Sunday, December 18, 2011

One year in the OBW

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

Ordination Poem

Ordination Poem
Jikai Seido

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
Shaded bower.

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.
Zen fishbowl.

The hot, sweet breath of
Northwest summer forest
Wafts inside,
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

No Path

Yesterday a student suggested that Zen might be a path towards a "coma-like state". This was an interesting observation - and considering the way Zen can be used, perhaps in some cases his description was right!

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.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The 100 foot pole.

I don't particularly care to give Dharma talks. I find that the truth one finds in silence to be truer than any words that can be spoken. I have often thought it is better for one to teach by example but for many our examples are misunderstood. But how do we explain truth in words? Truth is just some idea in our mind not something that we can grasp hold of. In this sense there is no truth.

But still we want to know what truth is. So we try to explain in words and by doing so there is no end to the discussion. Soon we may realize that there is nothing we can say that will explain truth. In essence all off our words fall short, they become vulgar and seem only to hide that which truly exists. So what can we say or do to explain truth? Nothing!

Master Sekiso said, "You are at the top of a 100 foot pole. How will you make a step further? This would seem an impossible feat, for if one would take a step forward one would surly die. Nor can we step back. This seems to be an impossible place with nowhere to return to and nowhere to go.

We many become comfortable on top of the 100 foot pole, thinking that we can see everything so much clearer, and that now we understand truth, we may even think this is enlightenment. But it is not enlightenment. For what is there to understand? And what is there to see? As the impossibility of our situation returns we may start to contemplate life and after we use all the words we can find to verify life we find there is really nothing that explains it. Like truth the only answers for life are found in silence.

Standing on top of the 100 foot pole we will experience this silence. But the experience may go unnoticed or be short lived because of our leaning minds. So how can we know truth? We have to take one step forward. We have step into the silence, we have to fall from the pole. How can anyone take such a step? We may start to contemplate death, only to find, like truth and life, there are no words that can give death true meaning. We find only that truth, life and death are nothing in particular. Just the thusness of what is. With this realization stepping off the 100 foot pole becomes less of an impossibility and more of a necessity.

Mumon commented on the 100 foot pole. He said "Should there be any who is able to step forward from the top of the 100 foot pole and hurl one’s whole body into the entire universe, this person may call oneself a Buddha. Nevertheless, how can one step forward from the top of the 100 foot pole? Know thyself!

Should one be content and settle on top of the 100,000 foot pole, One will harm the third eye, And will even misread the marks on the scale. Should one throw oneself and be able to renounce one’s life, Like one blind person leading all other blind persons, One will be in absolute freedom (unattached from the eyes)".

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's so simple that a child could do it . . .

I don't remember much about the fifth grade. Oh, I remember a few faces, what the school looked like, and other such inane details, but I don't remember specifically what I learned that year. All of my elementary school years kind of blend together in that regard. However, there is one lesson in particular that I do remember from that year that has always stuck with me. Of course, it had nothing to do with the official curriculum, but the important teachings in life rarely do. I recall my teacher talking to the class one day about how he had been visiting with a friend of his, who happened to be a kindergarten teacher. His friend was grading a test that the kindergarteners had taken, which amused my teacher. "A test?" he scoffed. "What kind of test could you give to kids that age?" His friend laughed at this and told him that it was a test that the kindergarten students generally did very well at, but that most adults failed. Intrigued, my teacher decided to take the test himself, and proceeded to do quite poorly. The test, he told us later, was a simple bit of color identification. He had failed by labeling ‘yellow-green', ‘maroon', and ‘sky-blue' to what were quite simply green, red, and blue. His friend told him that the problem with adults is that they over-complicate matters. In essence, they've lost the ‘beginner's mind' of which Suzuki Roshi spoke.

