Thursday, March 31, 2016

In a Nutshell

Books may point the may, but they are not the experience.

Buddhism is an experiential tradition.

English Proverb

He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I came across this image on a site shared by some thoughtful people. My first reaction was from my basic training in meditation - thoughts come and go, come and go . . . .

My second impression was the impermanence of all things; worries, joys, headaches, laughs, everything.

Then the words of the Buddha came to mind: Don't worry about the past, it's over.

House Cleaning

When you study Buddhism you should have a general house cleaning of your mind.

---Shunryu Suzuki

No Trace

When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.

---Shunryu Suzuki--- 

Zen and Excitement

Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.

---Shunryu Suzuki---

Chilled Tomato Soup

3 pounds of garden tomatoes, quartered (get the tomatoes from your garden or a Farmers' Market - do not use tasteless supermarket tomatoes)
1 cup of tomato juice, or as needed to create the consistency you prefer
1/4 cup of chopped fresh dill (substitute dill if you'd prefer)
1 or 2 scallions, minced (allow your own taste to decide how many)
The juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and process to a chunky puree'.

Transfer to a covered container and chill before serving.

Makes a nice early garden lunch.

Picnic Relish

1 cup of finely chopped celery
1 cup of chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup of sliced scallions
2 cups of diced tomato, with all the juices
1 cup of chopped cucumbers, with skin
1 tablespoon of chopped chives
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Toss all the ingredients to thoroughly mix.

Chill for 1 hour.


In a Nutshell

The Teachings and the Practices of the Buddha-Dharma are guides to help one experience Reality free of the filter of opinion.

Much of Life is Unknowable (or - A Big, Huge Mess)

We just need to feel we know, or we can't rest. And yet much of life is unknowable and will remain so. Lots of religions try to deal with this by inventing explanations and myths.

But myths only work if you don't try to turn them into factual explanations. If you try to turn your myths into literal, inerrant truths—if, for example, you start insisting that Noah really did build an ark or that the Earth was created in six days a few thousand years ago, it just becomes a big, huge mess.

---Brad Warner---

Humans Need Explanations - Created or Discovered

  Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
  Man got to sit and wonder "why, why, why."
  Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land;
  Man got to tell himself he understand.

                                        ---Kurt Vonnegut---

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Do You Know or Do You Repeat?

If you just parrot back an answer, even if it's the right answer, it's meaningless unless you know it for yourself.

---Brad Warner---

In a Nutshell

You now know that even in the Black Mountain Cave of Demons there is complete freedom.

---Master Dogen---

In a Nutshell

Buddhism is about cutting through delusion. 

Most of the delusion is our own.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Few Words on Rebirth

On occasion, when one of his [the Buddha] disciples who had not reached full awakening passed away, he would comment on the disciple's rebirth — as when Anathapindika the householder, after his passing, appeared to the Buddha as a heavenly being. When any of the Buddha's fully awakened disciples passed away, he would state that one of the amazing features of their passing was that their consciousness could no longer be found in the cosmos. Rebirth, he said, happened to those who still had clinging, but not to those who didn't. And one of his own amazing attainments as Buddha, he said, was that after the end of this life, the world would see him no more.

---Thanissaro Bhikkhu, in The Truth of Rebirth---

Friday, March 25, 2016


Confucius, in the Analects, states, "a superior man in dealing with the world has neither likes nor dislikes."

Four Obstacles

The Master abstained from four things: willfulness, forcefulness, stubbornness, and selfishness.

---The Analects of Confucius---


Within the teaching and the practice of Buddhism, the concept of self is regarded as the greatest obstacle to the realization of Enlightenment.


The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.

---This quote is attributed to several people. I'm unable to determine it's origin.
I don't think the origin matters as much as the teaching.---

Calm Thought

A ruler should not call his general to arms simply out of anger . . .

---The Art of War, by Sun Tzu---

A Question

Question: Does it matter if a Buddhist Practitioner is gay, straight, bi, or transgender?

Answer: No.

A Question

Question: Is Buddhism open to gay people?

Answer: Yes.

A Question

Question: Does Buddhism teach anything about same gender relationships?

Answer: No.

Mushroom and Tofu Stew

1 cup of vegetable broth
2 tablespoons of mushroom soy sauce (dark soy sauce may be substituted)
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 pound of your favorite mushroom
1/4 pound of extra-firm tofu
2 scallions or 2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 tablespoon of sweet red chili sauce
White pepper to taste

Mix the broth with the soy sauce and the sugar. Set this aside.

