‘There are no mundane things outside of Buddhism, and there is no Buddhism outside of mundane things.’ (quoted in Zen Essence)

angel Kyodo williams

 ‘We are shaped by all sorts of conditions and causes and circumstances and time and era and place and location and so on. And so, I theorize that something has to transcend that, something has to transcend all of the various ways in which we’re shaped, otherwise, how do we transcend everything that we’ve inherited since we’ve essentially inherited everything, right? 

We’ve inherited and been shaped by everything outside, but something has to be pervasive. And that’s where I start with like, so how do I find that which is pervasive? For me, the way that I know it is, first and foremost, by developing the habit of being able to return to myself, to be able to return to myself. And from that place of having been able to return myself to feel this sense of OKness, like, “I’m OK, this is OK, this being, this person, this moment,” there’s OKness that goes beyond all of the waves that are happening in my life externally.

So maybe right outside the surface of my skin, there is sadness, but even my sadness is OK. Like there are circumstances that are upsetting or that I wish that wasn’t the case. But in a single moment of returning to myself, there is, some people might call it being at peace, some people may call it being aligned, some people may call it all sorts of things, I call it basic OKness, right? 

Basic OKness with me as I am in this moment as it is. And that is a practice. We have to develop that practice in order to be able to attune to what it feels like in us, but I know that every single one of us listening to this does have a reference point for what that is. And the reason I know we have a reference point is because we know when we’re not OK, right? So that we know we’re not OK is predicated on the fact that we have a sense of there is a place of being OK.’ (from Sounds True)


A monk asked, “What is the intention of coming from the west?” 
The master said, “A single stone in space.”
The monk bowed.
The master said, “Do you understand?”
He said, “I don’t understand.” 
The master said, “I trust you don’t understand. If you understood, I’d [or it would] bust your head.” 

How big do you think the stone is? How big do you think space is?

Katagiri Roshi

‘We live by our effort, but this is a narrow understanding, so we have to live our lives with the understanding that we are allowed to live. This means we should appreciate our life. Then, if we appreciate our life, we can make our life come alive. To do this, we must be not only passive, but also active. Someone may say, “The universe takes care of me, so I don’t have to do anything.” Of course, it is true, but this does not mean we can take a nap in the universe. The universe is always working with us, so if we become lazy, the universe appears as laziness. Then very naturally we are confused. So, constantly we have to take the initiative. When we do gassho, we have to practice gassho with the forgiving universe, with appreciation for our lives, making gassho come alive. This practice is not a matter of discussion.

Buddha’s world is completely pure and serene, quiet and also dynamic; it is dynamism in motion beyond our thoughts and ideas. So very naturally, in order to accept it, we have to put aside our understanding, our thoughts, and put our body and mind right in the middle of that dynamism in motion. This is samadhi or actualizing Buddha’s compassion. When we do zazen it is a very simple opportunity to be present there, to put aside our thoughts and preconceptions.’ (Returning to Silence)


‘Is the Way attained through the mind or through the body? The teaching schools say that, since body and mind are identical, it is attained through the body. Yet since they say that body and mind are identical, it is not explicitly stated that the Way is attained by the body. In Zen the Way is attained with both body and mind. If you contemplate Buddhism with the mind alone, not for ten thousand kalpas or a thousand lives can you attain the Way. But if you let go the mind and cast aside knowledge and intellectual understanding, you will gain the way. Those who gained enlightenment by seeing blossoms or hearing sounds achieved it through the body. Therefore, if you cast aside completely the thoughts and concepts of the mind and concentrate on zazen alone you attain to an intimacy with the Way. The attainment of the Way is truly accomplished with the body. For this reason, I urge you to concentrate on zazen.’(Shobogenzo Zuimonki)


With realization, all things are of one family; 
Without realization, everything is separate and different; 
Without realization, all things are of one family; 
With realization, everything is separate and different.

The Mountain Seat

Last weekend at Zen Center was, as expected, quite the occasion. I spent many hours there over the three days – from the Stepping Down ceremony for Ed and Fu on Friday afternoon, Hoitsu’s dharma talk on Saturday morning, the main part of the Mountain Seat ceremony with Mako and Jiryu at City Center on Saturday afternoon, and the remainder of the ceremony at Green Gulch on Sunday morning. I had bought myself a new umbrella for the weekend, and was glad that I did not need it as much as the forecast had made me anticipate.

