Sekkei Harada

‘Human beings experience a whole range of emotional and rational states, including joy, anger, sadness, understanding, and not understanding. These are all part of the Dharma or the Way. We can freely feel these things, freely think these things. What other freedom beyond this are you looking for? I would really like you to believe that in our present condition we are endowed with the Dharma in this way.’  (The Essence of Zen)

Philip Whalen

I praise those ancient Chinamen
Who left me a few words,
Usually a pointless joke or a silly question
A line of poetry drunkenly scrawled on the margin of a quick
                         splashed picture—bug, leaf,
                         caricature of Teacher
    on paper held together now by little more than ink
    & their own strength brushed momentarily over it
Their world & several others since
Gone to hell in a handbasket, they knew it—
Cheered as it whizzed by—
& conked out among the busted spring rain cherryblossom winejars
Happy to have saved us all.


‘Yangshan was digging on a hillside to make a rice paddy. Yangshan said, “This place is so low, that place is so high.” Guishan said, “Water makes things equal. Why don’t you level it with water?” Yangshan said, “Water is not reliable, teacher. A high place is high level, a low place is low level.” Guishan agreed.’

The closing line makes an appearance in the Tenzo Kyokun, and will be one of the things I talk about in the second class today. It falls into the categories of harmony and non-obstruction in my book.

Jay Caspian Kang

‘I do not know if there is a way to trick oneself into noticing more of these instances of quality, nor do I know if enlightenment rests on the accumulation of little ecstasies, nor do I believe—at least anymore—that those of us who have sought the path through books, meditation, or study have any more access to “quality” than those who have not.’ (from the New Yorker)

This was an article reflecting on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I have not read, so I felt a little disadvantaged. The point of it, though, was a rumination on the quality of “quality,” which I would simply translate as “attention,” (and re-reading the Tenzo Kyokun for the current class reminded me how often that word appears). But, to attempt to answer the questions, yes, meditation helps people access this, though not exclusively of course, and perhaps each of the little ecstasies is actually a moment of enlightenment.

Katagiri Roshi

‘As a cultural form, Zen is growing pretty fast, which is called Zen “boom”, Zen bubble, and young people, specifically, are liable to be attracted. But I wonder if their understanding of Zen has anything to do with their daily lives, no matter how hard they study. It is because for them Zen is merely booming Zen, nothing more, that they cannot get at the heart of Zen itself. 

Recently I have felt very strongly that students have to understand more clearly how to make Zen concrete in their daily lives. Our practice is not just to sit in meditation in the zendo. The important point is how Zen meditation should be used in daily life, outside of Zen Center. Shakyamuni Buddha’s way is to live our life truthfully, which means to put Zen to practical use vividly and fully according to the time and circumstances.’ (from Wind Bell)

Diane Eshin Rizzetto

‘From the vast fundamental wholeness of everything, we are each endowed with the capacity to meet life as it is.’ (Deep Hope)

I have had this quote in my stack for a while, and I think I have hesitated to use it as it seems to be one of those statements that overpromises – something I find grating when listening to guided meditations where the teacher invites you to exhale and immediately tells you that you are now completely infused with serenity – and does not take into account the real sufferings of just about everybody.

And yet, there is a level at which it feels true; so perhaps the point is, can we find that place, or even the entrance to that place, or even a glimpse of that place; and how does it feel if we can?

Sharon Salzberg

‘Underneath anger or feeling overwhelmed there is very often a sense of helplessness, and that’s a horribly uncomfortable thing to feel. But if we can face it and be with it, then we don’t do desperate acts to avoid it and we learn a different relationship to it. It’s like “Okay, this feels really painful. But it’s not wrong. It’s just painful.”

We develop compassion for ourselves and compassion for others, and then we realize, “Oh, if I take one small action, that will help ameliorate that feeling of helplessness.” It won’t dissolve this terrible system of suffering and oppression so many people experience, but it will bring back to life our sense of connection.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

Suzuki Roshi

‘So we have to practice zazen just to practice zazen, as we live in this world without any particular reason why we live in this world. But if we understand that each one of us is a tentative form of the absolute being, and whatever we do is the activity of the absolute being which is not possible to be known by us completely, but something which we cannot doubt its existence. It exist but we do not know what it is completely. And this is the origin of our life or source of life. And it is also the life to which we resume after cessation of our activity. If there is something which we should believe in, this kind of absolute unknown being is the only one. There are many names– we call it by many names, but the “unknown absolute being” is one.

So purpose of our practice is to get accustomed to live without being attached to many things but this unknown being. When we find our meaning in this way– meaning of life in this way, naturally we can help with each other. We will love with each other without forcing anything to others, keeping a harmonious way between us, and between other beings– animate and inanimate beings. We are all friends.

So true love should be based on this understanding, or else your love will become– will be selfish love. True love should not be selfish. Actually there is no selfish love. It looks like selfish, but it is not– there is no such love as selfish love. Even though love is not selfish, but when you have the idea of selfish– self which is not real, the love will become blind love without any understanding. So before we talk about love, or before we love others, we should make this point clear, and we should have the direct experience of zazen which is beyond thinking. When you can sit, when you can just sit, you have [are] in the position to love others in its true sense.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives)

Sojun Mel Weitsman

‘Anyone working in the kitchen long hours needs to find a rhythm for their work. This way they can find their ease within the work itself. This is true of all our activities. It is certainly true of zazen. Usually we work hard, then rest; then work hard again, then rest again. But when you engage in a continuous activity over a long period, you have to find your rest and your ease within the activity itself. Otherwise you can’t sustain yourself. This is the koan of work. It is also the koan of zazen.’

This comes from an article that I use in support of my class on the Tenzo Kyokun, which starts today.