Sunday, December 27, 2009

Whisky can be Zen

I love decent whisky, but normally can't justify the extortionate expenditure when the world has greater priorities. However, a couple of weeks ago I helped at a charity auction where all the funds raised were going to needy children. A half case of whisky came up - the best, from the private bottlings of the Chairman of the Bruichladdich distillery, home of Lagavulin.

So I won the auction with a bid of £500. My wife was very understanding.

Two days ago I allowed a couple of friends to help me open the first two bottles. We had a pleasant time - but the conversation was interrupted by the whisky and the whisky was interrupted by the conversation. Neither were satisfactory - yet this was the very best whisky, and when I have the same two chaps round for conversation, we converse well.

Tonight I sat alone and tried again. My son was asleep, my wife in the bath - just me and the whisky, and silence.

The experience is as impossible to describe as the inner experience of zazen - that is why food critics and Zen manuals both resort to apparently meaningless strings of words .

However, if you've done Zen, then you'll understand when I say that the whisky tasting involved one-pointed mind. What a joy! And what a contrast to the previous attempt at the same experience!

Zen is doing one thing, whole-heartedly, at one time.

(I would like to assure readers that no precepts were broken in the writing of this blog - at over US$100 per bottle, I can't afford to get heedless.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Leaving tomorrow for retreat. Am I ready? Is there anything I have to do before departing? If I had more time to order this and that...
Is this what I'll say to aging, illness and death whenever they come? "Excuse me, would you give me five minutes" or "Could you come next month, I have no time right now"?

No, I won't say this.
Retreat is now.
Are you ready for now?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The One Turning

Gasses compressing under their own weight become stars which ultimately explode forming the cosmic dust that condenses into planets.

Amorphous goo mutates into protoplasm that endlessly self consumes in an unbroken chain of ever changing life forms.

The caterpillar morphs into the butterfly just as the protosimian evolves into the human being. What was once one thing simply transmutes into another.

All beginnings spring from terminal remains in a rhythmic continuum, endlessly converting each imagined ending into something new.

The birth of a child seems to us to be nothing like the spontaneous ignition of a new born star, but these are all aspects of one continuous event, the one turning we call the universe.

Contrary to what we perceive as disjoined pieces of an enormous puzzle, the whole universe is woven together like a sweater knitted from a single yarn.

What is the meaning of this?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

effortless effort

Look at the way the trees move,
effortless effort,
and then arriving...

may this be my model.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Two monks are admiring earthenware tea bowls. The first monk hands a bowl to the second, saying "I like this bowl - I can see the Buddha in its shiny glaze". After gazing intently at the bowl, the second one says "Really? All I can see is my reflection . . ."

Monday, December 14, 2009

See, though without eyes;

There is vast distance between a thought
and the space that exists around it.

Does a tree concern itself as it grows green, lush in the warm spring air?
Does a bird doubt the beauty of the nest it builds?

Set your worries to the side to rest.

See, though without eyes;
the simplicity around us shows us the path to touch eternity.


Fifty weeks waiting for my retreat.
It's coming soon.
This one will be short because we bought a house that has to undergo some renovations. I'm working there 7 days a week.
But not all is expectation, waiting (this is just another passing cloud). Working 7 days a week also means the work and, helping in that (the work during the work) here is a passage by Man-An:
You should not slack off for an instant. Alerting your vital spirit as your breathe out and in, watching your step as you walk forth and back, be as if you were galloping on a single horse into an opposing army of a million troops, armed with a single sword. As long as our concentration is not purely singleminded in both activity and stillness, it will be hard to attain even a little accord. Concentration of right mindfulness should be cultivated most especially in the midst of activity. You need not necessarily prefer stillness.
Not preferring, coming home, sitting down.

Keep working

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Practice or Retreat?

During intensive meditation retreats, we practice. We practice sitting without perusing the television or internet. We practice eating without wasting the smallest morsel. We practice walking without music or a cell phone blaring in our ear. We practice a simplified daily routine, happily dedicating ourselves to the most mundane tasks, instead of ignoring them.

When the retreat is over, do we apply this practice to our lives? Or do we jump right back into the fray, doing the very things we just spent two days (or weeks) trying not to do? While these things aren't all inherently bad (especially in moderation), if we spend the next fifty weeks looking forward to escaping them at the next retreat, perhaps we've missed the point.

Are we practicing for life, or retreating from it?

To Kill the Buddha

When the famous Tea Master Sen-no Riku was to commit ritual suicide he wrote in his death poem: "With this sword I kill all Buddhas and Patriarchs!" as an admonishment to his preconceived notions of enlightenment. Only at his death did he openly admit that what had kept him from realizing himself as Buddha was his conceptualizations of what a Buddha was. Any image of the Buddha that is not our self as Buddha is a mistaken image, an idol in any form is an obstruction to our awakening.

