Sunday, December 11, 2022


photo by Michael Herzog, sculpture by David Rynick

Blue Cliff Record Case 42 begins:  "Layman Pang was leaving Yaoshan. Yaoshan ordered ten of his Zen students to see Pang off at the temple gate. Pang pointed to the falling snow in the air and said, 'Beautiful snow-flakes! — they don’t fall on any other place.'"

This is just the beginning of the koan, and is followed by a dialogue between Layman Pang and a Zen student who challenges him.  But before the objecting mind of that student enters the story, we can relish Layman Pang's words by themselves.  

It's snowing in Worcester tonight.  Later, David and I will walk over to the Temple for our Sunday night service, through the darkness, through the falling snow.  It's not a big storm, and the whiteness spreading everywhere is so lovely.  Layman Pang, a Zen ancestor who never ordained and who is revered for both his ordinariness and his deep insight,  must have enjoyed a similar scene as he was ending his visit at the teacher Yaoshan's place.   Sometimes his additional comment is translated as "they don't fall anywhere."  But I like this translation -- there's nowhere else they can be.  There's nothing else that could be happening right now.  

Whether your present moment experience is lovely or painful, sweet or challenging, can you see this truth for yourself?  There is no other life than the one we are living.  And in a moment, there will be some other life.  Our way of practice keeps pointing us to this, this, this.  Nowhere else.  The mind that wants good things to last and bad things to stop has a hard time sinking into the reality of this.  Pause and feel it for yourself.  "Beautiful snowflakes!  -- they don't fall on any other place."

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

The Snake's Tail Sesshin

 We had our annual Rōhatsu sesshin this past weekend, celebrating the day 2600 years ago that our founding teacher, Shakyamūni Buddha, had his great awakening to the true nature of reality.  We worked with kōan 6 from the Gateless Gate collection, where the Buddha twirls a flower and his first Dharma heir, Mahakashyapa, smiles and is recognized as understanding the great matter of our Way.  it was the first sesshin taught by Dharma Holder Michael Herzog, who assisted David Rynick Rōshi and myself, and the head seat (tanto) was Assistant Teacher Adam Monty, with Senior Assistant Teacher Rev. Paul Galvin supporting him as assistant tanto, and Assistant Teacher Rev. Corwyn Miyagishima supporting our zoom sangha as online tanto.  We had 40 participants, 22 in person at the Temple, and 18 in the zoom zendo.   The name given to the sesshin by Adam is based on the poem by Wumen that accompanies the koan, where, describing the Buddha, he writes, "The snake shows his tail."  The whole is revealed with one glimpse of the part.  And so it is with awakening.  The weekend was a wondrous experience of deep practice and community connection.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Wandering and Wondering Fall 2022 Sesshin

 This past weekend we celebrated the arrival of fall and Indigenous People's Day with a three day hybrid sesshin -- around 20 people participated online on zoom, and 20 people were in residence at the Temple.  We explored a koan case from the Blue Cliff Record, in which Zen master Changsha goes off wandering in the mountains.  

We are finding ways to continue to deepen and widen our Temple residential practice, while including people from around the country and the world, through zoom.  We are truly blessed that the strength of the Dharma has supported our sangha practice.  Come wander and wonder with us:  Boundless Way Zen Temple

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Near and Far the Same Sesshin

photo by Corwyn Miyagishima
                                                                                     Our June 2020 sesshin just concluded, celebrated by the community of participants with joyous cheers and tears.  This was an historic event for our sangha -- our first hybrid sesshin, with 12 people attending in person at the Temple and 24 more people attending on Zoom.  

Because of the pandemic, we have turned toward developing intensive meditation retreats on Zoom, and our sangha now includes students who practice from a geographic distance from the Temple as well as local folks.  In the past, far away seemed truly far away.  

Since spring of 2020, we have found a way to provide a Zen retreat experience for people everywhere in the world on-line, and our sangha has expanded because of it.  With COVID numbers finally becoming slightly lower in Worcester, we took a chance on inviting a few students experienced with in-person sesshin, and our various Temple committees:  technology, in-person safety, sesshin and communications all worked together to create a hybrid experience.    

People coming in person were all fully vaccinated and also took COVID tests the morning of sesshin, so that we could create a safe in-person experience.   This particular sesshin included attendees from California and many Northeastern states, France, Belgium, the UK and Denmark, as well as people from nearby in Massachusetts.  

