Wednesday, December 15, 2010

City Center, December 15, 2010: Announcing new book to read, Christmas Break, and our new Salt Lake center.


At last night's gathering we touched upon desire and its operation.  It is a subject we will continually revisit since "craving" or "thirst" is described in the Buddhist literature as the cause of our psychological and existential suffering.

The group decided that it would like to look more deeply into the physiological and psychological processes by which we construct our reality and our sense of self.  The Buddha's teachings about the cause of our distress, and the path to its relief, are grounded upon an understanding of these processes.  As an entry point, we will read Andrew Olendzki's book, Unlimiting Mind, which I reviewed in a post a few weeks ago.  It is listed on the Reading List on the City Center page for The Boulder Mountain Zendo,  The book will be discussed at our meeting on January 18th, 2011

The City Center group will not meet on December 21st and 28th.  This will permit each of us to devote our attention to our families and friends over the Holidays, and to acommodate Diane's and my attendance at The Integral Spiritual Experience II in Asliomar, California between Christmas and New Years.  We will reconvene on January 4, 2011, at 1375 Military Way.  The Thursday noon sitting group will not meet again until the new year.  

Finally, I announced to the group that we have entered into a contract for the build-out of space for The Boulder Mountain Zendo in Salt Lake City at ArtSpace-City Center, 230 South 5th West.  Diane and I are excited at the prospect of a permanent space devoted both to more traditional Zen practice and to Diane's broader Integral teachings.  This is a major financial commitment to making a place available for all of us in Salt Lake.  Your contributions to this capital construction would be deeply appreciated. The cost to outfit the space is in the range of $30,000.  In that regard, you should know that The Boulder Mountain Zendo is a 501(c)(3) organization and that contributions to it are deductable as provided by state and federal law.

May you all have a warm Holiday Season.

With palms together,


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thoughts: More On Imagination and Fantasy

In the post on two faces of desire, I suggested that seeing the objects of desire in terms of imagination and fantasy was a useful discrimination, a way to be alert to the distinction between desire that serves awakening because it is oriented toward reality, where we always dwell, and desire that serves delusion because its avoids reality.

Since I made that post, I have been attending to desire as it arises through the day.  I have found much depth in the imagination/fantasy distinction. Watching desire arise in response to external and internal phenomena and holding both the desiring one and the thing desired in awareness, they are seen each to interact and to morph.  Neither remains constant.  True to Buddha's teaching of impermanence and co-dependent origination, from the perspective of the one desiring, the desired is always subtly shifting, and from the perspective of the desired, the one desiring is also shifting, each revealing new characteristics and losing old. From a psychological standpoint, this subtle and fascinating shifting is enormously informative about how the sense of a self arises moment to moment, yet is never the same.

Often, the thing to which desire attaches first appears to be an object of imagination, but as it is held in awareness, the nature of desire tends to shift and some aspect of the thing desired can be seen as arousing fantasy.   Escape, not engagement, with reality.  There is no bright line, no division that can be held between the two.  But the tendency of mind to shift toward delusion, toward fantasy, toward a grasping for unreality to satisfy some egoic need, is seen as subtle and pervasive.  Some aspect of the self seems to sit in wait for the opportunity to emerge under the guise of imagination, only to appropriate the object, the seen, to satisfy its unmet needs, and because those needs are insatiable, suffering.  A nice lesson in the tendency to delude ourselves as to what it is we actually desire, in practice and elsewhere.

This lesson leads us farther along the path.  The observation of desire's tendency to move toward fantasy gives rise to wisdom which, in turn, reduces the tendency to identify with fantasy when it arises.  The mental pattern revealed is remembered, embodied knowledge of this source of suffering is refined.    Untimately, our desire to practice, our imagining how practice will reduce the self's suffering, is strengthened.

Desire.  Wonderful energy for awakening.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thoughts: Two Faces of Desire

A common question for students of the Buddhadharma is the following:  If desire is the source of suffering and is to be rooted out, what about the desire to be awakened to the true nature of reality without which one will not perservere in the practice?  What about bodhicitta, that praised desire to be liberated and to liberate all beings?

