Far from being anachronistic curiosities or puzzles to tease the intellect, koans are literally steps on the path of liberation. In his introduction to a translation of The Blue Cliff Record, one the the classic koan collections in the Zen tradition, Maezumi Roshi wrote, “You yourself become the case–this Blue Cliff is your very life.” […]
If you’d like to include chants in your home practice, scroll down to find links to our complete chant book and Zendo recordings of several of the seminal chants in Zen.
Services introduce the aspect of ritual into our practice. Specifically, a “service” consists of a chant, performed in front of the altar, to transmit the energy, intention and benefit of our practice into the world we inhabit…
After a particularly beautiful period of meditation, Nyogen Roshi is prompted to share his inner experience of zazen. Though setting aside striving and expectation can be difficult, the rewards are beyond measure. “You relax and release,” Roshi tells us, “then at a certain point, you begin to feel good, and the sitting itself becomes rich. You experience the wonder of what you truly are.”
Riffing on an exchange between Huike and his disciple Seng-ts’an–the second and third patriarchs of Chinese Zen–Roshi tells us that our own delusional thoughts are like the sin that Seng-ts’an believed was the reason for his suffering. Our thoughts, like Seng-ts’an’s belief in his transgression, are the real cause of our trouble. “You cannot speak ill of yourself and attain the way,” Roshi says. “We take a vow not to speak ill of the three treasures. You’re the three treasures! You are the wonder–if you can wake up.”
Patrice Taisho Bucher’s poignant talk about caring for her elderly parents in her hometown of New Orleans reminds us that serious Zen practice can sometimes feel like trying to be quiet when you’re caught in a whirlwind. But the rewards are priceless. When she is able to get quiet, Taisho sees that her mother, who […]
In a powerful and wide-ranging talk, Nyogen Roshi touches on quantum physics and the delusion of understanding; how to listen to a talk; the importance of knowing how to die well; and how his last dokusan with Maezumi Roshi, his teacher, illuminates an exchange between Obaku and Rinzai (and vice versa). But the most basic […]
Bringing up some practice instructions from Dogen Zenji, Nyogen Roshi tells us that the chatter of the unenlightened mind obscures the wonder of the world as it truly is. “Cease and desist,” Roshi says, quoting Dogen, “and you are like an ocean taking in a hundred rivers.”
Responding to a talk from a long-time student, Roshi commends the student for seeing how we reinforce our own suffering when we hang on to any kind of negativity. “If you constantly work in negative images,” Roshi says, “that is what you produce.” That fact highlights the key insight of Zen: “How do you begin to […]
Doing non-doing is the essence of Zen. Far from laziness or indifference, the stillness of zazen is the site of transformation. But reaching the still point does take effort. “Sustained effort will lead you into the joy,” Roshi tells us, “into the wonder of what your life is truly all about. The doorway opens there–all pathways lead from that point.”
Recent serious illnesses in the sangha prompt Nyogen Roshi to confront us with a fact that we usually prefer to avoid: The basic ground of the egocentric mind is the fear of death. Zen practice, Roshi then reminds us, offers a way out of that trap–and the way is always right in front of us. “You can begin to experience something quite marvelous,” Roshi concludes.
In this excerpt from a wide-ranging talk, Nyogen Roshi emphasizes the importance of continuous practice for the practitioner who aspires to true liberation from suffering. He also cautions us not to see the imperative of “home-leaving” as necessarily involving “shaving our heads and putting on a funny costume.” True home-leaving, he tells us, means freeing ourselves from the “nest” of delusional beliefs, opinions and preferences…
Reflecting on the Hanamatsuri ceremony–when Sangha members offer flowers and bathe the body of a statue representing the newborn Buddha–Nyogen Roshi reminds us that this ritual of purification is simply another reminder that cultivating samadhi is the point of our practice…