Friday, December 23, 2011


Which is slanted, the clouds or the ocean?

Sunday, November 14, 2010



We have a NEW WEB ADDRESS and RSS feed for our 'SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO & TAIGU' video talks and netcast Zazen sittings.



If you would link to our new address, Taigu and I thank you very much for doing so, and thank you again if you have in the past.

Editorial changes at Shambhala Sunspace mean that we will be appearing there every few weeks or so (instead of two or three times per week, as has been until now.) We also anticipate that we will have some articles/essays in the print version of Buddhadharma Magazine, the Practitioner's Quarterly, in the coming months. Please look for those.

The editors at Sunspace lately have expressed their wish to make Sunspace webpage more "pan-Buddhist", aimed more at a general "non-Zen" specific readership. Although we were happy to appear there so many times a week as we have, Taigu and I ourselves felt that, by appearing so often, we were dominating the page sometimes, and that other voices should be heard. However, a more serious issue for us is that Taigu and I now would have to pull some punches in our talks to fit in the new format, making them lighter and less "Zen specific" (in the editor's words). Taigu and I are simply not willing to do so, or to change our way of presenting what we present ... teachings on Koans, Shobogenzo and all the rest ... in order to make the subject more appealing to the readership of a webpage. Although the editors must cater to folks who are not Zen practitioners, the editors had also taken to changing some of our posts to remove what they considered "insider Zen jargon", to "clarify" some of our wording for "less familiar readers", and we did not think that appropriate (clarity of wording is not always clarity expressed) . Thus, Taigu and I suggested to the editors that we move our more 'serious' teachings back to our Treeleaf webpage (where we do not have to worry about editors and editorial policies), and just post at Sunspace when we have a sometime lighter and more general topic to speak about once in awhile. That works for everyone.

Now, the editors are not to be faulted, as they are just trying to reach out to a big tent which holds all flavors of Buddhist ... from "A is for Amida to Z is for Zen" ... and I can see their point of view in needing to do that for their Sunspace webpage. Taigu and I also feel that it is a very good thing to communicate with the wider Buddhist community, and that is why we will continue to post there every few weeks when Taigu or I do have a topic to talk about which fits the "MahaSangha" viewpoint that the editors want.

Again, thank you for your continued friendship and for "sitting-a-long".

Gassho, Jundo (and Taigu too)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Re-Blogging Brad Warner

Well, today could be a big day--or maybe it will be a very dull day where nobody reads this or cares. I'm not sure I care, for that matter.

But a blog that I love to post comments on has officially stopped accepting any kind of comments, so I decided to open up a new blog to those of us who would like to continue commenting on Hardcore Zen, Brad Warner's blog where he writes about zen among other topics.

This is a lazy first post because I'm just not sure anybody gives a crap about this, including me. But maybe I'm wrong--maybe others want a space (unmoderated of course) where we can continue to post insane ramblings inspired by Brad Warner. Feel free to join me there--I have no interest in controlling or changing or moderating my blog, so we can make of it what everyone wants.

And no doubt, if enough of us gather and write things here, Brad will be reading. I don't think he can resist.

The site I have started is:




Monday, October 05, 2009




Another e-mail post please excuse the formatting.

On that note, if anyone would like to volunteer to be an unpaid editor of this blog, the position is open…


In the Shobogenzo Bendowa there is a line that some people latch on to that goes something like: We no longer need to read or recite Sutras, make prostrations, light incense.  There is a lot of this kind of sentiment that arose out of my father's generation of western Buddhists.  There is even a story in a book I recently read (Zen Ritual) that talks of a couple of westerners (of my fathers age) visiting a Zen temple and were shocked when their ideas of iconoclastic monks of spitting or pissing on Buddhist statues, using them as firewood,etcetera were totally smashed when following the abbot around while making his rounds making prostrations and chanting and lighting incense.  They angrily confronted him and said something to the effect of "I thought Zen masters spit on Buddha statues, not venerate them by making bows, lighting incense and chanting."  To which the Zen Master replied "If you want to spit. Spit, I prefer to bow."



The second Chapter of the Shobogenzo is a commentary about the Heart Sutra.  It's a short sutra and it is really well known throughout Japan.  Now to be clear that what I mean by well known here is not that people know what it means, just that people recognize it when it is being chanted and know it is the heart sutra.  From my sampling of interviewing my Japanese wife's friends, I have come to think that very few people have a clue what even the words mean (Often due to them being chanted in Pinyin) and I think that even fewer people that have clarified the meaning of the Heart Sutra for them selves.  