Desire is an unavoidable part of being a human being.  It may be the source of our suffering, but it is also the source of our liberation.  It seems to me to be a tool capable of enslaving or liberating.

The place of desire in practice is a serious inquiry.  It is serious because in spiritual practice, no less than in any other field of human endeavor, desire can enslave us.  One can easily become attached to externalities in spiritual practice and seek "things" in the hope that they will free us from suffering.  For example, there is the confusion that comes from seeing liberation as something to be obtained from another, from "out there" rather than something already present within.  And there are a related set of competitive behaviors: ambition for advancement, desire to be recognized for one's level of spiritual "achievement", wanting to be close to the paramount teacher,even to be the paramount teacher.  This is enslaving desire at its most ordinary; in Chogam Trungpa's words, "spiritual materialism".

Yet absent some drive, some desire, one will not enter and continue spiritual practice.  It is hard and often frustrating work.  To stay with it requires that one look beyond this moment toward something that is not seen as present, toward a different state of affairs, and to deeply want to attain it.  How do we differentiate between healthy and unhealthy desire within ourselves and others?

I recently came upon something written by Zoketsu Norman Fischer that I think is helpful in probing the distinction.  Fischer is a respected Zen teacher, a former co-abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, and a writer and poet.  In an article in Tricycle, he draws distinction between "imagination" and "fantasy".
Imagination draws its energy from a confrontation with desire. It feeds off desire, transmuting and magnifying reality through desire's power. Fantasy does the opposite; it avoids desire by fleeing into a crude sort of wish-fulfillment that seems much safer. Fantasy might be teddy bears, lollipops, sexual delights, or superhero adventures; it also might be voices in one's head urging acts of outrage and mayhem. Or it might be the confused world of separation and fear we routinely live in, a threatening yet seductive world that promises us the happiness we seek when our fantasies finally become real. Imagination confronts desire directly, in all its discomfort and intensity, deepening the world right where we are. Fantasy and reality are opposing forces, but imagination and reality are not in opposition: Imagination goes toward reality, shapes and evokes it.
I find resonance in this distinction between imagination and fantasy, which Fischer characterizes as the difference between energetically turning toward rather than away from reality.  It touches on a truth about desire's place.  A spiritual seeker is on the right path when desire for a condition of mind other than what is present is channeled toward penetrating what is actually present, and off the path when that desire is channeled toward creating what is not present.  It seems to me that the element that differentiates these, the element that is implicitly assumed by Fischer, is wisdom, insight into the nature of reality and our participation in it.  In Fischer's words, imagination is desire engaged with a reality seen with clarity; fantasy is desire engaged with a reality seen through delusion.  For me, desire partnered with wisdom, with clear seeing, is the path to being awake.

How to see that distinction in our practice?  A useful question to ask ourselves regularly is, "Am I bringing to my spiritual practice the same worldview, the same perspective on self and other, that I bring to everything else in my life, or am I assuming a radically different perspective on myself and my relation to reality?"  If the answer is the former, we are likely engaged in practicing fantasy in our spiritual lives just as we do in the rest of our lives, simply deepening the neuronal pathways that made us masters of that which is ultimately insignificant, that which gave rise to our impulse to seek for something else.  If the latter, we are more likely on the path, deploying desire as a goad to laying down new pathways, fresh ways of seeing that will liberate us.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Books of Interest: Andrew Olendzki, "Unlimiting Mind--the Radically Experiential Psychology of Buddhism"

Let me start out with simple statement about this book.  I have read it twice in the past two weeks.  It struck me as precisely where I need to go a this time.  I suspect that many new and old students of Buddhism, who find themselves occasionally lost in the vagaries of "Buddha Nature", "the Unborn", the "True Self", "Buddha Mind", "the Source", and "Enlightenment" would find this book a helpful return to the very concrete phenomenological observations that are Buddha's original insights into human psychology and the sources of suffering.  Any student of Buddhism should be intimately familiar with these elemental psychological insights.  It is upon these experiential groundings that all of Buddhism's various traditions erect their scaffoldings, and it is upon them that each of us builds our personal practice.

