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

April 11, 2019

            I forgot a few important things when writing the last post, “The Dharma of Taking Food: The Zen Art of Oryoki,” but thankfully, I have been reminded by caring others. So in this post, some more about an important practice opportunity. First, I’ll share a bit more about Wiping Cloth Sensei, and then unveil the Gansho Oryoki Incident Drama Scale (GOIDS), modelled after the better know Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (SSHWS). We also have a solid… Read more

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

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