Thursday, January 22, 2015
I am delighted to announce the opening of Prague Rinzai Zendo. Please allow me to extend an open invitation to you and anyone you know who for whatever reason ends up here in the Czech capital. The zendo bears the appearance of a joint project between Hakuin and Brad Warner, with black cushions, austere furnishings and a plentiful supply of beer and wine. You may park your vehicle outside.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Europe: For the pocket-sized paperback, click here and for the eBook, here.
America: For the pocket-sized paperback, click here and for the eBook, here.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Ueshiba Morihei Sensei
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Despite being teenagers from very liberal families, very few of these students had any previous meditation experience. However, you wouldn't have known. Breathing the "right" way came to them naturally. One-pointed mind came to them naturally. Having been raised in non-materialistic environments, they lacked the angst and hunger of the modern world.
Many of us, by our lifestyles, create for ourselves problems which we then seek to solve through meditation. Better to seek a lifestyle in which the problems do not arise.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
The star of this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWfph3iNC-k is entirely absorbed in the moment - he has to be, for if his mind wanders, he dies, right now!
But is it Zen?
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
It appears that at least some scientists are catching on. Maybe people will pay more attention to the data than they have to the actual experience. The less engaged we are in what we are doing, the unhappier we are.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Greetings from Babice, a village about 20 km south-east of Prague which constitutes my new home. Here the national sport is, allegedly, ice hockey, although participation is far greater in a much less violent sport: mushrooming.
Bohemia is a heavily forested land, much like the landscape around the Open Gate zendo, only hillier and with slightly smaller trees. It is an ideal envionment for the growth of mushrooms.
Back home in England by "mushroom" we mean a field mushroom, a white-topped thing with dark or russet gills - but here they mean forest mushrooms, some red-topped with spots which are good seating for gnomes but toxic for humans and others more edible but which look equally unhealthy.
As you can see from the recent picture of my kitchen, I enjoy mushrooming.
At present, this is my Zen practice.
The difficulty inherent in mushrooming is that where one mushroom is found is the place most likely to find others, so in finding one it is easy to forget to celebrate one's good fortune, instead immediately looking for the next.
In this environment, Zen practice is to focus fully on the mushroom in one's hand. Take the knife, clean the mushroom with one-pointed mind, gently place it in the basket...and only then look for the next.
Does your environment offer similar forms of Zen practice?
Friday, October 5, 2012
Flying high above Washington State.
Sea-Tac, Snow on Mount Rainier.
Drinking the last drops of Miles tea.
Early morning sunlight, trees.
Looking for Hánshān over there.
Nature, just a word.
A word: Mu.
Going home after leaving it.
Mu, that's what the cows say in Argentina.
Doshin Fugetsu Hoja
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Friday, June 22, 2012
or a monastery to be welcomed,
I want nothing to carry on
except this bag of skin and bones.
In the middle of city I'm alone,
isolated as the unborn.
Living in the world
I learn to let go and not have.
As I watch the cars passing by
I understand that there is nothing to take away.
This skin and bones will remain here,
and my flutes and guitars too.
When I see I can not own anything,
I understand that no one has ever owned anything.
When I breath, all such constructs cease,
And when everything stops, I'm still breathing.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
When I was walking him back through the compound to the main gate he asked me a question. He said that he had taken up Zen when going through a difficult time - and had found it most supportive. However, how should he view it now that life was going well?
How would you have replied?
Monday, June 11, 2012
It was really helpful - I always find I learn more from my students than they do from me. What I (re)learnt from him was the value of "beginner's mind" - that sharp-witted, open-hearted, entirely committed state which brings the best spiritual practice.
It shone a mercilessly bright searchlight straight at my own practice, which had become so stale it was just an occasional token nod in the vague direction of Zen. What's the point of pretending to practise?
Thus learning from his example, I turned myself back into an absolute beginner by adopting a form of Zen practice entirely new to me. (For those that are interested, I have replaced my fake shikantaza with naikan. If you're not familiar with naikan, there's an excellent summary at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naikan and an explanation with some helpful real-life examples at http://www.todoinstitute.com/naikan.html.)
Of course, it's not entirely new to me, in that all Zen practices are just different fingers pointing towards the same Great Mind. However, it is new enough to have given me back that "beginner's mind" - and suddenly Zen seems once more like a blessing, not a chore.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
I recently had a guest who came to the Zendo to discuss the matter of Zen. He was a well read practitioner who had some questions regarding Zen teachings and practices. I invited him into the dokusan room where we sat on cushions at a low table while I prepared tea. I offered that we would drink tea in silence, but he was welcome to speak while I was preparing the tea.
