June 26, 2013
"Ego is a social institution with no physical reality. The ego is simply your symbol of yourself. Just as the word “water” is a noise that symbolizes a certain liquid without being it, so too the idea of ego symbolizes the role you play, who you are, but it is not the same as your living organism."

— Alan Watts
Buddhism : The Religion of No-Religion

June 12, 2013
"If the mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few."

— Shunryu Suzuki

May 25, 2013
Everyday Life is the Path

Joshu asked Nansen: `What is the path?’

Nansen said: `Everyday life is the path.’

Joshu asked: `Can it be studied?’

Nansen said: `If you try to study, you will be far away from it.’

Joshu asked: `If I do not study, how can I know it is the path?’

Nansen said: `The path does not belong to the perception world, neither does it belong to the nonperception world. Cognition is a delusion and noncognition is senseless. If you want to reach the true path beyond doubt, place yourself in the same freedom as sky. You name it neither good nor not-good.’

At these words Joshu was enlightened.

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Filed under: the gateless gate zen 
April 25, 2013
Tangled up in koans.

The surest way to confuse and confound people is by giving them words that seem to make some kind of sense.  People are suckers for things that make sense, like sensible, logical words.  All words are magic words, to the suckers who look for meaning.  All words are traps for the unwary. There is no fixed meaning behind anything, words especially.  That’s how it is.  But no matter what words one uses to explain that wonderful bit of truth, people just won’t believe you. They can’t understand senselessness, because it just doesn’t make sense.  The best thing to say is nothing, because nothingness is everything.

When the Master of Zen suddenly slaps you senseless, please thank him for me.  Say, “It was nothing.”

March 10, 2013
The priceless head of a dead cat.

Sozan, a Chinese Zen master, was asked by a student: “What is the most valuable thing in the world?”

The master replied: “The head of a dead cat.”

"Why is the head of a dead cat the most valuable thing in the world?" inquired the student.

Sozan replied: “Because no one can name its price.”

(Source: cincinato.org)

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Filed under: zen koan cat 
March 18, 2012
Zen koan

Hogen, a Chinese Zen teacher, lived alone in a small temple in the country. One day four traveling monks appeared and asked if they might make a fire in his yard to warm themselves.

While they were building the fire, Hogen heard them arguing about subjectivity and objectivity. He joined them and said: “There is a big stone. Do you consider it to be inside or outside your mind?”

One of the monks replied: “From the Buddhist viewpoint everything is an objectification of mind, so I would say that the stone is inside my mind.”

"Your head must feel very heavy," observed Hogen, "if you are carrying around a stone like that in your mind."

October 16, 2011
Fire poker Zen.

Hakuin was a teacher of Zen who had many pupils.  Some of those pupils had a harder time learning the Way than others, but Hakuin was wise in the methods of instruction, and had many tricks up his sleeve for unsuspecting students.

Hakuin used to tell his students about an old woman in the nearby village who had a great understanding of Zen.  She was the proprietor of a teashop, he said.  ”She has better Zen in one bony finger than any of you donkeys have in all of your body,” Hakuin would tell them.  When his students expressed disbelief that an old woman who served tea could be a master of Zen, Hakuin would tell them simply, “Why don’t you inquire into the matter yourself?”

Because Hakuin had been sending pupils to the old woman’s teashop for years, she was always ready for them.  If they were respectful, and asked for tea, she served them tea, in an elegant ceremony.  But if a student was impertinent, and challenged her with koans, testing her knowledge of the Way, she would beckon him behind her screen.  ”Come.  Let me show you my Zen,” the old woman would say.

And when the hapless boy came behind the screen, the old woman would point to a spot on the wall, and as the student peered at it, she would whack him on the ass, hard, with the fire poker.  Then she would smile, hold her finger to her lips, and say, “Don’t tell.”

It is hard to say who brought more students to Enlightenment.  Was it Hakuin, or his friend, the old woman who served tea?

July 6, 2011
Carrying The Moon In A Bucket

The story is told of the nun, Chiyono, who studied Zen under Bukko. For a long time she was unable to attain enlightenment, though she sat in meditation for many hours each day. 

In the monastery, one of Chiyono’s jobs was to bring water to the cook in an old wooden pail. This bucket had been patched and repaired many times. The staves were bound with strips of bamboo, tied around its circumference. 

One moonlit evening, Chiyono was carrying the bucket, full to the brim with water from the well. As she walked slowly up the path, holding the handle of the bucket in one hand and trying to twist the bucket’s bindings with the other, Chiyono noticed the Moon, reflected in the water’s surface. She paused to admire the Moon in the bucket. How beautifully it gleemed! 

Suddenly the bamboo strips holding the bucket together broke. The old bucket came apart; the bottom fell out. The water splashed onto the ground, along with the remains of the bucket, leaving Chiyono holding the useless handle in one hand and a piece of bamboo strip in the other. There was no water left in the pail; no Moon in the water. Chiyono stared at the broken bucket regretfully. 

Then she looked up to see the Moon, gleeming beautifully in the dark sky, round, white, silent. In that moment, the bamboo strips which bound her mind broke, and in that moment Chiyono became Enlightened. 

And so she remained for all her long life, and many students sat with her. 

To commemorate the moment of her Enlightenment, Chiyono wrote a poem: 

In this way and that I tried to save the old pail 
Since the bamboo strip was weakening and about to break 
Until at last the bottom fell out. 
No more water in the pail! 
No more Moon in the water! 

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Filed under: Zen Moon bucket 
June 30, 2011

You can’t hold on to your self. The very moment you give your self up, you realize the self which is one with the universe.

Precisely that self which I haven’t thought up is who I really am.

The entire universe radiates the light of the self.
So I fill the entire universe. I’m not that fool playing with his pocket change.

This body is the whole universe. If you don’t have that kind of faith in yourself, you’ll have a weak point you won’t be able to hide. As soon as you get jealous or moody, you’ll show it.

Just forget everything you’ve picked up since you were born.

When a drop of water enters the sea, and when a speck of dust settles on the ground, then that drop is already the sea, and that speck of dust is already the earth.

All things are contained in my self. That’s why, in my actions, I also have to pay attention to what others expect.

It is because we are grateful towards society that whenever we use something, we think of those who will need it after us.


— Kodo Sawaki, Master of Zen

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Filed under: zen Kodo Sawaki 
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