Book Excerpts

Alan Watts’ Pain and Time

Alan Watts was one of the foremost interpreters of Eastern philosophy in Europe and the United States in the mid 20th century. This extract from his book, 'The Wisdom of Insecurity' talks about our tendency to reject pain in the service of pleasure, and how in doing so we are ultimately shying from the full… Continue reading Alan Watts’ Pain and Time

Poetry, Sufi Poetry

Rumi’s Guest House

Jelalludin Rumi was a Sufi mystic who lived in the thirteenth century and was a contemporary of the Zen master Dogen. Rumi's poetry transcends cultural and religious borders to appeal to a vast readership, mainly on account of its humanity and sincere ecstatic engagement with life's questions. In this poem, The Guest House, Rumi was… Continue reading Rumi’s Guest House

Book Excerpts

Just Take One Step

Dainin Katagiri came to the United States in 1963, originally to help out at the Zenshuji mission in Los Angeles, before moving up to San Francisco to work with the Sokoji mission there as well as the San Francisco Zen Center. He eventually established his own center for practice in Minnesota. In this extract from… Continue reading Just Take One Step

Book Excerpts

Rilke – We Must Accept Our Reality As Vastly As We Possibly Can

This letter is the source of one of Rilke's most famous quotes about the courage to face what is unknown. It was originally written to a nineteen-year-old aspiring poet called Franz Kappus who was about to enter the military and forms part of a series of letters Rilke wrote to the young man, advising him… Continue reading Rilke – We Must Accept Our Reality As Vastly As We Possibly Can

Koans

The Koan of Baso’s Very Mind

Baso's Very Mind is the 30th case or koan in the Mumonkan, The Gateless Barrier, a collection of koans compiled in the 13th century by Rinzai master Wumen Huikai (known as Mumon Ekai in Japan). The 48 koans in the collection are all sourced from well-known scenes and moments through the history of Zen that… Continue reading The Koan of Baso’s Very Mind

Dogen, Texts

The Genjo-koan (Part 2)

This is the second part of Dogen Zenji's Genjo-koan, (read the first part here), one of the most fundamental chapters of the Shobogenzo which illustrates the key tenets of Soto Zen philosophy. In this second half of the text, Dogen talks about the mystery of knowing the elements we live in and how practice occurs… Continue reading The Genjo-koan (Part 2)

Dogen, Japanese Texts, Texts

The Genjo-koan (Part 1)

The Genjo-koan, whose name can be translated as 'Realizing the Heart of the Matter', is one of the key chapters in Master Dogen's voluminous Shobogenzo. The Genjo-koan cuts to the heart of Dogen's teaching and presents us with the fundamental tenets of Zen practice as well as an account of its distinct phenomenology. This version… Continue reading The Genjo-koan (Part 1)

Literature, Short Stories, Uncategorized

Chekhov’s Heartache

This short story by Anton Chekhov was written when he was just 26 years old, a medical student in Moscow who was writing in his spare time to support his family. 'Heartache' is a devastating sketch of failed attempts to communicate loss and grief. The quote at the beginning of the story is the first… Continue reading Chekhov’s Heartache

Chinese Texts, Texts

The Five Gates of Daoxin

Dayi Daoxin was the fourth ancestor in China: the student of Jianzhi Sengcan and the teacher of Daman Hongren, he was the founder of the Sizu temple in China's Hubei district which is still an active monastery today. Daoxin did a lot to popularize the practice of Chan, and his was the first monastic community… Continue reading The Five Gates of Daoxin

Japanese Poetry, Poetry

Chiyono’s Enlightenment Poem

Adachi Chiyono (also known as Mugai Nyodai) was the daughter of a samurai warrior in the 13th century who became the first woman - and mother - to found and head a Zen monastery in Japan. Her enlightenment poem invokes the catastrophe of a broken bucket; with the vessel ruptured, there is no place to… Continue reading Chiyono’s Enlightenment Poem