We took as our topic the koan from the Gateless Gate collection:  "Ordinary Mind is the Way." and David Rynick Roshi, Dharma Holder Alan Richardson and I offered talks and individual meetings throughout the time we had together.  

We experienced a deep connection between near and far -- the ordinary barriers of time and space melted away, and so our tanto (head seat) Adam Monty, who is also the president of the Temple, named it the Near and Far the Same Sesshin.  Rev. Corwyn Miyagishima was the tanto of the online portion of the sesshin and supported people through his dharma heart and his technology skills. 

I am so grateful for everyone who created and participated in this retreat.  Our next hybrid sesshin will be in late July through early August, and the in-person component will be open to anyone who is vaccinated (and boosted) providing that COVID numbers stay the same or diminish.  And everyone is invited to join on Zoom, wherever you are in the world!

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The Ready to Fly Sesshin


Above are many of the participants in our Spring Distant Temple Bell Sesshin, which the tanto (head seat and retreat manager) Rev. Paul Galvin named the "Ready to Fly" Sesshin.  As usual the transformations of heart were numerous, and I am so grateful for everyone who participated, especially the officers who made it all happen: Jenny Smith, Senior Assistant Teacher Michael Herzog, Rev. Corwyn Miyagishima and Erin Barbour.  Plus deep bows to my fellow teachers David Rynick, Roshi and Dharma Holder Alan Richardson.  

Our next sesshin at Boundless Way Temple will be June 10 -- 12, and will be our first ever hybrid sesshin, with a few people in residence at the Temple, and everyone else on Zoom.  We look forward to this new chapter in our sesshin journey as we slowly come through the experience of closing due to COVID in March of 2020, and our discovery of the powers of Zoom.  We're all ready to fly!

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Shining Grasses Sesshin

photo by Corwyn Miyagishima

The topic for our latest Boundless Way Temple sesshin, taught in our Zoom zendo by David Rynick, Roshi, Dharma Holder Alan Richardson and myself, was a story from the Record of Layman Pang.  

The Layman was sitting in his thatched cottage one day studying the sutras. "Difficult, difficult, difficult," he said; "like trying to scatter ten measures of sesame seed all over a tree." "Easy, easy, easy," Mrs. Pang said; "like touching your feet to the ground when you get out of bed." "Neither difficult nor easy," their daughter Ling Zhao said; "the teachings of the Ancestors are written on the tips of the hundred shining grasses."

Indeed, this is the world we live in, full of sorrows and joys, while all the time the teachings about the Dharma, actual reality, surround us if we train ourselves to perceive them.  A Zen sesshin is one way to immerse the heart, mind and body in this way of seeing, hearing and feeling.   At a certain point in our practice life, we can find the teachings everywhere.  Sometimes it feels difficult, sometimes it feels easy.  And sometimes we recognize that those categories point us away from what is right here, always shining and ready for us.

Special thanks to the tanto (head seat) for this sesshin, Jenny Smith, and the assistant tanto Senior Assistant Teacher Michael Herzog, plus the whole sesshin officer team:  Adam Monty, Senior Assistant Teacher Rev. Paul Galvin, Rev. Corwyn Miyagishima and Assistant Teacher Rev. Ray Demers, who gave one of the evening encouragement talks.  And deep bows to everyone who attended, pictured above.  Our next sesshin will be in April -- for more information: Boundless Way Temple.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Seeing into the nature of past and future


A big snow storm is headed our way.  The weather folks are predicting one to two feet here in Worcester, and two to three feet east of us in Boston.  The storm is supposed to start in less than twelve hours, and already the streets and the sky and the air are quiet.  There is nothing to do but empty the compost, make sure the snow blower has enough gas, and wait.  

Of course, this is a specific example of our usual condition, as human beings.  We believe we know what will happen next, but we can only make approximate guesses, and base our actions on those guesses.  A dharma friend told me today that he had stopped, pretty much, going over events that have happened in the past, and trying to predict what will happen.  Most of his energy these days is going to being present for what's happening right now.  

Another spiritual friend said something similar to me later in the day.  She understands that what has passed has gone, and the energy it takes to keep the specifics of the past in memory is a waste of precious brain resources.  "Forget it all,"  she said.  

The past is a palace of memories, and the future is a cloudy region of fantasy.  Right here, in this moment, the air is cold and quiet.  The compost is emptied and the gas can is full.  One moment at a time, life unfolds.  We can meet it with surprise and wonder.  Happy snow day!