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Auspicious Signs

Auspicious Signs Pay attention to your dreams, literally.  They might mean something important or be an auspicious sign.  Prior to the Buddha’s conception his mother

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Kyoki Roberts Obituary

With family bedside, ROBERTS, Christine Kyoki, died December 19, 2023, at the age of 72 in Omaha, Nebraska. She is survived by her son, Joe Eliason, her daughter-in-law, Isabel, her three grandchildren, David (Amber), Tristan and Krista, by three great-grandchildren, Scarlet, Liam and Oliver, as well as her two sisters, Melinda Jane Roberts and Jean Shaw Roberts.

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Think/Feel Deeply

Absorbed in a Deep Feeling

Zen is not stoicism. Many people see it otherwise. Stone faces and stiff upper lifts, and a non-challan attitude. But all the Japanese Zen teachers I have trained with were never shy about expressing their true feelings. I’ve seen Zen masters share their joys and sorrows, their hates and their loves, their equanimity and their anxiety. Never did they not care about what was going on around them. They felt it all and felt it fully.

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Value Simplicity and Effortlessness

Just quietly sit down and notice what’s right in front of your eyes. It’s simple. No need to go somewhere. Dogen Zenji says, “The Way is basically perfect and all pervading. What good does it do to travel around to practice?” Wake up with the circumstances present in your life right now. Don’t wait for some future time when things will be “better.” That future time may never arrive.

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Plunge into Free Fall Meditation

Plunge into Free Fall Meditation Zazen as Freefall Zen Master Jingqing asked one of his students, “What’s that sound outside?” The student replied, “It’s the

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Carefree Like a Cloud

Carefree Like A Cloud

We are constantly judging and comparing ourselves with our previous self, the self we want to become, or the selves of other people, wanting to become something other than what we are today. However, Enlightenment in the Soto school is impossible to attain by self-improvement. While practice never precludes continual refinement of our actions and following the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts, it’s about accepting where and who we are in this moment, because in the next moment the strong winds of life change us, just as the cloud transforms into a different shape, second after second. Like the cloud, it is not us (=ego self) that changes ourselves, but life that transforms us.

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Ascending to Sincere and Devoted Practice

“Even people in the secular world must concentrate on one thing and learn it thoroughly enough to be able to do it in front of others rather than learn many things at the same time, without truly accomplishing any of them.”

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Seeing Through The Troubles of Life

What if we were to accept that our view of the world is almost always concealed, limited, and incomplete? What if we were to accept that what we are seeing is never the full picture?

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Mountains Walk

Don’t Be Fooled By Walking Mountains

Bald Eagle Mountain range was not named after the bird, as I once thought, but a leader within the Lenape (better known as the Delaware) tribe, a community of indigenous people that still exists today. This tribe has three clans within it, one of which is known as the “Muncy.”

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Zen Confucianism

Zen Confucianism by Rev. Eric Daishin McCabe   https://youtu.be/yeD1nOYz4UA All of the Sinitic cultures – especially Korea, Japan, and Vietnam – have evolved around ways

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DNA Come, Ego Go

“The buddhas of all times right now share the same eyes and hands with you, and practice and affirm this for the whole three hundred

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Thanksgiving Message

Prison is not just a place in our minds.  In Buddhism we talk about how the mind is our worst prison, but that the mind can also liberate us.  However, there are real prisons all around us…

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Two Causes for Enlightenment

If Enlightenment is possible here and now and in this lifetime regardless of prior knowledge or practice, the question remains whether Enlightenment happens by grasping it or by letting it go.  Zen Master Dogen, in speaking to his assembly during the celebration of the Enlightenment of the Buddha tells us that there are two causes and conditions for accomplishing the Buddha Way.

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Crossroads

Approaching the varieties of religious expression and trying to make sense of them can be daunting to the casual observer.  The World’s Religions are a peacock’s feathers display of color.  There are differences in language, ceremony, and religious attire, as well as customs and histories making it all very confusing.

