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

Book Excerpts

The Asbestos-Clad Stove of Burning Coals – Tim Parks on Why Meditation Can Be Painful

Anyone who has embarked on a prolonged meditation retreat will know that the experience is often a far cry from the blissed out enlightenment we thought we'd signed up for. In his book, Teach Us To Sit Still, Tim Parks gives a candid, humorous and humane account of his own trajectory from disbelief and pain… Continue reading The Asbestos-Clad Stove of Burning Coals – Tim Parks on Why Meditation Can Be Painful

Book Excerpts

Plum Blossoms Harmonize with Snow – Shundo Aoyama

Shundo Aoyama first entered a Zen temple at the age of 5, and became a priest at 15. She is one of the most well-known Zen masters in Japan and at 86 years old, she is still active in her teaching of the practice. Her book, Zen Seeds, is a collection of short reflections about… Continue reading Plum Blossoms Harmonize with Snow – Shundo Aoyama

Book Excerpts

House Builder, You Have Now Been Seen

Sherab Chödzin Kohn is a student of Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa, and lives in Boulder, Colorado. His book, The Awakened One, is a biography of the Buddha. This extract describes the key moment of Buddha's liberation when he 'saw through the very last trace of ignorance in himself' at the first light of dawn.… Continue reading House Builder, You Have Now Been Seen

Sutra Excerpts, Sutras

The Dhammapada: If One Knew Oneself to be Precious

Buddhist teachings put a lot of emphasis on compassion and caring for others, but we must also remember that that care needs to start with ourselves. This verse from the Dhammapada - one of the most popular and widely read Buddhist scriptures - reminds us that 'oneself is one's own protector. What other protector could there… Continue reading The Dhammapada: If One Knew Oneself to be Precious