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

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

Texts, Chinese Texts, Indian Texts

The Awakening of Faith

The Awakening of Faith (the Mahāyāna śraddhotpādaśāstra) is a text that summarizes the major tenets of Mahayana Buddhism and gives hands-on advice for transcending our finite lives to participate in the infinite life while living in the midst of phenomena. The origin of the text is shrouded in mystery: it has for a long time… Continue reading The Awakening of Faith

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

Book Excerpts

Jung and the Meaning of Self-Knowledge

In his essay 'The Undiscovered Self', written later in his career and after the atrocities of the Second World War, Jung emphasized the importance of self-awareness in individuals in order to counter the frivolous effects of mass culture. In this extract, he explains his vision of how one person's inward realization can affect their environment… Continue reading Jung and the Meaning of Self-Knowledge

Sutra Excerpts

A State Where There is Neither Earth, nor Water, nor Heat, nor Air

This excerpt from one of Buddha's teachings, taken from the Nibbana Sutta, echoes the line in the Heart Sutra about form and emptiness, and the nature of reality, given that emptiness. There is a base, or state, where phenomena are not as we perceive them on a day to day basis, where the dichotomies of… Continue reading A State Where There is Neither Earth, nor Water, nor Heat, nor Air

Chinese Texts, Koans

Master Ma-tsu and Original Mind

"Strange words and extraordinary actions" were the hallmark of 8th century Ch'an master Ma-tsu (also written as Mazu Daoyi) whose teaching methods involved the kind of unorthodox actions that became associated with certain forms of Zen, especially Rinzai. Ma-tsu was particularly fond of holding up his fly whisk, shouting and hitting his students, in order… Continue reading Master Ma-tsu and Original Mind