Many years later, another teacher of mind put it a little differently when talking about what it takes to be a Buddhist. "It's not so much a matter of what you do", he said, "but what you don't do. Don't do the things that hurt yourself and others. Simply identify these things, and stop doing them. Stop causing suffering". The Buddha himself taught essentially the same thing. Sickness, death, and old age are universal conditions - all of us experience the first two, and many of us the latter, so in this regard, we may consider that some level of suffering is unavoidable. But how we react to and deal with these things, whether we dwell on them and how much - this is suffering that we cause ourselves. This is the suffering that the Buddha taught us that we can be free of. "It hurts when I think about death" or "when I poke my eye with my finger" . . . so stop doing that! Stop over-complicating matters, look at the simple basis of the suffering, and stop doing it. Sometimes it really is that simple.

With these things in mind, here is a look at the five lay precepts of Buddhism.

Precept 1: "We don't hit" or "I take up the practice of not harming living beings"

Every child is taught this basic concept, that it's not nice to hit other people (or push, kick, pinch, etc). As adults, we expand this to the idea of not killing other people. And what is killing, other than just hitting a little too hard? Many Buddhists further expand this notion to the idea of not killing other animal life-forms. This is a very human thing to do, to want to expand our morality to include those things that we can anthropomorphically identify with. This usually includes any creature with which we can see that we share a common physical trait, like eyes, legs, or an ability to feel pain. What we have to realize, though, is that everything that lives does so at the expense of another life form. Everything that lives lives because something else died, whether or not it killed that something else directly. We often ignore this fact, or justify it through the fine art of rationalization, or "deferred karma". "I can eat plants because they feel no pain". "I can eat this cow because I did not kill it myself" and so on. Ultimately, it comes down to individual choice. We must choose where we draw the line, and live with the consequences of our choice. As a starting point, we can be grateful for the living things that died that we may live, and we can do our best not to cause excess suffering to those things before they die. In other words, if you have to kill the chicken for food, don't make it live in squalor or beat it up before you do. Don't hit.

Precept 2: "Share what's yours and don't take what's not" or "I will not take what is not offered"

"Don't take things that don't belong to you", we tell our children. Then we advise them to take the high road, and "share your things with others". Why do we forget this as adults? Why are we so willing to steal and so unwilling to share? Well, we know how much hard work went into acquiring something, so we become attached to the idea that we earned it, and someone else should have to go through what we did to earn it - they shouldn't just get it for free from us. On the flip side, we may use the reverse argument as justification for stealing - "It would be too much work to make my own pie, but here's one already made sitting on this windowsill . . ." To further complicate matters, as adults, we recognize that there are intangible things that can be taken from others, too, like their time, their spirits (the ‘wind from their sails' if you will), their affections, and so on. When we simplify matters, though, we see that there are very few things that we actually need: air, food, water, protection from the elements, love. There is more than enough of all of these available for everyone, if we can avoid being stingy. If we can recognize that we have enough, not only will we be more willing to share what we don't need (and maybe even what we do need, as a mother will feed her child before herself), but we will feel less inclined to take what is not offered, simply because we know we don't need it. A good place to start is to practice being generous. The more you share, the easier it gets. Don't take your neighbor's pie - bring him some ice cream to go with it. Share.

Precept 3: "Don't touch others' private parts" or "I will not misuse sex"

This simple edict is about as far as young children get into the realm of sexuality, but it really is enough. Even with more advanced concepts, like sexual/emotional blackmail, this precept can really be seen as an extension of the previous one. Don't take (or touch) what is not offered and don't withhold what has been offered (share). Don't make unwelcome advances, don't withhold sex from a partner to get what you want from them, and above all, don't touch others' private parts without their permission.

Precept 4: "Don't lie, and if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" or "I will practice gentle, truthful speech."

