Friday, June 22, 2012

Owning Nothing


Without a hermitage in the mountains,
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.

Hernán Massau,  
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Steve's question

Steve came over this evening for dokusan. Here he is.

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

Beginner's Mind

I had a new student come round last night.

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 and an explanation with some helpful real-life examples at

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.