Tuesday, 29 May 2018


225. Some reminders: seek without seeking, strive without striving, care without caring.

Monday, 28 May 2018


224. It might be said that the work of the Zen master, like that of Wittgenstein's philosopher, is to assemble reminders for a particular purpose. 

Sunday, 27 May 2018


223. What is your aim in Zen? To release the goose from the jar it was raised in  (without damage to either jar or goose).

Friday, 25 May 2018


222. Finding oneself suddenly and unexpectedly at the top of the hundred-foot-pole, what is one to do? Clamber back down as quickly as possible? Sit tight and enjoy the view? Step off the pole? Step beyond the pole? 

Monday, 21 May 2018


221. How manifest the Dharma-body in the ten directions? I think of Layman Pang and his chopping wood and drawing water.  

Tuesday, 15 May 2018


220. Stepping from the top of the hundred foot pole, the practitioner must go even further and manifest the Dharma-body in the ten directions. So much for solipsism.

Sunday, 13 May 2018


219. While in Zen Enlightenment the practitioner comes to a realization of Emptiness, there is yet one further step to be taken. And that is the step from the top of the hundred foot pole. 

Saturday, 12 May 2018


218. Zen enlightenment entails the realization of Emptiness. This realization of Emptiness plunges the practitioner deep down into a realm of mystery, the mystery that encompasses all of our being-in-the-world. Immersed in this mystery the Zen practitioner comes to realize that not-knowing is most intimate. 

Friday, 11 May 2018


217. Again and again in the koans we meet the formula 'I alone' set down as a manifestation of enlightened mind. And yet it sounds nonsensical. Trying to make sense of it philosophers might argue that it is a bald expression of solipsism. Psychologists might see it as evidence of either an inflated ego or a pathological disengagement from reality. Scholars might set it in the context of the Zen literary tradition and discuss it in terms of the doctrine of dependent co-arising. But the Zen practitioner is directed to simply sit with these words or, perhaps better, with the question that they evoke, while focusing on breath and body awareness. And so it is that in zazen the meditator lets go of all philosophical concepts and arguments, all the theorising of the psychologists, and all the discussions of the scholars in order to open a space for the True Self, the 'I ALONE', to manifest itself. 

Monday, 7 May 2018


216. The Japanese Rinzai master Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1768) claimed Shoju (1642-1721), disciple and only successor to Bunan (1603-1676), as his 'root master'. However there is no record that Shoju ever formally confirmed Hakuin's enlightenment-realization. So while there is no doubt that Hakuin was an authentic Zen teacher it would seem that in terms of Rinzai lineage charts it could be argued that he lacked legitimacy. But the sangha's recognition and acknowledgement of Hakuin would stand in for Shoju and confer legitimacy on his teaching role. As John McRae points out, 'what counts in the Chan transmission scheme are not the "facts" of what happened in the lives of Sakyamuni, Bodhidharma, Huineng, and others, but rather how these figures were perceived in terms of Chan mythology'. In the Zen tradition myth is more powerful and more important than so-called historical 'facts'.         


Sunday, 6 May 2018


215. Responding to a monk who had asked him about picking and choosing in the context of the Great Way, Master Joshu said, 'Above the heavens, below the heavens, I alone am the Honoured One'. Such a claim by a mere Zen master is surely outlandish and yet, in the Zen tradition, it is prized as the manifestation of Joshu's enlightened mind. So, what are we to make of it? Will we conclude that Zen is to be classified as solipsism? Or will we find that Joshu's statement serves to point us deep into the mystery of the True Self, the mysterious source of jiriki?    

Tuesday, 1 May 2018


214. Given the long hours that a Zen practitioner spends doing zazen, it is understandable that some might assume that Zen practice is, in the words of John McRae, 'an individual yogic endeavor of self-purification and progressive advancement toward Buddhahood'. But this is not the case. Zen practice is relational, involving interaction between individuals, between masters and disciples. It is not a matter of individual effort alone but calls for the creative space that opens up between master and disciple in dokusan. Only in the emptiness of this encounter can the individual practitioner come to realize and say with conviction and understanding, 'under the heavens and above the earth I ALONE'.