Category Archives: Zen Buddhism

Anger Management


One of my favorite stories. I hope you enjoy it.

A Zen student came to Bankei and said, “Master, I have an ungovernable
temper. How can I cure it?”
“Show me this temper,” said Bankei, “it sounds fascinating.”
“I haven’t got it right now,” said the student, “so I can’t show it to
“Well then,” said Bankei, “bring it to me when you have it.”
“But I can’t bring it just when I happen to have it,” protested the
student. “It arises unexpectedly, and I would surely lose it before I
got it to you.”
“In that case,” said Bankei, “it cannot be part of your true nature.
If it were, you could show it to me at any time. When you were born
you did not have it–so it must have come to you from the outside. I
suggest that whenever it gets into you, you beat yourself with a stick
until the temper can’t stand it and runs away.”

Quantum Physics and Buddhism. Do they agree?


A great explanation of why Quantum Physics agrees with the teachings of Buddha.

Sister Chan Khong sings Plum Village’s “Happy Song”


This morning before I rolled out of bed I thought “What a pain-filled and agonizing day today is going to be.” Then I checked my email and a buddhist friend of mine had sent me a video of Sister Chan Khong from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village singing the “Happy Song” After listening to this I was able to move forward through my day with a lighter heart. I share this with all beings so that perhaps you too can have a happier day.

“Every morning when I wake up, I am happy.
Being aware of my eyes, I am happy.
Being aware of my health, I am happy.
Because I have learned to look deeply.”-Plum Village

The PlumVillage’s Happy Song, introduced by Sister Chan Khong at a Retreat in Berlin, June 2007




Filial Duties: How a family should act towards each other.


Recently I was talking with my daughters about what a Buddhist children’s duties to their parents were and what a Buddhist parents duties were to their children. Below is what the Buddha has to say in the Sigalovada Sutta: The Discourse to Sigala, The Layperson’s Code of Discipline

“In five ways, a child should minister to his parents.

(i) Having supported me I shall support them,
(ii) I shall do their duties,
(iii) I shall keep the family tradition,
(iv) I shall make myself worthy of my inheritance,
(v) furthermore I shall offer alms in honor of my departed

“In five ways, the parents thus ministered to by their children, show their compassion:

(i) they restrain them from evil,
(ii) they encourage them to do good,
(iii) they train them for a profession,
(iv) they arrange a suitable marriage,
(v) at the proper time they hand over their inheritance to them.
“In these five ways do children minister to their parents… and the parents show their compassion to their children.”

In the next posting I will discuss this more in detail.

A Buddhist Marriage; a partnership in Dharma


In my Buddhist studies, I have been wondering about being with my wife in future existences as it took me so long in this one to find her. The Buddha discussed this in the Pancavudha pyo Sutta.

At the time of the Buddha there lived a wealthy man, Nakulapita and his wife, Nakulamata. They had been together for many existences. They had become Sotápanna Ariya (stream-winners) since they first pay homage to the Buddha. This couple had been the parents, or elder uncle and aunt of the Bodhisattva in many previous existences. They were very fond of the Buddha like their own son and were granted privilege of asking any
question. Once the wealthy man said, “Venerable Sir, I took Nakulamata as my wife since my youth, since then I hadn’t even thought of infidelity, let alone actually being so. I had always wanted to be in the presence of Nakulamata in the present life and I always want to be so through out the samsara.”

On hearing the words of Nakulapita, his wife also said frankly, “Venerable Sir, I came with him to his house since my youth. Since then I hadn’t thought of anyone. I had always wanted to be with him in the present life; and I always to be with him through out the samsara.”

The Buddha said, “If man and wife, who are leading a harmonious life, wish to be together in the next existences, they should have the same faith (saddha), the same morality (síla), the same liberality (caga) and the same level of knowledge (paññá).”
“As the husband has pure morality, just so she should have. If one of them wishes to give charity, the other must comply. If she donates, he encouraged her. If he donates, she should be delighted. Their wisdom and knowledge must be the same too.

For further clarification, the passage from Pancavudha pyo is translated as follows:

“In the human abode, if husband and wife are in harmony and willing to be together; if they have the same liberality, morality, faith and confidence, they will be together in samsara like glorious Devas and Devis who are together in the heavenly abodes all along the cycle of rebirths.”

I find the prospects to be pleasant. Either we reach Nirvana or we spend many lives together seeking Nirvana.

Buddha’s First Noble Truth.


Thus I have heard. That the first Noble Truth is “Life is Suffering” or Dukkha.

When I talk to people, non-buddhists, about this they seem to think that this is very pessimistic. I then attempt to further explain what I think the Buddha meant.

There are various ways to interpret the Pali word “Dukkha” and suffering is only one way. It can also be disappointment, unhappiness, sorrowful. And who can argue with that.

From the moment we enter this life we are looking for something. At first it is our parents touch, food or a change of diapers. We are happy, for a brief moment, we those needs are met. Then we are sad (suffering) when the bottle we were suckling on is empty.

I remember when my daughter was an infant. She would complain and cry to be fed. She would be content while drinking. But, afterwards she would fuss again because she needed something else. i.e. Sleep, burping, or changing perhaps still another bottle.

Her suffering came from the clinging to the moment of happiness from feeding or the recognition of another need to be filled.

No one expects an infant to realize they are happy and warm most of the time. As parents we do our best to keep them happy but no matter how hard we try their happiness is fleeting, (impermanent) and thus they suffer.

