Blog posts

Addendum to the 5 Ranks

After doing another lecture on the 5 Ranks of Dongshan, I found some good language to describe it. I talked about the 5 Ranks being the landscape of enlightenment that you move around in. Sometimes hiking the mountains, sometimes in the forest, sometimes sitting calmly by the stream. We move around the different positions but … Continue reading Addendum to the 5 Ranks

Dongshan’s Five Ranks

There is some disagreements over the 5 Ranks of Dongshan within the Soto School. Some people say that it is too much of a developmental step-ladder and loses the “nowness” and immediacy of “each moment is enlightenment”. In my lineage, the labeling of a “kensho” is looked down upon because we usually end up clinging … Continue reading Dongshan’s Five Ranks

Right Effort and Letting Go

In practice, we are always dealing with the tone and depth of our awareness. First, of course, is the question: are we aware of what’s going on at all? In the beginning, this requires quite a bit of effort to bring the mind to the present. We need to have reminders everywhere and different types … Continue reading Right Effort and Letting Go

Worry and Fear

Worry and fear can alter our perceptions until we lose all sense of reality, twisting neutral situations into nightmares. Because most worry focuses on the future, if we can learn to stay in the present, living one day or one moment at a time, we take positive steps towards warding off the effects of fear. … Continue reading Worry and Fear

Watering the good seeds

Spiritual practice is a little easier when things are going well, right? It’s easier to be loving, centered and peaceful when the world is favorable. But when the world is on the wrong side of the 8 worldly winds: Pleasure and pain Gain and loss Success and failure Praise and blame When we are on … Continue reading Watering the good seeds


As we practice, we begin to change our basis of operation in our minds. We practice interrupting our self-centered desire system that produces our decisions and actions and open up to a mind-ground that has quite a different perspective. As our understanding of the truth of reality opens, our minds can be connected to the … Continue reading Mind-ground

Awakened Awareness

It seems that we get sidetracked in practice in many ways. Buddha said that he was the “awakened one.” Thich Nhat Hanh calls it mindfulness in every moment. Katagiri Roshi explains that enlightenment is subject and object merged in every moment that arises. It is a very rare and concentrated person who is able to … Continue reading Awakened Awareness

Historic Resonances

I have been taking Ken Ford’s history class at Clouds and we have been studying the book, “A Concise History of Buddhism” by Andrew Skilton. Certain facts have struck me as very contemporary. Finding things in history that are very similar to the current issues in American Buddhism, I find very consoling. It’s not that … Continue reading Historic Resonances

Engaged Buddhism

I live my life in widening circles That reach out across the world. I may not ever complete the last one, But I give myself to it. —Rilke   We have been studied Engaged Buddhism at Clouds in Water Zen Center this winter and spring. Of course it’s redundant to say Engaged Buddhism because the … Continue reading Engaged Buddhism

My dear suffering

My dear suffering, I know you are there, I am here for you, and I will take care of you. — Thich Nhat Hanh   There are many moments in the day when I feel my suffering or other’s suffering (which becomes mine) especially people who are close to me. The world’s suffering also overwhelms … Continue reading My dear suffering

Touching the earth

For the past few weeks, I have been working with Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “Touching the earth”. This new practice has brought me refreshment and a greater level of peace in my day. I am using the bowing and the readings, when I am at home, instead of a morning service. That, in itself, is … Continue reading Touching the earth

Dropping off body and mind

“To be verified by all things is to let the body and mind of the self and the body and mind of others drop off.” — Genjokoan, Dogen “Dropping off body and mind” is a key phrase in Dogen Zenji’s teaching. This is an expression that was originally used by Dogen’s teacher, Tiantong Rujing in … Continue reading Dropping off body and mind

A continuous line of immediacy

Dogen is like a twentieth century cubist. He tries to show the “whole” by showing every possible angle. He tries to show the “whole” by contradicting all the views. If we hold on to one view or understand realization through our perceptions, that is not realization. He writes in the Fukanzazengi, “realization can not be … Continue reading A continuous line of immediacy

Poem for Fying Fish’s Shuso Ceremony

Poem for Flying Fish’s Shuso (head monk) ceremony Diving into deep chasmsPeering into dark cavesNo shadow left unilluminatedYou proceed with the great open bodyUnafraidInto the unknown. Tying the mind to vastnessTogether, we wrangle all our wild stories.Without momentum, the wheel    slowly          stops. Stopping and restingWe noticeBirds fly like birdsFish swim like fish

Work as prayer

In Buddhism, we might say “daily work is an expression of the suchness of each moment,” This daily work is our expression that “each moment is complete,” or as Katagiri Roshi wrote, “Each moment is the universe.” How do we demonstrate that, amongst the tedium of our daily chores or the boredom of repetitive work … Continue reading Work as prayer