Friday, December 16, 2011

Does one need a living Guru?

An excellent and inspiring short answer from Michael James, the dedicated exponent of the path of Sri Ramana Maharshi:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bio of Maurice Frydman pt. 2

Part 2 of the biography of the fascinating western Jnani Maurice Frydman, in the new Saranagati:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bio of Maurice Frydman, pt 1

The above link is to the November newsletter of the Ramanasramam, Saranagati. In it is part one of a bio of the fascinating Maurice Frydman, the editor of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj's "I Am That" as well as a student of Maharaj's, Mahatma Gandhi, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and Sri Ramana Maharshi. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj once commented that Frydman was a jnani- a realized being. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Jewish Advaita

Contemplating the Word “Echad (One)”

“ 'Shma Ysrael, Adonai Eloheynu Adonai Echad': Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One (Deuteronomy 6:6). When during this part of the prayer service a person recites the word ‘One,’ he should contemplate that the Holy One, blessed be He, is all that truly exists in the universe, for ‘the entire world is filled with His Glory’ (Isaiah 6:3). One must realize that he is nothing, for the essence of a person is his soul, and the soul is but a ‘portion of God Above’ (Shefa Tal 1a). Therefore, nothing truly exists except the Holy One, blessed be He.”

Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritch, Likkutim Yekarim (sec. 161)

The True “I”

“ ‘I, I am the One Who consoles you…’ (Isaiah 51:12). When one realizes that the true ‘I’ is God, and nothing else exists besides Him, then [the divine promise is fulfilled that] ‘I am the One Who consoles you.’ “

Rabbi Gedaliah of Linitz, Teshu’os Chen, Tzav (cited in Me’iras Einayim, Inyan “Emunah”)
Similarly, Ohr Ha-Ganuz La-Tzaddikim (Mattos) states:

“One must realize that essentially he, too, is Godliness. When one considers that the ‘self’ is really nothing, then Godliness will rest upon him.”

No Need to Go Any Farther

“It is not necessary to ‘place’ oneself in Godliness – but only to realize that everything is subsumed in the Divine Light.”

Rabbi Aharon Hakohen of Zhelikhov, Ohr Ha-Ganuz La-Tzaddikim (Vayera)

quoted by R' David Sears in "The Baal Shem Tov's Way of Meditation" at

and from another essay by R' David Sears from the same blog "Living In The Present Moment", a teaching from R' Noson of Breslov:

Likkutei Halachot, Matanah 5

Reb Noson:

Every perceptive person understands that time does not exist. The past is gone, the future has not come, and the present is like the blink of an eye. Thus, the life of a man is only this instant in which he stands.

Consider this, and in whatever circumstance you may find yourself -- even in the depths of Hell --you will be able to cleave to G-d in each moment.

It is written: "See, now, that I, I am He..." (Deuteronomy 32:39):
See now, precisely. Through the paradigm of now, you are able to see that I, I am He and begin anew, in each moment, to cleave to G-d.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Inter/trans Faith: Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

There is no communication in relative truth without understanding everyone's system and idea, so may I adapt to everyone's system, wishing for everyone's benefit.

There is no liberation in absolute truth without release from everyone's system and idea, so may I adapt to no one's system, beyond benefit's wish.

-Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, from Magic Dance: The Display of The Self-Nature of The Five Wisdom Dakinis (Shambhala Publications 1998)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How To Learn From A Guru: A Story of Sri Ramana Maharshi and Kunju Swami

In Pirke Avot, the classic work on Jewish ethics and Avoda (spiritual practice), it is said:

 (בן זומא אומר, איזה הוא חכם--הלמד מכל אדם, שנאמר "מכל מלמדיי, השכלתי" (תהילים קיט,צט

"Who is wise? One who learns from every person, as it says, "From all my teachers I grew in discernment. (Psalms)".

The interesting thing about this quote is the active tense in the quote from King David in Psalms- from all my teachers I grew in discernment, not "all my teachers taught me something". This points to the fact that it is ultimately our responsibility to learn from all of our teachers, even bad ones. If that is true, how much more is it our responsibility to maximize our learning from good ones! The following story illustrates an excellent student, a true chacham (wise one), Kunju Swami:

At the end of the meal everyone left except Sri Bhagavan (Ramana Maharshi) and me. Sri Bhagavan, who had not spoken to me until then, took some flour from a small tin, put it in a pot, poured some water from his kamandalu ( a water pot made from a coconut shell) over it, and mixed it with a spoon and the  heated the mixture on the charcoal stove that was kept there to heat the rooms. Thinking that Sri Bhagavan was preparing some kaya kalpa (magical concoction), I sat quietly, hoping to get some myself. After the contacts had turned into a paste, Sri Bhagavan took the vessel off the stove and poured a portion of it onto a plate. Then he got up and lifted an upturned basket. Four puppies rushed out and raced towards the gruel on the plate. Thinking that it might be too hot for them, Sri Bhagavan tried to ward them off but was unable to do so.

Sri Bhagavan, who had not spoken to me til then, called out, "Catch hold of the four!"
I immediately caught hold of them. Then, after the gruel had cooled down a little, Sri Bhagavan said, :Let them go one by one."

As I had resolved to take Sri Bhagavan's first words to me as an upadesa (instruction-ed.), I took the first command to mean "Catch hold of the four mahavakyas" (great teachings of the Upanishads-ed.)
Releasing the pups one by one I took the second command to mean, "Give up desires and attachments one by one."

The puppies had their fill and wandered off to play. A few minutes later one of them urinated. Sri Bhagavan got up immediately, poured some water from his kamandalu and cleaned up the mess with an old gunny bag. I felt a strong urge to do this work myself, but since I felt that it was not proper on my part to do so without being asked, I just sat quietly, feeling slightly apprehensive. As Sri Bhagavan came back to sit down another puppy urinated. Sri Bhagavan saw that I was getting restless and asked me to clean up the mess by saying the single word "wipe". I got up and cleaned the spot with water.

"Wipe the mind and keep it clean." I felt that this was the third upadesa.

-From Godman, David. The Power of The Presence, Vol.2

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Three Gunas

June 9, 1935.

A man from Cocanada asked: My mind remains clear for two or three days and then turns dull for the next two or three days; and so it alternates. What is this due to?