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Yin and Yang

Many are familiar with the yin-yang symbol, but few of us know what it means or how it is applied to real life.  In Zen Master Dogen’s time this symbol was taken for granted.  Not just Dogen Zenji, but all of Japanese culture connects the solstice with the yin-yang energy that fluctuates depending on the time of year.

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Practice as though your head were on fire?

Is your head on fire?  I’m guessing it is not.  However, do you really want to end your suffering here and now?  I’m guessing you do, but generally we don’t believe it can be done and we may end up settling for coping with suffering.  Meanwhile, the happiness of the present moment continues to elude us. 

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Gassho – Joined Palms

Enlightenment is none other than recognizing the unity of opposites.  However, this definition is totally intellectual, and doesn’t necessarily connect Enlightenment with anything real or concrete.  Intellect needs to be connected with the physical body, with actually doing something in a particular way, through a proscribed form.  Freedom is not found through intellectualizing Zen practice nor in thinking it can be found outside the forms that practice takes.

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When Yoga Meets Zen Meditation

In the United States there is a cultural idea born in part by early commentators, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, on the Bhagavad Gita and the Buddhist Sutras that meditation is about control, that this control requires one’s own individual efforts alone, and one will eventually experience peace if practiced for long enough.  These ideas are fine but can be misleading when taken out of context. 

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Transmitting Light

Both the Lotus Sutra and Zen Master Dogen are saying something very similar, that what we do matters and has an effect on those around us, perhaps beyond what we are willing or prepared to notice.

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Loss is Gain

Sawaki Kodo Roshi, a 20th century Japanese Zen Master, talked about Zen as the “Study of loss.”  What I like about this is how unappealing this sounds on the surface.  In a culture that values unending growth and gain, who wants to study about loss?  Kodo Roshi, in fact, says in Japanese, “Son wa toku, toku wa son” =  “Loss is gain and gain is loss.”

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Have No Designs

Improvement or “transformation” modes of practice have their merit and may be viable for us in some ways and at some times.  I genuinely respect these approaches.  However, Soto Zen meditation is different from other schools of Buddhism, Hinduism and secular meditation in an important respect.

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“Improving” Zazen with Yoga

Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking meditation is going to do something for them, make them calmer or happier. There has been loads of research on how meditation does that.  But without adequate preparation it really just gets us in touch with our own misery.  This is why I suggest asking not what your meditation practice can do for you, but what you can do for your meditation practice.

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What is Meditation?

It can be helpful to remember why we came to meditation in the first place.  For many of us, anxiety and stress are big issues. 

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A Global Ethic

Precepts can provide a supportive system in which to live out our personal vision for what we want to contribute to this world before we die.  Precepts also guide whole communities of people to act for the welfare of the planet, rather than simply for human self-interest.

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My Spiritual Ancestors are Japanese, Chinese, and Indian

With the rise of recent hate crimes targeting the Asian American community I feel it necessary to share my love, appreciation and dedication to the people that have fed me spiritually for the last 30 years.  American Zen is indebted to countless Japanese Americans, Chinese-Americans, Korean-Americans, Tibetan-Americans and Indian-Americans who have over the past two centuries brought with them the spiritual teachings from their lands of origin.

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Out of the Woods?

Out of the Woods? While hopes of the vaccine for Covid are high, we are in a position to prevent future pandemics like this from happening.

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SZBA Statement and Call to Action on Systemic Racism

Today, we see and hear the searing pain and anger of Black people, who have endured centuries of oppression in the United States and who, as a community, continue to suffer acts of violence and discrimination, including at the hands of law enforcement. We grieve the disproportionate number of people of color who have died of the coronavirus, and see that many people of color performing essential functions of society are undervalued and oppressed economically.

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Is it ever okay to hit your child?

Is it ever okay to hit your child? If so, what are the reasons that parents do this? If not, what can support a parent in choosing not to use physical punishment on their child?