Add oil to a hot wok set over high heat and stir fry the mushrooms for 1 minutes. Drain the mushrooms on a paper towel.

Add a little more oil and stir fry the tofu for 1 minute.

Return the mushrooms to the wok, add 1/2 of the scallions or spring onion, pour in the stock-soy-sugar mixture. Bring this to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes.

Add the cornstarch mixture and stir quickly.

Transfer to a warm serving dish. Sprinkle with the sesame oil, the sweet chili sauce, and the remain scallion or spring onion.

Serve with plain boiled rice or stir-fried bok choi.

Black Bean Salad with Feta and Red Peppers

Two 16-ounce cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 medium red bell peppers, cut into short thin strips
1/2 cup of vinaigrette
1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley
2/3 cup of crumbled feta cheese

Combine the beans, the red bell peppers, the vinaigrette, and the parsley in a mixing bowl and toss well.

Divide the salad among individual plates and top each with the feta.


Warm Potato Salad with Goat Cheese

2 1/2 pounds of medium red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed
1/2 cup of vinaigrette
6 ounces of baby greens
4 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled

Bake or microwave the potatoes until done but still firm.

When the potatoes have cooled enough to handle cut them into a large dice.

Combine the potatoes with the vinaigrette in a mixing bowl and stir gently. Allow the potatoes to rest for 10 minutes.

Divide the greens among 4 salad plates. Drain off any excess vinaigrette from the potatoes and drizzle it over the greens.

Divide the potatoes among the salad plates, placing them atop the greens.

Top each with the goat cheese and serve.

Starving-Student Corn Relish Salad

One 16-ounce package of frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
2 large celery stalks, finely diced
2 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
1/2 cup vinaigrette, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients in serving container and toss well.

Serve immediately or refrigerate until needed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Fukanzazengi (Rules for Zazen) by Eihei Dogen

The way is basically perfect and all-pervading. How could it be contingent upon practice and realization? The dharma-vehicle is free and untrammeled. What need is there for concentrated effort? Indeed, the whole body is far beyond the world's dust. Who could believe in a means to brush it clean? It is never apart from one, right where one is. What is the use of going off here and there to practice?

And yet, if there is the slightest discrepancy, the way is as distant as heaven from earth. If the least like or dislike arises, the mind is lost in confusion. Suppose one gains pride of understanding and inflates one's own enlightenment, glimpsing the wisdom that runs through all things, attaining the way and clarifying the mind, raising an aspiration to the very sky. One is making the initial, partial excursions about the frontiers but is still somewhat deficient in the vital way of total emancipation.

Need I mention the Buddha, who was possessed of inborn knowledge? The influence of his six years of upright sitting is noticeable still. Or Bodhidharma's transmission of the mind-seal? The fame of his nine years of wall-sitting is celebrated to this day. Since this was the case with the saints of old, how can we today dispense with negotiation of the way?

You should therefore cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay.

For zazen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. Cast aside all involvements and cease all affairs. Do not think good or bad. Do not administer pros and cons. Cease all the movements of the conscious mind, the gauging of all thought and views. Have no designs on becoming a buddha. Zazen has nothing whatever to do with sitting or lying down.

At the site of your regular sitting, spread out thick matting and place a cushion above it. Sit either in the full-lotus or half-lotus position. In the full-lotus position, you first place your right foot on your left thigh and your left foot on your right thigh. In the half-lotus, you simply press your left foot against your right thigh. You should have your robes and belt loosely bound and arranged in order. Then place your right hand on your left leg and your left palm (facing upward) on your right palm, thumb-tips touching. Thus sit upright in correct bodily posture, neither inclining to the left nor to the right, neither leaning forward nor backward. Be sure your ears are on a plane with your shoulders and your nose in line with your navel. Place your tongue against the front roof of your mouth, with teeth and lips both shut. Your eyes should always remain open, and you should breathe gently through your nose. Once you have adjusted your posture, take a deep breath, inhale and exhale, rock your body right and left and settle into a steady, immovable sitting position. Think of not-thinking. How do you think of not-thinking? Nonthinking. This in itself is the essential art of zazen.

The zazen I speak of is not learning meditation. It is simply the dharma-gate of repose and bliss, the practice-realization of totally culminated enlightenment. It is the manifestation of ultimate reality. Traps and snares can never reach it. Once its heart is grasped, you are like a dragon gaining the water, like a tiger taking to the mountains. For you must know that just there (in zazen) the right dharma is manifesting itself and that from the first dullness and distraction are struck aside.