Maharshi: It is quite natural- the play of brightness (sattva), activity (rajas) and darkness (tamas) alternating. Do not regret the tamas; but when the sattva comes into play, hold on to it fast and make the best of it.

(Talks with Ramana Maharshi, Inner Directions Edition, p.43.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What is our Yoga?

The other day I was walking down Johnson street in Victoria where I live and saw some young women doing a "yoga" demonstration outside of a Lululemon shop. They had put stripper poles on top of yoga mats and were acrobatically pirouetting around them, demonstrating some kind of brilliant new fusion of India's most ancient spiritual discipline and pole dancing. This got me thinking.What is Yoga?

I regularly give an introductory lecture on Ayurveda at a local Oriental Medicine College. Many of the students there, if not all, have attended a Yoga class and I often explore the meaning of the word Yoga with them as a way of exploring the relationship between Yoga and Ayurveda, as well as doing my very small bit to strike back at the commodification and dis-empowerment of Yoga happening here in North America with great speed.

What I point out in these lectures is that the word "Yoga" refers to any spiritual discipline. One particular type of yoga- hathayoga (lit. "the yoga of force, ie. the physical yoga") uses asanas (postures) and pranayamas (breathing exercises) as well as other practices meant to cleanse or transform the body in the quest for spiritual realization. Ayurveda, one of the orthodox medical traditions of India, also uses asanas and pranayamas, but not for spiritual realization. Ayurveda uses them for health. I then ask the students, "When you have attended a yoga class, how many did you feel were there looking for health benefits? And how many union with God or complete freedom from the delusions of the ego?" Almost everyone agrees that 95% or more are there looking for health benefits, including psychological ones. "In that case", I say, "What you attended was an Ayurvedic session, not a Yoga session."

There is nothing wrong with that of course- Ayurveda is great, and the use of asanas and pranayama for mental and physical health is great. It is misleading, though, and I think breeds dishonesty, when people tell themselves that they are practicing hathayoga when they just want to lose some weight or heal an old injury. The loss involved with this confusion is the loss of hathayoga itself. What, then, is Hathayoga?

Many of us are told that the meaning of the word Yoga is to unite, and that it refers to uniting the mind and the body in order to bring harmony to them. That is a fine poetic riff on the word, but that was not it's original meaning. The sanskrit word yoga is the same as the english word yoke, from the same route. It's earliest appearance in Indian religious texts uses it in a negative sense. The Buddha actually called his path "yogakhemam", which means "security from the yoke". Yoga meant "bondage, yoke" in the sense that a yoke was put on a farm animal. The Buddha said that his path lead to security from the yoke of delusion, greed, and hatred.

In later Indian tradition "yoga" came to mean spiritual discipline, in the sense that one could say "I have taken on the yoke of this training." People would talk about different yokes/disciplines that they were practicing for the sake of spiritual freedom. Patanjali, writing a few centuries after the Buddha, wrote his "yogasutras", or "teachings on spiritual discipline", where he set out what he had learned about the nature of supreme spiritual discipline and its goals. Patanjali combined Samkhya, Jain and Buddhist ideas with his own and wrote a masterpiece.

In the Yogasutras Patanjali says that the proper goal of Yoga is "the cessation of all conditioned/compulsive mental states" (yogascitavrttinirodha). Patanjali laid out an eight-limbed Yoga (modelled on the Buddha's Noble Eight-limbed Path) which included basic facility with comfortable postures (asana) for long meditation and simple breathing exercises (pranayama) to still the mind. This was part of a path of ethics, austerity, renunciation and meditation leading to the cessation of egoic, or limited states of mind, unveiling the liberated, boundless consciousness known in Buddhism as "Nirvana" and in Upanisadic culture as the atman (Self), which Patanjali also calls "the Seer" (drsta). Thus for Patanjali Yoga was a holistic, renunciant discpline aimed at total spiritual liberation.

In the centuries following Patanjali the word Yoga became a popular term in Hindusim to refer to spiritual discipline, and different practices were identified as "yogas". Patanjali's yoga came to be known as the Rajayoga ("royal discipline") and others were postulated: the yoga of wisdom, based in the Upanisads came to be known as Jnanayoga ("the disipline of gnosis/knowledge"). Dispassionate service came to be known as Karmayoga ("the discipline of action") and devotional practice came to be known as Bhaktiyoga ("the discipline of devotion"). Finally beginning perhaps in the fifth or sixth centuries, and apparently continuing to develop until reaching a complex and well articulated form in the 12th or 13th centuries, came Tantrayoga.

Tantra involved complex and daring use of ritual, imagination, and the body, and was based on scriptures from outside the orthodox Vedic corpus. At an unknown point the Tantrayogis developed the tradition known as Hathayoga (said legendarily to be first taught on earth in the 11th century by Matsyendranath).The earliest Hathayoga text we have is the Hathayogapradipika (Light on Hatha Yoga) written in the 15th century by Svatmarama.

Hathayoga consists of cleansing techniques, renunciation and ethics, dietary practices, rituals, meditations, breath control and holding special postures. The point is to cleanse the body as a spiritual vessel and use it to gain spiritual liberation (and often also to gain occult powers and longevity). The ultimate point of Hathayoga is "moksha", spiritual liberation, equivalent to "Nirvana".

In the texts of these later Yogas the word Yoga undergoes a metamorphosis from "bondage" to "discipline", and then changes again more poetically. In the Bhagavadgita it is said to mean "skill in action" or "evenness of mind", thus implying that these two things are the supreme spiritual disciplines. In the bhakti texts it is said to mean "yoking to God". The spiritual goal is considered to be "sayujya", or eternal union with the deity. In the Hatha yoga texts it is said to mean "yoking the internal masculine and feminine energies to attain transcendence", or retains its exoteric meaning of "discipline".

In all of these cases the word Yoga retains in some sense its core menaing of "to yoke". Which brings me to what I was thinking the other day walking down Johnson street. What are we yoking to in our western Yoga?

It seems to me that we have regained the original meaning of the word- bondage. Some of our western Yoga classes, where the young and beautiful do postures in their underwear or designer yogawear in front of wall length mirrors, would indeed be considered dens of bondage to a traditional Indian yogi- bondage to lust, competition, ego, and gross materiality.

