June 23, 2020

One aspect of Dàhuì’s teachings, probably best-known today among keyword students, are his instructions on what NOT to do, especially in regard to working with the keyword mu. There are actually three overlapping lists of what not to do in The Letters (letters #10.5, #14.8, and #58.2). (1) In this post, I will translate the list from #14.8. You can find my translation of the list in #10.5, as well as more context, here. Broughton and Watanabe’s translation is below. You’ll notice quite a… Read more

June 6, 2020

Introduction This series is especially directed to students working with a keyword (話頭 huàtóu, Japanese, watō) with Tetsugan Osho and I on the Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training or at the Nebraska Zen Center. I’ve been sharing these posts here for others who might be interested. Close study of the teachings of the ancients can help both students and teachers notice details of the method and refresh their practice spirit. If you are working with a keyword with another teacher, consult… Read more

June 4, 2020

In this final post of the series on the keyword method of Dàhuì, I begin with a connection to Shakyamuni, move to more detail on Dàhuì’s teaching, cite a parallel with Dōgen, include a modest proposal to modify the kōan curriculum to more directly address contemporary issues, and close with Old Man Bob. Here goes: “Through the round of many births I roamed without reward, without rest, seeking the house-builder. Painful is birth again & again. House-builder, you’re seen! You will not… Read more

May 31, 2020

Let’s get right down to it Break through is a must if you want to verify the truth of this one great life and not just take others’ words for it, hiding behind the Buddha’s robes, as it were. Or hiding inside your own robes. Hiding in the bells and smells of Zen orthodoxy. Or spending a dharma career trying to talk others into believing that non-enlightenment is really enlightenment. Exhausting! Rather than just do a little bit of good… Read more

May 26, 2020

  The main point of this post is the importance of continuing to work the edge of life-death with the keyword  (e.g., 無, mu/no) even when it gets scary, even when it becomes a matter of letting go of life-death – that is, letting go of old fixed stances, of attachment to body-mind, and dropping body-mind. While digging into this point, though, a common issue arises – “I’m too dumb.” So I’ll address this issue as well, mixing it up… Read more

May 22, 2020

        In 1144, Zen master Dàhuì received a letter from a fairly high-ranking official (a drafter of imperial proclamations), a fellow named Zong, that seems to have been what we might call a practice check-in. Among other things, Zong reports: “In responding to conditions in my daily wading through the differentiated sense objects I am always in the midst of the buddhadharma.” And “In the midst of my daily activities, my movements and various demeanors, I use… Read more

May 7, 2020

Awakening is lot about energy. Slump and sniff in zazen and daily life and that’s what you get. Burn like a Buddha in flames and that’s what you are. “This energy,” wrote my old teacher Katagiri Rōshi, “appears in every aspect of human life; gassho, a cushion, a cup. Within each single form of being we can see this total dynamic life. This is seeing something with our whole body and mind. At that time we become one with our… Read more

May 1, 2020

          How to cross the flood of sense desires, becoming, views, and ignorance? Let’s give the Buddha of the Pali Canon the first crack at answering – seems fair given that he is credited with identifying the four contaminants (sense desires, becoming, views, and ignornace). Here’s his old tune from the Samyutta Nikaya: “The Flood” Thus have I heard. The Exalted One was once staying near Savatthi at Jeta Grove, in Anathapindika’s Park. Now a certain… Read more

April 24, 2020

“When you truly understand this fundamental principle you will not be anxious about your life and death. You will then attain a steadfast mind and be happy in your daily life. Even though heaven and earth were turned upside down, you would have no fear. And if an atom bomb went off, you would not quake in terror.”  – Yasutani Rōshi (1) When I read those words in 1977, they seemed so outrageous that I immediately sought out a teacher, and became… Read more

April 17, 2020

  “The mind that is not baffled is not employed.” My first real baffling encounter with Great Uncertainty (aka, Great Doubt) came near the beginning of my Zen practice, probably in about ’78 or ’79. I was walking home from a sesshin with another student and I asked him, “How’d your sesshin go?” He looked at me with the kind of rawness that takes a seven-day sesshin to reveal, and said, “I don’t know shit. I really don’t know shit…. Read more

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