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”

Hard Times

Is the world the problem? Or something else?

Vases/face

How do we meet hard times? Like perhaps many others, I woke up on November 9th, the morning after the United States presidential election, thinking “I’m not living in the kind of country I thought I was.” The world suddenly appeared to me as far more harsh, more dangerous, and less reasonable than I ever would have thought.

I have been struggling with how to respond to this. While I’m still groping and muddling about, at least one thing has been clear: I’m pretty sure that responding to manifestations of greed, anger, ignorance, and fear with more greed, anger, ignorance, and fear is not going to be helpful. Continue reading “Hard Times”

Another Head

About eating chocolate…and wanting the piece that is still in my hand.

20160813_203519In Zen, as in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, there is talk of characters who have two heads. In Adams’ book, it’s  a character named Zaphod Beeblebrox. In Zen, it comes from a talk by the 9th century Chinese Master Linji:

 …There are indeed so far none who have presented themselves before me all alone, all free, all unique… They are all ghostly existences, ignominious gnomes haunting the woods, elf-spirits of the wilderness….Do you think you deserve the name of ‘monk’ when you are still entertaining mistaken ideas of Zen? You are putting another head over your own! What do you lack in yourselves?

Zen teachings tell us continually that “this is it,” that there is no need to keep seeking for something beyond, for something outside of ourselves.  I’ve made a practice for myself of asking  “Which head am I in?” Am I in this head that rests on top of my neck, connected to my spine, my heart, and the feelings and sensations that are going on right now? Or am I feeling, thinking, and acting from the additional head I’ve constructed on top of that one? Continue reading “Another Head”

Enoughness: A Reflection on the 2nd Precept

Is it possible to cultivate a sense of “enoughness” with regard to relationships?

question on index card

My teacher, Josh Bartok Roshi, gave a dharma talk at an all-day sit recently. Which I missed. (I was helping a friend move.) But although I arrived late in the afternoon, Josh shared with me a set of reflections he had handed out. These were lists of “Values based on” various precepts, vows, and liturgical pieces. One stood out for me: A meditation on the 2nd Grave Precept.

In our liturgy book, the second of the Ten Grave Precepts is worded, in its longer form, as

 Self-nature is inconceivably wondrous. In the realm of the unattainable Dharma, not having thoughts of gaining is called the Precept of Not Stealing. The self and the things of the world are just as they are. The gate of emancipation is open. Being satisfied with what I have, I vow to take up the Way of Not Stealing. (p. 48)

The corresponding entry on Josh’s handout is: Continue reading “Enoughness: A Reflection on the 2nd Precept”

Buddhism and economic transformation

Economies have no essential nature. Once this is recognized, many more opportunities for change present themselves.

golden buddha eric pouhler

Many of us, informed about world events and motivated by love and compassion, feel the need for profound economic transformation. We started long ago to question injustice, consumerism, and military-industrial ties. The growing specter of climate-change related disruptions has convinced even more people that ‘business as usual’ is not a viable option.

But what form should this transformation take, and how can we make it happen? I believe that insights from the careful study of both economics and Zen Buddhism can help us along this path—no matter what faith tradition we come from (if any).

I began studying social science, and eventually earned a PhD in Economics, because I thought these studies might help me to contribute to solving the problems of global poverty and hunger. Continue reading “Buddhism and economic transformation”