August 11, 2023

The true person of no rank, what a piece of shit! Read more

August 7, 2023

I’ll get right to the point here – if you buy one Zen book this year, this would be my strong recommendation. Harada Tangen Rōshi (1924-2018) was one of the few truly great Zen masters that I’ve met. Meeting Roshi-sama, as he is called by his students, and training with him at Bukkokuji, changed my life and practice in profound ways that still reverberate today, thirty years later. When my winding path intersected with Roshi-sama in the fall of 1990,... Read more

July 29, 2023

This is a heads-up for you that we now have a new Vine of Obstacles Zen website on a platform called Ghost that combines the website for our training group and my many writings. This new post, for example, Fishing With A Straight Hook: Messing With Katagiri Roshi, is open for all of those who sign up for a free subscription. If you’re familiar with Tetsugan Sensei’s and my work, you’ll notice that we’ve freshened up the description of our... Read more

July 19, 2023

   Dogen Zenji famously said that to study the buddha way is to study the self. This post concludes a series of translations and commentaries that dig directly into that point. And the koan that is unpacked below points directly to this “I” consciousness (aka, manas or seventh consciousness) that Dogen was referring to.    The above mentioned series, includes the following: How Can You Recuperate From An Illness Caused By Medicine? Messing With Yasutani Roshi: The Verse for Yunmen’s... Read more

June 29, 2023

   Progress is empty, but that doesn’t mean that progress in Zen practice is unimportant. Just like there are no ears (as the “Heart Sutra” proclaims), but still many people have awakened through hearing.    And the Buddha of the Pali Canon often says that if practice isn’t efficacious, it isn’t Buddha’s practice. Indeed, many Zen students lament, most often in self-talk, “Why, oh why, is my practice not progressing?”   There are at least three diagnostic considerations – best... Read more

May 31, 2023

    In this post, I’m concluding the series of re-edits of Hakuun Yasutani Roshi’s (1885–1973 – pictured above) comments on the main case of Record of Going Easy (J., Shoyoroku), Case 11 Yunmen’s Two Illnesses, inserting my translation of the case into his commentary.     The original version of Yasutani Roshi’s commentary that I’m working with appeared in The Hazy Moon of Enlightenment, by Taizan Maezumi and Bernard Tetsugen Glassman. But, as with the last two posts (available... Read more

May 23, 2023

Zen students sometimes seem to think that Zen is a passive process. One just sits and the magic happens. Nonsense! And Sōtō students sometimes dismiss wholehearted application of the method by attributing “hair on fire” training to Rinzai Zen. Double nonsense!! Here’s a bit from the Cáodòng/Sōtō master Wànsōng – his preface to Record of Going Easy (J. Shōyōroku), Case 85: “The Appearance of the National Teacher’s Monument.’ Much more about Wansong is available here: Going Through the Mystery’s One... Read more

May 9, 2023

The issue of sound and color is one that comes up a lot in the Zen tradition, because it is central to awakening. In the Diamond Sutra, Chapter 26, we find this verse: Seeking me by using form/color or seeking me by using the sound of my voice A person walks a mistaken path And cannot perceive the Tathagata Yet, the Third Ancestor said, “The six senses are not evil. Even more, they are the same as true awakening.” If... Read more

April 24, 2023

The Record of the Transmission of Illumination (J. Denkoroku) by Keizan Jokin Zenji (1264-1325) is one of the most important dharma texts available to us today – so important that the great master Harada Sogaku Roshi (1871-1961) chose it for his reformed koan curriculum. In a recent post, I shared Keizan’s sudden awakening (J., satori) – “A Black Lacquer Person Runs Through the Night.” As I said in that post, Tetsugan Sensei and I are working through the last eight... Read more

April 10, 2023

Sudden, great awakening is the life blood of the Zen school, both Soto and Rinzai. In this post, I’ll share one such great awakening – that of the important Soto ancestor, Keizan Jokin Zenji (1264-1325) – and make a few comments. May awakening stories like this one inspire your process to awaken fully and live congruently as such. Keizan is up for me these days because Tetsugan Sensei and I are working through the last eight chapters of his Denkoroku... Read more

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