The Book of Serenity

‘One day the World Honored One ascended the seat. Manjusri struck the gavel and said, “Clearly observe the Dharma of the King of the Dharma; the Dharma of the King of the Dharma is thus.” The World Honored One then got down from the seat.’ (Case 1)

Hongzhi’s peerless poem on the case:

The unique breeze of reality – do you see?
Continuously creation runs her loom and shuttle.
Weaving the ancient brocade, incorporating the forms of spring,
But nothing can be done about Manjusri’s leaking.

Everything is as it is. What is there to say?

Sharon Salzberg

‘Generosity is primary among the actions of the Middle Way. It allows us to develop the qualities both of non-clinging and of non-complacency. Generosity is the mind’s gesture recognizing both that there is nothing solid for us to hold on to and that our actions are meaningful.’ (Lovingkindness)

Wang Wei

In the mountains
Are many companions of the Way,
Sitting zazen, chanting,
Forming a natural community.
But if you gazed
Far from city walls
In this direction,
All you would see is white clouds.

This was one of my favourite poems when I first lived at Tassajara, from a collection of old Chinese poems. Very happy to be returning there in a couple of days.

Michael Stone

‘Awareness is a long beautiful arc that at once encompasses and witnesses everything in movement. But witness is simply a word. It’s not a very good choice anyway, because in the experience of deep sitting practice, “the witness” falls away, as do all categories and oppositions, revealing the universe as infinite and indivisible.’ (Awake in the World)

Roaming Zen

My gratitude to Djinn, who has been drumming up business on my behalf via her Facebook page. I am of course looking forward to this roam, up to Twin Peaks, around and about at the top of the city – not quite the highest point, but as good as. I am also looking forward to the following roam,the bicycle version,  which has its own Eventbrite page.

Perhaps I will see some of you on one or the other?

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There will be stairs

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Hopefully clearer skies than on this occasion

Angel Island trip sunny side
Zen Center residents’ retreat days at Angel Island are the inspiration for the bicycle version

Angel Island - old building more doors
Perhaps there will be some walking meditation through the ruined buildings.

Suzuki Roshi

‘Nowadays young people are dating, but enlightenment is not something that you can meet on a date. If you organize your life, get up at a certain time, pick up your bag lunch at a certain time, and leave for work, then if you have a girlfriend or boyfriend, you will meet them. There is no need to make a date. At a certain time she will come to the corner where you usually see her. That is our way. It is rather foolish and troublesome to make phone calls. Even if you make a date by telephone – “Hey, I am leaving now” – if she doesn’t come to the corner, you will be disappointed. If you do not make a date, and she comes to the corner, you will be really happy.

That is how you attain enlightenment. It is not a laughing matter. I am talking about something real. Not to make any date means not to expect or stick to enlightenment.’ (Not Always So)

I think Suzuki Roshi’s reference to laughter makes it seems that his audience was not sure about his analogy; it is a little clunky, even more so in the age of constant texting, but the approach that he is talking about makes perfect sense.

Paula Arai

‘Honda-san… turns to nature to open her heart. She says that it is the place where she feels most accepted. “At my sister’s I am not at complete peace, because I am thinking of ki o tsukau. (There is no English equivalent due to different assumptions of self and human relations. In broad terms, it means using vital energy to try to be sensitive to others.) Nature is the place I feel most at peace. I rode a bus and went to the sea. An egret came and played in front of me. I thanked it. I spent two hours there, embraced by nature. Here I am a human, so small in the universe.”‘ (Bringing Zen Home)


‘Having enough gruel and rice is the wondrous function of spiritual power. Cloud and water monks arrive and manifest Buddha’s body to express the Dharma. How is this?
After a pause Dogen said: Although it can’t be explained in words, it’s peaceful and serene.’ (Extensive Record, Discourse 86)

Dana Velden

‘The kitchen, perhaps more than any other room in the home, offers us many opportunities to discover intimacy. First, we experience intimacy with the tangible world through working with our bodies, our ingredients, and the physical space of our kitchen. Second, we explore intimacy as a state of mind and discover the degree to which we allow, or don’t allow, the world and all its pleasures and pains to come in. And finally, there is the intimacy that we experience with others when we feed and nourish our friends and family and maybe even the occasional stranger.
This intimacy in all its manifestations is serious business, for to be intimate is to allow something (or everything!) to make contact with us, to touch and therefore change us, often in ways we cannot predict or understand or control. Of course, we need to have some protections, for to run out into the world with no filter, with no shield against harm or difficulty, is a form of madness. But our protections can also be habitual and occasionally even neurotic. They may have been helpful at one point in our lives but maybe not so much in our current circumstances. Often, we’ve integrated that protective shield so well, so thoroughly, that we cannot undo it even when it’s okay, even when it’s perhaps better for us not to be so defended.’ (Finding Yourself in the Kitchen)


High, high from the summit of the peak,
Whatever way I look, no limit in sight!
No one knows I am sitting here alone.
A solitary moon shines in the cold spring.
Here in the spring – this is not the moon.
The moon is where it always is – in the sky above.
And though I sing this one little song,
In the song there is no Zen.

I am starting to gather my thoughts and material for the upcoming retreats at Tassajara. There is always room for a mountain poem or two.