Yoga has also become a profession here in the West for the first time. Instead of the one on one teaching between guru and disciple we have "yoga teachers" who run crowds through a vigorous set of postures in return for a paycheque. Having taught this kind of "yoga" myself, I know that it can feel like bondage indeed- for the teachers.

The standard defense is that the commercialization, the despiritualization, makes Yoga more accessible and maybe here and there someone will be drawn to the real Yoga. True. I am sure that that happens. But that doesn't stop that explanation from being a justification of selling something less than authentic, of a radical practice which was meant to transform- to turn upside down- people's lives, as something safe and diluted which serves to reinforce, not to challenge, the bondages of our culture.

At least if these classes were known as Ayurveda classes people would know that they were just going to do something for their health. In terming what's done in these studios "Yoga", though, the real Yoga- the radical subculture of 3,000 years- is obscured and replaced with, well, "Yogabutt". I can't say I would be happy to see the appearance of Ayurvedabutt dvds, but that would be less of a self-serving capitalist reconstruction than Yogabutt is.

It is said that Confucius taught that philosophy began with the "rectification of names". Perhaps if we  reserved the title Yoga for things that deserve it (like synagogue services or Christian soup kitchens- or  even that rare bird, the real Hathayoga class) we would be clearer about what we are doing (and what we are not doing).


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Songs of Kabir (translated by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra)

Answer this and do it quickly,
If you care at all for your devotee

Who's greater?
The lord of the universe
Or the one who made him?
The Vedas
Or their source?
The mind
Or what the mind believes in?
or Rama's supplicant?

The question that's killing me, says Kabir,
Is whether the pilgrim
Or the pilgrim town is greater?

KG 27

The yogi's a solitary

He doesn't go on pilgrimages
Or to religious fairs
Or attend congregations
He doesn't keep fasts

He doesn't have a travel bag
Or utensils to cook in
Or a plate to eat from
He doesn't carry a purse
He doesn't rub
His body with ash

He doesn't have an alms bowl
But never goes hungry
At night
After his wanderings
He returns to his house
And sleeps in the courtyard

You can't meet him
Says Kabir
He's left the country
We're citizens of
And he's not coming back

K.GG 3.6 Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

Saturday, August 6, 2011

On Meditation: Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

It has nothing to do with effort. Just turn away, look between the thoughts, rather than at the thoughts. When you happen to walk in a crowd, you do not fight every man you meet, you just find your way between. When you fight, you invite a fight. But when you do not resist, you meet no resistance. When you refuse to play the game, you are out of it. 

- Nisargadatta Maharaj

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Silabbata Sutta: Precept & Practice

Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa 

Thus have I heard: At one time Venerable Ananda went to Bhagavan and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, Bhagavan said to him, "Ananda, every precept and practice, every life, every holy life that is followed as of essential worth: is every one of them fruitful?"

"Bhagavan, that is not to be answered with a categorical answer."

"In that case, Ananda, give an analytical answer."

"When by following a life of precept and practice, a life, a holy life that is followed as of essential worth, one's unskillful mental qualities increase while one's skillful mental qualities decline: that sort of precept & practice, life, holy life that is followed as of essential worth is fruitless. But when by following a life of precept and practice, a life, a holy life that is followed as of essential worth one's unskillful mental qualities decline while one's skillful mental qualities increase: that sort of precept and practice, life, holy life that is followed as of essential worth is fruitful."

That is what Venerable Ananda said, and the Teacher approved. Then Venerable Ananda, realizing, "The Teacher approves of me," got up from his seat and, having bowed down to Bhagavan and circled him reverently like one would a temple , left.

Not long after Venerable Ananda had left, Bhagavan said to the bhikkhus (monastics), "Bhikkhus, Ananda is still in training, but it would not be easy to find his equal in discernment."

-Anguttura Nikaya 3.79, my translation (mostly following translation by Phra Chao Khun Thanissaro Bhikkhu).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Jnani Debates

"Lately there have been a lot of people studying in Advaita, deciding they are jnanis and going around studying and arguing and going around teaching....We ought to have jnani debates, where all the jnanis in the world show up. Whoever shows up loses of course."

-Robert Adams
(Advaita Teacher, direct disciple of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. I paraphrased the first sentence from a longer digression in the original).

Note: A jnani is a liberated sage in Advaita Vedanta, literally a "knower".

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Incomparable Verse Valley

-Muso Soseki (c. 13th-14th century)
(based on version by W. S. Merwin)

The sounds of the stream
splash out 
the Buddha's sermon
Don't say
that the deepest meaning
comes only from one's mouth
Day and night
eighty thousand poems
arise one after the other
and in fact
not a single word
has ever been spoken

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Shamatha and Vipashyana (Samatha and Vipassana) [Revised]

Recently I've been finding it useful to frame my practice within the paradigm for meditation known as shamatha-vipashyana, or "calm and insight". This framework was developed by the early Buddhists and influential throughout all Buddhist schools.  Shamatha is translated as calm, serenity, tranquil abiding, concentration,and stopping and is known as samatha in Pali, shi-ne in Tibetan, shi in Japanese.  Vipashyana is insight or "seeing", known as vipassana in Pali, lhatong in Tibetan, kan in Japanese. It seems to me that a yogi, in Buddhaghosa's sense of "a practitioner", should always be engaged in one of the two of these practices.

Shamatha would include mindfulness of the breath (Zen, Theravada, Vajrayana) and mindfulness of the body (Theravada, Zen). It would include awareness of the inner body (Eckhardt Tolle, Jean Klein, Hathayoga), mantra-japa (Hindu yogas, Vajrayana, Pure Land), awareness of inner stillness (Robert Adams, Eckhardt Tolle), lovingkindness meditation (Theravada), visualizations (Vajrayana, Hindu tantra), chanting (all traditions), puja (all traditions), etc.

These practices all free the mind and body from negativity, bring calm and focus, strength and healing, and bring good qualities and blessings. All of these practices have the function of "putting aside all evil, taking up the good". These lines come from the Buddha's famous summary of the teaching of all the Buddhas: "put aside all evil, take up the good, purify the mind". This is chanted frequently in Theravadin monasteries, like the one I lived in:

Sabba papassa akaranam (not doing evil)
Kusalassa upasampada (taking up the good)
Sacitta pariyodapanam (purifying this mind)
Ettam Buddhanasasanam (this is the teaching of the Buddhas).

