Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Sweeping Zen

Regarding the Sweeping Zen website:
Hello All, as a frequent contributor both of blogs and money to Sweeping Zen, I am deeply concerned that the site will be taken down without notice. I urge you each to download your contribution as soon as possible. I have asked Adam if he would allow me and two friends to take over the site. He has declined that offer, including an offer to purchase it. As a result I will, with my colleagues, establish a new website of the same type. If you have an interest in contributing your articles, please contact me at thank you

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


With Respect To All,

Today was a day at the house, my new refuge, where I cleaned up the back yard, moved some furniture around creating a spot to sit under my large tree, and fixed a few things like the drippy faucet in the kitchen.
So, I began streaming “Dead Poet’s Society,” an old favorite of mine, took a break for some dark chocolate and coffee to sit under that tree. While there, Suki hoped up on the bench beside me and sat down. It occurred to me just then how marvelous the “Dead Poet’s Society” film actually was: it celebrates true freedom. The best and most important kind…freedom of thought.
We seem to have denied ourselves that freedom no matter how much we protest we haven’t. Most of us are decidedly not free. We follow. We conform. And we suffer from our own paralysis as our freedom to be free atrophies. We are afraid to be free, afraid to be truly different, and as a result the road less travelled is barely worn.
Zen is an antidote to that failure. In Zen our practice is to cut through our deluded minds, minds that require conformity to feel safe or to belong. The sword of the bodhisattva Manjushri is compelled to swing deep and strong, cutting away the garbage we believe is thought, but in reality is nothing more than talking points at best and bumper sticker slogans at worst.
What have we done to ourselves? Mindless, thoughtless, beings who simply “watch” the news, the dramas, and the comedies while all around us snoring drowns out the sounds of life on our planet. We have only ourselves to blame as each of us has the capacity to set out on life’s journey with enthusiasm, perhaps painting or drawing, perhaps writing, perhaps taking acting classes or literature classes or any other form of personal education that allows us to see differently.
I recall sitting at a cafe counter one time long ago in Miami reading T. S. Eliot I think, when the waitress asked me what I was reading. When I told her she asked if I were a student. When I said no, she seemed shocked and actually asked me why I was reading the book. What’s that about?
And so, dear friends, I ask you, what’s your passion? What’s your path? How can you break out of the bonds of lemming hood and truly walk in your own freedom?

On Robes

With respect,
How great the robe of liberation, a formless field of merit...
A recent thread on Facebook began to discuss the wearing of robes at public protests and demonstrations. Many readers opposed the practice essentially saying robes were for the Zendo. I have a different view.
When s priest, as well as lay people, take the precepts it should mean something. They are taking refuge in the Three Treasures, they are vowing to manifest the Three Pure Precepts and vowing to honor the Ten Grave Precepts. I wonder what it is they think those Three Treasures and Three Pure Precepts are all about. They are not just words. They are meant to help us shift our identity from the individual to the universal. The Four Great Vows are invitations to do the same.
I think robes and the questions around them reflect our ambivalence regarding our public priesthood and sense of being clergy here in America.
Being a priest for me is a non-dualistic. It is a full time occupation and until recently I wore robes often and nearly always at public events. It was my way of honoring and perhaps manifesting, the Buddha Way and maintaining the tradition. I am now quasi-retired but, I still put on the Buddha Robe when at public events. It’s an important means, in my opinion, of stating what Zen Buddhism is all about: bringing about abundant good for all beings. It also says, “Here I Am.”
Such a message is lost if the wearing of our robes only occurs in the Zendo. How can we make people be aware of our presence in a community if we only
practice in the shadows or in the proverbial closet. If we are granted the right to wear a robe and are a priest why hide it? Maybe others will be inspired by our presence and see that at least one faith tradition is not afraid to be seen supporting or opposing an important issue.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Natural Practice

The Natural Practice

It is nearly midnight on a Sunday night. The sky is filled with dark clouds and there are a few raindrops falling to earth. I know this because I often practice zazen, as I just did, outside in the open air. 

Such practice reminds me of the Buddha and his followers, practicing and living as they did, outside exposed to the elements. Rain, snow, heat, wind, no matter: they practiced their lives without anything but a bowl and a robe.

There is something wonderful about that practice.  We sit with the earth and sky as they are and we learn “as they are” is enough. Simple, straightforward practice with the world as it is.

Such practice allows us to experience the distractions of a fly landing on one’s face, searching for something and scampering along over nose and eye brows.  We don’t disturb the fly.  We simply witness it. Through such experiences we learn something: we don’t have to move.  We can just sit.

To just sit is to stop.  Stopping is something we rarely do. Our mind is always in motion.  Always demanding something of us, yet through our practice those demands are just like the breeze across our face or that fly squatting down to rest on the tip of our nose. Something to experience.  Something to let go. 