The basic idea here, of course, is to tell the truth and don't say anything mean. As kids, we are taught this to avoid hurting other people's feelings. As adults, we deliberately ignore this so that we can hurt or manipulate other people's feelings, whether because we really just want to hurt somebody out of a sense of retribution (after all, he called me a name/cut me off in traffic/stole my girlfriend) or because we want somebody to do something they wouldn't if we told them the truth (see Precept 3, for example). I don't deny the argument that sometimes lying can be the right thing to do ("No Herr Hitler, there are no Jews in this house" for instance), nor do I disregard the truth in the statement that "Truth is in the eye of the beholder". What's important to remember, though, is the intention of the speaker, and that the listener might not perceive the same intention. Is the intention to hurt somebody, or to help them? Furthermore, is it necessary, or can the same result be achieved through gentle, truthful means? Though you may find it necessary, for instance, to warn a potential student that the teacher they're seeking is abusive (or fraudulent, or manipulative, or . . .), remember that the good intention is to help the student, not to defame the teacher. Don't exaggerate unnecessarily (don't lie), and remember that even the most well-intentioned gentle words can be seen as a twisted lie from the other person's point of view. So, when at all possible, don't lie and don't use harsh words. The more you practice this, the easier it gets, and the more you'll recognize how much it really is unnecessary to bend or distort the truth. Then, when these complex situations come up (and they will), it may be easier to simplify the situation. Maybe it really will be as simple as holding your tongue and not saying anything at all.

Precept 5: "Don't eat that - it's bad for you" or "I will not deal in nor misuse intoxicants"

For the most part, we say this to kids because they really don't know that what they're about to eat, drink, or touch will hurt them. As adults, though, the ideas of over-complication and willful ignorance rear their heads yet again. We like the (all-too) temporary good feeling we get from intoxication, whether it's from alcohol, drugs, power, love, sex (or many, many more), and we like to ignore the effects this has on ourselves and others, both at the time of intoxication and afterward. If the idea of Buddhist meditation is to help calm or clear the mind to identify and reduce the roots of our suffering, intoxication (or clouding of the mind) is the antithesis of our practice, and it leads so readily into breaking the other four precepts in one fell swoop. So stop inviting intoxicants into your life. Get that horrible thing out of your mouth!

So, return to your Beginner's Mind. Simplify. Remember the Golden Rule - "Do not do unto others as you would not have done unto yourself". In fact, do not do unto yourself as you would not have done unto yourself. It's so simple that even a child can do it. As Robert Fulghum said, "Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten" (or maybe fifth grade, if you're a slow learner . . .)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shared Teachings

It has been a while since our last posting and I would like to take this opportunity to suggest that we switch gears and try a fresh approach to our postings. According to blog descriptor- The Dojin Roku, is a collection of thoughts, observations and shared teachings as presented by the Dojin, or Wayfarers, of the Boundless Mind Zen School.

So with this in mind, I would like to propose that the next series of postings be shared teachings and written like Dharma Talks, whereby each post is a teaching as understood and presented by the individual as a lesson to be shared with the readership. Any comments by readers should likewise be treated like comments, or follow up questions that one would respectfully give or ask after hearing a Dharma talk.

Let’s see where this takes us.

It's your move...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Zen versus Ch'an

I have known a number of Zen teachers/authors who claim that there is a difference between Chinese Ch’an and Japanese Zen, and say that the two are not the same. Is this because one person says “to-may-to” and the other “to-ma-to” or are Zen and Chan actually different?

Monday, April 25, 2011


"Reality is an illusion brought on by lack of alcohol."     Discuss.

(You may consider "alcohol" a metaphor, if you wish.)

Monday, April 11, 2011


Yesterday heading home after retreat, standing on a ferry between the two shores, I felt the pleasure of silence, of practice: sitting meditation, walking meditation, cooking and drinking coffee meditation. There in the ferry I saw how important it is, how much we have to do of it; a clear insight that dismantles the argument of those practitioners who explain their lazyness by saying that ”just being” is enough, or ”being natural” or ”mindfull”. This is not so.