Now at 6 my daughter understands that her needs cannot always be fulfilled immediately and she does her best to savor the happy moments.

Truly, there are times when she reminds me to live in the “present moment.” But, boy if she gets overtired she loses her mindfulness and everyone suffers.

So when you think of the first “Noble Truth” – Life is Suffering- remember that your reaction is what matters most and that without disappointment you would not appreciate the good moments in life.

When you have a moment of suffering remember that it will pass and a moment of joy will pass as well. Greet each moment with equanimity feel the emotions that are there, let them flow through you like a breath and enjoy the moment for what it is.

From there we move to the Second Noble Truth.

Taming the Bull a Zen Buddhist Parable.


In my writings this week I have been focusing on activism and politics. Today I present a well known story by Kakuan and translated by Nyogen Senzaki. The illustrations reproduced here are modern versions by the noted Kyoto woodblock artist Tomikichiro Tokuriki.

Wood blocks illustrate the process of reaching enlightenment. But even if you are not a Buddhist you can still learn from the blocks. We should all look at our thoughts and actions to become better people. I hope that everyone who reads this will start the path to be a better human.

1. The Search for the Bull

In the pasture of this world, I endlessly push aside the tall grasses in search of the bull. Following unnamed rivers, lost upon the interpenetrating paths of distant mountains, My strength failing and my vitality exhausted, I cannot find the bull. I only hear the locusts chirring through the forest at night

Comment: The bull never has been lost. What need is there to search? Only because of separation from my true nature, I fail to find him. In the confusion of the senses I lose even his tracks. Far from home, I see many cross-roads, but which way is the right one I know not. Greed and fear, good and bad, entangle me.

2. Discovering the Footprints

Along the riverbank under the trees, I discover footprints! Even under the fragrant grass I see his prints. Deep in remote mountains they are found. These traces no more can be hidden than one’s nose, looking heavenward.

Comment: Understanding the teaching, I see the footprints of the bull. Then I learn that, just as many utensils are made from one metal, so too are myriad entities made of the fabric of self. Unless I discriminate, how will I perceive the true from the untrue? Not yet having entered the gate, nevertheless I have discerned the path.

3. Perceiving the Bull

I hear the song of the nightingale. The sun is warm, the wind is mild, willows are green along the shore, Here no bull can hide! What artist can draw that massive head, those majestic horns?

Comment: When one hears the voice, one can sense its source. As soon as the six senses merge, the gate is entered. Wherever one enters one sees the head of the bull! This unity is like salt in water, like colour in dyestuff. The slightest thing is not apart from self.

4. Catching the Bull

I seize him with a terrific struggle. His great will and power are inexhaustible. He charges to the high plateau far above the cloud-mists, Or in an impenetrable ravine he stands.

Comment: He dwelt in the forest a long time, but I caught him today! Infatuation for scenery interferes with his direction. Longing for sweeter grass, he wanders away. His mind still is stubborn and unbridled. If I wish him to submit, I must raise my whip.

5. Taming the Bull

The whip and rope are necessary, Else he might stray off down some dusty road. Being well trained, he becomes naturally gentle. Then, unfettered, he obeys his master.

Comment: When one thought arises, another thought follows. When the first thought springs from enlightenment, all subsequent thoughts are true. Through delusion, one makes everything untrue. Delusion is not caused by objectivity; it is the result of subjectivity. Hold the nose-ring tight and do not allow even a doubt.

6. Riding the Bull Home

Mounting the bull, slowly I return homeward. The voice of my flute intones through the evening. Measuring with hand-beats the pulsating harmony, I direct the endless rhythm. Whoever hears this melody will join me.

Comment: This struggle is over; gain and loss are assimilated. I sing the song of the village woodsman, and play the tunes of the children. Astride the bull, I observe the clouds above. Onward I go, no matter who may wish to call me back.

7. The Bull Transcended

Astride the bull, I reach home. I am serene. The bull too can rest. The dawn has come. In blissful repose, Within my thatched dwelling I have abandoned the whip and rope.

Comment: All is one law, not two. We only make the bull a temporary subject. It is as the relation of rabbit and trap, of fish and net. It is as gold and dross, or the moon emerging from a cloud. One path of clear light travels on throughout endless time.

8. Both Bull and Self Transcended

Whip, rope, person, and bull — all merge in No-Thing. This heaven is so vast no message can stain it. How may a snowflake exist in a raging fire? Here are the footprints of the patriarchs.

Comment: Mediocrity is gone. Mind is clear of limitation. I seek no state of enlightenment. Neither do I remain where no enlightenment exists. Since I linger in neither condition, eyes cannot see me. If hundreds of birds strew my path with flowers, such praise would be meaningless.

9. Reaching the Source

Too many steps have been taken returning to the root and the source. Better to have been blind and deaf from the beginning! Dwelling in one’s true abode, unconcerned with that without — The river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red.

Comment: From the beginning, truth is clear. Poised in silence, I observe the forms of integration and disintegration. One who is not attached to “form” need not be “reformed.” The water is emerald, the mountain is indigo, and I see that which is creating and that which is destroying.

10. In the World

Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the world. My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful. I use no magic to extend my life; Now, before me, the dead trees become alive.

Comment: Inside my gate, a thousand sages do not know me. The beauty of my garden is invisible. Why should one search for the footprints of the patriarchs? I go to the market place with my wine bottle and return home with my staff. I visit the wineshop and the market, and everyone I look upon becomes enlightened.