April 9, 2019

        Recently, here at the Nebraska Zen Center, we held a three-day retreat focussed on Dōgen’s “The Dharma for Taking Food” (Japanese, “Fushukuhanpō”). (1) In this fascicle, Dōgen unpacks the meaning and details of the Sōtō Zen method for eating with bowls that hold just enough, or “oryoki” (pictured above and in the video below). This post touches on a few points of interest for me in the Sōtō Zen art of receiving a meal. You will… Read more

February 24, 2019

“Zen could be said to be the biggest joke that has ever been played in the spiritual realm. But it is a practical joke, very practical. However, there is a difference between a joke and a trick. One of the problems that we in America have ended up with is that when people try to be ‘Zennie,’ they do that by being tricky.” – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1) The robes, the posture, the decorum – all of these can contribute… Read more

February 16, 2019

Kenshō and makyō are the flavor of the week in these parts, so this post aims at addressing some issues about kenshō and makyō, especially if they’re the same or different. The theme first came up in a manuscript I’ve been reviewing (Rick McDaniels’ forthcoming The Story of Zen), then in conversation with the my ever wonderful wife and teaching partner, Tetsugan, and now I see a discussion of kenshō and makyō on a Zen Facebook group that I keep… Read more

January 19, 2019

Today would be the 91st birthday of my first teacher, Dainin Katagiri Rōshi (1928-1990). Happy birthday, old boy! Recently, the Hōkyōji Zen Practice Community, one of the centers that Katagiri Rōshi founded, asked me to share some memories of the early days there, given that they’re celebrating their 40th year. Below you’ll find what I wrote, slightly modified. Hōkyōji was very important to my development as a Zen practitioner, and I’m very grateful to everyone who made this wonderful place possible,… Read more

December 29, 2018

At the beginning of 2018, I began a year-long focus on Hakuin’s teaching, specifically, Norman Waddell’s newly translated Complete Poison Blossoms from a Thicket of Thorn: The Zen Records of Hakuin Zenji. In this blog post, I want to share the most important thing that about Hakuin’s Zen. First, a little background. Hakuin (1686 – 1768) was a Japanese monk in the Rinzai tradition. Widely regarded as an exceptional artist, story teller, and fierce Zen master, he and his successors kept alive… Read more

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

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 Iron Grindstone Liú: “Not knowing, rely on meeting an outsider.” Hakuin said, “Where the darkness and the light do not reach,… 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

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