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    Where do you practice?

    Saturday, September 19, 2009, 9:13 PM [General]

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    Sunday, May 17, 2009, 6:58 PM [General]

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    Thursday, August 28, 2008, 1:42 PM [General]

    The book "Shoes Outside the Door" by Michael Downing, about former SFZC Abbot Richard Baker (who succeeded Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki) of the San Francisco Zen Center. What is demonstrated was the “blind faith” so many Zendo (Sangha) members had and how long it took for people to rise up and say that what was going on was unacceptable. SFZC members are still recovering from this and coming to terms in their own ways, finding forgiveness and trying to practice compassion.


    "The emergence and blossoming of understanding, love and intelligence has nothing to do with any tradition, no matter how ancient or impressive - it has nothing to do with time. It happens completely on its own when a human being questions, wonders, listens and looks without getting stuck in fear, pleasure and pain. When self concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open. The mystery, the essence of all life is not separate from the silent openness of simple listening." ~ Toni Packer


     My MANIFESTO and liberation:

    Although I still enjoy many things about Buddhism, I know for a fact that I'm not the only one who has noticed a disturbing trend over the last few decades in "American" Buddhism. It seems that most Americans who call themselves Buddhists are a wealthy and well educated elite.
    As many people know, Buddhism is a reformation of Hinduism much like Christianity is a reformation of Judaism. The Buddha was certainly a revolutionary and non conformist like Christ was. He not only challenged the dominate religion of his time, he also challenged the social and spiritual norms of his day by teaching that anyone can attain enlightenment as he did. Even with out being of a certain social class or being well educated. Many of the Zen patriarchs and many later Zen teachers to this day were and are reformers of Buddhism when it became too institutionalised by rigid monastic systems and their lineage holders. And in that vain, but not comparing myself to any of these reformers,
    some people in the Ohio Buddhist Community (Cleveland) have turned their back on me after I left my former teacher and the Mansfield Zen Sangha group I started a few years ago, due to, I believe, their watering down of Zen with Unitarian Universalism, new age theories, upper class values and rigid monastic rules in the sense of "blind faith" and non questioning of authority.
    One Cleveland Buddhist and leading member of the Cleveland Buddhist Peace Fellowship took it upon themselves to try and discredit me by twisting the truth to their own advantage. They were judge, jury and executioner, acting like self appointed Dharma police. And no one to this day from the local Buddhist community has ever come forward to support or defend me. I have come to see how people behave (even Buddhists) and it is a real eye opener. "There are flies and there are Buddhas in this human world of ours". I have read and experienced and now see that many American Buddhist only give the Buddha's  teaching on compassion, lip service, rather than practicing it when it comes to people who threaten their ideas about Buddhism. I thought I had gotten away from hypocrisy  and rigidity when I left the religion I was raised in many years ago, but apparently not.
    I was also called a "renegade" by my first Zen teacher because I recently wanted to start a new Zen group here in Mansfield after the disappointment of the last group. I like the label "renegade". I don't look upon it as being something negative. If there were no renegades in the history of Zen Buddhism there would be no Zen today.
    So to all my friends and Buddhists in Ohio and elsewhere who still support me....

     Welcome to "Renegade Zen"!JOLLYR118.GIF JOLLYR118.GIFJOLLYR118.GIF

    ~ Michael

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    For All Wanders

    Thursday, August 28, 2008, 1:18 PM [General]

    Boredom, Impatience, and Fear

    If we do a little of one kind of practice and a little of another, the work we have done in one often doesn't continue to build as we change to the next. It is as if we were to dig many shallow wells instead of one deep one. In continually moving from one approach to another, we are never forced to face our own boredom, impatience, and fears. We are never brought face to face with ourselves. So we need to choose a way of practice that is deep and ancient and connected with our hearts, and then make a commitment to follow it as long as it takes to transform ourselves.

    ~Jack Kornfield in A Path with Heart
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    Metaphysical Questions

    Thursday, August 28, 2008, 12:17 PM [General]

    The Buddha always told his disciples not to waste their time and energy in metaphysical speculation. Whenever he was asked a metaphysical question, he remained silent. Instead, he directed his disciples toward practical efforts. Questioned one day about the problem of the infinity of the world, the Buddha said, "Whether the world is finite or infinite, limited or unlimited, the problem of your liberation remains the same." Another time he said, "Suppose a man is struck by a poisoned arrow and the doctor wishes to take out the arrow immediately. Suppose the man does not want the arrow removed until he knows who shot it, his age, his parents, and why he shot it. What would happen? If he were to wait until all these questions have been answered, the man might die first." Life is so short. It must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth.

