Sunday, April 19, 2015

Work and Play at the Temple

Yesterday we had a work/play practice day at the Temple.  Around 20 members of the sangha came from 8 in the morning until around 1 pm, enjoying the beautiful spring weather and caring for the grounds of the Temple gardens.  Much mulch was lovingly placed around the flower beds, and a new bed was dug beside the torii gate, awaiting a new maple tree donated by a member.  A work crew put up a new fence along the front of the Temple grounds, and various other projects, including cleaning up around the Buddha, were accomplished in the warmth of sunshine and community.  Many thanks to all who participated!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Zhaozhou's Country Bumpkin -- part one

From the Blue Cliff Record, Case 57:  A monk asked Zhaozhou,  "The supreme way is not difficult, it simply dislikes choosing.  What is non-choosing?"  Zhaozhou said, "Above the heavens, beneath the heavens, I am alone and the honored one."  The monk persisted, "Isn't that still choosing?"  Zhaozhou said, "You country bumpkin!  Where is the choosing?"

This little koan has stayed with me over the past few weeks.  It's been a time of difficulties and losses, deaths of unborn babies and  beloved old friends.  Expectations have been dashed in a variety of ways.   And how is this different from my usual life?   Perhaps the succession of events has revealed more clearly than usual the impossibility of maintaining the delusion that everything is just fine.  The bareness  of the distorted thinking behind wishing things were different has been exposed over and over.  Sometimes it's just like that.

The persistence of winter at Cook's Pond, Worcester
The third Chinese ancestor, Sengcan, wrote the poem quoted by the monk in this story,  the Xinxin Ming, usually translated as "Verses on the Faith Mind."    In Boundless Way Zen we call it "The Heart of True Entrusting."   The first line, quoted here, appears in a number of stories about Zhaozhou.  Another translation is, "The Great Way is easy.  Just avoid picking and choosing."

But how do we avoid picking and choosing?   What is non-choosing?  In some respects, it really is easy.  Just stop fighting reality.  Allow everything to unfold the way it will.  Change and death are inevitable, and our limited power to control the universe is revealed to us regularly.

Today it snowed again.  I want to point out that it is April 9. Worcester continues to be the American city with the most snowfall -- another dusting added today.  How can I non-choose the weather? How can I beat my own heart?  When I surrender to what is here, something is revealed.  Do ice-covered branches represent the spring? Today, yes.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

the hall of gratuitous praise

Here is a little boost for you today if you happen to be feeling unappreciated.  When my daughter was very young, we enjoyed watching the television show Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and I've always remembered this episode, about a magical room.  In the room, there is a door which opens onto the Hall of Gratuitous Praise.  I believe everyone should have regular entry to this place -- a little ego-building on the road to seeing through the fixed nature of the self.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

amor fati

snow pile at Boundless Way Temple
Many months ago, when I was posting on this blog more frequently, and when the winter was still a dream of the future, friend and Zen student Mike Herzog pointed me to this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, in Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is, section 10:  "My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity.  Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it -- all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary -- but love it."

Today, on the last Saturday in March, it is snowing again.  Worcester briefly held the record for the most snow in US cities of a certain size, but other snowier places have pushed us to third place or lower.  Still, today promises 1 to 3 more inches in a season of endless snow.  Do I truly love my fate?  Don't I want things to be different?  Honestly, the answer is, "yes, often."  And yet, there is something in the feeling of hope for spring itself.  I love my hopefulness, even if I no longer am in love with the snow.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March Boundless Way Zen Sesshin talks

Please enjoy the talks from our recent Spring Sesshin at Boundless Way Temple:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Coming and Going Sesshin talks

Audio recordings from our 2015 Coming and Going sesshin (formerly known as Ango) are now available online at:

Please come join us at the BWZ Temple in Worcester between now and March 5 if you can.  The schedule appears below.  Even if you can't join us physically you can still hear all the talks and discussions online. More talks are added each day as we proceed.  The inspiration for this year's talks comes from our wonderful new Liturgy Book.

·       Visit the Temple for any or all of the practice periods below:
o   6:00 AM - 8:00 AM Early morning practice period
§  Includes dokusan (individual meetings with a teacher or senior student)
o   10:00 AM - 12:30 PM Late morning practice period:
§  Includes sutra service, teisho (dharma talk by a teacher or senior student) and dharma dialogue
o   2:30 PM - 5:30 PM Afternoon practice period
§  Includes dokusan
o   7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Evening practice period
§  Includes teisho, dharma dialogue and dokusan
Donations for any part of a practice period will be gratefully received in the collection bowl in the front hallway.

·       Participate in residential practice by staying at the Temple overnight for one or more nights

Advance registration is required for residential practice. Registration is now open.  Please register on-line at

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Here's an amazing audio piece by Sherre Delys, an audio artist from Australia -- it may just brighten your day.  (It's 7 minutes long.)