Shohaku Okumura

‘In my zazen, I sometimes feel that I completely understand what Dogen Zenji is saying in Shobogenzo. I have no question; everything is so clear. But I have to let go of it in zazen. And after zazen, I forget what I understood.
It is not only the small negative or egocentric thoughts, but also our thoughts or our understanding about Buddha’s teaching which we should let go of as well. Then the true Dharma as reality will start to appear. It will not appear as an object of our mind, but our entire body/mind becomes a part of the movement of the entire reality.
So we gain nothing, really nothing. The person does not become enlightened. From the beginning this person is part of the reality of all things. But because of our thinking and judging, we separate ourselves from the rest of the world. By letting go, this separation is removed. That is how this wholehearted practice of the way allows all beings to exist on the basis of the true dharma.’ (Sitting under the Bodhi Tree)


The Lotus Sutra

‘The Tathagata is able to discriminate everything, preach the law skillfully, use gentle words, and cheer the hearts of all. Sariputra! Essentially speaking the Buddha has altogether fulfilled the infinite, boundless, unprecedented Law. Enough, Sariputra, there is no need to say more. Wherefore? Because the Law, which the Buddha has perfected is the chief unprecedented Law, and difficult to understand. Only a buddha together with a buddha can fathom the Reality of All Existence, that is to say, all existence has such a form, such a nature, such an embodiment, such a potency, such a function, such a primary cause, such a secondary cause, such an effect, such a recompense, and such a complete fundamental whole.’

This is the heart of The Lotus Sutra, the revealing of the final complete teaching of the Buddha after he acknowledges his previous teaching as skillful or expedient means to bring people along the path to understanding. I am very tempted to head straight back to Dogen to remind myself how he parses these lines in the Shobogenzo.

Shundo Aoyama

‘Spring comes to all, equally. It does not come quickly because someone wants it to, or slowly to one who wishes for delay. Spring arrives for everyone in the same fashion. In the sunlight, violets are violets, cherry blossoms are cherry blossoms. Some of the flowering stems or branches are short and others are long. Each blooms with a flower unique to it.’ (Zen Seeds)

These formulations may seem trite, but it is worth taking a moment to look at them and absorb what they are saying. Writing this out I remembered this post, which uses similar images; and of course this more recent one.  It boils down to: what can we control, compared to what we think we can control, or what we wish to? When we can appreciate the difference, ease follows.

Uchiyama Roshi

‘A certain American said that he had been sitting an hour a week for a year at a temple before he came to Antai-ji and at that time he was thinking of writing a dissertation on zazen. However, he laughingly said that after he came to Antai-ji and did daily zazen and sesshins, he realized that he couldn’t yet write a dissertation or anything on zazen. Now, isn’t that just the way it is.’ (Approach to Zen)

Suzuki Roshi

‘There is no end to our practice. Because there is no end to our practice, your practice is good. Don’t you think so? But usually you expect your practice could be effective enough to put an end to hard practice. If I say, “Practice hard for just two years,” you will lose interest in our practice. If I say, “You have to practice your whole life,” then you will be disappointed. “Oh, Zen is not good. Zen is not for me.” But if you understand what practice is, and if you are interested in practice, the reason you are interested in practice is that practice never ends. That is why I am interested in Buddhism. There is no end. Even if human beings vanish from this earth, Buddhism exists.’ (Genjo Koan – Three Commentaries)


The empty hall resounds with the voice of the raindrops.
Even a master fails to answer.
If you say you have turned the current,
You have no true understanding.
Understanding? No understanding?
Misty with rain, the northern and southern mountains.


‘Yangshan asked Kueishan, “If a million objects come to you, what do you do?” Kueishan answered, “A green article is not yellow. A long thing is not short. Each object manages its own fate. Why should I interfere with them?”‘ (The Iron Flute)

One of the pleasure of browsing in the Tassajara library is to scan the cards to see who has taken the books out over the years. Mostly I find familiar names going back twenty years. The Iron Flute is a less-well-known collection of koans, translated by Nyogen Senzaki, which I like mostly for his dry comments, and the lovely illustrations in the square editions of which Tassajara has two copies. I was a little surprised, though, to see that no-one had taken out the copy I pulled from the shelf since I had in 2007…