Sensei Alex Kakuyo

‘A rough translation of ‘intoku’ is, “good done in secret”.  It epitomizes the Buddhist ideal that we should do good works without expectation of reward. This is empowering because a sad fact of life is that doing the right thing is no guarantee of a good outcome.  When this happens it can be easy to think, “Why did this happen to me?” or “I don’t deserve this.”

But intoku teaches us that we don’t do good deeds in the hopes of a reward.  Instead we do them because the deed itself is the reward.  The feeling that comes from helping someone in need is priceless. More importantly, it’s very easy to do. 

We can listen intently while someone talks about their day, compliment a friend on their outfit, or simply refill the coffee pot at work when it’s empty.  This practice isn’t about doing something big and flashy.  Instead, it’s about constantly being on the look out for small things we can do to make life nicer for both ourselves and the people around us.  In this way, we make the world warmer, and more welcoming for everyone.’ (from The Same Old Zen)

When I was looking for Shundo Aoyama’s post, which I reposted yesterday, I found a few others that spoke to the way practice is concerned with the small things.

Shundo Aoyama

‘When the abbot or any of the teachers is away from the temple for a week or so, the novices think nothing of it. But if there were no toilet paper, they would quickly feel its absence.’ (Zen Seeds)

This wonderful quote came to mind as I was writing a piece for Patreon, and I was surprised that I have only posted it once so far – though I suspect I also posted in on the Ino’s Blog as well. It feels like one of those lines that we need to hear regularly.

Katagiri Roshi

‘Whatever you do, wherever you may be, you are doing it in the Buddha’s world. Buddha’s world means the universe. The universe is nothing but the total manifestation of the truth by which all sentient beings are supported, upheld, naturally, if we open our hearts. If we don’t open our hearts, it’s a little bit difficult. Difficult means it takes a long time. But, basically, the universe and truth are very compassionate and kind toward all sentient beings. Constantly the compassionate universe is helping, just like the rain. Rain is accepted by many kinds of beings; some of the plants that are rained on grow, but some of them do not. If we don’t open our hearts it’s pretty hard to grow, it really takes time. But still, the rain is just the rain. Rain continues to fall to support all sentient beings.’ (Returning to Silence)

I am giving a talk on the precepts to the Hebden Bridge group today, as they start a year of study on the matter. As I prepared my talk, I dug out notes from a precepts class I took at Zen Center about a year after I arrived – I have kept a fair number of old notes like this – and saw that a section of this book was referenced in the bibliography. I know that I had trouble following Katagiri’s thinking at the time, but it sounds wonderful now.

Norman Fischer

‘The happiness that spiritual practice promises is not endless bliss, endless joy, and soaring transcendence. Who would want that in a world in which there is so much injustice, so much tragedy, so much unhappiness, illness, and death? To feel the scourge of impermanence and loss and to appreciate it at the same time profoundly as the beautiful essence of what it means to be at all—this is the deep truth I hear reverberating in the Buddha’s last words. Everything vanishes. Practice goes on.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

Suzuki Roshi

‘Zazen, this posture, is not only — not originally maybe a kind of training or something, but it is not just training, it is more the actual way of transmitting Buddha’s way to us. Through practice we can actually transmit Buddha’s teaching, because words is not good enough to actualize its teaching. So, naturally how we transmit it [is] through activity or through contact, through human relationships.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi Archive)

bell hooks

‘It is no accident that when we first learn about justice and fair play as children it is usually in a context where the issue is one of telling the truth. The heart of justice is truth telling, seeing ourselves and the world the way it is rather than the way we want it to be. In recent years sociologists and psychologists have documented the fact that we live in a nation where people are lying more and more each day.’ (All About Love)

You would think this book was published very recently, rather than at the turn of the millennium, for its constant topicality.


‘That which allows one part of a buddha’s awesome presence is is entire universe, the entire earth, as well as the entirety of birth and death, coming and going, of innumerable lands and lotus blossoms. Each of these innumerable lands and lotus blossoms is one part.

Students may think that “the entire universe” refers to this southen Continent of Jambudvipa, or all the Four Continents. Some may think of it as China or Japan. Regarding “the entire earth,” they think it is one billion worlds, or simply one province or prefecture. When you examine “the entire earth” or “the entire universe,” investigate them three or five times without stopping, even though you already see them as vast.

Understanding these words [about the entire universe] is going beyond buddhas and ancestors by seeing that extremely large is small and extremely small is large. Although this seems like denying that there is any such thing as large or small, this [understanding] is the awesome presence of active buddhas.’ (Shobogenzo Gyobutsu Iigi)

Similarly to the last Dogen post, this passage may scramble your brain about large and small, and that is what it is designed to do, so that you don’t get stuck in your thinking – if you do that, you will never be an active buddha with awesome presence.

Sekkei Harada

‘Master Dogen, founder of the Soto sect in Japan, said: “It isn’t that we do zazen; zazen lets us do zazen.”
I also say this to you now, whether you are new to Zen or an old practitioner. I regularly emphasize that there can be no gap in our practice of zazen for “me” to enter. We must really be zazen itself. Consequently, if we have the idea that we should put some force or strength into the lower belly or concentrate on something, then precisely this force or effort will somewhere defile your zazen. Even the thought I’ve got to make an effort is excessive, from the standpoint of purity. Our condition right now, at this very moment, is truly transparent, clean and clear. Dirt cannot adhere to it. It cannot be tarnished.’ (Unfathomable Depths)

Dale S. Wright

‘The meditative cultivation of mindfulness opens us to see situations in a way that is attentive to the sensitivities and needs of everyone involved. It instills in us a perceptual capacity that most people lack, the ability to perceive nuances in every day life that signifies something important, but that typically eludes our attention. In this sense, meditation opens a space of receptivity within that attunes our minds to what is going on right now, all around us. Occasionally, and painfully, it shows us the harm that we have been causing, but could not see. As meditation proceeds, it awakens us to opportunities for sensitive and just treatment of others that were previously closed to our attention. In the meditative space of “no-self,” we become capable of “disinterested” action, that is, action that is not predicated primarily on what is good for us. This is a condition of moral freedom from a tendency is to become bound up within ourselves, inattentive to the world of others around us.’ (The Six Perfections)

We pondered this paragraph in my student group this week. We agreed about the possilities of opening to perception of nuances, and I was very struck on the notion of ‘moral freedom’ that is proposed as an outcome.

Shinshu Roberts

‘Logically we can understand that, without suffering, there would be no need for the compassion, wisdom, and skillful means of bodhisattva practice. This is a difficult teaching. It requires us to stay and investigate that which is troublesome and inconvenient in our world. Yet, it is only under these circumstances that our own buddhanature can bloom and bring forth the full flowering of realization. Over and over again, we renew our bodhisattva vow in the midst of this samsaric life. Who else can enact this practice but each of us?’ (from Lion’s Roar)