Book Excerpts

No Attachment to Dust

101 Zen Stories is a compilation of stories about Zen teachers through the ages compiled by Nyogen Senzaki, a Rinzai monk who was one of the leading proponents of Rinzai Zen in the US in the 20th century. This particular story, number 77, charts the advice of Master Zengetsu to his students. Zengetsu, a Chinese… Continue reading No Attachment to Dust

Book Excerpts

Jack Kerouac and the Rucksack Revolution

Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums, which was published in 1958, crystallizes a moment in West Coast history that came at the beginning of a spiritual awakening that preceded the hippie movement and occurred just as Buddhist philosophy was beginning to take root in the United States. The character Japhy Ryder is Kerouac's friend, poet and Gary… Continue reading Jack Kerouac and the Rucksack Revolution

Chinese Texts, Texts

Alive Without Being Born

Master¬†Hongzhi Zhengjue was a 12th century Chinese monk and author of the famous collection of koans, the Book of Serenity. Like Eihei Dogen, he was also resident on Mount Tiantong (close to present-day Shanghai), but preceded the Japanese master by about a century. Nonetheless, Dogen was inspired by Hongzhi's writings and quoted him a lot… Continue reading Alive Without Being Born

Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Look Beyond the Town Gate at the Mounds Below the Pines

Cold Mountain (Han Shan) was a Chinese poet and hermit who wrote his poetry 1,200 years ago on the rocks, trees and temple walls of the Tientai Mountains where he lived. He was a Taoist and a Buddhist and though he was never critically acclaimed as a great poet, he's become a much loved persona… Continue reading Look Beyond the Town Gate at the Mounds Below the Pines

Book Excerpts

Taisen Deshimaru and the Doctrine of Emptiness

The concepts of form and emptiness - shiki and ku - as put forward in the Heart Sutra - the Hannya Shingyo - are among the most difficult ideas in Zen, especially for new students. Here, they are tackled by Taisen Deshimaru, the monk who travelled from Japan to Paris in the 1960s and eventually… Continue reading Taisen Deshimaru and the Doctrine of Emptiness

Book Excerpts

Like the Skin of a Ripe Fruit

Eugen Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery is one of the most widely read books about a Zen tradition that documents the author's learning curve while studying the art of archery with his master. In this passage, he is reaching the peak of his frustration with the process and its inherent paradoxes, feeling that… Continue reading Like the Skin of a Ripe Fruit

Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Occasional Poem on an Autumn Day

Ch'eng Hao was one of the leading poets and teachers of neo-Confucianism in China in the 11th century and this poem reflects his philosophy that all things are an inextricable part of the Tao, which is also to say the mind.¬†   When I'm at peace, I let everything go I wake by the east… Continue reading Occasional Poem on an Autumn Day

Book Excerpts

Sheila Heti – When Love Slips into the Death Drive

Sheila Heti's novel 'How Should a Person Be?' asks that candid and naive question with honesty, humor and sincerity. During the course of the book, she especially looks at love and all its difficulties, and in this passage she talks about the kind of obsessive sexual love that pushes us over cliffs and into the… Continue reading Sheila Heti – When Love Slips into the Death Drive

American Poetry, Poetry

William Stafford’s Looking Across the River

Kansas-born poet William Stafford's verses are simple, direct moments of contemplation that take their cue from nature and marvel at mystery. A pacifist and a conscientious objector to the Second World War, Stafford worked in outdoor work camps during the war before later moving to Oregon and falling under the spell of the American West.… Continue reading William Stafford’s Looking Across the River