The last practice here, that of purifying the mind, here refers to vipashyana.

Vipashyana, or insight, is the practice which rids the mind of its fundamental root impurity: delusion. Practices which fall under vipashyana would include koan practice (Zen), atma-vichara (Advaita Vedanta), analytical contemplation of emptiness or the nature of the mind (Vajrayana, Advaita), or contemplation of the three perceptions of inconstancy, not-self, and stressfulness (Theravada).

According to the masters of the Thai Forest Tradition of Theravada Buddhism (Dhammayutika Kammathana) the way to practice is to practice vipashyana whenever one has the energy for it, and when one becomes too tired (or it could be said, too weak or overcome with negativity) shamatha. The Buddha compared these two practices to the two wings of a bird.

Another interesting version of shamatha-vipashyana is the meditation practices of Thich Nhat Hanh. He teaches many practices which involve stopping and coming back to simple awareness of something, then shifting one's understanding in relation to it. The simplest of these involve coming back to the breath and calming body and mind (shamatha) and then altering one's experience of one's own emotions for the better, or reflecting on a daily activity in a deeper way (vipashyana).

Some may be aware that some traditions speak of "the union of shamatha and vipashyana" or assert that when properly understood they are "not two". The Zen tradition asserts this (see the Platform Sutra for one example). My understanding is that this refers to a type of mental state of alertness and non-grasping where the act of calming the mind and the act of insight are effectively one thing: a direct plunge into the ever free nature of the fundamental mind, one's "original nature" or "mind ground" (Zen) or the Atman/True Self (Vedanta). This is obviously an advanced practice. In Soto Zen it is called "shikantaza" and is taught to be the correct way to practice Zazen (seated meditation). In the Mahamudra tradition of Tibet this "direct relaxation into the nature of mind free from grasping" is known as the union of Shamatha and Vipashyana. It involves a direct recognition of the ungrasping, or free, nature of awareness and the ability to abide directly in that. Many Advaita teachers- for example Robert Adams, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Papaji and Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, all sometimes taught this effortless abidance as what-one-already-is, called in Tamil summa iruppadu.

My understanding is that this state of mind is both accessible directly as in Zen and Dzogchen practice, and is also the ultimate fruit of properly practiced shamatha and vipashyana- ie., it is the extreme development of the balanced practice of shamatha and vipashyana.

In my own practice these days I find that during the day I often practice either shamatha or vipashyana, or both in tandem, either in terms of simple anapanasati or in working with Thich Nhat Hanh's practices. When I sit I practice their union as shikantaza.

Friday, June 10, 2011

"What is religion? A cloud in the sky. I am in the sky, not in the clouds, which are so many words held together. Remove the verbiage and what remains? Truth remains."

- Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
"The mind is the Buddha, and there is no other Buddha. The Buddha is the mind, and there is no other mind."

-Ch'an Master Lai Kuo (1881-1953), quoted by Master Hsing Yun (Describing the Indescribable, p.108, tr. Tom Graham)

Thursday, June 9, 2011


"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."

-Philip K. Dick

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Chao Chou Strikes Wen Yuan

One day Ch'an Master Chao Chou (J. Joshu, 778-897) saw his disciple, Wen Yuan, prostrating himself before an image of the Buddha. Master Chao Chou struck Wen Yuan with a stick and said, "What the hell are you doing?"
Confused, Wen Yuan replied, "I am bowing to the Buddha: I have done nothing wrong!"
Master Chou said, "What the hell are you doing that for?"
Wen Yuan said, "It's a good thing to bow to the Buddha..."
Master Chao Chou lifted his stick and struck Wen Yuan again saying, "A good thing is never as good as no thing!"

-told by Master Hsing Yun in "Describing the Indescribable: A Commentary on the Diamond Sutra", tr. by Tom Graham.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj: Escaping The Net

Maharaj:The real world is beyond the mind's ken; we see it through the net of our desires, divided into pleasure and pain, right and wrong, inner and outer. To see the universe as it is, you must step beyond the net. It is not hard to do so, for the net is full of holes.

Q: What do you mean by holes? And how to find them?

Maharaj: Look at the net and its many contradictions. You do and undo at every step. You want peace, love, happiness and work hard to create pain, hatred and war. You want longevity and overeat, you want friendship and exploit. See your net as made of such contradictions and remove them -- your very seeing them will make them go.

(from I Am That)

Absorption In The Treasury of Light

This work by Koun Ejo, early Dharma heir of Dogen Zenji's lineage, is available free here:

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bankei on Zazen

"That's why, in my place, I'm always telling everyone, 'Abide in the unborn Buddha mind and nothing else!' Other than that, I'm not setting up any special rules and making them practice. All the same, since everyone got together and decided to practice for 12 sticks of incense every day, I told them, "Go ahead, do whatever you like'; so I'm letting them practice every day for a period of 12 sticks of incense. But the Unborn Buddha Mind isn't a matter of 12 sticks of incense! When you abide in the Buddha Mind and don't become deluded, then, without looking for enlightenment outside, you'll just sit in the Buddha Mind, just stand in the Buddha Mind, just sleep in the Buddha Mind, just get up in the Buddha Mind, so that in all of your ordinary activities you function as a living Buddha. There's really nothing to it.

"As for zazen, since 'za' (sitting) is the Buddha Mind's sitting at ease, while 'zen' is another name for Buddha Mind, the Buddha Mind's sitting at ease is what's meant by zazen. So when you're abiding in the Unborn, all the time is zazen; zazen isn't just the time when you're practicing formal meditation. Even when you're sitting in meditation, if there's something you've got to do, it's quite all right to get up and leave. So in my group, everyone is free to do as he likes. Just always abide at ease in the Buddha Mind. You can't simlply remain sitting from morning til night, so walking meditation for one period; and you can't just keep on your feet, either, so sit down and meditate for one period. You can't very well do nothing but sleep, so you get up; and you can't just keep on talking, so I let you practice meditation. But this has nothing to do with rules."

-Bankei Kotaku (from Bankei Zen, p.58-9; tr. Peter Haskell.) 

