Sharon Salzberg

‘We extend our sense of inclusion even further to people we may have disagreements with, people whose actions we disapprove of, even those who may have harmed us or those we care for. We don’t have to like what they’ve done, and we might take very strong action to prevent their doing it ever again, but as our experiences of the universality of suffering grows, our sense of interconnectedness deepens, and we begin to wish others could be free in a new way- in spite of their actions, their beliefs, or their positions in the world.’ (Real Love)

Wonderful words from a wise teacher who has been doing a lot to extend loving action into the world in these difficult times.


‘Dizang saw a monastic coming and held up a whisk.
The monastic bowed.
Dizang said, “What did you see that made you bow?”
The monastic said, “I thanked you for your instruction.”
Dizang hit the monastic and said, “You saw me hold up the whisk and thanked me. Why don’t you thank me when you see me sweep the ground every day?”‘ (Shinji Shobogenzo)


The sun brightens
the solitary peak,

The moon’s face
in the valley stream,

The intimate vastness of the Buddhas
cannot fit into
a small mind.


‘Nothing arises on its own. Everything is the result of karma. All it is is karma. It possesses no self-nature. According to the Middle Path, since nothing possesses any self-nature, it does not exist. Yet we give things a name, hence they do not not exist. Becuase we do not not give them names, we keep liberating beings. But because their natures are empty, we do not actually liberate anyone. And why don’t we liberate anyone? If the concept of a self existed, we could say that somebody is liberated. But since neither a self nor an other exist, who is liberated? Is is only a fiction.’ (Commentary on the Diamond Sutra)

A fiction, I might add, that we take to be real.

Marian Mountain

‘One day, many years ago, I asked Suzuki Roshi what the Chinese characters on his wooden nyoi [short staff] said. Roshi studied it thoughtfully. After a long pause, he spoke, very slowly, as if he were reading the characters one by one: “Hit him over the head and by his yell you will know if he is a dragon or a snake!”

Roshi seemed just as surprised by his statement as I, and we both laughed. That was all. We never discussed the matter further. But the words stuck in my mind, and slowly, slowly, over many years, those words began to change my mind. The effect of turning words, as they are called in zen, may not be realized immediately or consciously. They may work quietly in the depths of our mind, changing it very subtly. It was only after my zen master passed away that I found out that Suzuki Roshi hadn’t read me the inscription on his nyoi. He had inscribed the turning words on my own embryonic nyoi.(The Zen Environment)


‘When you see a speck of dust, it is not that you don’t see the world of phenomena. When you realize the world of phenomena, it is not that you do not realize a speck of dust. When buddhas realize the world of phenomena, they do not keep you from realization. Wholesomeness is manifest in the beginning, middle, and end.

Thus, realization is reality right now. Even shocks, doubts, fears, and frights are none other than reality right now. However, with buddha knowledge it is different; seeing a speck of dust is different from sitting within a speck of dust. Even when you sit in the world of phenomena, it is not broad. Even when you sit in a speck of dust, it is not narrow. If you are not fully present, you do not fully sit. If you are fully present, you are free of how large or narrow it is where you are. Thus you have thoroughly experienced the essential unfolding of dharma blossoms.

Is it that the manifestation and essence of your practice now originates in the world of phenomena or in a speck of dust? Have no shocks and doubts, no fears or frights. Just this turning of dharma blossoms is the original practice, deep and wide. In seeing the speck of dust and seeing the world of phenomena, there is no attempt to create or measure.’ (Shobogenzo Hokke Ten Hokke)

Before turning to this passage, I was looking at the fascicle on the kashaya, and the same propositions were at work. Don’t get caught on whether silk or other cloth is right, or what constitutes the discarded cloths traditionally used for Buddha’s robe. Here, don’t get caught in measuring. Though, being Dogen, he goes on to say that even attempting to measure is ‘in accordance with dharma blossoms.’ Realization is reality right now, as long as we don’t stop and think about it.

Suzuki Roshi

‘We should not be caught by anything. Until you have that kind of strength or freedom, you should, you know, practice hard. Purpose of practice is not to chase after worldly freedom, but it is to have freedom from our small desires or fame or success in our mundane world, and if possible to help people– to make– to release them from that kind of mundane wishes and restrictions. That is, you know, Buddhist way of life: join you in your path, in your ordinary life, and then you will have freedom from ordinary life. There big difference.

So when you have real freedom from everything, you may be very sympathetic with people who are involved in small, personal desires and– to be involved in competitive world. So naturally you want to help people to be free from– free from this kind of life. To share the, you know, to share the joy of freedom with people is our purpose of life. Usual– usually, you know, people are deeply involved in city life and so they stay in city. But Buddhist, you know, remain in city and live in city to help people who are involved in that kind of confusion. The way upward is to, you know, to– to make ourselves free from the small self of desires. And the way downward is after we have that kind of freedom to help people and to go back to the city is the way downward.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives)

This illuminates the point made in Lama Willa Miller’s post the other day.

Kosho Uchiyama

‘I tell my disciples that should sit silently for ten years. There are several people here who have already been sitting for ten years, so I must say, “Sit silently for ten more years.” When they have sat for twenty years, I will say, “Sit another ten years.” If they sit for thirty years, people in their twenties will be in their fifties. If they sit immovably, without any bait, until they are fifty years old, I’m pretty sure that they will be very capable people who will be able to carry out great work.’ (The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kodo)

By this standard, I am a bit of a failure. I have sat for twenty years, but I was not able to stay still for all that time. And I started older, so perhaps had more karma to work through than someone who starts in their twenties.

Often I wonder whether we are capable of change as humans; I feel that I have, and am still painfully aware of the ways I have not. At Zen Center there were many wonderful, kind people who most likely refined these qualities through their years and decades of sitting; and there were others who had been in residence just as long who seemed quite stuck in karmic patterns. Perhaps the place to rest with that is with faith in Buddha’s proposal that each of us has the capacity for awakening within us. I still believe that zazen is a sure route towards that.

Dale S. Wright

‘Wisdom, therefore, is the ability to face the truth and not be unnerved or frightened. It is the capacity to be disillusioned but not disheartened. It is the ability to consider the contingency and the groundlessness of all things, oneself included, and not turn away from the consideration in fear. Wisdom means setting aside illusions about oneself and the world and being strengthened by that encounter with the truth. It entails willingness to avoid seeking the security of the unchanging and to open oneself to a world of flux and complex relations.’ (The Six Perfections)

It really is a pleasure to pick this book off the shelf and open to find such wisdom about wisdom. With an added tinge of poignancy post-election.


In the past, when I began to study Zen,
it was all a mistake.

Wandering through numberless
mountains and rivers,
I wanted to find
something to know.

(It’s all clear in hindsight.)

It is hard to understand it
because talk about “no-mind”
just brings more confusion.

The teacher has pointed out
the ancient mirror
and I see in it
the time before I was born of my parents.

Having learned this,
what do I have?

Release a crow into the night
and it flies
flecked with snow.