Dec 10, 2004
I am just back from Rohatsu at Mar de Jade. A refreshing sesshin. The mix of Mexican and American students makes it special, brings out a flavor of the Dharma that doesn't come up in the same way north of the border - possibly also the Dharma comes out differently because I am being translated, sentence by sentence, by Laura del Valle and so to save her stress I speak very simply and in short sentences. So the talks (of which there are twice as many as at home- we began in Mexico with Dharma talks at night as well as in the morning, because the Mexican students were inexperienced, and needed more instruction- but we have keep on with this tradition) seem very different. And too, the concerns the Mexican students bring are different, and are experienced differently: with more passion.
Dec 01, 2004
This is my twenty-fifth winter as a Zen Buddhist priest, the fifth year of my beautiful collaboration with my dear friend Rabbi Alan Lew at Makor Or, our Jewish Meditation Center in San Francisco, and the fifth birthday of Everyday Zen. Congratulations to us all!
Nov 01, 2004
Some ruminations today on the Presidential election: A sad result, for me, as for so many others. As I looked at my feelings immediately after the result was clear, I became suspicious. I felt defeated? As if I myself had lost the election. Was I really that sure that things would change dramatically for the better under Kerry; no, I knew that wasn’t really going to be the case anyway. Was I so compassionate that I felt this badly on behalf of the poor world? Maybe it was partly that- but only partly. Maybe also I had over identified with this election, making it, just as the other side had made it, a referendum on the Sixties, a replay of the old feud between the Silent Majority and the alternative culture. Maybe I, along with many others of my generation, had been secretly hoping that this election would vindicate our point of view, showing the world that we had been right all along, and that the majority agreed with us! That the Clinton years were real- not just a boomer interlude between conservative regimes.
Aug 01, 2004
Lately I have been concerned with emotion: precisely what it is and how can we work with it in our practice? Emotion is often viewed as something "soft." Mere feelings need not necessarily be taken into account, or, if they are taken into account, not so importantly. Intellect, analysis, action, and insight are far more important. This, at least, is the usual view.
Feb 12, 2004
On Capital Punishment: (At midnight of February 9, 2004, Kevin Cooper was to be executed executed at San Quentin Prison. A few hours before the execution the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of execution). Dharma is always uplifting. Even when we are contemplating difficult suffering, when we remember the Dharma it brings some relief, some happiness. So we don't need to avoid suffering. As practitioners we are committed to looking suffering in the face - not only our own suffering, but the suffering of the world, which is after all also ours.
Dec 01, 2003
This Fall in the Dharma seminar we have been studying the Mindfulness Sutra and Dogen's fascicle "The Time Being." Together they paint a picture of our practice. In the Mindfulness Sutra the Buddha tells us the astonishing news that simply by being honestly and clearly present with our experience, and trusting to that, we will set ourselves on a course toward peace and happiness. How do we go about this? No surprise to us, the process begins with finding a good spot, and sitting down to practice mindful breathing.
Sep 15, 2003
On August 22, in the early morning, my dear friend and teacher Charlotte Selver passed away. She was 102 years old, had lived an exceptionally long and colorful life, so her death was no tragedy. In fact it was a triumph, and a well-earned release. Her last months were full of contentment. She had wonderful caregivers, and enjoyed the sunlight in her room, the delicious food she was served, and the many good-bye visits from her friends and loved ones. And yet it was also a burden for her to stay embodied. She had many uncomfortable and disoriented moments. So when she passed on - something she said many times she wanted do, but also (loving life and friends as much as she did) didn't want to do - it was truly a blessing. In her last days she often spoke of wanting to "go home." Finally she was able to do that.
Aug 01, 2003
I've been busy lately supporting the publication of my recent book Taking Our Places: the Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up (available through this website). As I found last year with the psalms book, it is good to travel a little bit and speak with general audiences in bookstores and other venues about the things that matter most to all of us. Contrary to my expectations, this can be done. I have always had some suspicion about the idea of "the public," but I have discovered the obvious: that the public is you and I, awash in the middle of this overwhelming world we live in. All of us have the same concerns; we all live, love (or try our best to), and die. And we all want to try to be better people, and to help.
Feb 08, 2003
Today - as our nation seems to be sliding inevitably toward another war with Iraq - it seems that there is no choice but to speak about war and peace. I am reluctant to take up this topic for two reasons. First, I feel under-informed and under-qualified to speak. I know that any situation - even a personal one - is very complicated, involving many known and unknown factors and many conflicting and yet valid points of view. Certainly in the case of an international political situation this is true. Still, one can be as well-informed as possible. While there are some Dharma teachers who are well informed (Sojun Weitsman, my own teacher for instance) I cannot say I am one of them. I am interested and concerned but not informed enough.
Feb 01, 2003
This spring in San Francisco a Traveling Jewish Theater produced a theatrical version of my psalms translations (Opening to You: Zen-inspired Translations of the Psalms - Viking Penguin, 2002). I have been a fan of ATJT for many years, since they first played at the Zen Center in San Francisco when I was a student there in 1978. Corey Fischer, one of the founding artistic directors of the theater (and director of the "Opening to You" production), has become a close personal friend. The play was quite powerful, and it was well reviewed in the newspaper. But it was quite different from what I had expected.