When things fall apart

ZEN MASTER Ikkyu showed his wisdom even as a child. Once he broke the precious heirloom teacup of his teacher, and was greatly upset. While he was wondering what to do, he heard his teacher coming. Quickly he hid the pieces of the cup under his robe. “Master,” he said, “why do things die?” “It is perfectly natural for things to die and for …

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Meditation … not isolation

The state kept their families small. The economy pushed their children to faraway cities. Struggling with solitude and stress, China’s elderly are killing themselves at an alarming rate. Almost one of every three elderly in rural China are killing themselves. Experts say this situation could be improved if only the lonely, isolated people could focus on the Zen path that …

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An Old, Old Thing

When Zen teacher Bobby Rhodes was just beginning her practice with Master Seung Sahn during the hippie era, she had a reputation for being fond of things that were old: clothing, jewelry and other such items. One day her teacher came to her and said: “I have a present for you. It’s something really, really old.” Seung Sahn dropped the …

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The definition of Egotism

The Prime Minister of the Tang Dynasty was a national hero for his success as both a statesman and military leader. But despite his fame, power, and wealth, he considered himself a humble and devout Buddhist. Often he visited his favorite Zen master to study under him, and they seemed to get along very well. The fact that he was …

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How the Dalai Lama handles stress

It’s only a small exaggeration to say that no one on earth has had the stress of the Dalai Lama, after having escaped Tibet, crossing the Himalayas at night in the middle of winter, chased by a cadre if Chinese soldiers. But he has devised his own method for dealing with stress. He describes it like this: One of the …

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A Buddhist New Year

Bodhisattva is the Sanskrit term for anyone who, motivated by great compassion, has a wish to attain buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. Our wish for the new year is that we all adopt the Dalai Lama’s bodhisattva vow: “Every day, think as you wake up: Today I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive. I have …

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The two dogs story

The great British playwright George Bernard Shaw told the story of a Cherokee elder who once described his own inner struggles in this manner: “Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he …

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A simple red leaf

In his very short commentary on the Heart Sutra, the Heart of Understanding, one chapter is called “Happy Continuation.” Here, Thich Nhat Hanh comments on the line from the Heart Sutra in which the Bodhisattva Avalokita says: “Hear, Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness. They are neither produced nor destroyed.” Reflecting on this, Thich Nhat Hanh writes: One autumn day, …

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No objective world

Once there was a monk who specialized in the Buddhist precepts, and he kept to them all his life. Once when he was walking at night, he stepped on something. It made a squishing sound, and he imagined he had stepped on an egg-bearing frog. This caused him no end of alarm and regret, in view of the Buddhist precept …

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If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break

James Ishmael Ford’s latest book of the above title challenges our view of the world and offers a newer view more in line with Zen and the teachings of the old masters. Ford, the only American to be ordained a Zen priest and a Unitarian minister, asks us to remember the story of a Zen master who holds up a …