Andrew Olendzki, who has a doctorate in Buddhist Studies, served as executive director of the Insight Meditation Society and studied in the Theravadan tradition in Sri Lanka.  Through a series of short essays collected together under such topics as "Constructing Reality", "The Practice", "Self and Non-Self", "Karma", and "The Bigger Picture", Olendzki takes us through Buddhist psychology in a way that is very accessible while rooted in his scholarly study of the Pali texts.  He addresses Buddhist psychology both from a theoretical perspective, which touches on such details as the Pali Abhidhamma's minute dissection of the mind's contact with phenomena, as well as from the very practical perspective of one who is seeking relief from suffering both on and off the cushion.

For me, these essays evoke the hopefulness that comes from a deep appreciation of Buddha's psychological insights.  His observation that what we refer to as the "self" is plastic because it is recreated in each moment's contact with reality, and his teaching that the tools for shaping who we as a psychological being will be in the next moment are readily available to us, are the foundation of all Buddhist practice.  To reduce our suffering subjectivity, we need only undertake the simple but hard work of holding a firm intention to follow Buddha's instructions on how to be mindful, and to practice sharpening our ability to see clearly each moment as it arises into the instrument of our own liberation.

Olendzki walks us through Buddha's early teachings in a way that is readily accessible and intuitively persuasive.  Regular resort to these foundational psychological insights would be one of my prescriptions for a solid structure of practice.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Books of Interest: Steven Hagen, "Buddhism Is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs"

I was drawn to this book after reading "Meditation: Now or Never".  I have enjoyed Hagen's suscinct language and his direct teaching.  No soaring language or arcane terminology.  This is an unusually direct book about practice, about Zen practice, about how to be with reality in this moment, this reality, not the past or future or what we wish it was or wasn't.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who is serious about Zen practice.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Book to read: Mark Epstein, "Thoughts Without a Thinker"


At the Tuesday night class, I suggested we pick another book.  One nomination was Mark Epstein's book, "Thoughts Without a Thinker".  The book holds a special place for me as the first Buddhist book that really made me interested in Buddhism--not just sitting meditation, but Buddhism.  It was given to me by a therapist during the period following my first wife's death, when I had begun sitting but had not really delved into the roots of meditation beyond reading Jon Kabat Zinn's "Full Catastrophe Living."  I liked the book very much and re-read it several times and bought copies for friends.  Epstein is a Freudian psychoanalyst in New York and a follower of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.  The book nicely presents Buddhist psychological insights.

Let's plan on discussing it a month from November 9th.



Two Weekends, Two Perspectives on A Lawyer's Mind

Well, I've traveled quite a distance physically and psychically the past ten days.  Although this is not a lawyer's blog, today it is.  I need to make it one to bring together two perspectives from two weekends .

I wrote earlier about last weekend and the Mindful Lawyer conference in Berkeley, California.  There, over 180 lawyers and others interested in the benefits of contemplative practices for lawyers gathered.  There, I had a lovely but rare feeling of being held as both a lawyer and a dharma student by the assembled lawyers.  This weekend, the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers in Washington, D.C., an invitation-only organization of lawyers specializing in appearing before appellate courts, gathered over 120 lawyers for their 20th anniversary meeting.  All very experienced and very expert in our chosen line of work--persuading appellate judges and dealing in subtle nuances of constitutional, statutory, and common law and policy.  Because we were in Washington, where the pinnacle of the American judiciary labors, our meetings concentrated on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Panels of populated by the cream of the Washington, D.C. Supreme Court bar presented on the personal characteristics and legal views of the four newest members of the Supreme Court. The presenters knew the justices personally and for many years.  They were skilled speakers, making both the subjects viewed (the justices) and the lens through which they were seen (the presenters) equally fascinating to the audience of advocates.  To cap it off, Monday we all went to the U.S. Supreme Court and watched oral argument, listening to some of the same people who had presented to us. In the evening, we had a formal dinner in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court.  For an American lawyer, it was a visit to an almost holy spot.

