Showing posts from March, 2011

Poetry and Zen, Part 2 of 3

Poetry and Zen, Part 1 left off with Ryokan sitting in a place beyond the words of even a master of poetry like himself; and yet he took the time to craft a poem that might allow us to share that view – however imperfect or incomplete words might be with respect to describing it. Why? Why did he bother? Why didn’t he simply spend the rest of his days advancing toward that buddha realm and enjoying the suchness of his mountain heaven? The Buddha himself, so the story goes, faced a similar quandary after realizing his enlightenment some 2,500 years ago. Should he simply remain where he was in that place of ultimate realization? Who was prepared to hear his teaching, after all? Who was capable of understanding it? Anyone?
Central to Mahayana Buddhism is the bodhisattva vow – the vow to forego one’s own salvation until every other being is saved. Thus, a Zen poet like Ryokan might be motivated to make the most of his skill with words and his grasp of ultimate truth in order to be of guida…

Poetry and Zen, Part 1 of 3

It seems that I’ve gotten a little off track of late with respect to my posting frequency. My apologies and kind regards to anyone who might have been wondering where I’ve been. Actually, I was under the weather all last week – with barely enough energy to drag myself off of the couch, let alone sit up writing at a computer. I knew I’d be writing about poetry and Zen, though, so I was at least able to pull a dozen or so books down from my bookshelves to sift through as I lay about in recovery. I even managed to scribble out a few pages of notes related to inspiration (which I didn’t actually have), and the unconscious mind (which I had in abundance), and poetry as a spiritual practice, and how it is that words have anything at all to do with the largely wordless practice of Zen. I was even intending to include a few poems of my own – they are Zen poems, after all. Up until a couple of days ago, though, I had no idea how I was going to tie it all together.
So what happened since then?…

Unconditioned Peace

What would it take for you to really be at peace? I’ll let the question hover in the air for just a moment…
Okay, so what did you come up with? Would it take a change of jobs – a little less stress and a little more money? Does your retirement account need to reach some certain level? Do you need to find that perfect life companion – someone who’ll make even the most mundane aspects of daily living seem just a little bit brighter? Hey, maybe all you need is for the little one to start sleeping soundly through the night! The fact is, there’s always something, isn’t there? There’s always something standing between us and contentment. There are always some conditions that have to be set up just so before we can finally be at peace.

I suspect that such tendencies are deeply rooted in our DNA. After all, in the realm of nature – red in tooth and claw – survival doesn’t go to the complacent, the contented, or the peaceful. Survival goes to the hyper-vigilant. Survival goes to those whose n…

Karma - Knowledge and Belief

I have a confession to make. I’m really not all that much of a believer – not even when it comes to Buddhism. Oh, generally speaking, I probably still believe far more than I actually know. For instance, I believe that the sun is 93 million miles from the earth. Sure, I could do a little research and figure out how to check the veracity of such an allegation. For right now, though, I’m okay with just believing it – as long as it stays close enough to keep me warm without getting so close that it burns me up. Notwithstanding such instances of selective belief, I do try to live my life as unencumbered by it as possible; and that’s why over the course of my lifetime I’ve grown to embrace one of the major tenets of Dogen Zenji’s philosophy – namely, cultivation and verification. Zen practice for Dogen was less about belief than it was about cultivating practice and – through the actualization of practice – verifying truth.
There was a time when I really tried to be a believer. I was conf…