May we each find it in ourselves to retreat outside, paying attention without engaging. 
The reward is the practice itself.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


An Pro-Life Rant:

Pay attention so-called "Pro-Lifers." Your wish is likely to come true. And all your toxic rants regarding abortion will be retired. Yet, most of you like to talk about the consequences of people's actions, so let's just do that, OK?
What do you suppose the consequences will be when millions of unwanted or accidental pregnancies are forced to come to term? The mother forced against her will to deliver a baby she does not want, nor likely in many cases, cannot deal with? Adoption? Foster Care? Really good choices right? The cost of those unwanted children, both to the children themselves, the families, and the state and federal governments will be lifelong and very, very high, both financially and psychologically. Forcing someone to do with their body what they don't want to do is atrocious.
Maybe, as a partial solution we ought force men to have vasectomies, right? Or force men to stay in unloving relationships to care for a child they never asked for nor want? After-all, its not just about te mothers, you know? But I don't hear you jumping up and down about that. Poor guy.
And then we have desperation and the coat hanger solution. Oh, but wait, we can now charge the woman with variations of murder. Court costs, psychological trauma, prison and probation costs, right, that's such a f*cking GOOD idea. So, a woman climbs into a tub with water and a coat hanger. Good grief, where has your sense of decency and compassion gone? Oh, right, to the fetus (NOT UNBORN CHILD, that's an oxymoron). 
There are a few "pro-lifers" who get a lukewarm pass from me, those who are consistent and truly value life, all life, including being against the death penalty, war, and other forms of killing human beings who are actually born. But for the vast majority, no pass. You call yourselves pro-life but go to war and kill. You call yourselves pro-life and support the death penalty. You call yourselves pro-life but elect a man who has single-handedly set in motion the dismantling of the EPA with potentially life threatening events like allowing corporations to dump their waste in our nation's water supplies. 
Frankly you both make me sick and morally disgusted. Let's hope your daughters don't find themselves in such a situation. But wait! Those among you, especially well-off Republicans, can afford to fly your girls to Canada, can't you? Hypocrites.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What are we afraid of?

With palms together,

Lately I've had some dialogue with my friend Randy Harris, who leads our local "Great Conversation" on the topic of free speech v. hate speech. It seems to me it all boils down to the question, "do you feel safe?" In fact, many universities are now touting they are "safe" zones and, as a result, disallow speech that is "offensive" or "hurtful." 
Frankly, I think this is a grave mistake, especially in an institution of higher learning. It is a dangerous path to take as it disallows alternative views so that we do not get to hear what our adversaries may be thinking or doing. Moreover, I believe it is an assault on the First Amendment. And for what? To protect our feelings? Are our feelings so important that we take away a speaker's right to speak?
No. They are not. Our feelings are subjective, they are ours; deal with them.
Because they are subjective, the litmus test to remove a speaker, professor, or student, must also be. As we all know (I hope) all of us respond differently to perceptions. and all of us perceive differently. Since this is so, there simply cannot be an objective test regards so-called "hate speech." 
When we do respond to speech that is hurtful or offensive, it ought not be related to our feelings being hurt, but rather to any threat that might be contained within it. Being vulnerable is a part of adult life. Adults don't cry to their mothers that their feelings were hurt. They make themselves stronger though directly dealing with the situation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Dharma

With palms together,
Good Evening All,

The Dharma is incomparably profound and minutely subtle. It is rarely encountered in hundreds of millions of kalpas. We can now see it and hold it. May we understand the Tathagata's true meaning.

Lofty words signifying nothing.  The dharma is reality and reality is empty, which is to say, it is constantly changing, but more, it is perceived differently by each and every one of us. So what's so profound?  What's so subtle? Have we rarely encountered it?

I believe we each encounter the dharma on a moment to moment basis. The universe lays itself before us in each breath.  Do we breathe? It spreads itself out as we walk, do we walk?   It is as open as the sky, do we see it?

Some of us answer yes, some no.  Most of us are far too busy (we believe) to encounter it at any time, let alone when asked to.   Yet, there it is, the dharma.  What we don't do is see it and hold it, nor do we attempt to grasp its true meaning.

The Tathagata, meaning "one who thus came" is just another word for Buddha.  What is his true meaning?  I mean the meaning of the life that he lived and the teachings he brought into the world through his body, mind, and speech?  Funny, in my view his teachings aren't "the dharma," but rather a reflection of it.  Just as mindfulness practice is not mindfulness. When I see reality directly, that is dharma, when I later speak of it or write about it, that is not dharma, but my recollection of it.

True dharma, then, is only that which we directly experience.  It is why zen teachers ask students not to read so much.

May we each put down our books and sit quietly inside or outside.  May we each breathe in the universe and exhale ourselves.  May our minds and bodies fall away.  May we experience.

Be well

"Take on Faith" 101.5 FM

Announcing our Weekly Radio Show

Our weekly radio call in show, "Take on Faith" with co-host Brian Harrison, will begin broadcasting at 10:00AM each ...