For me personally, it was even more intense.  In 1969, after graduating from law school in Utah, I had the great good fortune to drive to Washington in a beat up Volkswagen and to enter that building as a law clerk to newly appointed Chief Justice Warren E. Burger.  The transition from one who had not met a lawyer until I entered law school to working for the Chief Justice at the Supreme Court three years later could not have been more dramatic for me personally. Revisiting the building and again watching arguments was a very intense experience.  And all weekend, as I continually shifted perspectives on myself, on the place, and on the events, I was made profoundly aware of how thoroughly we co-create our reality, how the perspective we take dictates what we see, and how fully the universe shows us precisely what we ask to see.  Our map is not separate from the terrain it guides us over.  Change maps, and mountains are seen as plains, oceans deserts.

Last weekend in Berkeley I felt welcomed as a complete person, albeit one who was distressed often by how the lawyer's role truncates my reality, diminishes my ability to acknowledge all that is going on in my reality.  This weekend, I felt welcomed and in ways deeply nourished by a gathering of people who excelled in occupying a lawyer's role.  I was welcomed not because I was a dharma practitioner, someone trying to be a human who is a lawyer, but as a lawyer first and foremost, there because of what I have done, what I have achieved.  This gathering of lawyers was about being a sharp, accomplished legal instrument, about being a member of an elite.

While sitting in the meetings, and occupying the role that I felt called to, I noted the force of that call.  Being with accomplished people who are prized, and prize, their intelligence and honed skills, I felt a strong tendency to be seduced by that role, to see myself as that role, rather than it simply being one of many roles I occupy, one of many perspectives on reality, none of which provide me complete certainly or refuge.  Watching myself and others in that context, it seemed that while all present understand many subtle things important to manipulating the law and its reality for our clients, and most are richly rewarded for our accomplishments, on another level those accomplishments and skills do not result in the world responding in the way that we perhaps unconsciously anticipated it would when we set ourselves on this course years ago.  We have become good tools for others, but not for our own larger ends.

Comparing the two weekends, one where lawyers spoke of their neglected interiors, and the other where they manifested only their command of exteriors, I was even more deeply convinced that those who occupy powerful roles--in this case lawyers--are almost inevitably the victims of those roles.  The reality that those roles co-create is so seductive, so powerful and compelling, that freeing oneself from that particular reality is a huge challenge, but one I think must be undertaken both for us personally and for the benefit of the law and our society in the long run.  Lawyers, like anyone in a powerful role, implicitly assume that that skills that have brought them that power should be the skills with which all life's questions can be addressed. Yet precisely the opposite is true.  Only by dropping our most cherished roles, our most cherished perspectives on reality, can we hope to see reality whole and our relationship to and inseparability from it.  There is work to do here.

Two weekends, two perspectives.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mindful Lawyer conference--Tuesday night class for November 2d

I just returned from a Mindful Lawyer conference at the University of California's Boalt Hall law school in Berkeley.  This is a conference that has been years in the making under the leadership of Charles Halpern, founding dean of the CUNY law school.  Originally to host 150 lawyers, judges, and academics to consider how mindfulness practices--contemplation--can improve the lives of lawyers and the law, it swelled to 185 with about 50 in waiting.  A great event.  For me, it was one of the few times that as a lawyer and a Zen practitioner, and a human being, I felt completely at home in one place.  Usually, only one or two of me is embraced by any particular community.  It was a great chance to network with others of similar inclination.  Ground was laid for the possibility of putting together workshops on contemplative practice for lawyers taught by lawyers.  I suspect few of us knew how many other dharma teachers there are who are also lawyers.  I find the prospect exciting.  Given the power of the profession in our society, teaching lawyers to honor the whole person and that this actually enhances their ability to serve themselves, their clients, and society would be a great service.  I hope I have the opportunity to play a role.

Tonight we will be discussing "Buddha's Brain" in our group.  Bring your questions, and your insights.

