Subscribe to blog

Search

Everyday Zen on Facebook

March 9, 2006

Jan 09, 2007

New York's for and about art, art and fashion. Even the natural world there, the human world certainly, exists as what's said and written about it, what's signified and discussed, scarcely exists otherwise. Went to Chelsea of course, to Oliver Kamm's 5 B Gallery, to see (our son) Noah's show, the purpose of our trip. This the day after we arrived in town, January 4 (having spent January 3 waiting around for Kathie's missing luggage, then on to Brooklyn Museum with Lewis Hyde — on that see below). K. burst into tears when she saw the show. When I asked her why she said, three reasons: first, because it was a beautiful and tragic piece; second, because she knew how much Noah had worked and sweated over it; third, because it was so much the essence of who Noah is and who (as she and no one else could know) he's always been. The piece had been well reviewed, critically successful, though nothing had so far sold. It consists of two white rooms. In the first room a series of pedestals arranged in two diagonal lines converging on a center. On each pedestal an object crudely made: a television set made of wood, a pathetic paper mache eagle, a cardboard tank, a paper bullhorn, a plywood arm, a plastic movie-projector. In the center, tiny near the floor, small figure of a man standing on a miniature podium.

View Post


In one of my Dharma talks in the sesshin I discussed Isaiah's vision of the angels, six-winged, two wings covering their faces, two their legs, and with the last two flying up and down calling out to one another "Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord of Hosts, the whole world is filled with God's glory." We all stood up at the end of the talk and sang this prayer. I presented it as Isaiah's radical shift in viewpoint: after this vision he was furiously inspired as a prophet of God, having through the vision been purified of his sins when one of the angels touched his "unclean lips" with a live coal from the temple altar. So, I said, practice changes our point of view radically, if less dramatically. Buddha's enlightenment amounts to that: a radical shift in viewpoint.

View Post


As you know, Everyday Zen does a lot with very little. Our budget has always been modest. With the exclusion of what you send in with these mailings, virtually all we need comes from donations received in the course of my teaching, travel, and lecturing. Our wish has been to practice simply, encouraging people to give to others, not to us.

View Post


ultures, red-hooded and lazy of wing fold and unfold their wings claws dangling unevenly to land on my low roof Then flap off again low beyond the garden then up into wind's lifting drafts, Two of them, one after the other following an impulse in concert, Off then back again in a richness of detail, a fluid slowness, languor of wing and intelligence — Someone sees all this — sees the birds lazily descend from the cypress tree disturbing the branches as they fall There's no drama, no style, nothing's spoken of, signified, as the red-faced big black birds ascend and descend

View Post


Some reflections on David Riggs' Ph.D. thesis on Menzan. Many of its salient points I'd already, somehow, known, but I read it with great interest. Menzan and Hakuin were almost exact contemporaries (Menzan born 1683; Hakuin in 1686; both died in 1769); both were major reformers of an all-but-moribund Zen tradition, but the direction of their reforms was almost diametrically opposed (though there is no record of any direct disagreement between them, and no one knows whether they knew of one another). Hakuin stressed kanna Zen ("seeing the phrase"), that is, koan study in a secret pantomime-based system that seems quite related to the typical Tokugawa Period Japanese model of theater and crafts clans in which secret specific traditional gestures, words, and techniques were handed down in families through the generations.

View Post


Elaborate morning service at Eiheiji in the great Hatto (Dharma Hall). The Hall features a large Avalokiteshvara enshrined above, on a high altar accessible by steep stairs. There are two giant urns to either side of the altar, full of huge gold lacquered wooden lotus arrangements, leaves, flowers, and seedpods. All this at one end of the room. Hanging from the Hatto's heavy wooden beamed ceiling are four gold lacquered ornaments, two very long rather narrow (possible twenty feet long by five feet in diameter) cylinders hung with bells and filigree and two other wider but not as long chandeliers, with more elaborate bells, filigree, parasols, banners etc.

View Post


'd heard G. has ALS so I called him up. He sounded weaker, more subdued than usual, but quite lucid and appreciative of what he's going through. He says being sick makes him embrace every moment of his life — so he's got quite a bit of pleasure, more than before, when the Zen teachings about "being in the present moment" sounded philosphical. He's much closer to his wife and to his friends, who now talk to him with much greater depth and honesty. In telling them that he was at first depressed about his diagnosis and was on anti-depressant drugs, he found that many of them admitted to him that they too were on anti-depressants. He's now got the impression that most of the country is on these drugs. Sounds true. His reaction to his illness is very much like Will Huben's, who died of it a few years ago, having been courageous and inspiring till the end. I'd given him a small wooden Buddha to look at when he could no longer move at all. It sat on his altar and he was cremated with it.

View Post

June 2006

Jun 08, 2006

Reading Laynie Brown's "Daily Sonnets" in MS so as to write a blurb for her. She writes an afterword to the book called "The permeable ‘I,' a practice," in which she tells about finding a way to let her life as a mother, and the world with all its distractions and interruptions, enter the frame of her poems. This comes from Stein, ultimately, the eruption of the everyday — of immediacy — into the work. Certainly a strategy I've used, and continue to use, as a device for writing. Less persona, less control, less conventional sense of the poem as epiphany or short story, and more the sense of it as a present moment event in language, with a mind of its own. Hence "the permeable ‘I' a practice." It is so. Laynie's poems are playful, elegant, wise, full, fun. She's got a brilliant touch, feminine, delicate, and tough, as Ted Berrigan used to put it.

View Post

Dogen's Genjokoan

May 17, 2006

Before resuming discussion of Genjokoan I want to report to you on my reading of Steven Heine's book "Did Dogen Go To China?" First, let me assure you that Heine is not suggesting that Dogen did not go to China. The title is a play on another book that all scholars of Asia know: "Did Marco Polo Go to China?" That book actually does offer some solid evidence that Polo never did go to China, and that he or someone else pieced together information from other books as well as some imaginative material to concoct a story. " Did Marco Polo Go to China" is a rather spectacular example of critical historical scholarship disproving something that has always been taken for granted, and this is what scholars love to do, to debunk the conventional wisdom, causing us to reexamine our whole perspective, which seems like a healthy thing to do in any case. And this is what Heine wants to do as well in his book- to cast doubt on current theories in Dogen studies.

View Post


The Contemplative Mind in Society Board meeting in Kalamazoo was fine. Very full schedule of talk, with a short meditation to lead each session (I led one of these, as did Father Thomas Keating, originator of Centering Prayer, who also attended; I was delighted to see him again, having missed his talk in San Francisco). By the time I'd gotten to the meeting, having read the rather voluminous Board materials on the plane, I already had a plan: that we extend the academic fellowship program, making CMS a fellowship network that identifies and supports talented contemplatives in various fields. I discussed this idea at meals and in our sessions and it occasioned much feedback and lots of interest.

View Post