This includes anyone who we feel is in some way superior to us. By elevating others we submit ourselves to another form of enslavement. This is not to say that we shouldn’t respect others, their positions or their accomplishments, but we should not see their knowledge or status as anything superior to our own. The notion of superiority is concept that limits both parties. Those who feel superior have defined themselves by the limits of others and those who feel inferior have limited themselves through self imposed restrictions.

One only needs to understand that everyone is a manifestation of Buddha consciousness, I am Buddha consciousness, you are Buddha consciousness, we are Buddha consciousness. Superiority and inferiority are limiting concepts that have no bearing on Buddha consciousness and therefore no bearing on anything real. To kill the Buddha is to annihilate even the most cherished of concepts- ideals, these are among the last barriers to awakening.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beware Buddha!

If you see the Buddha, kill him!

There is danger in Zen - the danger of being trapped by non-duality.
Sometimes be Great Mind. Sometimes be an individual.

Live the moment to the full, whoever it demands.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

become a raindrop in the ocean

The moment a raindrop touches the ocean it becomes the ocean, without hesitation the ocean and raindrop each accept becoming one, to awaken to our Buddha consciousness is exactly like this. What appears at one moment to be the consciousness of the individual is suddenly recognized as boundless ocean of consciousness, all perception of separate identity is instantly lost to the realization of universal awareness, the boundless Buddha Mind.

When we break through the barriers of conceptual thinking we have awakened to our Buddha Consciousness, this is not something achieved but rather something realized. Just like our eyes, our mind cannot see when it is closed. To become Buddha is to awaken, all we need do is open our minds and allow the ocean of consciousness to flow in.

We may think we see things as they are, but the diaphanous constructs of our ego centric identity become barriers as impenetrable as concrete walls. As long as we believe that we are separate, we have imprisoned ourselves. We become like a sealed bottle of water floating in the ocean, wondering why we feel trapped. Those of us who have not awakened are not alone in this delusion, most of humanity is likewise bottled up and bobbing about helplessly in an ocean of desolation.

Conceptual thinking is the barrier. To conceptualize is to interpret what we experience and make conclusions, which by definition are endings. Every concept is a portion separated from the whole by the conclusions that frame it, artificially bound by what we define as its limits. Without conceptual thinking everything returns to its original state which is boundless and complete. The awakened mind sees everything as it is, without concepts, without boundaries. By letting go of our self imposed boundaries we allow our minds to become boundless and our self identification becomes unlimited.

Those who identify with boundless awareness perceive the non-duality of reality and recognize themselves and all of nature as both singular and omnipresent, individual yet undifferentiated from the whole of existence. This is the root of mystical awareness and the Mystic is recognized by this identification. Unfettered by the gossamer tethers of conceptual thinking the Mystic awakens to boundless Buddha Mind and is set free.

do jhana

"Over there are the roots of trees; over there, empty dwellings. Practice jhana, monks. Don't be heedless. Don't later fall into regret. This is our message to you."      Master Gotama
Practice jhana, do jhana, do dhyana, do chan, do zen, meditate, do the work, stop doing, penetrate, abandon, come back again and again...

Persist. Awake!

When I want to know what the Buddha taught, I go to the suttas. When I want to know what the Buddha is, I go to Linji. When I ask for directions, I go to Sengcan. When I sit, I enter the realm of silent illumination and the boundless mind opens by itself responding appropriately in every situation.

If responding to situations is not appropriate then I go back and start again.

Breath in. Breath out.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

the great way is gateless

The Great Way is gateless, approached by a thousand paths.
Pass trough this barrier, you walk freely in the universe.

It is through Zen practice that we approach the gateless gate of our own self restricted minds. Every one of us is capable of accessing the boundless mind and passing freely through the mental barriers created by our fears and preconceptions. By letting go of our preconceptions, dualistic thinking and communal delusions, we discover the previously unrealized potential of our own unlimited consciousness and become self liberated. This is the fundamental tenet of Zen.

The Dojin Roku, translated into English as The Wayfarers Record, is a collection of thoughts, observations and shared teachings as presented by the Dojin, or Wayfarers, of the Boundless Mind Zen School. The purpose of this journal is to connect like minded individuals who understand their Zen practice to be a continuing journey beyond standardized Zen practices and independent of sectarian differences.

As of this writing, the Wayfarers of the Boundless Mind Zen School are in five countries and three continents and include individuals from various lineages and traditions who have come to find that the philosophy and practices of Boundless Mind Zen resonate with their own understanding of Zen. It is our intention to make these various thoughts, observations and teachings open to the world as part of the direct and free transmission of the Dharma.