Note: Bankei's practice instructions were simple: recognize the "marvelously illuminating" Unborn Buddha Mind, your own present awareness, which is always functioning, and abide in it. He would often direct people to notice how the mind continuously and spontaneously illuminates and presents objects without any personal effort, and tell people just to abide in that, without trading their "Buddha Mind" for thoughts and becoming a "hell-dweller, hungry ghost, animal or other deluded being". Do just that, said Bankei, and you abide as the living Buddha you already are.  

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bankei Zen: Can women become Buddhas?

"I can tell you something about this matter of women's Buddha Mind. I understand that women feel very distressed hearing it said that they can't become Buddhas. But it simply isn't so! How is there any difference between men and women? Men are the Buddha Body, and women are the Buddha Body too. You shouldn't entertain any doubts of this sort. When you thoroughly grasp the Unborn, then, in the Unborn, there's no difference whether you're a man or a woman. Everyone is the Buddha Body.
You women, listen closely now. While, in terms of physical form, men and women are obviously different, in terms of the Buddha Mind there's no difference at all. Don't be misled by appearances! The Buddha Mind is identical: it makes no distinctions between men and women."

Bankei Kotaku (from Bankei Zen, tr. by Peter Haskell p. 35)

Comment: I'm really struck by how strongly and explicitly both Dogen and Bankei argued for women's equality in Dharma practice. Dogen Kigen (1200-1253) argues passionately and extensively so in his essay Raihai Takuzui, available at the Soto Zen Text Project (
The problem stems from the doctrine that women cannot become "samyaksambuddhas" or fully self-awakened Buddhas who establish a religion in a world without Dharma (as Shakyamuni did). This idea originated in the Hinayana, where it was not so significant since most practitioners aim at becoming arhats- people who are liberated by a Buddha's teaching, but do not themselves establish a new religion, which Hinayana teachings say women can do just as well as men. 
In the Mahayana this teaching became problematic because becoming a Fully Self-Awakened Buddha was the goal of all practitioners. Many solutions arose, examples of which can be seen in the Srimala Sutra, Lotus Sutra and Vimalakirti Sutra. What impresses me about Dogen and Bankei is their total refusal to accept that women cannot become Buddhas despite the fact that standard scriptural Mahayana says they can't.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fusho (Unborn) Zen

Chasing after words, pursuing phrases,
when will you ever be done?
You run yourself ragged amassing knowledge,
becoming widely informed
Self-nature is empty and illuminating,
so let things take care of themselves
There's nothing else I have to pass on.

-Bankei Kotaku (1622-1693) (tr. by Peter Haskell, from Bankei Zen)

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Moses Jataka?

The jataka tales are stories of the Buddha’s former lives. These stories tell of his lifetimes as a “bodhisatta” or being bound towards enlightenment for the sake of all beings (later “bodhisattva”). As a bodhisatta the Buddha cultivates the “paramis” or perfections of character to the extreme, in preperation for his last life when he will discover and teach the Dhamma (liberating truth). The jatakas have been shown to contain some tales original with Buddhists and some from common stocks of Indian and Mediterranean folklore- some of the stories also show up in Hindu and Jain collections, Aesop’s fables, and one even shows up later transformed into a medieval story of a Christian saint. Yitzhak Buxbaum recently pointed out that a Hasidic tale appears to be based on a Jataka tale- a story reconfigured to be about Moses! This is a first as far as I know:

   A Hasidic Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Lazer of Pshevorsk said a wise man told him that there is a midrash which says that Moses saw a hawk chasing after a mouse and he had compassion on the mouse and protected it from harm. But Moses sensed that the hawk was angry– this was its food after all– so Moses cut a bit of flesh from his body to feed and soothe the hawk. Thus, Moses’s compassion for a living creature was with self-sacrifice.

 Sichatan shel Avdei Avot, vol. 2, p. 288 (see Hungry Tigress p.116-7 for one of several similar Jataka tales) Original source: 

Several Jataka tales feature the motif of the Buddha making an extreme sacrifice for the sake of another. Sometimes he is an animal giving to a human, sometimes a human giving to an animal, sometimes an animal giving to an animal or a human giving to a human. In this way the Buddha shows his transcendence of such distinctions and his thorough, unflinching and perfect generosity. How interesting to see one of these tales apparently become a part of the legend of Moshe Rabeinu. As Buxbaum points out in his original posting, the mention of an unspecified “wise man” and “a midrash” are clues that this story did not originate in a traditional Jewish source. I can imagine the story travelling across countries, losing its Buddhist trappings, being picked up by some Jewish maggid (storyteller) and eventually applied to Moses. Thank you to Mr. Buxbaum.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not Knowing: Shoyoroku Case 20

Attention! Master Jizo asked Hogen, "Where have you come from?"
"I am on pilgrimage, following the wind", replied Hogen.
"What is the matter of your pilgrimage?", asked Jizo.
"I don't know," replied Hogen.
"Not knowing is most intimate," replied Jizo.
At that Hogen experienced a great awakening.

Notes for going deeper:

1. Be warned: in Case 19 of Mumonkon, Nansen says, "The Way is not in knowing or in not knowing. Knowing is delusion, not knowing is stupidity."

2. How is this cultivated? Master Jizo said, "In walking and sitting, just hold to the moment before thoughts arise. Look into it, and you'll see not seeing. Then, put it to one side." (quoted in the Book of Equanimity, Gerry Shishin Wick, p. 65)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Don't Love Dragons Like Sekko

"There is a Buddhist expression, "Don't love dragons like Sekko." There was a man called Sekko who loved dragons. Sculptures, paintings, figurines, ornaments- his whole house was filled with dragons in one form or another. Well, one day a real dragon happened to hear about Sekko and figured that since he loved dragons so much, surely he would be delighted to meet a real one. But when the dragon stuck his head through the window of Sekko's room, Sekko expired on the spot!"
"Sekko is a symbol for preferring imitation to the real thing. A person who tells everyone how important practice is and then gives up soon after he starts because it's too hard to take is like a person who just likes sculpted dragons. When you meet a real "dragon" you should be filled with joy and resolve to wrestle with it."

