The Language of Ritual

The moon is now only half full on this auspicious leap year day, but another phrase from the full moon ceremony, Dogen’s commentary on the sixth grave precept, ‘I vow not to slander’: ‘In the Buddhadharma, go together, appreciate together, realise together and actualise together. Don’t permit fault-finding; don’t permit haphazard talk; do not corrupt […]


The round moon of wisdom reflects the myriad waves; the great boat of compassion carries all across. Looking at the moon, the ground drops away; tracing the moon one embodies authentic light. This poem comes from a version of a ceremony performed to mark a person’s transition from life to death.

Other Winters, Other Summers

A request came up from Tassajara the other day for some pictures. There has been a tradition of making albums with photographs of each practice period, taken when the monks are all gathered at the end of the shuso ceremony (that’s the theory; in practice one or two of them somehow manage to disappear), and I […]

Suzuki Roshi

‘Reality cannot be caught by thinking or feeling mind. Moment after moment to watch your breathing, to watch your posture, is true nature. There is no secret beyond this point.’ (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind)


‘There was a foolish monk who made a vow never to look at a woman, birth after birth, world after world… What is the fault of women? What is the virtue of men? There are unwholesome men and there are wholesome women. Hoping to hear dharma and leave the household does not depend on being […]

Nyogen Senzaki

‘An ideal Buddhist should wash off all kinds of dirt and walk freely in naked truth. The perfect garment shows no seams, inside or outside; it is one complete piece, and nobody can tell where the work began and how it was woven. In true Buddhism, there ought not to be any trace, there ought […]

Life and Death

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when my last grandparent died. One of my grandfathers had died before I was two, the other when I was five – I have only the faintest of memories of him, already bed-ridden. My paternal grandmother had a stroke when I was twelve or thirteen, and lived […]

The Language of Ritual

This is the time of the full moon, and the Ryaku Fusatsu ceremony performed at Zen Center connects us back to the earliest days of Buddhism, when itinerant monks in India would gather together at the full and new moon to renew their vows. Perhaps the highlight of my whole summer last year at Tassajara was to […]

Calendar spring-cleaning

In case you are not inclined to visit other pages on the site regularly, I would draw your attention to the calendar page, which I have revamped this week, so that it is now chronological for the next few months, and with pages for different events – including the new Roaming Zen series which I will […]


‘Great teacher Sakyamuni Buddha sat on the vajra seat under the bodhi tree, saw the bright star, realized the way and said, “When the bright star appeared, I accomplished the way at the same time as the great earth and all sentient beings.” The great earth and all sentient beings say it this way; old […]