    ~Thich Nhat Hanh, in Zen Keys

    from  Tricycle Magazine

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    Dharma Practice

    Wednesday, December 26, 2007, 11:23 PM [General]

    The art of dharma practice requires commitment, technical accomplishment, and imagination. As with all arts, we will fail to realize its full potential if any of these three are lacking. The raw material of dharma practice is ourself and our world, which are to be understood and transformed according to the vision and values of the dharma itself. This is not a process of self- or world-transcendence, but one of self- and world-creation. The denial of self challenges only the notion of a static self independent of body and mind -- not the ordinary sense of ourself as a person distinct from everyone else. The notion of a static self is the primary obstruction to the realization of our unique potential as an individual being. By dissolving this fiction through a centered vision of the transiency, ambiguity, and contingency of experience, we are freed to create ourself anew. 

    ~ Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

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    Sunday, December 23, 2007, 9:50 AM [General]

    A primary cause of suffering is delusion: our inability, because of a subtly willful blindness, to see things the way they truly are but instead in a distorted way. The world is in fact a seamless and dynamic unity: a single living organism that is constantly undergoing change. our minds, however, chop it up into separate, static bits and pieces, which we then try mentally and physically to manipulate. One of the mind's most dear creations is the idea of the person and, closest to home, of a very special person which each one of us calls "I": a separate, enduring ego or self. In a moment, then, the seamless universe is cut in two. There is "I" -- and there is all the rest. That means conflict -- and pain, for "I" cannot control that fathomless vastness against which it is set. It will try, of course, as a flea might pit itself against an elephant, but it is a vain enterprise.

    - John Snelling, Elements of Buddhism from Everyday Mind

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    Friday, December 21, 2007, 12:52 PM [General]

    Shantideva characterizes the hold our delusions have over us as follows: "Although my enemies of hatred, attachment and so forth have neither weapons, legs nor arms, still they harm and torture me and treat me like a slave." According to the dharma our worst enemy is delusion. This refers to any mental factor that disturbs and harms our peaceful mind. If we wish to be free of all suffering we must be able to identify the various delusions and understand how they harm us. Generally we all try to be aware of our external enemies but we pay scant heed to the inner enemies infecting our own mind. If we do not recognize the delusions and see how they harm us, how can we overcome our suffering? Buddha identified the six root delusions that poison our mind as following: (1) attachment, (2) anger, (3) pride, (4) ignorance, (5) deluded doubt and (6) wrong views.

     - Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

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    Merry Rohatsu!

    Sunday, December 9, 2007, 12:36 AM [General]

    Rohatsu {which literally means the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month) is a time when Zen Buddhists commemorate the Buddha's enlightenment. This starts on the 1st of December and ends on rohatsu day itself, the 8th of December. In the seven days leading up to the day of rohatsu, monks will spend their time in the dojo or meditation hall, engaged in silent, intensive meditation. This period of intensive meditation is known as sesshin. This practice is the culmination of all the work that has been done previously in that year.


    The Buddha's enlightenment is, of course, of paramount significance throughout all Buddhist schools. In gaining enlightenment, the Buddha saw things clearly for the first time, brought an end to his own suffering and destroyed within himself all taints and defilements. The experience of Nirvana was the experience of perfect peace in which the fires of greed and hatred had been wholly extinguished. It was this knowledge that Nirvana was possible and that there was a pathway to it that the Buddha then decided to share with the world.

    Significant to the Buddha's gaining of enlightenment was meditation. The Buddha practiced austerities for many years, mistakenly believing that this would bring about the answers to his spiritual searching. They did not. It was only through the practice of perfect morality and meditation that he was able to gain release from suffering and the cycle of birth and death.

    The Morning Star

    Buddhism has quite a number of meditation techniques, ranging from concentrating on the breathing to visualizations. In Zen Buddhism meditation is known as zazen or 'sitting' meditation. Paradoxically, zen meditation has no aim. What is the point of trying to get something that one already has? Nirvana is here and now, we just don't see it. Zazen, therefore, is not about trying to do anything other than to simply sit, without desire, without attachment. The essential purity of the mind is there, it just has to be experienced.

    The rohatsusesshin, then, is about bringing about this realization through intensive practice, with the Buddha as an example of what is possible. Tradition has it that the Buddha gained enlightenment just as the morning star rose on the eight day of the twelfth lunar month. Likewise, monks will stay awake on the night of the 7th, meditating intensely and thereby emulating the Buddha's own enlightenment experience.

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    Sitting With Everyone in the World

    Thursday, November 15, 2007, 2:10 PM [General]

    It is not merely enthusiasm that erodes when practice declines. Your body and mind can go out of tune. You are no longer a vessel of insight. The cardinal can sing; the wind can move the ironwood trees delicately; a child can ask a wise question--and where is your center? How can you respond? It is time to put yourself back in tune, to be ready for experiences that make life fulfilling. Take up the advice for beginners. Put your zazen pad somewhere between your bathroom and your kitchen. Sit down there in the morning after you use the bathroom and before you cook breakfast. You are sitting with everyone in the world. If you sit only briefly, you will have at least settled your day.

    -Robert Aitken, Encouraging Words

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