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Thursday
Nov082012

Profile: Shinnyo-en

As Honolulu’s nearby skyscrapers gleamed pink in the late afternoon light, forty thou­sand people gathered in Ala Moana Beach Park on Memorial Day 2012. The festivities unfolded with taiko drumming, hula dancing, and traditional Hawaiian chanting. Then at twi­light, Shinso Ito, the leader of the Japanese Bud­dhist organization Shinnyo-en, took the podium, her bright orange robes contrasting with the pur­pling sky. The huge assembly filling the beach before her had come to participate in a toro nagashi, a Japanese lantern-floating ceremony to honor and commemorate the dead.

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Thursday
Nov082012

Journeys: “I Think I’m a Buddhist”

By Bonnie Ryan-Fisher

My family and I were having lunch one Saturday, years ago, when my youngest son, having made friends with born-again Christians in his first-grade class, solemnly asked what “the Rapture” was.

I began a halting explanation, describing an event that, according to the beliefs of some schools of Christianity, would see Christians taken bodily to heaven, leaving the rest of us behind. I hoped that I was conveying this accurately as I drew only on vague memories of a bible-study group I’d been part of more than half a lifetime ago. My son never took his eyes off my face, but I could see this was as far over his six-year-old head as those heavens could ever be. He frowned.

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Tuesday
Sep112012

Journeys: Found in Translation

by Danny Fisher

One of the most valuable parts of my education as an engaged Buddhist practitioner has been my study of Pali—the Middle Indo-Aryan language in which the earliest Buddhist texts are preserved. Not being a particularly adept linguist, I resisted the study of any Buddhist language for a very long time. It was not until my first day as a student in the Master of Divinity program at Naropa University that I realized the incredible importance of language study and knew that I had to get over my difficulty with it.

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Sunday
Aug052012

The Heart Sutra Will Change You Forever

Photo by Gina KellyThe Heart Sutra Will Change You Forever

Penetrate the true meaning of the Heart Sutra, says Karl Brunnhölzl, and nothing will be the same again. The secret is making it personal.

There is no doubt that the Heart Sutra is the most frequently used and recited text in the entire Mahayana Buddhist tradition, which still flourishes in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan, China, parts of India and Nepal, and, more recently, also in the Americas and Europe. Many people have said many different things about what the Heart Sutra is and what it is not, such as being the heart of wisdom, a statement of how things truly are, the key teaching of the Mahayana, a condensation of all the Prajnaparamita Sutras (the Buddha’s second turning of the wheel of dharma), or an explanation of emptiness in a nutshell.

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Sunday
Aug052012

The Fullness of Emptiness

Emptiness is not something to be afraid of, says Thich Nhat Hanh. The Heart Sutra teaches us that form may be empty of self but it’s full of everything else.

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. We can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, “inter-be.”

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Sunday
Aug052012

4’33”

Photo by Aris VrakasIn 1952 composer John Cage shook the music world with his most radical composition to date: 4'33", known unofficially as “the silent piece.” Kay Larson explores its Zen-inspired lessons in her new book, Where the Heart Beats.

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Sunday
Aug052012

Traces of Kobun

He was a masterful teacher and calligrapher who touched the hearts and minds of those he met. We mark the tenth anniversary of Kobun Chino Roshi’s tragic death with a selection of his teachings.

The name Kobun means “to extend the way,” to extend culture, language, the word, to extend the dharma—fitting for someone bringing Zen to America. His dharma name was Ho-un Kobun. “Ho” means phoenix, firebird, and “un” is mystery, mystical, cloud. We could imagine the image: a bird flying in the clouds, just a wing-tip, a bit of the tail, fleetingly visible for a moment and then not—it’s so fitting from a student’s perspective. He traveled extensively, teaching in many places, always coming and going. He carried the forms elegantly and formlessly. He was often more than inscrutable, certainly not to be captured or contained by any preconception of what a Zen teacher was. Yet in his presence you felt you encountered someone complete. The teachings below are some traces of his flight. —Shoho Michael Newhall

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Sunday
Aug052012

My Teacher’s Legacy

Photo by Nicolas SchossleitnerKobun Chino came to America in 1967 at the request of Suzuki Roshi and spent the next thirty-five years helping spread the dharma in the West. Shoho Michael Newhall recalls his teacher’s life.

Kobun Chino Otokawa Roshi, who is often referred to simply as Kobun, was born to an esteemed temple family in the mountainous snow country of Japan.

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Sunday
Aug052012

Forum: San Francisco Zen Center at Fifty

Photo Courtesy of SFZCIntroduction by David Chadwick

The teacher was ready; the students came. Without a plan, Shunryu Suzuki arrived in San Francisco on May 23, 1959. The Zen garden of America had been fertilized by Nyogen Senzaki, Paul Reps, D.T. Suzuki, the Beats, Alan Watts, and the First Zen Institute of America in New York. Instant satori and the inscrutable orient were on people’s minds.

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Sunday
Aug052012

The Koan in the Refrigerator

Illustration by Stacy InnerstAll he wanted was an egg. Instead Sam Guthrie got a close-up look at his compulsive need for order.

When I was seventeen, I would wake up at 4:30 in the morning and put on my ripped black jeans, drab olive T-shirt, blocky engineer boots, and black leather jacket bristling with punk rock safety pins. Then I’d stagger out of my cluttered studio apartment, get on my motorcycle, and ride through the dark, silent Minneapolis streets to the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, where I’d sit like a statue in meditation until the morning sun poured through the windows and made blazing yellow rectangles on the hardwood floors.

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