Sunday, 26 February 2017


90. The practice of zazen can carry me into a silence beyond words and images and concepts. In this silence there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no today. Here each and every preference falls away, for there is neither two nor one. There only 'is', an 'is' that mysteriously 'is not'. This mysterious 'is' does not belong to me, nor can I tie it down with a name. Lost in 'is-ness' I cease to be and yet am somehow strangely sustained. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017


89. A listening practice can help you cultivate and nurture an inner silence. This is the silence that, as someone has said, 'adds nothing but changes everything'. Just sit and listen and learn the language of silent love. 

Monday, 20 February 2017


88. The Zen practitioner is urged to 'listen with the eye, see with the ear'. That is to say, Zen recognises that in order to listen effectively it is not enough to rely on the ear alone or, to see what is right in front of you, to rely solely on the eye. Zen listening is a whole person activity. In the words of the great thirteenth century Chinese monk Mumon Ekai: 'Arouse your entire body with its three hundred and sixty bones and joints and its eighty-four thousand pores of the skin; summon up a spirit of great doubt and concentrate ...' Listen with this degree of total concentration and discover that suddenly 'internal and external are spontaneously united'. Listen like this and you will not only 'stop the tolling of the distant temple bell' but will also become most intimate with 'the sound of one hand'.  

Friday, 17 February 2017


87. A Zen story has it that a monk visited a mountain hermit and asked him, 'Oh venerable master, how can I enter the Way?' The hermit replied with a question of his own, 'Do you hear the sound of that mountain stream?' The monk answered, 'Yes, I do'. Then the hermit said, 'Enter there! Enter there!'
When practising zazen you might ask yourself, 'What do I hear?' Pay careful attention to the sounds that accompany your practice of zazen. Then let the question arise, 'Who is hearing this sound?'

Monday, 13 February 2017


86. Kanseon is the Bodhisattva of Compassion. She is the one who listens to the cries of the world. As such, she can serve as the inspiration for a good zazen practice, namely, to just sit and listen, to just sit and listen without any running commentary. Against a background of breath awareness and body awareness just sit and attend to the sounds that happen about you. Some of these sounds will be obvious and will simply break in upon you. Others will be more subtle and will barely register even when you are paying the most careful attention. Now this practice of listening will change imperceptibly into a form of body awareness, an awareness of body that is inclusive of the body's environment. And so it is that as a zazen practitioner you become one with Kanseon, attentive to sounds that include the cries of the world, the cries of the earth, the earth under stress. Sitting zazen you sit for the well being, even the salvation, of this stressed out earth, now realized as your very own body.

Monday, 6 February 2017


85. In emptiness there is no coming and going. And yet we do in fact travel from place to place. One day in India, the next in Australia. Does the Zen teaching about emptiness deny the evident fact of movement? A denial of the facts of everyday experience would fly in the face of reality and be at odds with what Zen is on about. Or does Zen take a dualistic view that contrasts an absolute dimension, in which there is neither movement nor plurality, with a relative world of phenomena, plurality, movement? But dualism, according to Zen, is a delusion. Now while it is true that Zen does talk in terms of the absolute and the relative, it does not see these as two different realities. In the words of the 'Heart Sutra' Zen is rooted in the realization that 'emptiness is form and form is emptiness'. Zen acknowledges that there is coming and going while keenly realizing that all coming and going is essentially empty.