Book Excerpts

Jumping off the 100-Foot Pole

The koan of the 100-foot pole is frequently invoked to expose our ideas and misconceptions about Zen practice, namely the idea that there is some kind of apex that can be reached and from where a great vista can be seen. According to Shunryu Suzuki in this talk featured in the book 'Not Always So',… Continue reading Jumping off the 100-Foot Pole

Book Excerpts

Hermann Hesse and the Young Saint Francis

'He was one of those hypersensitive children,' Hermann Hesse wrote of his fictional Francesco Bernardone, the child that grew into St Francis of Assisi, 'who in these earliest stirrings of the soul experience a sorrowful foreboding, a saddening intimation that all human joys are transient.' This extract from his short story, The Childhood of St… Continue reading Hermann Hesse and the Young Saint Francis

Indian Texts

Centreing – The 112 Ways to Open the Invisible Door of Consciousness (Part 7: 85-98)

This conversation between Shiva and his partner Devi is a teaching about self-knowledge that could be up to 5,000 years old. It features in a number of ancient Indian texts and has been rewritten countless times up until today. This version, taken from the collection, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, is a more recent English translation… Continue reading Centreing – The 112 Ways to Open the Invisible Door of Consciousness (Part 7: 85-98)

Dogen, Japanese Texts, Texts

Dogen – Remember That You Are Alive Only Today In This Moment

In a world where a certain kind of intellectualism is valued over many other human capacities, it's easy to feel inferior to those we perceive to be smarter than ourselves and to imagine that the things that we do not understand with our intellect will somehow hold us back from a more profound experience of… Continue reading Dogen – Remember That You Are Alive Only Today In This Moment

Chinese Poetry, Poetry

Fu Ta-shih’s Poem: Empty Handed, I Hold a Hoe

The legendary inventor of the kyozo, the custom-made building for housing sutras, Fu Ta-shih (also known as Bodhisattva Shan-hui) was a 6th century Chinese poet and lay master. Below are two translations of one of his famous short poems or gathas.    Empty-handed, I hold a hoe. Walking on foot, I ride a buffalo. Passing… Continue reading Fu Ta-shih’s Poem: Empty Handed, I Hold a Hoe

Book Excerpts

Psychology and Satori – Erich Fromm

Erich Fromm was a humanistic philosopher who was primarily interested in man's relationship to culture and society. In his work he always stressed that understanding our basic needs as humans was paramount in this investigation and in moving towards a better state of collective sanity. From within this discussion, Fromm was interested in religion and… Continue reading Psychology and Satori – Erich Fromm

Book Excerpts

Stop Avoiding the Uncomfortable Questions – David Foster Wallace

"Is it right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?" David Foster Wallace asks in the course of his brilliant essay on eating and ethics, Consider the Lobster. An article originally commissioned by Gourmet magazine back in 2004 meant to cover the Maine Lobster Festival, DFW's assignment quickly went off track… Continue reading Stop Avoiding the Uncomfortable Questions – David Foster Wallace

Indian Texts

Centreing – The 112 Ways to Open the Invisible Door of Consciousness (Part 6: 71-84)

This conversation between Shiva and his partner Devi is a teaching about self-knowledge that could be up to 5,000 years old. It features in a number of ancient Indian texts and has been rewritten countless times up until today. This version, taken from the collection, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, is a more recent English translation… Continue reading Centreing – The 112 Ways to Open the Invisible Door of Consciousness (Part 6: 71-84)

American Poetry, Poetry

Molly Peacock – What If, When We Said I Love You, There Were A You To Love?

In order to really love, Thich Nhat Hanh proposes, we need to consider the elements of true love: benevolence, compassion, joy and freedom. But what about the more fundamental problem of selfishness? Can we ever love wholeheartedly in a way that puts the wellbeing of the other person - our beloved or a stranger -… Continue reading Molly Peacock – What If, When We Said I Love You, There Were A You To Love?

Book Excerpts

Mary Oliver – May I Stay Forever in the Stream

"Attention is the beginning of devotion" is the last line of Upstream, Mary Oliver's first essay in a collection of shorts that express her life's trajectory towards nurturing and developing her creative spirit, always in intimate conversation with herself and with nature. The minute details of the self and the world that she outlines in… Continue reading Mary Oliver – May I Stay Forever in the Stream