Thursday, 19 April 2018


209. In koan after koan the question is asked, 'Where have you come from?' A clue to what our response might reveal can be found in the way we let certain words push our buttons. These words fail to provoke the Zen practitioner who, like Wittgenstein's philosopher, is not the citizen of any community of ideas. 

Monday, 16 April 2018


208. A problem with seeing Zen as a way of salvation is its insistence on saving oneself through one's own efforts. This reliance on self-power (jiriki) seems to be generally interpreted as ruling out any appeal to a higher power such as a deified Buddha, or Heidegger's 'a god', or the God of the Judeo-Christian revelation. But we need to think carefully about the nature of this 'self' that the Zen practitioner comes to rely on. And we might further ask how does such self-reliance square with the Zen practice of taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha? Moreover, a practitioner's enlightenment-realization is not complete until it has been acknowledged and certified by a legitimate and authentic master and accepted by the sangha. Note the important role of knowing a master's lineage in the Zen tradition. Furthermore, the self that powers Zen practice cannot be the isolated, limited ego-self. Here we might call to mind Dogen's well-known saying: 'To study the Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things'. 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018


207. Can Zen help us abandon greed, hatred and ignorance? Can it enable us to turn around delusive thoughts and passions? Can the practice of Zen uproot our deep seated cravings? Can Zen awaken us from our dream of separateness? If Zen would make good its claim to being a way of salvation, it must needs demonstrate that its practitioner, at least one who is said to be a realized enlightened practitioner, can walk free in the fullness of life. But the biographies of a number of so-called enlightened masters in the past century or so must here give us pause. Thinking about this I cannot help calling to mind something Heidegger said, something to the effect that 'only a god can save us'. And Zen, of course, is said to be a non-theistic religion. Could it be that Zen needs, not 'a god' but God? But acknowledging God, from the Zen point of view, is said to land us in dualism. Perhaps the problem here is not God but the concepts and images we have of God.     

Monday, 9 April 2018


206. Every day the Zen practitioner chants, 'Though the many beings are numberless, I vow to save them all'. This is surely a tall order, especially if the one taking on such a commitment does so from the point of view of the small, isolated, limited ego-self. 

Friday, 6 April 2018


205. Can you walk straight on a winding mountain path with its ninety-nine bends? If so, then you will know something of Zen's saving power. 

Monday, 2 April 2018


204. '... I vow to save them all.' Save from ... what? Save for ... what? Save by ... what? whom? Save ... how? 

Saturday, 31 March 2018