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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
"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
With great power also comes great responsibility, but not always great wisdom. Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu, whose writings form one of the pillars of Taosim, took a dim view of much of human activity and the accumulation of power and knowledge, recommending instead the cultivation of a kind of wisdom in tune with the Tao,… Continue reading Chuang Tzu: How To Find What You Already Know?
How can we live well in the modern world? Is it necessary to retreat to a monastery or can we continue our spiritual practice in the midst of our family lives and careers? This is a theme that Les Kaye, the Abbot of Kannon Do Zen Center in California's tech hub Silicon Valley, explores in… Continue reading Les Kaye – In the Midst of Ordinary Life