Dangers of Zen, Part II

Zen is about awakening, and not about experiencing any particular state, or becoming “good,” or displaying any peculiar powers.

zazen soto

Zen is about awakening, and not about experiencing any particular state, or becoming “good,” or displaying any peculiar powers. These points, which I talked about in Part I of this two-part series, are beautifully summarized by the following text by Keizan Jokin, a Japanese Zen teacher born in the 13th century. Continue reading “Dangers of Zen, Part II”

Dangers of Zen, Part I

While the benefits of Zen are real and profound, and talked about often, the dangers tend to receive less attention. Yet they are also real, and can arise among both beginning and experienced practitioners.

slip warning

Recently, due to both personal health issues and stuff going on around me, I’ve been reflecting on some of the hazards that involved in Zen practice. While the benefits of Zen are real and profound, and talked about often, the dangers tend to receive less attention. Yet they are also real, and can arise among both beginning and experienced practitioners. Continue reading “Dangers of Zen, Part I”

The Ten Ox-Herding Pictures

(A personal reflection)

10ox6Along the wall on one side of the zendo where I practice are a series of ten Chinese ink paintings called the Ten Oxherding Pictures. I think of them as our “stations of the cross”–the Zen version of the series of carvings found in many Catholic sanctuaries. Both teach with images rather than words. They demand less in the way of literacy than does text, and, I think, enter our consciousness via a different route. In this essay, I’d like to give my own, personal take on them. Continue reading “The Ten Ox-Herding Pictures”

Letting in Some Air

I love my sangha, Boundless Way Zen. And I have to write a difficult post about it.

open windowLet me say, first of all, that I’m not writing this out of any sense that if I were in charge, I would of course do things better. It became particularly clear to me, while I was on sesshin (weeklong silent retreat) this summer, that knowing better and doing better are two different things. Having served as chant leader in the past, I know when various bells and clappers are supposed to be sounded, and so I noticed when mistakes were made. And also, from the hard experience of having held this post in the past, I was well aware that when it’s actually my responsibility in real time to do this job, you’ll hear me, too, ringing the bell at the wrong moment. So while I feel I have to write about missteps I see being made by some in leadership positions, I am not claiming that I would do any better if I were in their shoes. I have a profound respect for the spiritual direction I have received from all the Boundless Way Zen teachers. Continue reading “Letting in Some Air”

Taking Vows, Attaining Nothing

taking vows titleTricycle.org has posted a set of four dharma talks of mine that they recorded, with this title. You can find the link at

https://tricycle.org/dharmatalks/taking-vows-attaining-nothing-a-zen-perspective-on-personal-and-social-projects/

Continue reading “Taking Vows, Attaining Nothing”

Sick and Useless Zen

If Zen doesn’t make us feel better, or make us into better people, is it a total waste of time?

Two years ago I had a sudden bout with a virus. As yet, I still haven’t gotten entirely over it. The acute phase slowly morphed into a long-term, sometimes debilitating, slog through fatigue and general crappiness. I don’t like it. And it has helped open me up to the wide universe. Continue reading “Sick and Useless Zen”

Is There a “Buddhist Economics”?

Conversations with David Loy, Clair Brown and others…

It’s been an interesting couple weeks. Buddhist scholar David Loy and I, along with Jeff Seul, engaged in an online conversation on the One Earth Sangha website about Buddhism and economics. UC Berkeley economist Clair Brown and I, meanwhile, engaged in an email conversation about her new book on the topic.

In the same couple weeks, I also find that I’ve been called a “rubbish”-writing, rent-seeking “neoliberal economist” by a Buddhist blogger.* But, lest you think I only get criticism from the left side of the political spectrum, I’ve also just recently been labeled as an impractical, hopelessly idealistic “windbag” by a well-known actual neoliberal economist.**

What is my crime, in their eyes? Continue reading “Is There a “Buddhist Economics”?”