One should sit for aeons in order to have a glimpse of what is not bound by views and practices. Moreover, one should walk for aeons, should stand, should lie down, should sweep the floor, wash the dishes, clean the toilet for a million kalpas in order to realize that practice and life are not different.

Half an hour, won't do.
20 years won't do.
Smart answers won't do either.

Will that turn you into a statue? Those who think this spend more time imagining what sitting meditation is than actually sitting in meditation, while those who sit for kalpas are the ones who walk, stand, sweep and wash for kalpas. Imagining what sitting meditation is, is being a statue (a stone with unmovable views); sitting in meditation is discoverying the constant flow, essenceless and change of every breath, thought, action, view...

The ferry, the sun is shining, spring is welcome and the same sea that two days ago wanted to eat me with its brave waves is in calm today, sparkling, throwing stars, playing with the sun.
I'm in peace, dancing peace, at ease and refreshed as if I had slept for thousand years. I love and kiss with tonge that light-play between the sea, the sky and the sun.

Then, as a fish jumping out of the water, a question arises: ”Oneness, oneness, where is oneness?” And I search for it with the mind-eye, with an open heart, confident in the practice, resting in this peace. I look, I see the sea north and south and the plain and dizzy coast east and west. I look but I don't see this oneness. I scan perception, what is seen, what is heard, what is felt and thought... and I can't find it.

This beauty, this magic moment and yet without oneness?
Wonderfull! Then I know I'm free.

Just like those who don't practice buddhism & zen are bound by their sense of separation, the sickness that is consuming zenbuddhists is that of emptiness, no self and oneness. It made us vomit blood and flowers (and worse things).

In those inspiring moments I could only think of two words to express my insight. Just imagine the setting up: a sunny day, the deck of an old ferry boat, the fresh wind, the taste of meditation, the two words:

Fuck Oneness

In awe, I bow.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I'm struggling with the notion of "compassion" at the moment. It is said that compassion should arise naturally from enlightenment. Why?

I understand that a sense of no-self will create a sense of unity with all sentient life - no problem there. But why should one then feel compassion for it all? Why that particular emotion?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Za-zen Buddhism?

“The history of Chinese Zen raises one problem of great fascination. Both Rinzai and Soto Zen as we find them in Japanese monasteries today put enormous emphasis on za-zen or sitting meditation . . . We have already mentioned the incident between Ma-tsu and Huai-jang, in which the latter compared sitting in meditation to polishing a tile for a mirror. On another occasion Huai-Jang said:

To train yourself in sitting meditation [za­-zen] is to train yourself to be a sitting Buddha. If you train yourself in za-zen, (you should know that) Zen is neither sitting nor lying. If you train yourself to be a sitting Buddha, (you should know that) the Buddha is not a fixed form. Since the Dharma has no (fixed) abode, it is not a matter of making choices. If you (make yourself) a sitting Buddha this is precisely killing the Buddha. If you adhere to the sitting position, you will not attain the principle (of Zen).

This seems to be the consistent doctrine of all the T’ang masters from Hui-neng to Lin-chi. Nowhere in their teachings have I been able to find any instruction in or recommendation of the type of za-zen which is today the principal occupation of Zen monks. On the contrary, the practice is discussed time after time in the apparently negative fashion of the two quotations just cited . . . Perhaps, then, the exaggeration of za-zen in later times is part and parcel of the conversion of the Zen monastery into a boys’ training school. To have them sit still for hours on end under the watchful eyes of monitors with sticks is certainly a sure method of keeping them out of mischief.”

From The Way of Zen, by Alan Watts

Zen is a collection of practices and teachings that help us remember who we really are and how we naturally fit into the infinitely complex and miraculously simple web of existence. Zen aims to do this, as its very name implies, through the practice of meditation. And though it can be any activity, we have, by and large, come to think of meditation almost exclusively as a seated practice (aided, no doubt, by the Japanese addition of the prefix za-, meaning seated or sitting.) In this way, we limit ourselves. Learning to be a sitting Buddha is only useful to the extent that it helps us to become a walking Buddha, an eating Buddha, a sleeping Buddha, and so on and on to everything that we do. If we never move beyond the sitting, we are as children that have never learned to walk, even convincing ourselves that walking is unnecessary – “there is only sitting”.

