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

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”?”

Yappy Chihuahua Mind

Zen meditation practitioners encounter what is commonly called “monkey mind.” I’ve found I have (with apologies to nice Chihuahuas) a yappy Chihuahua mind.


To seek Great Heart with thinking
mind is certainly a grave mistake.

Zen meditation practitioners encounter what is commonly called “monkey mind”—our small, thinking minds that continually swing from thought to thought and from desire to desire. At a recent retreat, though, my small mind appeared with a slightly different personality. Instead of a monkey mind, I found I had (with apologies to nice Chihuahuas) a yappy Chihuahua mind. It was small, loud, persistent, and aggressive. And like many small dogs, it seemed to think it was big and tough…in utter ignorance of its actual tininess. Continue reading “Yappy Chihuahua Mind”