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Showing posts from November, 2015

On Dogen's 'Universal Emptiness'

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Koku is one of the shorter fascicles of Dogen’s Shobogenzo. Notwithstanding its brevity, it is still as dense and difficult to comprehend as many of his other works. One can glimpse the nature of this difficulty by contemplating for a moment the various English translations of the one word title alone: Space (Nishijima, 2009), On the Unbounded (Nearman, 2007), and, of course, Universal Emptiness (Nishiyama, 1975). Each of these reveals a slightly different way of thinking about the Buddhist concept of shunyata (Sanskrit) or ku (Japanese).
According to Okumura (2012) koku actually has three different possible meanings. In our very ordinary way of looking at things it can refer to the empty space that is between objects or which is bounded in some way. It can also refer to space which does not lose its nature on account of being occupied. Yet another meaning, however, points to the most profound of Buddhist teachings, i.e. the emptiness of all phenomena. As Okumura says: The third meani…

This Thing Called Evil

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This may be a challenging post for many folks. So, let me just say right up front the words that I really want to leave you with – before anyone has the chance to get angry or offended: Let’s forgive ourselves. Let’s forgive each other. Let’s strive to do better.
Okay, with that out of the way, let me begin again.
One of the more interesting questions to be posed of any of the candidates this campaign season is whether or not they would kill the baby Adolf Hitler if they were somehow given the opportunity to go back in time and locate the infant evil incarnate. Certainly it’s an interesting question to pose for the array of answers it might elicit. Most interesting, though, is how the question itself reveals how many of us think about the nature of evil. Evil is “out there.” It’s a dark force that the hapless might stumble upon. It takes up residence in someone such that they then become evil. It’s a conscious entity of some sort – like Satan, for instance – that actively plots ways …

To Touch the Mind Once More

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November seems to have become “gratitude month” for many North American Buddhists, no doubt due to it being the month of our Thanksgiving holiday. Don’t be surprised, then, if you should happen to see one of your friends posting a lot on social media lately about all that they have to be grateful for. Just be grateful for the subtle reminder to pay attention to all that you have to be grateful for. It will likely have you feeling all the more settled, content, and happy as a result.



I just committed to sitting Rohatsu sesshin once again – a weeklong practice period commemorating the seven days that the historical Buddha spent in meditation before realizing enlightenment. So, once November draws to a close I’ll begin sitting like a buddha, settling my mind like a buddha, facing my karma like a buddha, and waking up like a buddha. Well…, we’ll see about that last one!
Of course I’m grateful for the opportunity to sit Rohatsu once again. A lot has to fall into place in order to be able to …