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" website--www.wisebrain.org--for 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 www.thezensite.com.  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.