July 7, 2018

James Myōun Ford Rōshi recently asked, “What would you say are the essential Dōgen texts?” Below you’ll find my response as well as what I’d say (if he’d asked) about essential Hakuin texts. But first, a word from Hakuin about the importance of study: “I have always lamented Zen’s ignorance of the sutras, Monks plodding ahead aimlessly like blind donkeys. Even after kenshō, unless you know Buddha’s words, You’re like a carriage only fitted out with one wheel. And if… Read more

June 18, 2018

In these later days of the buddhadharma, when most of what passes off as “buddhadharma” obscures the vivid truth – the essential nature of the self – it can be useful to study and reflect on the ancient teachers. The traces of their extraordinary development in self-knowledge still flows through their breath in their recorded words. One such inspiring resource is Urs App’s Zen Master Yunmen: His Life and Essential Sayings, recently republished by the good people at Shambhala Publications. App’s… Read more

June 16, 2018

This month at the Nebraska Zen Center, we’re working the theme of being on the outside. Bob Dylan expressed it like this: Always on the outside of whatever side there was, When they asked him why it had to be that way, “Well,” he answered, “just because.”  Turns out that many people who come to Zen practice resonate with old Bob’s sentiment. Given that I was raised from a young, feral pup in just-sitting Zen and then was adopted as… Read more

June 8, 2018

                                              Hakuin Ekaku Zenji (白隠 慧鶴, January 19, 1686 – January 18, 1768), the last national teacher of Japan, and a primary instigator of modern kōan introspection was also a phenomenal artist (see sidebar).  Subjects for his work were extraordinarily wide-ranging, from the sublime to the ridiculous, as he depicted the whole rolling ball of buddhanature in the… Read more

May 12, 2018

Why don’t you build a jointed bridge with your free mind for the people passing through the world? – Hakuin   The teaching of Hakuin Ekaku (白隠 慧鶴, January 19, 1686 – January 18, 1768) is one such jointed bridge, and now a lot of it is available to English-reading practitioners through the extraordinary skills of translator Norman Waddell, most recently through the publication of Hakuin’s record, The Complete Poison Blossoms in a Thicket of Thorn (CPB). A careful read is especially… Read more

May 3, 2018

In my last post, I shared a bit of the criticism that Hakuin (1686 – 1768) heaped on the silent illuminationists of his day, generally some practitioners in the Sōtō school. That lead me to reflecting on what Hakuin might have said about today’s practitioners of kōan introspection. First, it’s important to note that phrases like “kōan introspection” and “Sōtō Zen” are general categories and there is more difference within groups than between groups. That said, one of the ways that… Read more

April 14, 2018

Hakuin (1686 – 1768), the great revitalizer of Rinzai Zen, had blistering criticisms of practitioners of silent-illumination meditation. Indeed, Seo and Addiss identify this as one of the main themes of Hakuin’s teaching, “A continued denunciation of those who contribute to the decline of Zen, particularly through the incorporation of Pure Land Buddhist practices and/or the sole use of ‘silent meditation’ (1).” However, in The Complete Poison Blossoms in a Thicket of Thorn (CPB), much of the vitriol is directed at… Read more

April 3, 2018

A few days ago, the prolific James Myoun Ford Rōshi (fyi, “Rōshi,”老師, or “old dog” – see photo) extraordinaire, offered up his considered opinion about “What Makes a Good Zen Student?”  Because I have a few thoughts of my own (well, not really “my own” – mostly that I’ve borrowed from others – including from the likes of Tetsugan and Hakuin), I throw this to the wind. Although, in this post, as you can tell from the title, “What Good is… Read more

March 30, 2018

Currently, there is much talk in the Zen blog world about how old one needs to be to teach Zen. See James Myoun Ford’s post here. I’ll only get into a part of the issue, of course, because I’m doing a “Hakuin-focus blog year.” In that spirit, I’ll get around to what seems to have been his view on this and some hopefully-timely advice as well. But first the issue of what “wisdom” is. Partly, this is a translation issue and… Read more

March 12, 2018

In a letter written by Hakuin in 1734 (Complete Plum Blossoms in a Thicket of Thorn, “187.  To Layman Ishii”), he makes a powerful point about our practice, colorfully stated, “While you are engaged in practice, if anyone comes up and tries to teach you Zen, I want you to take a dipper of warm shit and throw it over [them].” And “…to make something grow and develop, you must cut it back. To make something flourish, you must check… Read more

Browse Our Archives