Monday, March 14, 2011


Frustration arises when we feel that we are not making progress. We try to measure the unmeasurable. Left unchecked or allowed to grow this frustration can lead us to abanden our practice. And just become another one of the flock. we may think by giving up there would be no more ties to the force that drive us to seek for truth. But this force is something deep inside us that will not just be turned off, so stay the path and leave your yardstick behind, for our path is not to anything but rather away from. We are not going anywhere there is no destination and no matter how far we travel we can only be right here where we are.

Holding a flashlight out in front of us in the dark may shine a light on the near future but no matter how fast we walk we will never be where that light shines. We travel in this moment, we breath in this moment, it is impossible to live outside of this moment. So let go of frustration, judgement and thoughts of achievement. In this moment there is no progress to be made.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Children Learn What They Live

If a child lives with criticism, He learns to condem.

If a child lives with hostility, He learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule, He learns to be shy.

If a child lives shame, He learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with tolerance, He learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement, He learns confidence.

If a child lives with praise, He learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness, He learns justice.

If a child lives with approval, He learns to like himself.

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Human Condition

The Buddha said that the human condition is like that of a person shot with an arrow. Its both painful and urgent. But instead of getting immediate help for our affliction, we ask for details about the bow from which the arrow was shot. We ask who made the arrow. We want to know about the appearance and background of the person who strung the bow. We ask about many things--inconsequential things--while overlooking our immediate problem. We ask about origins and ends, but we leave this moment forgotten. We leave it forgotten even though we live in it.

So how do we escape this condition, this suffering. We must first learn how to journey into now.Today it seems "at least to me" that many, especially our youth, have lost faith in our ancient storybook versions of the world. Science, with all its new discoveries, has many of us looking at the universe as a strange, vast, complex, impersonal, and a meaningless realm of mind and matter.

So how do we deal with this loss of faith? We go to extremes, some of us will blind ourselves to our situation and attempt to escape via drugs or alcohol or our jobs or one of the innumerable belief systems out there. Or we face the prospect that we are intelligent beings living in a meaningless world. How many times have you thought, if I only had this or if I had a different job, or if I can change this and get rid of that, then I would be happy. We are always looking for happiness, somewhere out there.

As a Chinese philosopher put it. "We move through the world in a narrow groove, preoccupied with the petty things we see and hear, brooding over our prejudices, passing by the joys of our life without even knowing that we have missed anything". Never for a moment do we taste the heady wine of freedom. We are as truly imprisoned as if we lay at the bottom of a dungeon, heaped with chains. What would it take for us to be free, to move beyond this ignorance, discontent and confusion, chained hopelessly to uncertainty and fear?

We have to journey into now. We have to comprehend Reality as a whole, not based on any concept of belief, it's perception itself. Its seeing before signs appear, before ideas sprout, before falling into thought. Its called awakening or enlightenment, and its nothing more than just seeing things and accepting them as they are rather than the way we wish are believe them to be.

Who Knows What Is Good And What Is Bad

We often think that by taking up a spiritual practice it will produce good actions as opposed to bad. The buddha-dharma however,says this is completely beside the point. The point is that we become aware of when we act out of our intent. By that I mean, we are trying to bring about some kind of desired end. Nature doesn't act with intent. Acting without intent means action out of wholeness, out of seeing the whole. But why not just learn to do good as opposed to bad? Because no solid, unchanging good or bad can be established. In other words good and bad are not absolutes. They are beliefs, judgments, ideas based on limited knowledge and the inclination of our minds.

In April of 2006 I was sitting outside playing with our children. Around 6 pm my wife called us in to eat. Off to the west I noticed some nasty looking storm clouds so I turned on the weather, and as soon as I did I heard you still have time to take cover. No sooner did I get us all to a safe place and covered with a mattress it hit. An F4 tornado. It was over in a flash although at the time it seemed that it would never end. Just like that, everything changed. The little town we lived in was virtually gone, and the house that we had just rented a month earlier destroyed. Our supper was still sitting on the table never to eaten. We where homeless. Everyone we knew would console us, saying what a terrible thing.It wasn't long before we found a nice house (I mean real nice) to rent for dirt cheep. And everyone said wow that's fantastic. Then we found out that I was going to be off work for 6 month while they rebuilt the factory that I worked at. (Which was also hit by the tornado) everyone again consoled us saying "that's terrible what will you ever do. Then the company that I worked for called us and said that their insurance was going to continue to pay us a 40 hour check until the factory reopened. Then everyone said man that's great. Since I was off for 6 months my son, from a previous marriage came to live with us for the summer.

Shortly after that the man that owned the house that we were renting, came and said we would have to move, because he had sold the house. Everyone said what will you ever do. There was a house that we had been looking at, an old farm house built around 1886 that had been for sale for a very long time, it was beautiful. So we contacted the woman that owned it to see if she would be interested in renting to us. She said no why don't you buy it. Well we had no chance of getting a loan at that time and we explained our situation to her. Two days later she called and offered to carry the note. So we bought we bought our first home. And everyone said wow that's great.To make an already long story short. Today we are the founders of the Zen Sukoyaka Youth Academy and the Empty Mind Zen Center for holistic Zen Buddhist studies. Oh and my son that came to live with us for the summer, is still with us. So who knows whats good or bad. Good or bad is never our choice, or even really the issue.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Learn From Your Teachers

“Learn from your teachers for as long as they do not contradict what you have already learned. But when they begin contradicting what you know to be true, thank them for their teaching then seek others. If they insist that they are somehow authorities, invite them to go with you.”

I think Master Rinzai said it best: “There are Zen students who are in chains and they go to a teacher who simply adds more chains. Unable to discern one chain from another they are delighted!”

(From talks given at the Open Gate Zendo)


It is important: not think that we have to always do something about the sensations we feel. Not to think that we have to give them names and plan immediate action. Instead, to look at sorrow "without the word," to look at hunger "without the word," to feel what we feel without forcing connections with the past or projecting future consequences.