And please, vote before you come.  Before you vote, remember that each day we awake with two parts of ourselves available -- as Rick Hansen wrote, the Wolf of Love and the Wolf of Hate.  We have a choice which one we will feed, which one will grow stronger that day.  Feed the Wolf of Love before you vote.  The Wolf of Hate is getting plenty to eat these days.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Books of Interest: Stephen Hagen, "Meditation: Now or Never"

Steven Hagen is the author of "Buddhism, Plain and Simple", which I have on my suggested book list. He is a Zen lineage holder who received Dharma transmission from Katagiri Roshi. He teaches in Minnesota. This book is about meditation in the Soto tradition. It is as straightforward as his previous book. Hagen addresses the mechanics of meditation, such as posture and breath, directly. He also talks about what one is seeking, and will find, through meditation. I highly recommend the book.

I find most powerful his last chapters' implicit warning about methodologies that can make meditation practice--the practice of seeking awakening through directly experiencing reality--seem easier to enter by providing structures for meditation, but which prove in the long run to be a hindrance. Hagen received this teaching from his teacher, Katagiri Roshi. Hagen suggests that our inherent desire to reify experience, to make experiences into things, and then to cling to those things, makes meditative practice structures a potential hindrance to our fully awakening. He refers to the self's attraction to these reifications as "stickiness", and argues that once we adopt sticky practices, we have a very hard time letting them go. On this ground, he recommends adopting a meditation practice that relies only on minimally sticky structures. In the Soto tradition, he suggests nothing more than breath focus as the best balance between an attentional device and a hindering structure. Over time, this focus can be released as one moves toward a shikantaza practice of simple awareness.

My own recent experience finds resonance in this discussion. Over the course of my practice, I have tried various aids, various structures to assist in the movement toward awakening. But most recently, I have come to experience them as having been to a greater or lesser degree a hindrance. At times, I have seen koan practice, which I very much appreciate, as having a strong potential for inducing various kinds of "stuckness". Reading texts, which I also love, can produce lots of stuckness; so can the Big Mind Process. Over the years, I have used various structures in my meditation practice which while initially seemingly helpful, have proven to be productive of much ideation.  

My teacher, Genpo Roshi, says that his teacher, Maezumi Roshi, often said that in practice, it is not a question of whether we are stuck, but where. In that spirit, stuckness is an inevitable part of practice, something we all experience. That being said, I still find the warning Hagen conveys so clearly about hindering meditative practice structures to be a very important one. Cultivating meditative mind is the sina qua non of awakening.  Meditative practices create the container within which we engage in that cultivation. We should be cautious that we don't busily create a container that inhibits the growth of our realization.  Hagen's caution is clearly and memorably put.  That alone makes this book worth reading. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thoughts, October 6th

On September 28th my post suggested a meditation on your being your own creator, your own Mahavairocana Buddha, and your self as the creation, the one who thirsts, who craves permanence and security, and therefore suffers, experiences dukka. I suggested that you meditate as the creator Buddha on your creation, that you hold it in your awareness, so that the self feels held and can relax into its insubstantiality, into its conditioned nature, and into its awakening.

Preparing for last night's group , I found a passage in Walpola Rahula's "What The Buddha Taught" that struck me as a third person statement of the same shift in perspective from the subjectively experienced self to the objectively seen self that I had suggested.  He puts it well and goes on to speak of the consequence of fully inhabiting at both levels the realization that this shift in perspective brings.  I quote from Rahula here at length. 

"Now, what is the Absolute Truth?  According to Buddhism, the Absolute Truth is that there is nothing absolute in the world, that everything is relative, conditioned and impermanent, and there is no unchanging, everlasting, absolute substance like Self, Soul or Atman within or without.  This is the Absolute Truth. . . .  The realization of this Truth, i.e., to see things as they are without illusion or ignorance, is the extinction of craving, 'thirst', and the cessation of dukka, which is Nirvana.  It is interesting and useful to remember here the Mahayana view of Nirvana [as] not being different from Samsara.  The same thing is Samsara or Nirvana according to the way you look at it--subjectively or objectively. . . ." 

