Teacher’s Blog

Zen Practice as Path – Six Tips

Our whole life, no matter what happens, can be ennobled by seeing it as path. Path implies movement, progress, change, development, growth, discovery, and purpose. We don't just turn 18, or 25, or 30 and then stop growing and learning. Thank goodness! Instead, there's no limit to how much more skillful, wise, compassionate, and authentic we can become, and we continue on that path of development - hopefully - for our entire lives.

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Uselessly Doing Nothing: Zazen without Techniques

Last Tuesday we had a lively class discussion on zazen that went almost 30 minutes overtime! First, we read the “Nothing to attain, Nothing to enlighten” chapter from Rev. Issho Fujita’s book Polishing a Tile.(1) Then we debated whether zazen should involve any techniques at all. Based on Fujita’s teachings (which are based on Dogen’s, as well as those of many great Soto Zen masters), I proposed that true zazen, or shikantaza, is letting go of doing anything. No...

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Our Sangha’s Response to Suffering in the World

It’s tricky – we want our spiritual communities to be places of refuge from the over-stimulation and conflict in the world outside our temple walls. No one wants to come to practice at the Zen center only to participate in a political debate, or be told what they should be doing as a good Buddhist. And yet… if we don’t challenge our comfort levels as a Buddhist community in order to witness and respond to the often acute suffering in the world around us, especially of...

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Bendowa: Zen Master Dogen on Why Zazen Is Such a Big Deal

In the 13th century, a Japanese Buddhist monk named Eihei Dogen traveled to China to search for the truth. He discovered a teacher there who emphasized zazen above all else, and in studying with him Dogen found the resolution to his personal koan. Dogen then traveled back to Japan to share what he had learned, and although he generally eschewed sectarianism, we call the school of Zen that descends from him “Soto.” Three years after his return from China, Dogen still hadn’t...

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Calling on the Power of Compassion

Many Buddhists throughout history have prayed to Kanzeon, the bodhisattva of compassion, for succor. That kind of prayer continues today. Kanzeon is also known as Avalokiteshvara, Kannon, and Guan Yin. Sometimes portrayed as male, sometimes as female, she’s hands-down the most popular of the Buddhist archetypal bodhisattvas. One of the standard Soto Zen daily chants is called the “Universal Gateway Chapter” (of the Lotus Sutra), which states: “If floating on a vast sea,...

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The Sangha Jewel: Community as a Medicine for Modern Ills

Over the last year, the Bright Way Zen community, our Sangha jewel, has grown significantly. This growth has not just been in terms of numbers (we now have 50 members), it’s been in terms of maturity, commitment, investment, and strength. More and more people consider Bright Way Zen to be their community – a group of people with whom they find social connection and support, a sense of being seen and appreciated, and a feeling of being needed. Belonging to a community can sometimes...

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You Can’t Walk the Path Without Help from Your Friends

Did you know admirable friendship is considered essential to walking the Buddhist path? The Buddha said “With regard to external factors, I don’t envision any other single factor like admirable friendship as doing so much for a monk in training,”[i] and this certainly applies to lay practitioners as well. What’s an admirable friend? About this the Buddha said: “The friend who is a helpmate, the friend in happiness and woe, the friend who gives good counsel, the friend who sympathizes...

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The Buddha’s Five Things to Consider Before Speaking

The Buddha taught there were five things to consider before speaking.[v] Is what you’re about to say: Factual and true Helpful, or beneficial Spoken with kindness and good-will (that is, hoping for the best for all involved) Endearing (that is, spoken gently, in a way the other person can hear) Timely (occasionally something true, helpful, and kind will not be endearing, or easy for someone to hear, in which case we think carefully about when to say it)   Will What We Say Be Helpful? In the...

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Right Speech: Refraining from Lying, Divisive or Abusive Speech, and Idle Chatter

The Buddha gave quite a number of teachings on right speech over the course of his 45-year teaching career. Clearly, he taught that paying attention to how you express yourself verbally was considered an essential part of practice. Obviously, our speech has an effect on other people, and unless we’re selfish or deluded, we care about that. On the positive side, our speech can convey love, and it can support or guide others in their own spiritual journey. Alternatively, our speech may trigger...

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Two Sides of Practice Part 3: When We Neglect Samadhi Power, and How the Two Sides are Complementary

What about neglecting samadhi power, and overemphasizing karma relationship? This is when we try to get free from our suffering, be a good and wholesome person, have harmonious relationships, and/or aspire to greater wisdom and compassion – and then we struggle in our efforts in same way we struggle with the rest of our ordinary tasks. Approaching things only from the relative perspective, we set goals or adopt ideals, work hard, notice when we’ve fallen short, devise another way, and try harder. Chances are good we also criticize ourselves, compare ourselves to others, and experience a mixture of frustration, pride, and shame. Caught up in the drama of the relative, we fail to see things from a larger perspective, and may succumb to arrogance, depression or despair.

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Weekly Meetings

Tues-Fri Mornings
Sunrise sitting suspended until fall


Tuesday Evenings
7-9pm
Meditation, Tea, and Class


Wed-Sat Mornings
7:30-8:30am
Online Meditation (via videoconference, not at the Zendo)


Saturday Mornings
8:30-9:30 am
Meditation


Sunday Mornings
9:30am-Noon
Chanting, Meditation, Tea and Dharma Talk

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