After the usual pleasantries, he seemed to get more comfortable and his questions began to be more pointed. As I poured the water from the kettle to the tea pot he said “I understand that you have trained in multiple traditions including Japanese Zen and Chinese Ch’an”
“This is true.” I confirmed.
“With Zen and Ch’an being so different, which do you practice?”
While thinking to answer his question, I selected four small tea cups from the shelf and placed them on the table, two in front of him and two in front of me. The tea was ready, so I poured a bit of tea into each of the four cups. “Please have some tea.”
We each picked up a cup and began drinking our tea. After drinking from the first cup, I picked up my second cup and began drinking from it; in turn, he did the same.
When we had both returned our cups to the table, I said “This is a very special grade of Oolong tea, how do you like it?”
“Very nice.” he replied with a nod.
“These cups are also special; one is made of Yi Shing clay and comes from China, the other is raku and comes from Japan. Did you notice the difference between the tea from the first cup and the tea from the second?”
“No I’m sorry, I didn’t notice any difference at all.” he replied.
“Nor did I….would you like some more?”
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Sunday, January 22, 2012
I have just completed a weekend near Lake Victoria, Kenya, haivng been invited by Spencer (pictured below)
Sunday, December 18, 2011
One year ordained and I've already killed the teacher
It's been a year now since I was ordained in the OBW. The first months I tried to figure out what it meant and what I was going to do about it. People asked me if I was going to start a group or begin teaching in some way or other.
For some (most "zen" people) it was very difficult to understand that I wasn't a teacher until a student would recognize me as such. There was even one zenmonk that asked me how I should be "treated", throwing away with one question all her years of practice.
I didn't start any group, nor am I going to do it in the future. The fact is that I'm no teacher at all, I don't feel like one. What I do have been doing is writing with friends, sometimes meeting and talking. And this is something I consider very important, to have the oportunity of sharing a path and a practice that for me is the most important in this life.
It is in this sharing that the teacher can appear, only when we both are the students. As long as we can listen and give us to that listening, the teacher has a chance. Otherwise is just a name, a title, an empty word.
The breath, my other teacher
During this year I've also turned back to the practice on the breath. Doing an active work on it, one can easily find ease, comfort, joy and pleasure in sitting meditation, allowing so for longer meditation periods and a mind that is more receptive to explore body, feelings and ideas as they present themselves.
I know, many of you won't be happy to hear this, being so fond of non-doing. But I firmly believe in the process of construction that meditation is (one day I may explore how much construction is there in "emptiness", "non-doing" and "egolessness"). Maybe a quote of mister Gotama can help me here: "The path to freedom is a path of development and letting go"
Ending the year on retreat
Soon I'll be on my anual solitary retreat; think of me when you're celebrating Christmas, because I'll be doing jhana. This is the third year I'm allowed to do it in the same house, so it's turning a tradition now.
Finally, just let you know that my blog do jhana is back on track.
Whishing you all a peacefull end of the year.
Friday, December 9, 2011
The drum beats slowly,
My heart beats quickly.
Three of us in procession.
The red cedars sway above.
Sunbeams light the way.
We rest in each step.
The hushed, small zendo
Sits tucked tightly in its
The windows have been removed:
Who knows where the inside
And the outside begins and ends?
We take our seats.
Warm honey light
Fills this tiny space.
Friends and family peer
Inside through the spaces
Where the windows had been.
The hot, sweet breath of
Northwest summer forest
Carrying softly the words
Of our teacher,
Into our hearts.
We are given our
Bowl, staff, and dharma name.
The forest trills with birdsong.
This moment will stand forever.
And someday, when we
Three dojin, teacher, and sangha
Are long gone.
Ferns and nurse logs will cover
the path we once took.
The vows taken here today,
Now, in this moment,
Will live here in zazen,
Buried in the seeds and carried
By the wind.
Monday, December 5, 2011
This got me thinking about the Heart Sutra and why, for me, it is more liberation than lobotomy. I came upon the term, "No path." Zen is about living in the present moment. If you are walking "No path" then every step of the way you are expressing a preference. Forwards? Backwards? Sideways? Stop? With no path to follow, you choose.
The rest of Zen is just a support mechanism for ensuring that every step of the way we really do express a preference, and not just get jerked around by cravings.