Of the people I asked, most seem to think it is some sort of Buddhist magical spell for health and prosperity.  This reminds me very much of the situation thatoccurred in medieval Europe when the Catholic Church did not want the laypeople reading the bible.


In Dogen's Commentary he kindly walks the reader through the Heart sutra and admonishes:


"Remember, to receive and retain, to read and recite, and to think reasonably

about [prajnā] are just to guard prajnā. And to want to guard it is

to receive and retain it, to read and recite it, and so on."


And in closing he says:


"The realization of this prajnāpāramitā is the realization

of buddha-bhagavats. We should inquire into it, and we should experience it.

To serve offerings to it and to bow in veneration is just to serve and to attend

buddha-bhagavats, and it is buddha-bhagavats in service and attendance."


(excerpts from Shobogenzo Book 1 Nishijima and Cross translation available here: )



Now there are two things I hope I have conveyed with this posting.  

The first being that no, we do not have to make prostrations, light incense, or recite sutras, but we should.


The second being that we should not take thes actions mindlessly but look deeply into them, when we recite the Heart Sutra we should know the meaning is more important than the words and we should discuss it with good friends and clarify it for ourselves (and all sentient beings will benefit.)  It has been my experience that this small sutra can be a wonderful support to practice and, coupled with Zazen, can lead to an awakening of our own inherent wisdom.







Thursday, October 01, 2009


E-mail post, kindly forgive formatting.

Beginning a sitting practice is tough work, particularly when we are
burdened with wrong conceit. Wrong conceit is the view that someone (either
self or other) is lower, higher or the same. Any of these views can be a
big hindrance to practice. I know because I have experienced this first
hand just observing my self. Especially when I hear someone say something
like "I practice sitting for 15 minutes a day" and my comparing mind goes to
work and tells me "oh I'm so much better than that." Or when some other
sitting champion says "I sit four times a day." And the comparing mind goes
to work and thinks: "Oh how can I compare to that, I'm not doing anything
compared to that." Or it can even be something like oh I'm sitting the same
as him so we are equals. I'm using sitting as an example but really this
can apply for any aspect of practice/life. Thoughts that we are better,
worse, or the same are not helpful and conversely can be harmful not only to
your own practice but also to others. Take a moment to think about it and
this becomes a no brainer, winning and losing can cause animosity, excessive
pride, frustration, etcetera. Saying someone is the same when they are not
can also cause animosity, excessive pride, frustration, etcetera. You have
probably seen this too. This path to salvation is not a competition.

Keeping that in mind, something I have enjoyed recently, and would like to
explore more, is sitting without a timer. Or allowing myself the room to
sit without any specific time allotted for it. It has really had a freeing
affect on my sitting. So I would like to recommend to everyone to try it
sometime, Not necessarily all the time.
But some time just don't rely on the clock, don't worry about the sitting
being long or short, if your legs get tired feel free to stretch out or take
a walk, forget about the rigid schedule and just enjoy the sitting doing

*A note to folks with families who are early morning sitters, I highly
recommend this be done waking up early in plenty of time for the family to
sleep away while you get your cushion squashing on, and you may run in to
problems getting to work on time if you try this on a work day morning.
Running late to work could lead you to not getting your lunch prepared on
time; which may lead to not getting the potatoes cooked prior to leaving;
which may lead to you trying to cook them in the lunch room in a
non-microwave safe dish; which may lead to a fire occurring in the microwave
which could be unpleasant in a number of ways.

If you have just started sitting-Zen there are some useful instructions to
be found here:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dogen's Bible and Enlightened Teachers

This is why I intend to gather together the few experiences I

had abroad, and to record the secrets of an enlightened teacher, so that they

may be heard by any practitioner who desires to hear them.

Shobogenzo Bendowa Nishijima and Cross translation

There has been a bit of scuttlebutt about internet teachers/communities versus real life flesh and blood teachers/communities that I caught wind of recently.

That, coupled with what ideas of mine of things like teachers and organizations that have been totally smashed, I would like to put forth that the argument either for and against is pretty lame.

First of I think this is a phenomenon that is primarily occurring in the western zen communities so that is where I'm coming from.

