Thursday, 25 May 2017


116. There is a koan that features a stone on which a name is inscribed. It is the practitioner's task to read that name. This done, he or she must then respond to the claim that whereas on one side of the stone it cannot get wet, on the other it cannot get dry. This koan comes to mind as I hear daily of the suffering and violence in the world. 

Wednesday, 24 May 2017


115. The daily news is full of reminders of the destructive power of greed, hatred and ignorance. The daily response of the Zen practitioner is to keep on working at countering these forces, in one's own self, and in others. This is in keeping with the Bodhisattva vow to 'save all beings'. The vow aims to be inclusive: 'all beings', even those called 'enemies'. Here there can be no room for thinking in terms of 'us' and 'them'.  And it is in keeping with the Christian imperative to 'love one's enemies'. This might seem to be impossibly idealistic. Yet to aim at anything less is certain to keep us trapped in a never ending cycle of violence.   

Tuesday, 23 May 2017


114. Master Joshu, born in 778, entered Nansen's monastery when he was eighteen years old. Not long afterwards he had a great Enlightenment-Realisation. Yet he continued to train with his master for the best part of the next forty years. Then, following Master Nansen's death, Joshu took to the road in order to visit various masters and temples. He wandered thus for about twenty years. While travelling hither and thither he worked at deepening his original realisation. Eventually, at the ripe old age of eighty, he settled down in a small temple and began to teach. If we would follow Joshu on the Way of Zen we must learn to hasten slowly.

Monday, 22 May 2017


113. The Chinese master Ungan began his Zen training under Hyakujo in 794 C.E. He was twelve years old at the time. But though he practised with his master Hyakujo for the next twenty years he failed to achieve any deep realisation. After Hyakujo's death Ungan became a disciple of Yakusan. Eventually, guided by Yakusan, he came to a deep, transforming Enlightenment-Realisation. Commentators say that he 'ripened slowly'. However, it would seem that his case is not atypical. The Way of Zen does not offer quick and easy results. And yet 'before a step is taken the goal is reached'.  

Wednesday, 17 May 2017


112. In order to practise zazen we are advised, among other things, to drop all attachments. But what about practising Zen in everyday life? Here it is a case of dropping our attachment to attachments.

Thursday, 11 May 2017


111. Who is/was Vimalakirti? A koan answer will require a searching inquiry into the Self and be given in the present tense. A discursive answer can only be arrived at through a literary and historical study that looks to the past. But remember what the sutra says: 'to seek Mind with the discriminating mind is the greatest of all mistakes'.

Thursday, 4 May 2017


110. Vimalakirti's silence thunders down through the centuries. But who, you must ask, is Vimalakirti?