"It is incorrect to think that Nirvana is the natural result of the extinction of craving.  Nirvana is not the result of anything.  If it would be a result, then it would be an effect produced by a cause. . . .  Nirvana is neither cause nor effect.  It is beyond cause and effect.  Truth is not a result nor an effect.  It is not produced like a mystic, spiritual, mental state, such as dhyana or  samadhi.  Truth is.  Nirvana is.  The only thing you can do is to see it, to realize it. There is a path leading to the realization of Nirvana.  But Nirvana is not the result of this path.  You may get to the mountain along a path, but the mountain is not the result, not an effect of the path.  You may see a light, but the light is not the result of your eyesight.

He continues, "When wisdom is developed and cultivated . . . it sees the secret of life, the reality of things as they are.  When the secret is discovered, when the Truth is seen, all the forces which feverishly produce the continuity of samsara in illusion become calm . . . because there is no more illusion, no more 'thirst' for continuity. . . .  He who has realized the Truth, Nirvana, . . . lives fully in the present. . . .  He gains nothing, accumulates nothing, not even anything spiritual, because he is free from the illusion of Self, and the 'thirst' for becoming."

(Id. at 39-40, 43; parenthetical material deleted.)

This is our practice, to see this Truth clearly and to embody that knowing.  


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

City Center--October 12 (and new reading)

The group had a good discussion based on "What the Buddha Taught".  It was decided that everyone would read another book, this time focusing on the confluence of the findings of neuroscience and Buddhist teachings.  The book is "Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom" by Rick Hansen and Richard Mendius.  I described this book on my blog a week or so ago.  The date for the book discussion is November 2d.  Bring your questions, and explore the practical meditative teachings in the book in the interim.

I also announced that we have entered into a lease for space for a permanent location in Artspace at 230 South 5th West.  Diane and I are working with a designer to get the space ready.  We are excited and will keep you up to speed as it progresses.  This is a big commitment for us, but we have a sense that there is a supportive sangha waiting to coalesce.

See you next week,



Sunday, October 3, 2010

City Center--October 5

This week's meeting will be devoted to questions that arose in your reading of "What the Buddha Taught". The discussion will be open, shaped only by your questions.  Come ready to engage with the material and the other members of the group.



Tuesday, September 28, 2010


To transcend the self, to end your suffering, you must first realize that the self is your own creation. You are your own Mahavairocana Buddha, your own Dainichi Nyorai--the creator Buddha. As that creator, hold your creation in your awareness, comfort it, let it feel your love and compassion, and it will begin to feel at ease, sensing that it is not alone in the universe.  You watch, and as the self, feel your self releasing its grasp and opening like a flower to the warm sun, disbursing itself.    -Mugaku  

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Books of Interest: Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius, "Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom"

I have just finished this book and highly recommend it to any of you who have a scientific/materialist leaning, i.e., those of you who find persuasive scientific and material explanations of phenomena.  While the authors are fundamentally Buddhist, the book is not overtly religious.  Rather, they write from a practical, problem-solving perspective: how to manage stress and existential suffering. They address the convergence of neuroscience with psychology and philosophical teachings in straightforward, not-too-technical terms that makes it readily accessible.  And it includes both an explanation of how our practice can change our minds and brains and a description of practices.  The practices are more representative of Vajrayana and Theravadan teachings than Zen in the specificity of the instruction, but they are not experientially unfamiliar to any serious Zen practitioner.  I have been following Hanson's "Wise Brain" several years.  I have found his site a useful resource for material that almost any audience can appreciate because Buddhist wisdom practices are explained in straightforward, largely non-religious terms.

City Center--September 28

I spent the past week on retreat with Genpo Roshi and four teachers in his lineage.  We worked with the stages of awakening through use of the Big Mind process for six hours a day.  Quite an experience.  This week I will try to convey some of what was a deeply clarifying experience for me.

Also, I'll be discussing The Boulder Mountain Zendo's for leasing space for the City Center.  We intend to  offer a regular sitting practice, daisan (interviews with a teacher), and talks, as well as Zazenkai (day long sittings) and other programs.  Both Diane and I will be participating as teachers in this facility.  This is a big step for us, for The Boulder Mountain Zendo, and for all of you.