-Kosho Uchiyama (Opening the Hand of Thought, p.119)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Heaven or Hell

Heaven or hell, love or hate,
No matter where I turn
I meet myself.
Holding life precious is
Just living with all intensity
Holding life precious.

-Kosho Uchiyama (Opening the Hand of Thought, p.82)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Shobogenzo Mujo Seppo- New Translation at SZTP

Kodo Sawaki: War Criminal?

A good post re-blogged from Flapping Mouths, on the false accusation, too often repeated, that Kodo Sawaki supported Japanese imperial aggression during WW2:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Flowers in Empty Air

Here is an excerpt from a teisho (dharma talk) of a Zen teacher in Ottawa, Ven. Anzan Hosshin Roshi. 
Note for those not familiar: the reference in the last line to "put your hands in the mudra" is to assuming a formal sitting meditation position used in Zen. The opening quote is from the Surangama Sutra:
"It is like a person with clouded eyes
seeing flowers in empty air.
When the disease of cloudy eyes is cured,
the flowers in empty air vanish."

Your presumptions about yourselves as selves cloud your eyes like cataracts and so you see things that are just not there. Sometimes they might indeed be beautiful like flowers. But more often they are much more threatening: like flesh eating flowers looming around you and images of scowling faces and fear of plots and rejections, feeling unloved and unlovable, and loving someone for what you want them to be and hating someone for not being what you want them to be and on and on. Self-image clouds the eyes, dims the ears, numbs the body and dreams its nightmares of hope and fear throughout the day and night. What we hope for is an hallucination that eludes and tortures us, what we fear is a phantasm that can take any form from a telephone call to a telephone that doesn't ring to saying the wrong thing to a wordless gasp that we wake up in the morning with.
As attention narrows and fixates, discursive storylines that fit the edges of that narrowing squirm into place and fill what is experienced with meanings that seem certain because they fit so well. Anything can seem to be true if the information that would contradict it is simply ignored. When we practise opening fixation we find that many if not yet most of our presumptions begin to fall away because without that narrowness there is nothing to hold them in place. It can even seem to make sense to shove our heads back into the mouth of the flesh eating flower of our fantasy because, well, we grew up with it. The bite of the acids is so familiar it seems like the smell of mom's home cooking. We are so addicted to grasping after and pushing away the fleurs du mal of our delusions that we don't know what to do with our hands without them.
So Sengcan says, "What are you? Crazy? Stop that. Put your hands in the mudra. Sit up straight."

- excerpted from Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi, beginning teisho 13: “Satori and Fleurs de Mal,” from the series "Without Difficulty: Commentaries on Jianzhi Sengcan's Xinxin Ming: Words on Trusting Awareness,” Monday, May 15th, 2006.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Confucius Considers Giving Up Speech

Confucius said, "I am thinking about giving up speech." Zigong said hastily, "If you did not speak, what would there be for us, your disciples, to transmit?"
Confucius said, calmly and matter-of-factly, "What does Heaven ever say? Yet there are the four seasons going round and there are the hundred things coming into being. What does Heaven ever say?"

- tr. by Yu Dan, from Confucius From The Heart

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Shoyoroku Case 3

A King of Eastern India invited the sage Hannyatara (Prajnatara), the teacher of Bodhidharma, for a meal. The King asked, "Why don't you recite sutras?" Hannyatara replied, "This poor follower of the Way does not stay in the world of the subject when breathing in, and has nothing to do with the world of objects when breathing out. I am always reciting the sutra of the way it is (tathata) in millions of millions of volumes."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Zen At Auschwitz Epilogue

My Dad called today to tell me that he had shared the story of Alan Morinis' anger at Roshi Glassman's retreats at Auschwitz with his parents. This surprised me because his parents, Myer and Rya Gindin, are Holocaust survivors who spent WW2 in hiding in Europe. Both lost many friends and family members- My grandfather's parents and twelve brothers were executed by the Nazis. I was a little apprehensive to hear their response to my defense of Roshi Glassman's Bearing Witness Retreats.
Here's how the conversation went according to my Dad:
He told them about the retreats at Auschwitz and Alan's anger at them.
Them: "What's to be angry?"
"Well, he thought the retreats were inappropriate."
"Why? It's good that non-Jews are going there. They should see. Even if he disagrees with what they're doing there, what's to be angry?"

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Contribution to Statistics
By Wislawa Szymborska
(1923 - )
English version by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak

Out of a hundred people

those who always know better
-- fifty-two

doubting every step
-- nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn't take too long
-- as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can't be otherwise
-- four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy
-- eighteen,

suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth
-- sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken lightly
-- forty and four,

living in constant fear
of someone or something
-- seventy-seven,

capable of happiness
-- twenty-something tops,

harmless singly, savage in crowds
-- half at least,

when forced by circumstances
-- better not to know
even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact
-- just a couple more
than wise before it,

taking only things from life
-- thirty
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
-- eighty-three
sooner or later,

-- thirty-five, which is a lot,

and understanding
-- three,

worthy of compassion
-- ninety-nine,

-- a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

-- from Poems New and Collected, by Wislawa Szymborska / Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak

Zen At Auschwitz

Alan Morinis, the contemporary teacher of the Jewish spiritual discipline of mussar, has recently posted a very honest and vulnerable discussion of his anger at the Zen Peacemaker annual retreats at Auschwitz here:

I posted the following in response to Alan’s request for feedback:

First I would like to commend Alan on his honesty in exploring this issue. I admire Alan very much for his willingness to be vulnerable and open in his mussar work, despite his role as leader in the community.
I practice both in the mussar and the Zen communities, and am involved more generally in both Jewish and Buddhist practice.
I would like to say first off that I think this anger is not a wise or appropriate response, and needs to be examined and abandoned. Since Alan has asked for help I will offer a few thoughts to that end.
1) Alan questions “what good” the Peacemakers offering their meditation to the dead will do. In Buddhism meditation is very much akin in value to davenning or Torah learning, and just as a Jew might feel that reciting tehillim or learning mishnayos or saying kaddish will in some way benefit the dead, or make their memory a blessing for the living, Zen Buddhists feel the same way about meditating there. A Buddhist might ask the same question about a religious Jew learning mishnayos for their dead Buddhist father- “what good will that do? Reciting some ancient laws? if only he would meditate for him….” That would show as much interfaith insensitivity as Alan’s response to the idea of meditation at Aushwitz does.
2) Alan frames the retreat as merely providing “certain feelings” for the retreatants. Again, a Buddhist could view Torah study or davenning the same way: “Instead of doing something useful like feeding the poor or questioning the nature of the emotions, why is that Jew getting high learning gemarra, just for the sake of selfish intellectual pleasures that go nowhere? Davenning is just self-hypnotism for the sake of reassurance and feeling good. What a waste of time.” I think that Alan views the retreatants activities as only producing “certain feelings” because he does not share their religious views. That is not fair.
3) I would suggest looking over reports from the March of the Living, where I would guess you will find testimonies of people having many emotional, spiritual, etc. experiences which could also be interpreted as nothing but a form of self-indulgent “tourism” if one read them with a hermeneutic of suspicion, as Alan reads the Peacemakers.
4) I was quite surprised by Alan’s criticism of Roshi Bernie Glassman’s advice re: visualizing someone you are angry at wearing a clown’s nose. The fact that Alan didn’t appear to understand what Roshi was saying, or see any possible value in it, is a good example of the mind-clouding effects of anger. “Resh Lakish said, ‘Wisdom departs from one who gets angry’ prophecy departs from a prophet who gets angry’ (Pesachim 66b).
Roshi was saying that when you picture someone with a clown’s nose it disrupts the momentum of your hypnotism by anger, and suddenly makes your own seriousness and anger seem silly, and you realize that we are all clowns- all fools, silly children carried away by delusion and our yetzer ha-ra. The point is to be compassionate and forgiving of other’s foibles and imperfection. To me this is reminiscent of something R’ Nachman might say. It cuts through our own seriousness and self-importance, and also provides space and disruption inside the serious cloud of our anger. I have tried it since reading Alan’s piece, and it works.
Most interesting here though is the fact that Alan writes: “This reflects nothing of the wisdom of mussar at all”.
Nu, and why should it? Roshi is a Zen teacher. It does reflect Buddhist perspectives on the folly of the ego-mind. Alan, do Buddhists not have a right to be Buddhists then?
5) I think it needs to be understood that for Buddhists the meditative confrontation with mortality and suffering is a fundamental aspect of their practice. Buddhists have long went to cemeteries to meditate (have been doing this for 2500 years) and still do. The fact is that cemetery meditations are a fundamental Buddhist practice. We may disagree with this practice, but it seems delusional to be angry about it. It is a well intended part of Buddhist religious beliefs! Why do people who have adopted Buddhism and practice in line with it with good intentions deserve anger, even if one disagrees with their practice? As one person above wrote, they are not harming anyone. The opinions of the dead are unknown to us.
I can honestly say that if I was horribly killed, and a memorium was put up, and people came to meditate there and reflect on suffering, injustice, and death, and went away better people, I would be very happy about it- or at least I would want myself to be. Has Alan imagined himself as one of the dead? This might seems a strange suggestion, but I suggest it to anyone who thinks this practice is an offense to the dead.
6) Although it is a bit beyond limits of time and space here, I think that the rest of Alan’s piece makes a halakhicly and hashkafically false case for the admissability of anger and unfavorable judgement, especially towards a fellow Jew. This is so even if the Peacemakers are clearly in the wrong in some way, which I do not think is the case. I would just say that anyone interested in this should consult the halachic work “The Right and The Good” by R’ Daniel Z. Feldman, the chapters on judging favorably, grudges, hatred and love, and “Haser Ka’as Milevecha (Remove Anger From Your Heart)” by R’ Avraham Tubolsky.
I will limit my remarks to the above and the following summary: I feel that this is a great mussar opportunity for Alan. The opportunity is to put himself more radically into the place and perspective of the other, and understand how from a Zen Buddhist perspective this retreat is justifiable. I am not saying Alan will come to agree with the retreat, but rather to understand it’s function for the participants from their perspective, and to at least feel that itmaybe justifiable,maybe good, and therefore anger is not appropriate.
I would also suggest that even if Alan cannot get to this point and feels the retreat is objectively wrong and he somehow thinks he knows this for certain, and think he is therefore justified in judging everyone involved negatively and being angry with them and even perhaps hating them in his heart, has v’shalom; I would like to point out that believing someone else is grossly mistaken and objecting to their activities does not require anger. It is also possible to have compassion. This is the meaning of the clown’s nose. Even if we think that the Peacemakers are grossly mistaken who are we to judge them and be angry as if they were intentional wrongdoers, selfish, craven and evil? At worst they are imperfect human beings trying to live a spiritual life and benefit themselves and others but doing so in a confused way.
Not only is anger not a justified response from this perspective, it effectively closes off the possibility of communication between us and them.
Thank you for raising this issue Alan. I hope my thoughts have been helpful, and I hope you’ll post a response to all of us at some point.
Read more:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Nembutsu

Once Dharmakara realized the suffering of beings and made a vow to deliver them. Over infinite time and space Dharmakara (lit. the dharmic actor, or the action of the Dharma) strove to enact this primal vow. He vowed that he would only attain Buddhahood if all beings could be saved by chanting his name. He did become the Buddha Amida (Limitless Light) and so the salvation of all is assured. Or rather: because the salvation of all is assured he was able to become a Buddha.

Dharma action is what realizes the suffering of beings. It is the action of the Dharma to realize the suffering of beings. Further, it is the presence of Dharma within all action that allows the realization of the suffering of all beings. It is the action of the Dharma to wish that one’s own liberation and the liberation of all others be entertwined inseperately. Since they are, it is so and it will be so endlessly.

Chanting the name of Amida Buddha is entrusting yourself to the primal vow of Amida. More accurately, it is entrusting yourself to the primal vow of Dharmakara. It is entrusting yourself to the action of the Dharma. It is entrusting yourself to the one who does Dharma actions. That one is you; that one is not you; that one is Dharmaka Bodhisattva; that one is the primal vow; that one is the inseperability of beings Awakening and Amida's awakening.

We must ask then: is someone who chants Amida's name necessarily one who entrusts themselves? Is someone who does not chant Amida's name necessarily someone who does not entrust themselves? Is chanting Amida's name entrusting oneself to the primal vow of the action of the Dharma? We must also realize that one who chants Amida's name is absolutely entrusted to the primal vow of Dharmakara; absolutely held in the light of Amida; absolutely cradled in the lap of the Buddha of the Western Paradise.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What is zazen good for?