When you arise from sitting, move slowly and quietly, calmly and deliberately. Do not rise suddenly or abruptly. In surveying the past, we find that transcendence of both unenlightenment and enlightenment, and dying while either sitting or standing, have all depended entirely on the strength of zazen.

In addition, the bringing about of enlightenment by the opportunity provided by a finger, a banner, a needle, or a mallet, and the effecting of realization with the aid of a hossu, a fist, a staff, or a shout cannot be fully understood by discriminative thinking. Indeed, it cannot be fully known by the practicing or realizing of supernatural powers either. It must be deportment beyond hearing and seeing - is it not a principle that is prior to knowledge and perceptions?

This being the case, intelligence or lack of it does not matter, between the dull and the sharp-witted there is no distinction. If you concentrate your effort single-mindedly, that in itself is negotiating the way. Practice-realization is naturally undefiled. Going forward in practice is a matter of everydayness.

In general, this world and other worlds as well, both in India and China equally hold the buddha-seal; and over all prevails the character of this school, which is simply devotion to sitting, total engagement in immovable sitting. Although it is said that there are as many minds as there are persons, still they all negotiate the way solely in zazen. Why leave behind the seat that exists in your home and go aimlessly off to the dusty realms of other lands? If you make one misstep you go astray from the way directly before you.

You have gained the pivotal opportunity of human form. Do not use your time in vain. You are maintaining the essential working of the buddha way. Who would take wasteful delight in the spark from the flintstone? Besides, form and substance are like the dew on the grass, destiny like the dart of lightning - emptied in an instant, vanished in a flash.

Please, honored followers of Zen. Long accustomed to groping for the elephant, do not be suspicious of the true dragon. Devote your energies to a way that directly indicates the absolute. Revere the person of complete attainment who is beyond all human agency. Gain accord with the enlightenment of the buddhas; succeed to the legitimate lineage of the ancestors' samadhi. Constantly perform in such a manner and you are assured of being a person such as they. Your treasurestore will open of itself, and you will use it at will.

Don't Just Read About It

There is an old story about a guy who collected Godzilla action figures, but when the real Godzilla came to visit him he ran away. We shouldn't be like that, just reading stories about other people who've done zazen but not doing it ourselves.

---Brad Warner, paraphrasing Eihei Dogen--- 

Do It

If you want to attain it then just do it.

---Brad Warner, paraphrasing Eihei Dogen---

Monday, March 21, 2016


"There are loads of other Buddhist practices, Dogen! Zazen is just one of them. So how come you say all of Buddha's teachings are contained in this one practice?"

You're only asking this because people have named the true essential teachings of Buddhism the "Zen sect." This term was never used in ancient India. It was invented by the Chinese. This is because some dumbasses who encountered Bodhidharma and his followers thought he was a kind of Hindu who practiced a thing called zazen. Then they dropped the za part and started calling them the Zen sect. Za means "to sit" and zen is a Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word chan, which is their pronunciation of the Sanskrit word dhyana, meaning "meditation."

But what the Buddha actually taught was zazen. This was transmitted to us by his authentic successors. Zazen is the complete path and the whole truth of Buddhism.

---Brad Warner paraphrasing Eihei Dogen, in Don't Be a Jerk---

Sunday, March 20, 2016

You Decide

During the many talks I give on Buddhism to a non-Buddhist audience I'm asked some recurring questions.

        Why am I bald?

        Do I eat meat?

        Do I have a sex life? (Yes, I'm asked that question more often than one would think.)

        Why is the Buddha depicted as a fat man? (That's not the Buddha.)

        What's the biggest difference between Buddhism and Christianity?

I'm going to focus on the last question.

There are many difference between Buddhism and Christianity. Each time I'm asked that question I give one of many different answers. The answer depends on the audience and what has recently happened in my life.

Today, for this post, I'll share one answer.

Christianity will give you answers and instructions: does and do-nots. Buddhism does not offer that kind of direction.

Buddhism will tell you every action has a consequence. Buddhism will teach you to look to compassion and wisdom.

Always remember, Buddhism will tell you every action will have consequences.

As he lay dying, the Buddha advised us to, "Strive with earnestness."

You make your own decisions. Allow those decisions to be guided equally by compassion and wisdom. Know that any and all decisions will have one or more consequences.

