Friday, 24 March 2017


97. When the disciple has gone beyond words and entered into silence, the demand will be made, 'Say something!'

Saturday, 18 March 2017


96. Going beyond words, images, concepts, we enter into silence through the practices of breath awareness and body awareness. By following the breath and paying attention to our body we develop both concentration and mindfulness. Thus a space opens for a wordless inquiry into the self. Before long we begin to sense that there is more to the self than the finite, separate, empirical self that we and others ordinarily observe. And so begins our search for the mysterious, elusive Self, the self that we spell with an upper case 'S' to distinguish it from the objectified self of our everyday experience. In our search, however, there is great scope for self-deception. The Zen practitioner can easily become attached to particular rituals and symbols, not to mention ideas and opinions. Hence the importance of finding an authentic Master to guide us and a supportive sangha to safeguard us. On the Zen path of self-inquiry we will at every turn find ourselves challenged by the words of Eno, the Sixth Patriarch: 'At this very moment, what is your original self?' 

Sunday, 12 March 2017


95. There is nothing wrong with words as such. Problems arise with our misuse of words. In the understanding of Zen, the most dangerous misuse of words has to do with the expectation that words can be used to say what only can be shown. This, of course, is not to deny that there are many things that words can say. 

Friday, 10 March 2017


94. The sutra says 'Words! The Way is beyond language'. So why all these wordy remarks?

Thursday, 9 March 2017


93. The practice of Zen is very much a practice of letting-go. Thus Master AMA Samy would have us let go of our 'attachment to attachments'. In a similar vein Master Dogen Kigen insists on the importance of forgetting 'all attachments steadfastly'. This practice of letting-go can best be thought of as a process of self-emptying, self-forgetting. Consequently, our first step in the practice of Zen is not towards getting something. Rather, it is directed towards losing something. This something that must be lost is none other than ourself, ourself with its attachments, self-images, fantasies. Only through this process of self-emptying can we uncover in ourselves a 'radical openness to the other ... in a leaf, a flower, a sound, a gesture' that, says AMA Samy, 'brings us to awakening'. 

Monday, 6 March 2017


92. Zazen in the darkness before dawn. No cars pass in the street. No plane flies overhead. No man mows his lawn. No dog barks in anyone's backyard. No bird sings. There is only this ringing in my ears. And the koan challenge: stop the sound of the distant temple bell.

Friday, 3 March 2017


91. In such a basic Zen practice as counting the breath we learn to let go of all entangling questions and arguments. We do not concern ourselves with distinctions between theist and atheist, Christian and Buddhist, right and wrong. There is just this breathing one-e-e-e ... just this breathing two-o-o-o ... Letting go of all naming, all distinguishing, all differentiating, we let go of all clinging. Immersing ourselves in the very process of breath counting, we relax and become that process. Thus we enter what Zen master Dogen calls the Dharma gate of great joy and repose.