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.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018


268. Directives like 'cut off the mind road' and 'stop talking and thinking' have earned for Zen a reputation for anti-intellectualism. Such directives, however, have to do with the practice of zazen and should not be taken as representing a blanket ban on philosophical reflection and scholarly research. Even Zen's apparent rejection of philosophy is a philosophical position that recognises both the power and limitation of discursive thought. Faced with the great questions of life and death the Zen philosopher will respect Wittgenstein's dictum: 'Don't think, look!' 

Tuesday, 23 October 2018


267. Bringing your attention to the hara, your unmoving centre, the question will arise, 'Who is doing this?' Sit with this question but don't try to figure it out discursively. Rather, wait for the answer to come, of its own accord, and in its own time. Here it is a case of being at one with the trusting mind. 

Sunday, 21 October 2018


266. In Sengcan's Xinxinming we find the line 'Go beyond both appearance and emptiness and find the unmoving center'. How can we find this unmoving centre that is beyond both appearance and emptiness? To do so our tendency is to engage in a process of introspection. But Zen down through the centuries would have us do something much more physical. For Zen, the unmoving centre is located in the hara, the Japanese word for the lower abdomen. In zazen place the whole of your attention there. 

Friday, 12 October 2018


265. Master Mumon Ekai says that it is of 'the utmost importance' that we 'cut off the mind road' if we want to attain 'subtle realization'. But what is meant by the expression 'cut off the mind road'? It means that we 'must completely cut off the way of thinking'. And this, of course, cannot be achieved if we attempt to go about it as a mental exercise for, as Sengcan reminds us, 'to seek mind with the discriminating mind is the greatest of all mistakes'. Hence Mumon's insistence on the physicality of our practice. He says: 'Arouse your entire body with its three hundred and sixty bones and joints and its eighty-four thousand pores of the skin'. To this end, sitting in the prescribed meditation posture is a potent reminder that Zen is an embodied practice. 

Monday, 8 October 2018


264. A disciple quotes Uchiyama to the effect that 'we should open the hand of thought'. The idea is that we should let all thoughts drop away. But I would say: 'be open to the hand of thought'. The thoughtful hand, the practised hand, has much to teach about the limits of the discriminating mind.

Friday, 5 October 2018


263. Again I pitch my tent at Kodoji, in the bush at Gorricks Run:

                    a raucous laughter
                     breaks upon these wild hills
                     waking up the dawn