A language without words

from the Vimalakirti Sutra: “There will come a time when many will no longer need words, when we will be beyond words … words can be clung to, and we should not cling to things. Understand that the words of the Buddha are like a raft built to cross a river: When its purpose is completed, it must be left …

What is Life? Two views

*** Like a star at dawn “Your days pass like rainbows, like a flash of lightning, like a star at dawn. Your life is short. How can you quarrel?” (The Buddha) *** A firefly in the night “What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. …

Zen: A new twist on an old story

MAMIYA was a worldly man, but he thought he ought to study Zen. So he went to a great teacher, who told him to concentrate on the famous koan: “What is the sound of one hand?” Mamiya went away, and came back a week later, shaking his head. He could not get it. “Get out!” said the master. “You are not trying hard …

How dirt is filtered through an empty mind

“Zazen (Zen meditation) is like water in a glass. Let the water sit quietly and soon the dirt will sink to the bottom.” –Zen master Taisen Deshimaru On the surface zazen would appear to be the easiest thing in the world: Sit in a chair for 15 or so minutes with an empty mind. But did you ever try to empty …

How one man learned to concentrate

A warlord once stopped at a monastery on his way home from a successful military campaign to visit the abbot who was an old teacher of his. As the abbot and the warlord sat in the courtyard pleasantly chatting and drinking tea, they were distracted by an argument between a novice and a senior monk. The novice was complaining that …

Enlightened Virtue

Mingjiao said: Nothing is more honorable than enlightenment, nothing is more beautiful than virtue. Those who have enlightened virtue have it even though they be ordinary people, while those who lack enlightened virtue lack it even though they be kings. There were some people who starved to death in ancient times but have been admired ever since for their virtue; …

How to practice zazen

Science shows that people who practice zazen, or Zen meditation, gain many proven benefits. These include increased attention span, self-confidence, and self-discipline; better management of fear and anger; and a greater ability to feel genuine joy, compassion, and gratitude. “But mostly,” says Karen Maezen Miller, a Zen Buddhist priest, “zazen is entirely personal. Only you can experience this transformation for yourself.” Maezen …

View from a moving train

By Jakusho Kwong Roshi Whenever I give a talk, the listeners and I may find ourselves in a paradoxical situation: as words and phrases can often become abstractions, I try to explain something that can’t be explained, and the listeners try to hear something that can’t be heard. Since by necessity this is the situation, we can sympathize with each other—me …

Big day for vegetables

There were two Zen temples; each had a child protégé. One child going to obtain vegetables each morning would meet the other on the way. ‘Where are you going?’ asked the one. ‘I am going wherever my feet go.’ the other responded. This reply puzzled the first child who went to his teacher for help. ‘Tomorrow morning,’ the teacher told …

Have a cup of tea

JOSHU asked a monk who appeared for the first time in the hall, “Have I ever seen you here before?” The monk answered, “No sir, you have not.” “Then have a cup of tea,” said Joshu. He turned to another monk. “Have I ever seen you here before?” he said. “Yes sir, of course you have,” said the second monk. …