It is kind speech to speak to sentient beings as you would to a baby…. If kind speech is offered, little by little, kind speech expands… Know that kind speech arises from kind heart, and kind heart from the seeds of compassionate heart. Ponder the fact that kind speech is not just praising the merit of others; it has the power to turn the destiny of the nation.’ (Shobogenzo Bodaisatta Shi Shoho)

In my recent dharma talk at Zen Center, I brought in Dogen’s Bodhisattva’s Four Methods of Guidance towards the end of the talk, as I felt it is a good example of some concrete ways to help people through the ways you think and act towards them, and seemed to fit in with the themes from Sharon Salzberg’s Real Love that has made up the bulk of the talk. As I said in relation to the above quote, how much do we need to hear this as a nation at the moment.

I am giving another talk on Monday 22nd at the Dharma Eye group in San Rafael; I expected to offer a remix of the Zen Center talk, and I think I will bring Dogen front and centre this time and see where that takes me. Sometimes I wonder about offering an apology for the amount of Dogen on this site; mostly I know that his teachings are the crux of our practice, and hopefully the pieces I choose can make some of the denser work more accessible.


Nyogen Senzaki

‘This mind is Buddha and no other, but one who clings to words and postulates an idea of it is far away from the Path. If you meditate on emptiness, you can never empty your mind. If you aim to enter samadhi, you will never reach it.’ (Eloquent Silence)

I always find reading Senzaki is like a fresh breeze blowing through the room.

Byakuren Judith Ragir

‘What needs to be renounced as we enter a spiritual path? In the West, Buddhist practice is often an odd combination of monastic visits and householder lives. When I was ordained, I was already married and had two children. I did not leave my family, but I learned to practice with my story-filled life by transforming the basis of operation in my mind. I have had to work with my egocentricity; my attachments and clinging; and my greed, anger, and delusion right in the middle of the mess of household life and an urban zendo. After forty years of practice, I am still practicing home-leaving within the confines of a home, as Yasodhara did. I take heart from a the story of a Tibetan teacher’s mother who got enlightened, as she tells it, by “practicing in the gaps” of her everyday life. Or as my root teacher, Katagiri Roshi, would encourage us by saying, “In every moment, merge subject and object into the very activity that is arising.”‘ (The Hidden Lamp)

When I lived at Tassajara, there would almost always be some women there who had waited until their children were grown before committing themselves to intensive monastic training. As Byakuren points out, the conditions of life at home are also deep opportunities for practice: the personal issues that arise at home are no different from those that arise at the monastery, it’s just that when you live at the monastery, there is usually more time to reflect and absorb what is going on.




Sitting in the rain

It say something about the climate in California that it took a little over five months for Zachary and I to need to put a wet weather plan into effect. For sure, on a couple of autumnal Mondays, it had been cloudy or damp enough to have us worried, and once it even started raining right after we had packed away the cushions, but last Monday was the first time the forecast had rain all day. And rain all day it did, which did not make for my having much fun riding to the jail in the afternoon and to meet students in the evening.  I did not ride downtown for the sit – I had taken a friend to the airport very early on Friday morning, kept the car over the weekend, and picked her up on Monday morning, which reminded me afresh that I find freeway driving in heavy rain much more stressful than riding my bike in the same conditions.
In any case, the timing of it all worked out perfectly for me to be downtown, a little damp around the edges, in one of the many POPOSes. I had not actually visited the space before, at 2nd Street and Mission, but it lived up to its billing as a spacious, and most importantly covered, atrium, where people were mostly eating their lunch – either in pairs, conversing, or solo, looking at their phones. A mandolin player busked away by the entrance, which made for a more focused sit than did the general murmur of conversation when he stopped.
Zachary and I both enjoyed the sit, even if no-one else who had hoped to be there actually made it. Today’s forecast looks better, though Zachary is away, and without him I cannot bring cushions for everybody, so we will be sitting on the big concrete blocks by the seawall next to our usual grassy spot, if you are able to come along.


IMG_3781 copyWe still got to sit under a tree.


‘There is a simple way to become a buddha: When you refrain from unwholesome actions, are not attached to birth and death, and are compassionate toward all sentient beings, respectful to seniors and kind to juniors, not excluding or desiring anything, with no thoughts or worries, you will be called a buddha. Seek nothing else.’ (Shobogenzo Shoji)

I may have posted this before, but the utter simplicity can come and smack us in the face every time, in any case. Simple, but not easy, as they say (and as I probably said before)….