January 27, 2020

I hope you will find this post as grist for your dharma-reflection mill. You see, a couple things that have to do with the teacher-student relationship have come up in my translation work, and I’d like to share them with you. The first is a line from Tōngxuán One Hundred Questions (通玄百問), “Question 54: What Phrase Is Most Wonderful?” The text features three Cáodòng (Japanese, “Sōtō”) teachers from the Thirteenth Century – Tōngxuán (Going Through the Mystery) asks the questions; Wànsōng (Ten Thousand Pines)… Read more

January 2, 2020

When I was training at Bukkokuji Zen Monastery in Obama, Japan, on the twelfth day of every month, we all took a short walk around the bluff to a small hermitage that lay a short distance outside the wall of our neighboring monastery, Hosshinji, to perform a memorial ceremony at the retirement home of the late Harada Daiun Sogaku (大雲祖岳, Great Cloud Ancestral Huge Mountain, October 13, 1871 – December 12, 1961). The hermitage was a place of lingering radiance. The teacher… Read more

December 6, 2019

              Why nineteen ways to translate one poem? As Eliot Weinberger explains in his 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei (thanks, Joe Daichō, for =this wonderful book!), “Great poetry lives in a state of perpetual transformation, perpetual translation: the poem dies when it has no place to go.” (p. 3) Just like a great kōan! The newest edition of Weinberger’s book, by the way, has twenty-nine translations of Wang Wei’s (701-761 C.E.) four-line poem! As… Read more

November 29, 2019

You can’t do what alone? Traditionally in the buddhadharma across schools, samādhi (calming, concentration or absorption) and vipaśyanā (insight, or in Zen, “kenshō,” seeing true nature) are regarded as the two wings of meditation. And although there seems to be wide agreement in the general tradition that both are necessary for waking up and living accordingly, there is a wide range of views on the emphasis of the two wings, including within the Zen tradition. At it’s best, the present just-sitting… Read more

August 23, 2019

This year at both the Nebraska Zen Center and the Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training we’ve studied one of the essential texts in the Sōtō Zen liturgy, “Harmony of Difference and Sameness” (Japanese: Sandōkai; Chinese: Cāntóngqì 參同契), supported by Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness: Zen Talks on the Sandokai by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. In order to work my edge and offer something fresh to students, I translated the text as we were going along. You’ll find that below. The… Read more

June 17, 2019

Ronald E. Purser has written a very important book, McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality, about the limitations, fake claims, and sleight of hand in the contemporary secular mindfulness product. The underlying perspective of Purser’s critique isn’t fully unveiled until the last chapter, “Liberating Mindfulness.” It boils down to a great vehicle (Mahayana) take-down of the narcissism and limitations of the individual vehicle (Hinayana). In addition to the run-of-the mill great vehicle bodhisattva’s tools like ethics and compassion, Purser, a… Read more

May 30, 2019

Is Zen weak on compassion teachings? Zen teacher Norman Fischer Rōshi has written that he considers it “… a serious weakness in Zen: its deficiency in explicit teachings on compassion.” (1) In this post, I’ll present another perspective, however, I’d like to note that although I disagree with Fischer Rōshi on this point, his book, Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong, has helped many people to remember and actualize the buddhadharma in daily life. In addition, a… Read more

May 20, 2019

Was Hakuin Ekaku (1686 – 1768), the great Japanese revitalizer of Rinzai Zen and the inspiration for much of modern-day kōan introspection, a hater of that other Zen school – Sōtō Zen? What would have happened if Hakuin and a Sōtō monk had met face-to-face? The short answer to the first question is “No, Hakuin was not a Sōtō hater.” The short answer to the second question is that it happened a lot and, well, see below. From Hakuin’s reports,… Read more

May 14, 2019

My wife and co-teacher, Tetsugan, and I have been noticing how participation at the Nebraska Zen Center, and probably in other Zen Centers too, falls into five types (give or take): visitor, member, student, apprentice, and successor. In this post, I’ll briefly flesh out those levels of participation. Why? First, there are students here in Omaha that are on the edge of several of these levels of participation and it might serve them to more clearly know the lay of… Read more

April 22, 2019

Overview This program offers Zen practice under the guidance a senior Zen teacher, Dōshō Port (see bio here, listen to talks here), and interactions with a mature community of practitioners. Ed Gōshin, a longtime student of Katagiri Rōshi and Dōshō, serves as our assistant teacher. The Vine is designed for those who are determined to awaken (kensho) and actualize the great matter of birth and death (post-kensho training). And who aren’t shy about it. We offer instruction in both just-sitting zazen and the… Read more

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