You must make your own decisions. No one will make them for you.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Freedom in Zen practice is not to do whatever one wants but to break through the seeming boundaries of subject and object as well as the distinctions between delusion and enlightenment that hinder us from the realization of things as they are.

A Meal with the Buddha

At times, people would respectfully invite the Buddha to their homes for a meal.

When the Buddha accepted these invitations, he would go to the patron's home and sit on the prepared mat. The host would take the Buddha's bowl and fill it with with the best of foods.

After eating and washing his hands, the Buddha would teach his host and those others gathered in the home. The Buddha often spoke of intention. He explained how, after performing a wholesome or unwholesome act the individual has to face the consequences of those actions.

The Buddha taught actions cause either, wholesome, or non-wholesome, or a neutral response.

Whatever the response to the action, the Buddha explained, had to be faced.

The Buddha

After his realization and attainment of Enlightenment, the Buddha taught for forty-five years. He traveled to and from the neighboring kingdoms and republics in India, both large and small. He always traveled on foot, he never used a vehicle.

During the raining seasons, the Buddha stayed at monasteries donated to him by various patrons.

The monasteries where the Buddha stayed most often were Venuvana, near Rajagrha, given to him by King Bimbisara and at Jetavana, near Sravasti, donated by Anathapindika.

During all those forty-five years, the Buddha daily practiced meditation and taught the Dharma.

Two Kinds of Practice

In Buddhism there are two kinds of practice, devotional and transformational. To practice devotion is to rely primarily on the power of another, who may be a buddha or a god. To practice transformation is to rely more on yourself and the path you are following.

---Thich Nhat Hanh---

Blind Faith

In the teaching and the practice of Buddhism, blind faith is not encouraged.

In fact, it is advised against.

Think for yourself. Investigate, Explore. Discover.

Alexander Taming Bucephalus

Artwork by F. Schommer

Taming the Ox

The whip and tether cannot be put aside or the ox
        may wander into mud-filled swamps.

When patiently trained to trust, it becomes gentle
        and can be unfettered.

Then, freely, it follows your way.

In a Nutshell

“Even if the whole universe is nothing but a bunch of jerks doing all kinds of jerk-type things, there is still liberation in simply not being a jerk.” 

---Brad Warner, paraphrasing Eihei Dogen, in Don't Be a Jerk---

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Evening Introspection

Take 3 to 5 breaths, then allow your body to return to the natural rhythm of its breathing. Then, concentrate on each phrase as you exhale. Do not concentrate on the inhale, only on the exhale. Concentrate on each phrase for a cycle of 5 to 10 breaths. End the introspection with 3 to 5 deeps breaths.

Am I thinking more of myself than others?

Am I less or more irritated by others and the things that happen around me?

Do I spend too much time pondering others and their weaknesses?

Am I holding any grudges?

Do I wait in ambush for others?

Have I brought things to a painful point?

Have I shown kindness and compassion to someone?

Have I said "I love you" to someone?

For what am I grateful for today?

Morning Dedication

This recitation should be repeated slowly 3 times so at least one of them will be recited mindfully and intentionally.

I have wasted enough time. Why waste any more time?
Today I will do something constructive and beneficial
with my time instead of squandering it on meaningless

My life could easily have been different. I might have
died in infancy, be suffering grinding poverty, or be
experiencing any of the things that are anathema to
pursuing a life of love, kindness, and compassion. I
am truly fortunate indeed.

If even mountains are subject to change and dissolution,
how much more so is my body which is sometimes
susceptible to disease, breakdown, the elements,
accidents, and all kinds of harm? I must utilize the
opportunities of today before the chance is lost forever.

Morels with Calvados

Spring is coming. In West Michigan morels grow wild. With my family, it's a tradition to search for morels. My youngest brother knows their secrets and finds many of them.

To me, wild forest morels are the finest of mushrooms.

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 pound of morels, trimmed, brushed, and sliced lengthwise in half
Fresh lemon juice to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup of Calvados
1/2 cup of heavy (or whipping) cream
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh tarragon

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the morels and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms give up their liquid, about 6 minutes.

Sprinkle the morels with lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.

When just a few drops of liquid remain, remove the pan from the heat. Immediatly pour in the Calvados and allow it to bubble until it is mostly evaporated.

Add the cream, and return the pan to to stove. Boil over medium-high heat until the sauce is of coating consistency, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the chopped tarragon and spoon onto serving plates.

You may enjoy garnishing the mushrooms with toasted and buttered French or Italian bread.

You may also try the musrooms scattered over freshly cooked hot fettuccine.