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dipping into Dogen Zenji

At our City Center gathering last night, Doug suggested that we might read some of Dogen Zenji's writings.  Dogen is one of the founders of Soto Zen in Japan.  His writing is difficult and complex, and said to be very hard to translate, but he is a profound thinker.  During the course of the discussion, I picked a passage from "Uji"--Time-Being--to read.  I am afraid that all I illustrated by that reading is that Dogen can be difficult.  I didn't advance anyone's understanding and wasn't very helpful.  For that I apologize.

Dogen is a wonderful source for Zen study, and he is not impenetrable, although I made him seem so.  In fact, one of the classic Dogen statements, one which is a favorite of mine, is quite clear:  In the Genjokoan he states, "To study the Buddha way is to study the self.  To study the self is to forget the self.  To forget the self is to be awakened by the ten thousand things."  To be awakened by the ten thousand things is to realize the unity of all things.  Our practice could not be stated more succinctly.

It is true, however, that Dogen is often best read with commentary.  For those who would like to dip into Dogen, I recommend as one source of good translations the book "Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Master Dogen" or the more recent "Enlightenment Unfolds: the Essential Teachings of Zen Master Dogen." Because his writing can often be filled with hard to understand allusions, and can be cryptic, you might find it helpful to browse some of the ever increasing Dogen commentary.  An easy way to access some of this is to go to  The site is devoted to Zen and has a broad selection of links to articles on Dogen.

I look forward to our all venturing into Dogen together in a way that is a bit less intimidating and much more helpful.



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

City Center--September 14 Meeting (and reading)


At our September 7th meeting, we decided to read a book and discuss it at our meeting four weeks from now.  The book will be Walpola Ruhala's "What Buddha Taught."  Ruhala was a Theravadin monk and has been described as one of the 20th century's pre-eminent Sri Lankan intellectuals.  He held a chair in History and Religious Studies at Northwestern University.  We will use this excellent survey of Buddha's teachings as a jumping off place.  You can get the book at your favorite local bookstore, or on-line.

Next Tuesday night we will delve deeper into the zen instruction to sit mushotoku--without a gaining idea.

Join us.



Sunday, September 5, 2010

Books of Interest: Robert Keegan's, "In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life" (1994)

Just finished this book.  A great exposition of how humans develop higher levels of "consciousness" as they grow chronologically and culturally.  Gives a nice framework for understanding how many can see the same phenomena so differently and all be right, from their particular mode of understanding, how important it is that we develop our capacity to take higher levels of perspective taking are to meet the demands placed upon us by modern and post-modern life, and, probably most importantly, why we have to meet everyone where they are on this spectrum, not where we would like them to be.  Highly recommended.  Its relevance to Buddhist practice is that studies suggest meditation is a reliable way to raise one's level of consciousness, presumably by raising one's ability to objectify the parts of the "self" and of other "selves".

Saturday, September 4, 2010

City Center group


This Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m. we will continue our discussion of what you each would like to see in our sangha, and how it can serve you. 

Also, at the last meeting, interest was expressed in picking a book and reading it, then scheduling an evening gathering some weeks away to discuss it.  Please come to the group with your preference for a reading.  I suggest you start with the list of readings I have posted on The Boulder Mountain Zendo website.  There should be plenty there to give us a launching platform.

Join us Tuesday.   And there are still spaces in the Sit As A Mountain Retreat in Torrey, scheduled to start Thursday, September 9th in the late afternoon and conclude mid-day on Sunday, the 12th. 



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Noon meditation group

Dear Friends:

I will be out of town this coming Thursday, August 26th, and will also be gone on September 9th, which is the first day of the three-day Sit As A Mountain Retreat in Torrey. (Of course, you could join us there.)

In my absence, you are invited to sit without me in the backyard at my home from 12:30 until 1:30 on these two Thursdays.  It is shady, cool, and the plantings are lovely.  There are comfortable chairs on the patio.  Enter through the gate on the south side. 


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sitting As A Mountain

Please come and join me this September in Torrey to
Sit As A Mountain.

For more information please click on the events link.