Why would we do this to ourselves? Is it ignorance? Is it a method of control? Is Alan Watts right – are we merely wayward children that can do no more than hope to be kept out of mischief?

Thursday, March 3, 2011


"Once, after I (Hakuin) had set forth my understanding to the master (Etan Zosu) during dokusan, he said to me, 'Commitment to the study of Zen must be genuine. How do you understand the koan about the dog and Buddha-nature?'
'No way to lay a hand or foot on that,' I replied.
He abruptly reached out and caught my nose. Giving it a sharp push with his hand, he said, 'Got a pretty good hand on it there!' "

Some people use shock therapy to transmit dharma; others feel placid serenity is more the trademark of one ready to share enlightened understanding. Participants in this blog cover the full range. In fact, I've had the Dojin Roku representative of each extreme sitting here in sangha at the same sesshin!

Which approach do you find most awakening - the warm smile or the bucket of icy water?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Effort is Superfluous

Once true-nature is recognized, one can harmonize with one’s environment yet remain undefiled. This is to already be a Buddha. At this point there is no need to put forth effort and be diligent. Any action is superfluous. No need to bother with the slightest thought or word. Therefore, to become a Buddha is the easiest, most unobstructed task. Do it by yourself. Do not seek outside yourself for it.

Hsu Yun

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Today a friend came for our regular Sunday sitting. She asked what I'd been doing since last weekend. I replied that the most exciting event had been on Wednesday, when I'd fulfilled an invitation to spend 15 minutes explaining Buddhism to 400 teenagers.
"What did you say to them?" she asked.
"I spent 12 minutes explaining why and how to do anapanasati. Then we all meditated for three minutes."
"That's not Buddhism," she commented.

What do you think?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Past Lives?

I am told by many of my Buddhist friends that our current situation is results of the accumulation of our Karma from past lives.

What “past lives” are they referring too?

If Zen Buddhists say there is “No Self” who is there to have past lives?

Can anyone explain this?

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Sitting, listening to the speech of Huike.

I come now here and write it down

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Are you a Bodhisattva?

"If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

So, Third World hunger. How would a modern Bodhisattva be part of the solution?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Popular Delusions

"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one."

Why do otherwise intelligent individuals form seething masses of idiocy when they engage in collective action? Why do financially sensible people jump lemming-like into hare-brained speculative frenzies--only to jump broker-like out of windows when their fantasies dissolve? How do men of letters become religious fanatics, when faced with contradictory facts and reason? (Charles MacKay, Author of- Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds)

Corporate delusions are the most blinding of all. Whenever a given group begins thinking collectively, the collective consciousness becomes and entity of its own, a Hungry Ghost with its own corporate delusions; delusions of power, delusions of authority, delusions of self righteousness.

How can we find truth, when those we consider the authorities are among the deluded masses? Where is our awakening to be found?

“…Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe anything because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything because it is written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."
-the Kalama Sutra

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Nothing is Hidden!

A student once asked Ts' ui-wei “What is the real meaning of Buddhism?” Ts' ui-wei answered: "Wait until there is no one around and I will tell you." Later that evening the monk again approached him and said, "There is nobody here now. Please tell me, what is the real meaning of Buddhism?" Ts'ui-wei led him into the garden and went over to some bamboo and pointed. "Here is a tall bamboo; there is a short one!"

A fundamental tenet of Zen is that there are no hidden teachings. Everything is free and presented openly. Within these open teachings lie both the esoteric and exoteric teachings, only the student's understanding separates one from the other. Anyone who claims that there are hidden teachings beyond this, knows nothing of Zen.

Nothing is hidden!