The first idea I'd like to smash is that there is a fundamental difference between the two.

Lets think about why we committed ourselves to this practice for a moment. It should not take very long. Most of us came to this practice because we know that something is not quite right and we want to get to the bottom of it. After a bit of practice most people (who are not mentally disabled, or acutely insane) figure out that it is themselves that is not right.

The more not right the person is or the more they are affected by this not rightness is frighteningly proportionate to how dedicated they are to the practice. So the most messed up people end up being zen teachers (or at least zen bloggers.) Just because they have become teachers doesn't mean that they have solved all of their problems either. From what I have seen Dharma transmission doesn't make someone a perfect human being. That goes for pretty much any of our zen sanghas weather online or physical here in the west. I'm sure there are exceptions, but the exceptions are pretty small and are likely not part of the echosphear. Anyone of these zen teachers who present themselves as being anything but a flawed human being is probably a U.S. Marine... unh no I mean a liar liar pants on fire. Yeah, they have likely been practicing for a while, they are likely well versed in dealing with their stuff (maybe) and most of them can actually be quite helpful in coming up with ways to help point you in the right direction for you deal with yours. You may even get really lucky and find a good friend that can point you to see things as they are instead of how you are.

In the interest of full disclosure, at the time of writing this, I have no pretty bolt of silk with a list of names on it to indicate I am a somebody in the zen community. After publishing this, I probably will never get one. Oh, I'd like one, but I think what I am doing right now is more important.

Ok, on to Dogen's bible, The Shobogenzo. While as my friend Ted pointed out it is only 95% complete, it is what Dogen left behind so that we could get the stuff from the guy who kicked off this whole tradition.

So, if you can get together with a group of folks, practice sitting-zen, and clarify the Shobogenzo for the benefit of all sentient beings (it's OK if your just doing it for yourself too, I think the sentient beings will benefit regardless), I think your going in the right direction. Along your way when the time is ripe, your probably going to run in to some guy or gal that might just help you out. They may not have anything to do with zen or be a kind of zen pariah, you may meet them in the flesh or out on the interwebs. But you are going to know when you meet your real teacher. I meet them everywhere.

Friday, August 14, 2009

ANNOUNCEMENT: Treeleaf Sangha “ALL ONLINE” JUKAI & ANGO - Coming Up!

I am pleased to announce that TREELEAF SANGHA, a Soto Zen Sangha, will soon commence preparations for our

ALL ONLINE ‘JUKAI’ (Undertaking the Precepts Ceremony)” …

including Precepts Study readings and discussions, and a Rakusu sewing circle, also all fully Online….

Treeleaf Zendo (Jundo Cohen, teacher) was designed specifically as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. Members now sit in over 20 countries. The focus is Shikantaza “Just Sitting” Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. This Jukai is being made available to those in the Zen Community who, due to living in remote areas, health issues, or childcare and family needs, cannot participate easily in such events. If you feel the commitment do so, but do not have the opportunity at hand, please feel free to consider participating.

Sewing and Precepts study will commence online from EARLY SEPTEMBER.

Anyone interested may find more information HERE (LINK)

As well, we will combine our Jukai preparation this year with our upcoming, “fully online” 100 day ‘ANGO’ (100 day Special Practice Season) … also fully online … ANGO DETAILS HERE (LINK)

In keeping with the philosophy and path of practice here at Treeleaf (”life is our temple”), we will seek to obtain many of the same … (and, I believe, quite a few additional and very special) … fruits and lessons of a traditional Ango while sitting within the “monastery” of our day-to-day lives, jobs, problems, unending distractions and family responsibilities. The most important point to keep in mind is that those work duties at the office, daily problems and family responsibilities ARE THE PRACTICE PLACE as much as the Zafu (sitting cushion). The home kitchen is the temple kitchen, the office, store or factory is the garden when we practice Samu (work practice), etc Each presents countless opportunities for practice, and for manifesting Wisdom and Compassion.

ANGO will commence from AUGUST 29th 2009 … … AND CULMINATE WITH OUR SPECIAL 2-DAY “AT HOME” ROHATSU RETREAT (currently scheduled for the weekend of December 5 & 6, via live netcast).

Please feel free to write to Jundotreeleaf[a]gmail,com if needing further information, or visit

Gassh, Jundo

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