"What's zazen good for? Absolutely nothing! This 'good for nothing' has got to sink into your flesh and bones until you actually practice what is truly good for nothing. Until then, your zazen is just good for nothing."

-Kodo Sawaki (quoted in "Attitude to Zazen: Quotes from Kodo Sawaki" on Antaiji's website (see my links).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen (Fukan zazengi 普勧坐禅儀)

The way is originally perfect and all-pervading. How could it be contingent on practice and realization? The true vehicle is self-sufficient. What need is there for special effort? Indeed, the whole body is free from dust. Who could believe in a means to brush it clean? It is never apart from this very place; what is the use of traveling around to practice? And yet, if there is a hairsbreadth deviation, it is like the gap between heaven and earth. If the least like or dislike arises, the mind is lost in confusion. Suppose you are confident in your understanding and rich in enlightenment, gaining the wisdom that knows at a glance, attaining the Way and clarifying the mind, arousing an aspiration to reach for the heavens. You are playing in the entrance way, but you are still short of the vital path of emancipation.

Consider the Buddha: although he was wise at birth, the traces of his six years of upright sitting can yet be seen. As for Bodhidharma, although he had received the mind-seal, his nine years of facing a wall is celebrated still. If even the ancient sages were like this, how can we today dispense with wholehearted practice?
Therefore, put aside the intellectual practice of investigating words and chasing phrases, and learn to take the backward step that turns the light and shines it inward. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will manifest. If you want to realize such, get to work on such right now.
For practicing Zen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. Have no designs on becoming a buddha. How could that be limited to sitting or lying down?
At your sitting place, spread out a thick mat and put a cushion on it. Sit either in the full-lotus or half-lotus position. In the full-lotus position, first place your right foot on your left thigh, then your left foot on your right thigh. In the half-lotus, simply place your left foot on your right thigh. Tie your robes loosely and arrange them neatly. Then place your right hand on your left leg and your left hand on your right palm, thumb-tips lightly touching. Straighten your body and sit upright, leaning neither left nor right, neither forward nor backward. Align your ears with your shoulders and your nose with your navel. Rest the tip of your tongue against the front of the roof of your mouth, with teeth together and lips shut. Always keep your eyes open, and breathe softly through your nose.
Once you have adjusted your posture, take a breath and exhale fully, rock your body right and left, and settle into steady, immovable sitting. Think of not thinking, "Not thinking ––what kind of thinking is that?" Nonthinking. This is the essential art of zazen.
The zazen I speak of is not meditation practice. It is simply the dharma gate of joyful ease, the practice realization of totally culminated enlightenment. It is the koan realized; traps and snares can never reach it. If you grasp the point, you are like a dragon gaining the water, like a tiger taking to the mountains. For you must know that the true dharma appears of itself, so that from the start 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 mundane and sacred, and dying while either sitting or standing, have all depended entirely on the power of zazen.
In addition, triggering awakening with a finger, a banner, a needle, or a mallet, and effecting realization with a whisk, a fist, a staff, or a shout ––these cannot be understood by discriminative thinking; much less can they be known through the practice of supernatural power. They must represent conduct beyond seeing and hearing. Are they not a standard prior to knowledge and views?
This being the case, intelligence or lack of it is not an issue; make no distinction between the dull and the sharp-witted. If you concentrate your effort single-mindedly, that in itself is wholeheartedly engaging the way.
Practice-realization is naturally undefiled. Going forward is, after all, an everyday affair.
In general, in our world and others, in both India and China, all equally hold the buddha-seal. While each lineage expresses its own style, they are all simply devoted to sitting, totally blocked in resolute stability. Although they say that there are ten thousand distinctions and a thousand variations, they just wholeheartedly engage the way in zazen. Why leave behind the seat in your own home to wander in vain through the dusty realms of other lands? If you make one misstep, you stumble past what is directly in front of you.
You have gained the pivotal opportunity of human form. Do not pass your days and nights in vain. You are taking care of the essential activity of the buddha-way. Who would take wasteful delight in the spark from a flintstone? Besides, form and substance are like the dew on the grass, the fortunes of life like a 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 doubt the true dragon. Devote your energies to the way of direct pointing at the real. Revere the one who has gone beyond learning and is free from effort. Accord with the enlightenment of all the buddhas; succeed to the samadhi of all the ancestors. Continue to live in such a way, and you will be such a person. The treasure store will open of itself, and you may enjoy it freely.

-from SotoZen.Net (

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"The most important thing is to enjoy your life without being fooled by things."

-Shunryu Suzuki, Enjoy Your Life (Not Always So 28)

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Hitting the mark is a result of 99 failures."

-Dogen Zenji (quoted by Shunryu Suzuki, Not Always So)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Ajaan Maha Boowa Attains Parinibbana

The bhikkhu who was perhaps the principal representative of Ajaan Mun and the Thai Forest Ascetic tradition (the tradition that I was a monastic in from 2004-2007) has "dropped his mind and body". Widely believed to be an Arahant (completely enlightened master according to the oldest Buddhist lineage, the Theravada) Luangta (venerable grandfather) is believed to have attained Parinibbana (complete unbinding) Sunday in Thailand. With his death comes the end of an era in Thailand, the end of the first generation of the revival of the Thai Forest tradition. This tradition brought us such masters as Ajaan Chah, Ajaan Lee, Ajaan Suwat, Ajaan Thate, and Ajaan Fuang, all of whom were instrumental in creating a wave of renewed intensive Buddhist practice in Thailand and in introducing the Thai Forest Dhamma to the West. Through western students of theirs like Ajaan Sumedho, Ajaan Thanissaro, Ajaan Passano, Ajaan Amaro, Ajaan Sucitto, Ajaan Sona, Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein, these Thai Forest Masters introduced both lay practice and Forest monastic practice in the style of the Buddha to Europe, the US, and Canada, as well as their widespread influence in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Burma.
For a (somewhat superficial) article on Ajaan Maha Boowa see:;-a-guiding-light-has-p-30147547.html

For teachings see: