‘A monk asked, “What is the transcendant matter?”
Tongan said, “Pivoting but not changing position. Any special sign is bad.”‘ (Zen’s Chinese Heritage)


With no-mind the flower invites the butterfly,
With no-mind the butterfly reaches the flower.
The flower doesn’t know,
Neither does the butterfly.
Not knowing, no knowing –
Fulfilling the law of the universe.

A monarch and a dahlia amply demonstrating the poem at Green Gulch recently.

Suzuki Roshi

‘If you think zazen is some particular thing you are doing right here, you are quite mistaken. Practice is each moment every day all year long; over and over we repeat our activity. Our practice is like 10,000 miles of iron road. We run on iron tracks in a straight line, never stopping. The tracks are iron, not gold or silver. There is no special way for sages and another for fools; both are the same train. There is no special person for Buddhism, Buddhism is for everyone; there is no special activity of sitting for Buddhists–everything you do should be practice.’

This passage is not from one of Suzuki Roshi’s published books, but from the collected transcripts of his talks, in this case, a summary of what he had spoken of during a sesshin in 1964.

Toni Packer

‘Can the inner noise be entirely left alone while attending? When the changing states of body-mind are simply left to themselves without any choice or judgment – left unreacted to by a controlling or repressive will – a new quietness emerges by itself.’ (The Work of This Moment)

These words, delivered on the subject of silent retreat, echo Chan Master Sheng Yen’s from the other day.


‘A monk asked, “What is Joshu’s one word?”
Joshu replied, “There is not even half a word.”
The monk said, “Can it be that you have none?”
Joshu said, “I am not one word.” (The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu)

So what is Joshu?

Chan Master Sheng Yen

‘Just know when you experience something good or bad, that you do not own it. This awareness will remind you that any experience is neither a rest stop nor a destination, and that you should just continue with your practice.’ (Song of Mind)


Sekito Kisen

‘A monk asked, “What was Master Bodhidharma’s intention in coming from the west to China?”
Sekito said, “Ask the pillars outside.”
The monk said, “I cannot understand your answer at all.”
Sekito said, “I am also unable to understand the situation if I think about it.”‘ (Shinji Shobogenzo)


‘Do not take up the buddha measure to measure and analyze the great way. The buddha measure is one step, just like an open blossom. Do not hold out the mind measure to grope for and deliberate about the awesome presence. The mind measure is a single face, like the world.’ (Shobogenzo Gyobutsu Iigi)

An Ancient Said

Two-thirds of a lifetime has swiftly gone.
On the spiritual foundation not a single speck has been polished.
While indulging, life randomly passes day after day.
If you are called but do not turn around, what can be done?

This poem is found towards the end of the Tenzokyokun, and Dogen does not attribute it beyond the three words I used for the title. It has always been a striking poem for me, speaking of the urgency of the great matter.
Earlier in the week it occurred to me that today was the anniversary of my first arrival in San Francisco, eighteen years ago now, on my way from New York, heading towards Sydney; here just a week, not imagining I would return, let alone spend a portion of my life here. That portion has now amounted to a third of my life (the other two-thirds can be evenly divided into my childhood-and-school years, and my college-and-London years). As I dwelt on that, I had the further thought that it would be plausible to estimate that I am currently two-thirds of the way through my life. Swiftly gone indeed.

Sekkei Harada

‘The objective of Zen practice is to graduate as quickly as possible from zazen and  return to the time before you knew anything about zazen.’ (The Essence of Zen)

I have been re-reading this book recently on my commute, and this line almost made me laugh out loud on the train.