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Tuesday, 17 September 2019 18:17

We talk about zazen in lots of strange ways. We say, for example, that it isn’t the person practicing, but zazen practicing zazen, or Practice Buddha practicing zazen: the language is just an expedient means to drop off the primary dualism between self and world.

If the self can be dropped off, we can understand that there are two aspects to Impermanence, which correspond to Dogen’s formulation, in the Fukanzazengi, of zazen as the dharma gate of peace and joy.

The first is ceaseless arising and perishing, which is within our normal experience. We can understand and accept that this arising and perishing is the dynamic functioning of something whole, which we cannot see, as we are part of it, but if we only understand Impermanence from this perspective, then our practice is unbalanced: it is only the cultivation of equanimity, peace.

The second is the ceasing of this arising and perishing, which we can experience directly in zazen. It is as if each being-moment becomes like vast space, becomes like a mountain: it does not move, it does not flow. And this is joy.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 September 2019 18:22
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Tuesday, 17 September 2019 18:13

In early Buddhism, the four virtues of practice were said to be Metta, Karuna, Upekkha and Mudita, usually translated as loving kindness, compassion, equanimity and empathetic joy.

We’re very familiar with the first three, but not the fourth. Does this matter and, if it does, why?

It seems to me that the first three, when the fourth is excluded, make possible a kind of christianised buddhism, where the purpose of practice can be seen as the making of a great person, and, to aid that, the three virtues can be seen as personal attributes, cultivated by this person. So this person is benevolent, kind, steadfast. But the larger space is thrown into shadow by this inflated person, and joy is forgotten.

But if we take the four qualities together, I don’t think we can see the practitioner as a great, or potentially great person, but rather as a co-arising and relational person, and the qualities cease to be personal qualities, but rather are the qualities of a re-enlivened and re-envisioned open and relational space within, around and between us, which we directly experience when we practice.

Buddhism is a house built on these four foundations. The fourth might seem tiny, barely noticeable, but its removal will cause the house to buckle and tilt, imperceptibly at first. The house can remain standing for a very long time. But fall it will.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 September 2019 18:16
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Sunday, 28 July 2019 17:12

The last time my first teacher Nancy Amphoux came to Scotland we sat in a dusty room in Glasgow Street.

In the afternoon while we were sitting, bright sunlight shone into the room, illuminating all the dust hanging in the air. 

The light was still, the dust was still, neither obstructed the other.

The smoke from the incense moved amongst both, the dancing of a life.

In Buddhism we keep coming across, in a slightly disguised way, the idea of a person.

Who or what is walking the Way if not a person?

Who or what is balanced, if not a person?

And indeed we can see walking as a kind of dynamic balance. The integration of apparent dualities within a living whole, ‘opposites’ reconfigured as two aspects of something which is dynamic and alive.

We need to find this true person. And our mind cannot find it. All it can ever find is a person who has been cut in half, and no matter how hard we try we cannot restore that person to life.


Last Updated on Sunday, 28 July 2019 17:18
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Thursday, 25 July 2019 10:32


We don't sit facing the wall because zazen is an individual practice; it isn't.

We are always practicing together. Not practicing, together. Practicing Together.

We sit facing the wall because we are sitting with all beings.

If we were facing each other we will be sitting with these beings, not necessarily all beings.

And when we sit, one more person sits with us. You could call this person Vast Compassion Space.

It is as if the door of the tiny room of the Self is unlocked, and the prisoners there are released into this vast space, to express, to change, to live, to go.

Were this person not to appear, the door would remain closed. Each prisoner would remain locked into their repetitive forms and gestures.

You could also call this person Faith Mind.


Last Updated on Thursday, 25 July 2019 10:35
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Thursday, 25 July 2019 10:30


Why do we sit facing the wall?

We can say that we’re following Bodhidharma who, after his encounter with The Chinese Emperor, went to Shaolin Temple and “sat facing the wall” for 9 years.

Classical Chinese is very terse. The characters simply say “ wall gazing”. This can certainly mean gazing at the wall, or, slightly less literally, facing the wall, but they can also mean, amongst other possibilities, gazing like the wall.

And how does a wall “gaze”? Steadfastly and with non discrimination, allowing all things to be, maintaining the room of the world.


Last Updated on Thursday, 25 July 2019 10:32
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