The ceremonies are quite familiar to me now; since I was taking photographs, I did not have to stay in one place for long periods of time. I got to float around the building a little, and capture various moments both of high ceremony and of more behind-the-scenes action. I also found the ceremonial parts, wonderful as they are, less meaningful than the exchanges that happened during the course of the question-and-answer sessions, and the statements that the new abbots made at various points of the proceedings.

It was also an amazing chance to catch up with old friends, dharma acquaintances and even new folk. I had the chance to speak with someone who had been at Zen Center since the beginning of the pandemic and got the perspectives of someone in that position.

It was, of course, wonderful to see Hoitsu one more time. I thought, as I thought last time, that perhaps we might not get so many more occasions to see him in San Francisco, so I was making the most of this one, and we will probably post more photographs on Patreon.

Between the many ceremonies, and the travelling, and the clocks going forward, it was quite an exhausting weekend  – it took me most of the week to recover. I managed to take more than 1500 photographs and I shared about 100 of them with the main protagonists, and other folks at City Center. Here are just a few of those. 

And even after the damp weekend, we had another atmospheric river on Tuesday, which made for a very wet and dispiriting commute. After which the weather somehow turned. It has got much warmer and the sun has been shining, so  finally it is starting to feel like spring. I am glad of that, and I think everybody else here is as well.

Susan O’Connell with a statement of appreciation for Ed and Fu on Friday.
Probably my favourite shot, of Mako and Jiryu waiting to process into the Buddha Hall.
Colin and David congratulating Mako after the ceremony.
The scene at Green Gulch.
During photos after all the ceremonies. We also cajoled a three-abbot and five-abbot shot.
Hoitsu at Green Gulch.
It was my first spring visit to Green Gulch since 2020, and I got around the gardens before the rain set in.

Anna Tims

‘To my surprise, I found death in the abstract more frightening than death personified in individuals who can squeeze your hand and share a joke and who, while losing their life, radiate their humanity.

It takes a special grace to accept dependence. In the outside world, we feel humbled by the status and success of others. In a hospice, I’m humbled by figures in the beds, trustingly accepting the ministrations of a stranger and whispering, even when barely conscious, a thank you. Dignity is not what I thought it was. I was hot with embarrassment when I washed my first patient, until I saw she was smiling at me. In her acceptance, she had dignity. In my fumbling confusion, I did not.’ (from The Guardian)

The Zen Hospice building may have gone now, repainted and presumably sold to new owners – each time I pass I wonder if they know the building’s history – but the connection is not diminished. I know a number of people who have used their practice to help their work in this field.

Shohaku Okumura

‘Our practice is not a means to get rid of delusive thoughts. Being mindful of true reality is not a method to eliminate delusions. In fact, when we sit in zazen, we sit squarely within the reality before the separation of delusion and enlightenment. We usually think of ourselves as deluded human beings and of buddhas as enlightened beings. We imagine that our practice is a method to transform a deluded being into an enlightened one by removing delusion. This idea is itself dualistic and contrary to the reality before separation.

So should we give up practice and pursue our delusions? No, what we must do is sit in zazen and let go of all dualistic ideas. In doing so, true reality manifests itself. Delusion and enlightenment are both here.

Neither is negated or affirmed; neither is grasped. We sit on the ground of letting go. This is the meaning of Dogen Zenji’s expression “Practice and enlightenment are one.” There is no state to be attained other than our practice of letting go. We practice within delusions and manifest enlightenment through sitting practice and day-to-day activities based on zazen. These practices enable us to settle our whole existence on that ground.’ (Living By Vow)

It takes a long time, in my experience to accept this, but doing so is the key to practice.

Zenki Christian Dillo

‘While Western therapeutic approaches mostly give us strategies to feel less pain, Buddhism teaches us to be more open to what we’re feeling, even if it’s pain, without grasping for something other than what life presents in this very moment. In this way, pain transforms into a form of intensity or energy. So in a very fascinating way, psychotherapy and Buddhism are similar in orientation, different in their approach, and highly complementary in practice.

On the path of transforming my relationship to pain by experiencing body sensations without the reactivity of grasping or resisting, I discovered the body as an “energy body.” The word energy can sound a bit woo-woo, but in keeping with my phenomenological inclination, I define it simply as the flow of sensations in the bodymind. At a certain point in my practice, I needed a way to intentionally cultivate this flow of sensations. Still sitting meditation, which gets emphasized in Zen so much, didn’t quite suffice anymore. That’s when I took up Qigong, which literally translates as “cultivation of energy.” Once I intentionally entered this arena with a commitment to steady practice, a whole world of experiential subtlety opened up. New ways of feeling nourished and satisfied emerged.’ (from the Dewdrop)