Friday, 14 December 2018


275. In Sengcan's enlightenment poem Xinxinming, we read that 'if the eye never sleeps, all dreams will naturally cease'. This saying, of course, should not be taken literally for, as many have found, when they don't sleep they start to hallucinate. No, Sengcan's unsleeping eye is a metaphor for the awakened self which sees things for what they are, just as they are. The injunction to 'stay awake' is a constant across a number of spiritual, religious and philosophical traditions.  

Wednesday, 12 December 2018


274. Someone sent a note to a master asking, 'Does my True Face look the same as your True Face?' The master replied, 'Only if you're good looking'.

Monday, 10 December 2018


273. Take the question, 'What is the Bodhisatva's Gate to the One and the Many?' A number of Bodhisatvas took up this question and each gave a response in a few well chosen words. Even Manjusri felt compelled to express his penetrating insight in a verbal formula. Only Vimalakirti, when directly asked to say something, held his tongue. And so it is that even today, after so many centuries, we find our ears still ringing to the thunder clap of his silence.   

Friday, 16 November 2018


272. Getting started on the path of Zen would seem to be easy enough. As one Zen worthy put it, this path can be 'approached in a thousand ways'. Another master, when questioned by a would-be disciple about how he might enter Zen, pointed to a roaring mountain stream and asked, 'Do you hear the sound of that stream?' When the disciple said 'Yes', the master said, 'Enter there'. So if getting into Zen is as simple and easy as that, why do we look for a teacher, join a meditation group, read lots of books, practise rituals and chants and sit for long periods in a prescribed zazen posture?

Wednesday, 14 November 2018


271. After dinner I do the washing-up. Just washing cups and saucers, knives and forks, plates and bowls, pots and pans. Yes, just washing-up. No running commentary.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018


270. Anthony de Mello draws a distinction between a 'worldly feeling' and a 'soul-feeling'. A 'worldly feeling', he says, arises out of self-glorification and self-promotion. Examples of the types of experience that can trigger worldly feelings relate the self to other people in a search for their praise, their approval, their acceptance. By contrast, a 'soul-feeling' is the fruit of self-fulfillment. Examples of experiences that bear fruit in soul-feeling are of a disinterested nature, such as the contemplation of a sunset, a stroll along the beach, the thorough enjoyment of a book.

Friday, 26 October 2018


269. Look at the flower and see for yourself that it is red (or yellow or purple or white). Don't just take my word for it. Here, drink some water and decide for yourself if it is cool or warm. And while Zen worthies insist on the importance of not thinking they also warn us against rejecting the world of senses and ideas. Stay with the tension between holding fast and letting go.