Shinshu Roberts

‘Dogen writes that if we do not ask the right questions about the nature of our experience, we cannot actualize realization. He poses and answers questions that he would like us to ask. These questions help us to clarify our muddles thoughts, encouraging us to leap beyond the intellect to enact the Buddha Way in our daily life.’ (Being Time)

This is one of the quotes I thought to dust off ahead of yesterday’s class, where we moved from the koan about Hyakujo and the fox to Dogen’s commentary on it.

Ups And Downs

These days, I seem to wear shorts for at least six months out of the year. Right now we are coming to the time where this isn’t always the best choice. Our heatwave the other week was followed by a few days of cold weather, enough to have me turning the heat in my new place on for the first time. Last weekend was pretty pleasant, apart from enduring the high-volume, low-flying Blue Angels. We were scoured by a north wind for a couple of days – sitting on the Embarcadero on Monday felt like a bit of a buffeting – and then colder temperatures again, though the coming weekend is due to be warm, which should make for an enjoyable roam.

I have been teaching in many different arenas, and planning for weddings, classes and other events coming up; it hasn’t felt as overwhelming as it did a couple of weeks ago, when my schedule seemed very full, and I have enjoyed having a little space to think and study. Last week’s class on Hykakujo and the fox had plenty of interactions, which is always the best part of a class, and since we are moving onto Dogen’s commentary this week, I feel on firmer ground.

One of the colder days last week.
A mostly sunny ride on Sunday around Pacifica – it was sunnier even a little way in from the coast. Fog-free at least.
Late afternoon sun bouncing off the MIRA building on Tuesday.
Two-screen version of the dharma seat for the class.
Wednesday morning.
Wednesday afternoon.

angel Kyodo williams

‘If you have not laid down on the floor in tears, you have not started your work in the dharma. You should be completely undone. You should come completely apart at least once, asking, Who is this person? You may be doing some really awesome meditation. You might be reading commentaries, reaching different jhanas—I don’t know. But you are not doing the work of liberation if you have not come completely undone. That’s where it begins. I have no idea where it ends.

I’m not talking only about the Buddhist path; I’m talking about the path of liberation. You can come to that as an activist. You can come to it as a yogi, or as an agnostic, or as a humanist. If you’re on the path to liberation, you have to be motivated by this fierce sense of undoing, this willingness to come completely apart, to know that everything you think you know about yourself, you inherited from someplace else. You need to take account. Be willing to face and acknowledge that much of what has come to you has been unearned and has come at great cost to others. Start balancing the books. And then: relax. Relax. Enjoy your life. Let it unfold. This is the tension of the path: the fierce, fierce undoing and the perfected ability to just be with what is.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

Rev angel offered a teaching on liberation over the weekend, which I was not able to attend, but I paid for access to the recording, and I am looking forward to sitting down with it soon.

Sallie Jiko Tisdale

‘I pretend to accept my own death. Most senior practitioners do; many of them may even believe they accept it. Buddhists have their own peculiar points of pride, outside the usual stream of things we pride ourselves on, like humility and asceticism. Plenty of us are proud of our equanimity in the face of extinction, at least until we see the headlights bearing down.

So how deep does this acceptance really go? It’s not just Buddhists who kid themselves about being prepared for death. It’s people. It’s all of us who don’t want to admit that we are organisms fighting for life, that we can sagely repeat, “Annica, annica, all compounded things are subject to dissolution,” without really confronting what it means.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

Over the years, I have had flashes of confronting this, but it still makes me squirm. I do remember Reb talking about people’s fear of death at Tassajara, and observing (while using his hands) that going from a tightly-clenched fist to a very-slightly-less-tightly-clenched fist could still be called opening up to the idea of acceptance.

Suzuki Roshi

‘So to– the practice is– the purpose of practice is to accept myself. Knowing that, all our effort is to accept ourselves. Whether we become a great man or not is not the point. When we realize– when we can accept myself– ourselves, we are already one with all the existence. When spring come, we can enjoy spring flowers. When the summer come, we can enjoy the cool moonlight. When autumn come, we will appreciate– we can appreciate the beauty of the foliage. In winter we will appreciate snow. Because when we can accept ourselves, we can accept anything else. There is no– no self in our mind. What we have is big mind, big self. We can treat my body as we treat others’. We– we will treat my own things as we treat others’ property– others. This is how– this is the way of Buddhist life.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives)

We are coming to the time of appreciating the beauty of the foliage, although deciduous trees do not predominate in the city. I also suspect that Suzuki Roshi was paraphrasing Mumon here. As I continue to work through the archive, I never fail to find gems in all corners.


Birth is the emergence of undivided activity. 
Death is the emergence of undivided activity. 
Filling up the great empty sky,
straightforward mind is always bits and pieces.

Life fully manifests its function
And death fully manifests its function as well,
All within the limits of Great Unbounded Space,
For they are both the moment-by-moment manifestations 
of a sincere heart.

All poetry is subject to the vagaries of translation. I came across this poem in the Shobogenzo, and wondered about an alternative translation for the last line. These are the Kaz Tanahashi and Shasta Abbey translations respectively.


‘A moment or two of mind is a moment of mountains, rivers, and earth, or two moments of mountains, rivers, and earth. Because mountains, rivers, earth, and so forth neither exist nor do not exist, they are not large or small, not attainable or unattainable, not knowable or unknowable, not penetrable or impenetrable. They neither change with realization, nor change without realization. Just wholeheartedly accept with trust that to study the way with mind is this mountains-rivers-and-earth mind itself thoroughly engaged in studying the way. 

This trust and acceptance is neither large nor small, neither existent nor nonexistent. To study in this manner—understanding that home is no home, abandoning home, and entering the homeless life—is not measurable as large or small, near or far. It is beyond beginning or end, beyond ascending or descending. Unrolling the matter, it is seven or eight feet. Responding immediately, it benefits the self and others. All this is nothing but the study of the way.’ (Shobogenzo Shinjin Gakudo)

It’s been nice to leaf through this again.


‘A monk asked Fayan, “What is Buddha?”

Fayan replied, “First I want to ask you to practice it, second I want to ask you to practice it.” (quoted in Two Zen Classics)

I had not heard of this exchange before, but came across it while I was researching for this week’s class (thinking about Case 26 of the Mumonkan involving Fayan and the screens). But why do you think he needs to tell the monk twice?

Shodo Harada

‘Whether sitting or standing or walking, what is important is that state of continuing clear mind moments. If this is something we only experience during zazen, letting go of it when we get off the cushion, it is just empty form.’ (Not One Single Thing)

From one Harada to another. Hard to choose between them, really.

Sekkei Harada

‘One must abandon all learning when practicing Zen. Our practice must be such that each breath is everything; there must be liberation in the inhalation of just one breath. Yet this is not something easily noticed. And because it often remains unnoticed, inevitably we seek something “special.”  (Unfathomable Depths)

I was looking for something to repost, and thought of this eminent teacher. Most of what I have posted from him has a kind of pristine quality that is a good reminder to all of us that usually what we need to do is remove rather than add.