Thursday, 31 December 2015


16. Someone, critiquing the claim that the 'Prajna Paramita' is the supreme mantra that completely removes all anguish, comments 'but it doesn't, once and for all'. The comment is made in the context of a discussion of global warming and climate change. Indeed, it is difficult, on this eve of a new year, given our ongoing exploitation of the planet and its resources, not to face the coming of 2016 without some measure of anguish. But is this not, as the critic boldly states, at odds with the teaching of the 'Prajna Paramita Sutra'? However, what needs to be kept in mind here is that the feeling of anguish in the face of dire circumstances is not the same as being overwhelmed and paralysed by what is a perfectly natural response, at the emotional level, to those circumstances. The 'Prajna Paramita Sutra' teaches that a fully enlightened one, even while experiencing intense negative emotions, is nevertheless free to act in a committed and creative way in the service of the many beings. He or she feels anguish as much as the next person but is not dominated by it. Hence the sutra's claim that the 'Prajna Paramita' is the supreme mantra that completely removes all anguish.

Saturday, 26 December 2015


15. the fullness that empties itself
      makes itself manifest
      in emptiness

      the unbeginning that begins
      shows the unmade being made
      the unborn being born

      and a new star appears in the sky

      leading wise men from the east
      across mountains and rivers
      to pay homage to a king

      already ruined and homeless

Thursday, 17 December 2015


14. What is Master Nansen's 'ordinary mind'? A philosopher will provide definitions for 'ordinary', 'mind', and the compound 'ordinary mind'. These will be placed within a discourse that is discursive, logical, rational. A scholar will expand the philosopher's framework and investigate and discuss a range of issues, including problems to do with translation, from one language to another, from one culture to another, from one historical period to another, and so on. Useful as all this is, Zen tends to cut to the chase. Master Mumon Ekai presents a verse. It goes like this:

          spring flowers, summer breezes,
          autumn moon, winter snow -
          the uncluttered mind
          your best season.


Tuesday, 8 December 2015


13. Ordinary mind. Just this. A young monk, when asked what he had learnt in his first year in a Zen monastery, answered that he had learnt to open and close doors. In like vein is Gautama Shakyamuni's reply to the philosopher who wanted to know about the method Buddhists used to attain or manifest enlightenment. When Gautama began to tell him that Buddhists talk, wash, sit down, the philosopher interrupted him to point out everyone talks, eats, bathes, sits down. To which Gautama replied that there is a difference in that when Buddhists walk, sit, stand, and so on, they are aware of what they are doing. As for non-Buddhists, they do these things without being aware of what they are doing. Here we might feel that Gautama was being less than fair to non-Buddhists. After all, some of us will be familiar with the Latin maxim, 'agere quod agis'. Nevertheless, we can acknowledge Gautama's point in that mindfulness is a basic practice in Buddhism. And this practice invests everyday activities with a liberating significance. So whether opening or closing doors, sitting or standing, we can manifest the Buddha's enlightenment just as surely as when reciting sutras, offering incense or doing prostrations. As Master Nansen remarked over a thousand years ago, 'Ordinary mind is the Way'.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015


12. What price enlightenment? A young monk asked his master 'What is the Way?' If he was expecting something exciting and dramatic, the master's response must have come as a shock. His master's answer? 'Ordinary mind is the Way'. No need then to go cutting off fingers like Master Gutei. Rather it is a matter of 'just this'.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

AMA Samy with Aussie disciples

Zen Master AMA Samy, Carl Hooper sensei and some Australian members of Bodhi Sangha get together at the end of the November sesshin held at the Benedictine Abbey Jamberoo. There were twenty four participants at the sesshin, some of whom were new to Zen. Philip Long, a veteran practitioner with a lengthy association with AMA Samy became a formal member of the sangha on the last day of the sesshin when he was accepted as a disciple by Hooper sensei. Sesshin participants donated over $6,000 to support the 'Little Flower' charitable projects in India. These projects include pre-school care and education for village children, outreach and financial support for the elderly in rural districts around Bodhi Zendo, and servicing a clinic for local people. Zen Master AMA Samy has agreed to return to Australia in 2016 to lead a sesshin at Jamberoo (30 Sept - 6 Oct). Our heart felt thanks to AMA Samy for his care for the Australian members of Bodhi Sangha, to Peter Ofner for all his organizing work on behalf of the local sangha, to David Ingram for tending to the financial matters, and to Aileen McAuliffe for ensuring the survival of the group over a number of years. We also owe a debt of gratitude to Doug Hume and his partner Nadine for their generous hospitality to AMA Samy at their property near Armidale in the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales.