Thursday 23 May 2024

Street Level Zen: Passive Karma

“Not responding is a response - we are equally responsible for what we don’t do.”

Jonathan Safran Foer

(Photo courtesy of Greg Rosenke and

Wednesday 22 May 2024

WW: Nootka rose

(Rosa nutkana; native to the North Coast. One of my favourite flowers, and everywhere this time of year.)

Appearing also on My Corner of the World.

Thursday 16 May 2024

Koan: Pacifying The Mind


Huike said to Bodhidharma, "My mind is anxious. Please pacify it."

Bodhidharma replied, "Bring me your mind, and I will pacify it."

Huike said, "Although I've sought it, I cannot find it."

"There," Bodhidharma replied. "I have pacified your mind."


(Sesshū's 1496 painting of Huike begging teaching from Bodhidarma courtesy of the Kyoto National Museum and Wikimedia Commons.)

Thursday 9 May 2024

One Religion

I never get used to the fact that there's exactly one religion on this planet. Or humanity's eternal frantic protest that there are in fact many.

Convicted Christian for the first 2/3 of my life, the hypocrisy – worse yet, the casuistry – of that sangha was deeply troubling for me from the beginning. At long length I was convinced to seek better company, for my own welfare.

I was therefore heartened when, early in my subsequent Buddhist training, I encountered Zen priest and historian Brian Daizen Victoria, whose book Zen At War documents the way Japanese Buddhists abandoned their most essential convictions during WWII to embrace the horrors of Imperial Japan – even to the point of declaring Emperor worship, and all the murder and violence his servants demanded, the highest expression of the Buddha Way.

The willingness of a Buddhist cleric and scholar to "go there", as the Americans say, reinforced my faith in my new path.

Wrote Daizen:
My reading of Buddhist political history tells me that every time Buddhist leaders have closely aligned themselves with the political ruler of their day, the Buddha Sangha has become corrupt and degenerate... The Sangha's often slavish subservience to, and actions on behalf of, their rulers have resulted, in my opinion, in its becoming the de facto pimp and prostitute of the State.
Change Buddhist terms for Christian, and you get an exact description of what's happening in Christian-majority nations today, most notably the US and Russia.

I suggest that the opportunity this offers Zenners is to let go of our reflexive tendency to assume we're different from our Christian neighbours, and instead consider how our own institutions subtly or overtly call us to analogous conduct. (Yes-butting and what-abouting Daizen, for starters.)

And how must we act, in light of this insight?

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer.)

Wednesday 8 May 2024

WW: Mystery tree

(Some friends just bought a house on the bay, and in their front yard is this exotic tree that completely stumped me [no pun intended]. At length, reaching 'way back in memory to a long-ago stay in the Bay Area, I realised it must be a eucalyptus.

This Australian genus – also called gum in its homeland – is as rare here as it is common in California, owing to our wet and blustery North Pacific climate and soil types, and I have yet to nail the exact species of this one. Closest guess:
Eucalyptus perriniana. But don't quote me; I'm rather out of my hemisphere on this one.

My friends explained that a former owner had a son who ran a local nursery, and as a result, quite a few unique trees and shrubs are dug into their new property.)