Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I am struggling with "oughts" so much these days.

"You ought to sit", "You ought to open up to the moment", "You ought to accept"

The hand of thought can open in the moment, but I find myself starring at a fist and I strive to pry it open, because it "ought to be open."

This does not work.

I can clearly see myself as a mean, jealous, angry man, cussing at slow drivers, jealous of the attention my wife gets from her friends, dreaming of running away from it all to hide out in Japan somewhere, feeling like a spoiled child even as I write this tantrum when I know I "ought to be weighty and wise and crunchy and loving and reflective and cute and say nice things."

Barry, rename your blog "ought herding!"

I imagine there could be a pebble bounced off bamboo that would awaken me from this trap of knowing I ought not focus on all these oughts. Mirrors reflecting in mirrors - the tangled consideration.

Harry says Dogen thought there is no restriction in this murkiness.

There are hornets and there are kittens.

There are fools and there are sages.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

If you have a practice, kill it!

Lin Chi in the "yu-lu" recommends that if you meet a buddha, kill the buddha
(ref "The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi", Smahbahala, trans. by Burton Watson, pg 52)

I had a practice. I killed the practice the last two days. Now I'm ready to start the practice again.

Was this wise? Was this folly?

It has arisen and fallen. How can it be touched?

Black and white mouse nibble the branch.

This "thus" is just a berry.

How sweet.

How sweet.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Cup of Tea

[Referring to Zen Flesh Zen Bones - Story 1. ]

When a guest comes to visit, with a full cup, is it kindness to serve them more?

Should you speculate that your guest's cup is full, or ask them if they would like more?

How long would you poor tea into a filled cup?

Should a guest tell a host that they must stop pouring?

If the cup has no bottom it will never be filled.

If the pot is truly empty it cannot pour tea.

"How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?" - How do you show water to a fish?

Monday, July 6, 2009


Had to take refuge from all suffering in the house the other day. I was in my bed staring at the ceiling and got the distinct impression all this "I" was just thoughts churning in a mind. Like "I" was a swarm of angry bees.

I waited a few minutes, and one by one the bees left.

But something was still left behind, observing the lack of bees.

Then I got up, dove back in, and the swarm has started again.

What was that left behind? Sweet honey?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Once Upon a Time....

UPDATE April 2011 >> my little spybot shows a bunch of people are reading this old post now. What's the interest? I'd love to know. Drop me a email or a comment. 

Once upon a time there was [ ]. And now I must destroy [ ] a bit by saying that it was formless and yet lacking all formlessness. I will degrade [ ] a bit more, add bit more delusion to it, by saying it was an existence. So out of the formed, formlessness it all arises.

Though there was actually no heaven and earth in this existence, it was all a void of non-differentiation, we could say there was uppy stuff that was way away, and downy stuff that was near by.

And to more complety sickle o'er the perfection of this void with the pale cast of thought we can say there were vast expanses of water and land. And we can carve out blobs of this nothing, this [ ] and call the bits that don't run away from us plants, and the bits that do animals.

Though there was actually no brilliant sun, or calming moon, or splashing streams, or rumbling thunder, we can only say there was sun, moon, streams and thunder because there is no other way to do this.

And this void, this formlessness, did not, but did, have a thousand million eyes, and paws, and noses, and brains, and beating hearts. They arose and fell, like foam tipped waves on the ocean. Here and gone. Sometimes falling into each other, with bits being shat out, and sometimes just falling and blending back into the ground like melting ice cream.

There were in fact no buffalo or tigers or rhinoceroses or giant sloths or tyrannosaurus rexes, but that is how we name those bits of void these days. The names kill what they really were. Confine them to cages that don't express their full truth.

One pair of eyes with brain with limbs started being more populous, and being more populous, more reliably, because it happened to associate a high grunt with getting the hell out of there (what we now would call "danger") and a low grunt with staying put (i.e., "safety"), a yelp with "these berries are good" and a chatter with "tiger over there." This ugly bag of mostly water we can call hu-man took the void, took the formlessness, took the unlimited all, and started carving it up into concepts and names, and this took hold like wildfire amongst the hu-mans. The ones that could trade in this bastardization of the [ ] lived longer, and better, and had more offspring that could pick up on the "benefits" of this carving and hacking the nothingness into chunks of stuff.

Skipping several hundred thousands of not-really-existant years brings us to today. We have a way of life that is crowed with ideas and concepts and language and thoughts that allow us to manipulate very effectively this great void, this nothingness, this [ ], we are in, but we have much trouble seeing it for what it is.

Seung Sahn Soen-sa says "stop making bad and good", Shakespeare says "There is no bad nor good but thinking makes it so." These thoughts, these words this "intellect" is not it, not the [ ]. They are a limited description of parts of it. They lead to the illusion that [ ] is a composition of a bunch of individual things. I do not think that is what [ ] is.

[ ] is a continuous whole of undescribable reality. Our concepts are never adequate. With practice (zazen) we can learn to open our "old" eyes that were part of [ ], and let [ ] flood into our awareness without naming any bit of it, or put thoughts and concepts to it. We can learn to just flow with it again as [ ] is.

[ ] is like the horns of a snail. If we try to touch it with concepts and judgement and language, it shys away.

Of course the discourse above kills [ ] by striving to conceptualize its existance. My thesis requires that even my thesis must miss the mark. The following quoted sentence is a better description,

but not even the concept of empty quotes on a computer screen is close to [ ]. Perhaps you can find some of [ ] on your zafu?