Teacher’s Blog

How Physically Sitting Zazen Keeps the Precepts Perfectly

Parts in bold are from the text of the Bodhisattva Precepts; parts in italics explain how we keep a particular precept during the simple act of zazen. The Gateway of Contrition All my past and harmful karma, Born from beginningless greed, hate and delusion, Through body, speech, and mind, I now fully avow. A contrite heart is open to the dharma, and finds the gateway to the precepts clear and unobstructed.  Bearing this in mind, we should sit up straight in the presence of the buddha and make...

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The Power of Questions

Last Sunday we read chapter one, "Zazen as Inquiry," from Taigen Dan Leighton's Zen Questions: Zazen, Dogen and the Spirit of Creative Inquiry. Leighton writes: "What are we doing in zazen? Each of us have some question that somewhere back there was behind our wanting to engage in this Buddhist meditation. What question has led you to face the wall in zazen, what is this? There is a question that we each have to explore."

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Random Violence: a Symptom of Society’s Fatal Illness

When the shit first really hits the fan, denial is a natural human response. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s that they care so much. The possibility that there’s nothing they can do to help the situation is too terrible to face. This is at least partly why so little has changed since the incomprehensible slaughter of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, even though random violence continues and is probably even increasing. Widespread random...

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Why Offer Zen without Religion?

The religious elements with which Zen is often presented may prevent many people from hearing what it has to offer them. This is unfortunate. Most people, religious or not, hold at an intention to learn and grow throughout their lives. Yet few people are aware that there exists a well-developed course of training and study that can support their intention and give focus, substance and intensity to their efforts to become the best human being they can possibly be. This course of study is Zen...

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When Religion Refrains From Explaining “Why”

If religion’s purpose is to help people find peace and strength and to live good lives, which I believe it is, it makes sense that people would turn to religion to explain why terrible things happen in the world – particularly terrible things that happen to individuals that apparently didn’t do anything to deserve it. Read the rest of this post on Domyo’s blog at...

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Belonging

I spent last week at a conference for Soto Zen priests. There were 90 of us at the Soto Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA) gathering. We were defined as much, or more, by our differences as by what we held in common. In the 45 years or so that Soto Zen has been developing amongst western converts in America, priests and lineages have stayed quite true to the American ideal of individualism, freedom and innovation. Within lineages there has been some degree of conformity, but between lineages...

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A Personal “Translation” of the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts

In working with the Precepts, I have found it useful to “translate” them for myself, using words that capture, for me, the flavor of how each Precept manifests in my life.  I imagine that every person will have their own translation of each Precept, depending on their karma.  Contemplate them and see for yourself!  The official translations used at Bright Way are in bold italics; my interpretations follow, in plain text.  Do Not Kill – Cultivate...

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How I View After-Death Experience

A friend of mine recently asked me how I view after-death experience. This is a somewhat awkward question for a Zen teacher to answer. On the one hand I view after-death experience as irrelevant to how I decide to live my life. The Buddha aptly categorized the issue of what happens after death as a question “which does not tend to edification” – that is, to the instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually.1 Furthermore, the Buddha taught that the religious life has...

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