen lineage, especially Daiō, the 13th Century monk who transmitted the Rinzai lineage to Japan. On Saturday, I presented an entanglement of great teachers in our Sōtō and Rinzai lines all commenting on the same phrase (see below), based on The Complete Poison Blossoms in a Thicket of Thorn #110 and Dogen’s Extensive Record #179. In… Read more

September 10, 2018

                Hakuin’s painting, poetry, and Zen teaching were fused in a light-hearted and profound display. See the above image, for example (1). And in my opinion, it isn’t possible to fully appreciate one dimension of his dynamic expression without the others. Often in his art, there is an intricate and overlapping play within and between these three aspects. It is great fun to enter the painting and dig out the meanings. In this… Read more

August 10, 2018

Once in awhile, I hear some trash talk about me and my practice and teaching in both just-sitting and koan introspection Zen. Builds character, you know. But some folks say it just shows a lack of understanding about just-sitting. Be that as it may be, on the other hand, my first teacher, Katagiri Roshi, once encouraged us to return to what he called “Zen before the Sixth Ancestor,” meaning, before the split between the Sōtō and Rinzai lineages. Another way to… Read more

July 19, 2018

              Here at the Nebraska Zen Center, we’re getting ready for the summer sesshin (a week of intensive practice) that starts on Saturday. Soon students will be packing their bags and on their way. In this year of blogging Hakuin, I think of this from Complete Poison Blossoms from a Thicket of Thorn, #332, “Hakuin’s Baggage:” “ON THE AFTERNOON of the seventeenth day of the first month of the first year of Kampō [1741],… Read more

July 7, 2018

James Myōun Ford Rōshi recently asked, “What would you say are the essential Dōgen texts?” Below you’ll find my response as well as what I’d say (if he’d asked) about essential Hakuin texts. But first, a word from Hakuin about the importance of study: “I have always lamented Zen’s ignorance of the sutras, Monks plodding ahead aimlessly like blind donkeys. Even after kenshō, unless you know Buddha’s words, You’re like a carriage only fitted out with one wheel. And if… Read more

June 18, 2018

In these later days of the buddhadharma, when most of what passes off as “buddhadharma” obscures the vivid truth – the essential nature of the self – it can be useful to study and reflect on the ancient teachers. The traces of their extraordinary development in self-knowledge still flows through their breath in their recorded words. One such inspiring resource is Urs App’s Zen Master Yunmen: His Life and Essential Sayings, recently republished by the good people at Shambhala Publications. App’s… Read more

June 16, 2018

This month at the Nebraska Zen Center, we’re working the theme of being on the outside. Bob Dylan expressed it like this: Always on the outside of whatever side there was, When they asked him why it had to be that way, “Well,” he answered, “just because.”  Turns out that many people who come to Zen practice resonate with old Bob’s sentiment. Given that I was raised from a young, feral pup in just-sitting Zen and then was adopted as… Read more

June 8, 2018

                                              Hakuin Ekaku Zenji (白隠 慧鶴, January 19, 1686 – January 18, 1768), the last national teacher of Japan, and a primary instigator of modern kōan introspection was also a phenomenal artist (see sidebar).  Subjects for his work were extraordinarily wide-ranging, from the sublime to the ridiculous, as he depicted the whole rolling ball of buddhanature in the… Read more

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