January 29, 2018

This post continues the series on the teaching of Hakuin, the 18th Century Japanese Rinzai Zen priest in all his raw, unplugged and unglued dharma from the heart. Dave Hondo has an excellent to-the-point post, “Reading Hakuin in the Age of Trump,” here. And Kurt Spellmeyer had this about Hakuin in Tricycle a few years ago: The Zen Master is Present. By the way, I have no grand scheme for the order of posts in this series except “no rhyme or… Read more

January 22, 2018

The road passes among cresting mountains, Winding through thickets and vines; The border of the Wu state ends at the river edge, Soaring beyond, the serried peaks of Yueh. (painting, “Eaglehead Peak,” and poem by Hakuin) I find Hakuin’s teaching so powerful because of his uncluttered clarity, a direct expression of the heart of Mahayana Buddhism. I’d paraphrase it like this: in order to carry living beings across the flood, realize kenshō. Clarify kenshō until it’s limpid. Help others. That’s… Read more

January 15, 2018

Kuang-hui asked Nan-yuan, “What about before the wooden fish wumps?” “Looking at the sky, not seeing it,” replied Nan-yuan. “What about after the wooden fish wumps?” asked Kuang-hui. “Looking at the ground, not seeing it,” said Nan-yuan.” Great dharma presentation! “Before” and “after” and even “now” are non locatable. They exist only in words and ideas. What about it? Looking up and down, the wooden fish just goes “wump!” This kōan is indirectly referenced by Hakuin in Complete Poison Blossoms… Read more

January 7, 2018

In my last post, Who Is This Hakuin Guy?, I gave some background for Hakuin Ekaku (白隠 慧鶴, 1686 – 1768) and the record of his teachings, the recently published Complete Poison Blossoms from a Thicket of Thorn: The Zen Records of Hakuin Ekaku, translated by Norman Waddell. Like most radical reformulators of the buddhadharma (e.g., Nagarjuna, Bodhidharma, Huineng, Dōgen, etc.), Hakuin saw himself as holding true to the essence of the Zen way, rearticulating that essence, and innovating a method for its… Read more

January 5, 2018

              Recently, I interviewed a prospective student for the Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training. He’d spend about a decade doing center-based Zen study with a nonkoan teacher, and another decade on his own doing Sōtō home-based practice. In our conversation, I mentioned how I’m in both the lineage streams of Dōgen (through Katagiri Roshi,1928 – 1990) and Hakuin (through Dōkutan Sōsan Rōshi, 1840 – 1917, Dai-un Sōgagku Rōshi, 1871 – 1961, and James… Read more

December 30, 2017

              It’s been cold in Omaha these past days with another several cold ones forecast. In this weather (not climate!), we worry about a stray cat that we’ve named “Ananda” (tends to hang around the garden Buddha), who hasn’t been seen in many days, leading us to worry that he may not make it through the winter. But perhaps he’s just found a warm place to hole up. Meanwhile, the center is closed for… Read more

December 15, 2017

                “This mind is Buddha” is one of the most evocative teachings of our Zen school. It is a “teaching,” not a philosophical assertion or a faith statement, but rather a description of enlightening experience. Dōgen cites “This mind is Buddha” teaching in several fascicles in the Shobogenzo, eight dharma discourses in the Eiheikoroku, and also in his Shinji Shobogenzo (1). In this post, I will explore Dōgen’s working through of this kōan in relationship to enlightenment… Read more

November 27, 2017

              I just found this old photo of Tangen Harada Roshi, the last living successor to Daiun Harada Roshi, in the foreground, and my old friend, Jiku-san, in the background with the ring staff. I remember the morning it was taken during the winter of 1991. I was practicing as a Zen monk at Bukkokuji in Obama, Japan, and it was a day for takuhatsu (托鉢 “begging” or more literally, “holding up the alms… Read more

November 20, 2017

                In this look at Brad Warner’s new book, It Came From Beyond Zen: More Practical Advice from Dōgen, Japan’s Greatest Zen Master, I’m going to focus just on one issue – kōan. But for decorum sake, let’s start with this: Brad Warner has done a lot of good for Zen in the West. Most practitioners I talk with who are under 40-years-old found their way to Zen through Warner’s books, especially Hardcore Zen. Warner has cultivated an image… Read more

November 13, 2017

          I’ve been working on a review of Brad Warner’s new book, It Came From Beyond Zen: More Practical Advice from Dōgen, Japan’s Greatest Zen Master, to be posted soon. Given that I have a different perspective than Warner and nonkōan Zen folks generally on what Dōgen practiced and taught, and given the curious sensitivity of the kōan issue, I thought I might do some preemptive blogging. After I write about my views on Dōgen and kōan, you see, although there are… Read more

Follow Us!

Browse Our Archives