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Yoga of the Mind: A Key to unlocking the grip of prejudice

A prejudice mind is one that is experiencing fluctuations. It is the opposite of steady. When our mind is not steady, we know we are not seeing reality as it is. But this insight into our fluctuating mind only comes if we have a practice well established. Otherwise, we filter what we perceive through our confused senses as reality. We think what we are seeing is real, when in fact we are mistaking a distortion for reality.

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No Self in America – Recognizing Race

Not every teaching the Buddha gave had universal application. Some of it was meant only for certain people, and in certain times. The Buddha was primarily concerned with helping others to wake up to the reality of suffering and in providing practitioners with the means to liberate themselves from suffering. All of the stories in the Pali Cannon were offered on specific occasions and at specific times and were in response to the needs of individuals or the community at that time.

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Pleasure and Pain

What’s the way out of the pleasure/pain torment we find ourselves constantly navigating? Buddha suggests not just meditation.

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The Courage to Change

I was struggling with the fact that altars in my mind always had crosses on them, not Buddhas. When I approached altars in church, it was a sacred event, and it was almost always to receive the Eucharist from a priest, and to say a prayer to Jesus. Would God punish me for getting this close to a Buddha statue and a Buddhist priest? When I look back on this event today, it’s a totally ridiculous question to me now, but at that moment my fears were real and stemmed from teachings about not worshiping idols.

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Ahimsa

Fear for me is being asked by my wife to take care of our two-year old son, Malcolm, by myself.

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Reincarnation

The Bodhisattva vow, which many have taken when they received the 16 precepts, includes the vow to return again and again to this world until all beings attain Enlightenment. The underlying assumption is that Enlightenment, Nirvana and no rebirth is an aim of Buddhism. Zen Master Dogen’s phrase, “practice and Enlightenment are one” (修証一如), is a later development in Buddhism which merges the means with the ends. So, in one sense, concerning our self with rebirth is not necessary. However, even Zen Master Dogen talks about rebirth: “In ten thousand kalpas and thousands of lives, how many times are we born and how many times do we die? This cycle of lives is samsara [suffering], caused only by blind clinging to worldly affairs.”[5]

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“Conversion” to Buddhism

 “How did you feel about transferring from one religion to another?  Have you found any conflicts between the two religions?  What have you learned from

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Field of Awakening

Logic is ill Rationality makes no cents Divorce “The Thinker” Embrace the body Green is just green White is just white Sit tall like a

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Harried By Rest

Sometimes I’m so busy that I feel guilty about taking rest or finding pleasure in quiet moments by myself.  以閑為楽 means, to find pleasure in leisure, or to find pleasure in a quiet place removed from the concerns of the world.  On the surface it seems obvious that we should find joy in leisure time, but I find the statement to be a personal challenge from the universe to wake up to the joys of life all around us, even when we are totally stressed out.

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Dragons Roar Cranes Whoop

Dragons Roar and Cranes Whoop

Dragons Roar and Cranes Whoop Introduction Religious beliefs are many.  Some people believe in heaven.  Others believe in reincarnation.  Some believe there’s only one God,

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Zen and the Martial Arts

Zen and the Martial Arts 文徳武功 or “Bun Toku Bukou” can be translated as something like, “Literary/Cultural virtue and martial skill.” As a kid, I

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"No Merit" or "Mu Kudoku"

Eye-Opening Understandings of Merit Never Explained in Western Zen

“Bodhidharma’s Emptiness,” is a story often pointed to as a foundational Zen text, yet one of its central concepts – merit – is assumed intelligible to any western reader. I studied this story for my “Shuso Ceremony,”# and though I became intimate with it some 20 years ago, there’s much of it that I’ve taken for granted. The story appears as the second case in the Shoyoroku, or the Record of Serenity, and as such is of primary importance for understanding Zen. How is it that “merit” has gotten so overlooked?

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