Book Excerpts

Thomas Merton on Zen Koans and Untying the Knot of Individuality

Those of us unfamiliar with the practice of the study of koans might view it as a method of problem solving, of learning how to think out of the box enough to understand the non-sequiturs entrenched in the recorded dialogues of Zen masters and disciples through the ages. In his essay, 'The Zen Koan', Thomas… Continue reading Thomas Merton on Zen Koans and Untying the Knot of Individuality

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

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

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

Book Excerpts

All The Peaks are Covered with Snow—Why is this one Bare?

Nine Headed Dragon River is Peter Matthiessen's account of his life with Zen from his first experience in the practice. In the book, he shares sections of his notebooks and diaries to illustrate his Zen trajectory and travels. This section is from the second part of the book and set in Shey, Nepal, from where… Continue reading All The Peaks are Covered with Snow—Why is this one Bare?

Book Excerpts

Alan Watts on Beat Zen and Square Zen

Our favorite rogue Zen philosopher, Alan Watts had a gift for contextualizing the principles of Zen and translating them in a way that non-Buddhist people would be able to comprehend. In this excerpt from his short book, 'Beat Zen Square Zen and Zen', he talks about the importance of understanding our own culture thoroughly so… Continue reading Alan Watts on Beat Zen and Square Zen

Book Excerpts, Tibetan Texts

The Four Reminders

The Four Reminders are a wake up bell to the imminence of our own mortality. Mostly expounded by Tibetan Buddhists, the Four Reminders are a set of principles that emphasize the preciousness of being and the miracle of this one human life. Death can come at any moment - it could come with the next… Continue reading The Four Reminders

Book Excerpts

Thich Nhat Hanh on the Elements of True Love

What are the most basic elements of love and how can we manifest them in our lives and our relationships? This is the question that Thich Nhat Hanh tackles in his short book, 'True Love'. Looking at human love through the lens of Buddhist teaching, he breaks it down into four aspects: loving-kindness, compassion, joy… Continue reading Thich Nhat Hanh on the Elements of True Love