A monk asked, “What is my teacher?” The master said, “Clouds rising out of mountains, streams entering the valley without a sound.” The monk said, “I didn’t ask about them.” The master said, “Though they are your teacher, you don’t recognize them.” (The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu) The monk is expecting his teacher […]


‘The sages and ancient Buddhas all had prescriptions for practice and realization. To those who were trapped in the notion of existence, they gave the medicine of nonexistence; to those who were trapped in the notion of nonexistence, they gave the medicine of existence. They measured out eighty-four thousand medicines to treat the eighty-four thousand […]


A monk asked, “What about it when all the bones are pulverized and there is one everlasting spirit?” The master said, “It’s windy again this morning.” (The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu) To my mind, you can read the answer in two ways – and they are not mutually exclusive. The first would be […]

Shinshu Roberts

‘If we understand our practice as attaining the absolute, we may encounter the problem of thinking our everyday life is of no consequence. We might believe that our effort is to transcend daily life and enter a rarefied and imagined spiritual state. It is imperative that we understand our everyday life as being-time’s complete expression. […]


‘Deshan said to the monks, “As soon as you ask, you have erred. If you don’t ask, you’re also wrong.” A monk came forward and bowed. Deshan struck him. The monk said, “I just bowed. Why did you hit me?” Deshan said, “What use would it be to wait until you opened your mouth?”‘ (Zen’s Chinese […]


‘There is a story that in former times a Zen monk lived alone in a cottage. Above his door he wrote the word “mind.” Above his window he wrote the word “mind,” and on his wall he wrote the word, “mind.” Zen master Fayan said, “Above his door he should have written, ‘door.’ Above his […]


‘A monk asked, “There are words and phrases everywhere and all of it is polluted. What is the higher truth?” Cuiyan said, “There are words and phrases everywhere and all of it is polluted.” The monk said, “What is a place where there are none?” Cuiyan said, “The assembly is laughing at you.”‘ (Zen’s Chinese Heritage) […]

Ruth Fuller Sasaki

‘The Japanese Zen masters of today are trying faithfully to carry on their reaching against tremendous odds. Furthermore, they are bound by a traditional system which, as regards many of its forms, is a relic of the feudal age. All are aware of this, but the great problem facing them is how to adapt to […]

Sekito Kisen

‘You can’t attain it this way. You can’t attain it not this way. Trying to attain it this way or not this way, it can’t be attained. So what will you do?’ (Zen’s Chinese Heritage) Sekito was saying this to get his student Yakusan to let go of clinging. Yakusan went to Master Ma, who set […]


‘When Mazu heard that Damei lived on the mountain, he sent a monk to call upon him and ask the question, “When you saw Master Mazu, what did he say that caused you to come and live on this mountain?” Damei said, “Master Mazu said to me, ‘Mind is Buddha.’ Then I came here to […]