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Entries in Zen Buddhism (27)

Tuesday
Feb182014

Let's Talk: Cybersanghas—Do They Work?

Dosho Port meets with some of his students online

The Internet has transformed sanghas. Buddhists who have been geographically isolated with little access to teachers and senior practitioners for guidance now have teachers and entire communities at their fingertips. Informa- tion and opinions about dharma centers, teach- ers, and sanghas are also readily available to practitioners worldwide, effectively leveling the dharma field and deflating notions of specialness.

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Tuesday
Nov122013

Commentary: I May Not Stay Here With You

By the time this article reaches you, I will have been empowered as an independent teacher in the Zen tradition through a ceremony and process called dharma transmission. While Zen has flourished in the West long enough to bear witness to the passing of pioneering teachers who have, in turn, seeded a substantial network of second- and third-generation teachers in America, my own rite of passage remains noteworthy for dubious reasons. As the second African-American woman—and only the third black person in America-ever to receive this empowerment in Soto Zen Buddhism, I am acutely aware of the conflicting viewpoints with which I hold it.

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Tuesday
Nov122013

Profile: Sanshin Zen Community

The last thing he wanted to do was speak English.

Shohaku Okumura had studied Buddhism and the thirteenth-century writings of Eihei Dogen at Tokyo’s Komazawa University, then taken priest’s vows and entered training at Antaiji, a Soto Zen temple in Kyoto headed by his late teacher, Kosho Uchiyama Roshi. But because many Americans and Europeans were studying there, Uchiyama urged him to study English. When Uchiyama retired in 1975, he asked Okumura and two brother monks to move to the hills of western Massachusetts to help build a new Zen center.

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Tuesday
May212013

A Straight Road with Many Curves 

Gregory Shepherd looks back on his Zen training in Japan with the late Yamada Roshi and the difficult lessons he learned.

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Thursday
Sep012005

Embracing Conflict

The story of dharma in the West is one of great success, marred by the occasional, but very public, failure. In some cases, entire sanghas have split into warring camps or been torn asunder by the interpersonal conflicts of their members. Over the years, a handful of teachers have been dismissed or disgraced, and countless disillusioned students have moved on. While the vast majority of sanghas continue to thrive, some are finding it necessary to adopt new, non-Buddhist approaches to resolving the conflicts that inevitably arise.

Consider these recent examples:

  • When the teenage son of a resident of Salt Lake City’s Kanzeon Zen Center admitted to stealing money from several residents, the sangha formed a “council circle.” As part of this ancient Native American ritual, everyone in the circle took turns passing a symbolic peace pipe—minus the tobacco—and voicing his or her feelings about the transgression.

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Thursday
Sep012005

Trust Practice, Practice Trust

The genius of what the Buddha taught is that waking up does not depend upon his or anyone else’s realization. It does not rely upon a belief system, dogma, or doctrine. He encouraged us to find out for ourselves about the true nature of reality, which is dependent upon nothing whatsoever.

Master Rinzai says, “If your faith is insufficient, you will keep on wandering in confusion. No matter what the circumstances, you will be controlled and led around by others. You will not find freedom. ...Because you don’t have enough confidence in yourselves, you search outwardly.”

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Wednesday
Jun012005

In Translation: This Mountain Monk’s View

In Rinzai Roku (The Book of Rinzai), there is a saying that goes, All of them depend on grasses and leaves, like ghosts who cling to bamboo and trees. This refers to evil spirits, but also to those who go through their lives without knowing what to do. It seems to me that modern society is producing such people one after the other, while they themselves are not even aware of it. I suspect that Muishitsu Eido Roshi, the abbot of Dai Bosatsu Zendo in America was motivated by this recent phenomenon to take on the challenge of translating Rinzai Roku into English [The Book of Rinzai: The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Rinzai (Linji), Zen Studies Society, 2005]. While guiding his monks and lay students, after many years of struggle, at last this project is completed.

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Wednesday
Jun012005

What More Need You Seek?

Followers of the Way: People say, “There is a Way to practice, there is a Dharma to realize.” What Dharma would you realize and what Way would you practice? What is lacking in your activity right now? What is there to be fixed? Young, immature practitioners, not knowing this important point, believe in wild fox spirits and listen to all their deceitful teachings. They allow others to be bound by false beliefs, saying, “Principle and practice are in correspondence. The three karmas must be carefully taken care of. Then at last you can attain buddhahood.” Those who preach in this way are as many as the thin drops of spring rain.

A man of old said, “If you meet an outstanding man of the Way on the road, you must not even mention the word ‘Way.’”

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Wednesday
Jun012005

The Zen Priest’s Koan

The occasion of a priest ordination always brings up questions about what it means to be ordained. We can look at this by examining what ordination has meant in Zen tradition, and also by considering our practice in the present day.

When I was about to be ordained in 1969, I asked Suzuki Roshi what it meant to be ordained as a priest and what I should do. He said, “I don't know."

Then I asked Katagiri Sensei, and he said, "Oh, I don't know."

I hadn't asked to be ordained. Suzuki Roshi asked me to, and I was quite surprised when he did. I thought that since he asked me, he would at least tell me what to do. But he didn't tell me much. At that time there were few American priests at the San Francisco Zen Center; I was only the fifth person to be ordained. The first one had left the center, two were in Japan, and the fourth was out of sight. So I didn't have any role models, except for our Japanese priests: Suzuki Roshi, Katagiri Sensei, Chino Sensei, and Yoshimura Sensei.

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Tuesday
Mar012005

Mind Is Buddha

Damei once asked Master Mazu, “What is buddha?” Mazu answered, “Mind is buddha.”

Wumen’s Commentary

If you can at once grasp “it,” you are wearing buddha clothes, eating buddha food, speaking buddha words, and living buddha life; you are a buddha yourself. Though this may be so, Damei has misled a number of people and let them trust a scale with a stuck pointer. Don’t you know that you have to rinse out your mouth for three days if you have uttered the word “buddha”? If you are a real Zen person, you will stop your ears and rush away when you hear, “Mind is buddha.”

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