Jul 28, 2009

isn’t it?

[…] “everything in the realms of the lower, middle and upper heavens is engaged in spiritual training. All at some point or other become bodhisattvas, so that the title bodhisattvas is unnecessary. If all are becoming Buddha and bodhisattva, surely there is no reason to make a distinction between ‘Buddha nature’ and all living creatures? At this moment you, us, and the ground we are treading on, all of us are in a process of striving and growth. The very motion of the whole universe is a process of profound spiritual growth. All change, all life and death, loving and hating, all is training and growth. Isn’t it? Isn’t it?”

Ko Un, Little Pilgrim, Parallax Press, Berkley, 2005

Jul 22, 2009

spiritual maturity

For the psychologically mature person, the ills and injustices of life are handled by counter aggression, in which one makes an effort to eliminate the injustice and create justice. Often such efforts are dictatorial, full of anger and self-righteousness.
In spiritual maturity, the opposite of injustice is not justice, but compassion. Not me against you, not me straightening out the present ill, fighting to gain a just result for myself and others, but compassion, a life that goes against nothing and fulfills everything.


The best answer to injustice is not justice, but compassion, or love. You ask, “But what am I to do in this difficult situation? I must do something!” Yes, but what? Always our practice must be the basis for our actions. And appropriate and compassionate response does not come from a fight for justice, but from that radical dimension of practice that “passeth all understanding”. […] Let us not adopt some facile, narrowly psychological view of our lives. The radical dimension I speak of demands everything we are and have. Joy, not happiness, is its fruit.

Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special – Living Zen (HarperCollins, 1993)

Jul 18, 2009


The grape leaves outside my window are curiously beautiful. "Curiously" because it comes upon me as strange, after the long darkness of self-absorption and fear and shame in which I have been living, that things are beautiful, that independent to our catastrophes they continue to mantain their casual precision, the effortless abundance of inventive "effect", which is the hallmark and specialty of Nature. Nature: this morning it seems to me very clear that Nature be defined as that which exists without guilt. Our bodies are in Nature; our shoes, their laces, the little plastic tips of the laces -- everything around us and about us is Nature, and yet something holds us away from it, like the upward push of water which keeps us from touching the sandy bottom, ribbed and glimmering with crescental fragments of oyster shell, so clear to our eyes.


The grape leaves where they are not in each other's shadows are golden. Flat leaves, they take the sun flatly, and turn the absolute light, sum of the spectrum and source of all life, into the crayon yellow with which children render it. Here and there, wilt transmutes this lent radiance into a glowing orange, and the green of the still tender leaves -- for green persists long into autumn, if we look -- strains from the sunlight a fine-veined chartreuse. The shadows these leaves cast upon each other, though vagrant and nervous in the wind that sends friendly scavenging rattles scurrying across the roof, are yet quite various and definite, containing innumerable barbaric suggestions of scimitars, flanged spears, prongs, and menacing helmets. The net effect, however, is innocent of menace. On the contrary, its intricate simultaneous suggestion of shelter and openness, warmth and breeze, invites me outward; my eyes venture into the leaves beyond. I am surrounded by leaves. The oak's are tenacious claws of purplish rust; the elm's, scant feathers of a feminine yellow; the sumac's, a savage, toothed blush. I am upheld in a serene and burning universe of leaves. Yet something plucks me back, returns me to that inner darkness where guilt is the sun.

excerpt from Leaves, short story by John Updike in The Music School, First Vintage Books Edition, 1980

Photo ©Richard Small

Jul 9, 2009

2 words

The secret of Soto Zen is just two words:

not always so.

Shunryu Suzuki-roshi

found this pearl of instant enlightenment on http://www.stevenkharper.com, where there was also the link to this picture of the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, where my mind pictures my beloved friend and brother Arnold, his toes being kissed by the fish in the Tassajara river; to see more please refer to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/surharper/sets/72157600290243490/

Jul 3, 2009

that mass of dots

quotes from the movie Latter Days (2003):

Do you ever read the Sunday comics?

Well, when I was a little kid, I use to put my nose right up to them. And I was just amazed because it looked like this mass of dots, and none of it made sense until I pulled back.

Life looks like that mass of dots to me sometimes.

None of it makes any sense, but I like to think that, from God's perspective, life, everything - even this - make sense. It's not just dots.

Instead we're all connected, and it's beautiful and funny and good. This close we can't expect it to make sense, not right now.

Sometimes it all still feels like a mass of dots. But more and more these days, I feel like we're all connected. And it's beautiful... and funny... and good.

Photography by Claire L. Evans