Monday, April 6, 2009

Step by Step

In taking the path of Zen you are faced with decisions at every juncture. You might choose to go one way, with my blessing. I will offer my preference, for what it may be worth.

You might want to do your work at home, on line, before a computer. I would much rather do my work at home on my cushions and travel to sesshin.

You might want to change yourself. I would rather learn to accept myself.

Your purpose might be to become a priest. I would rather become a realized person.

You might consider kōans to be historical artifacts. I consider them to be personal guides along the ancient way.

You might consider each kōan to be part of a sequence. I would rather consider them to be my valued practice in and for themselves.

You might think of intervals between your seated practice as breaks. I think of them as practice.

You might think of your assignments during sesshin as jobs. I think of them as practice.

You might think your vow “to enable the many being": is to be something to recite. I try to take it to heart.

You might consider completing the last kōan of your assigned study to be the end of something. I would much rather consider it to be the beginning of something.

When you are made the master of your Zen temple or Zen center, you might expect to be called “Rōshi” by everyone. However it’s up to the Sangha members. Many Western masters continue to be called by their first names.



  1. Lovely, Roshi!

    Just one question: What is "enabling the many beings"?

    You used to try and save them. Now you're enabling them. Enabling them to be what? To do what?

  2. Appropriate means... ???

    If this is your last instruction(s), I am with Dirk, thank you.

    Are you kidding me? I would be bowing all over the place.

    Don't be a fool.

    Thank you Mary for "Lovely Roshi."
    And thank you for pointing that one out about enabling. (my guess is that it depends on how it is translated).

    Here is another one for you (I guess just to put it out there):

    I would point directly,
    It doesn't matter where you pointed.

    After zazen, Now to get ready for work.


    O. B.

  3. In your book 'Miniatures of a Zen Master' you wrote -

    "Over and over the master assures you, "You are all right to the very bottom." This is not an assurance that beneath all your differences and peculiarities you will finally reach something called "Buddhahood.""

    Together with this post, I find great encouragement as I move through the day. I don't feel like I'm "off the hook" for my actions. If I fall short and cause injury, I'm responsible. Learn, act from the breath and vow to do better next time.

    My most favorite Zen story is "Eating the Blame" from "The Mind of Clover". Which has this same flavor.

    Also, like Mary, I was a little caught by "to enable the many beings". Usually we chant “to save the many beings". I do get a sense that saving and enabling could be synonyms in this context.

    Thank you Robert, I love you too.

  4. Dear Roshi,
    I am grateful for your comments about koans. I have struggled with this issue of "how to see them." Sometimes I find myself pretending koans are not part of the practice but are something to overcome to be able to practice. Your words encourage me to look more closely. Second by second, what is the life of the koan?

  5. Hello Robert,

    Let me see if I can reconstruct this correctly; Anne's insignt on death was something like this:

    Death is like a bus, when it is your turn you get on it.

    I have one that I presented on Mary's blog the other day and I wanted to share it with you.

    Since you are writing about death, here is one that has come to me; I haven’t shared it in writing before:

    In a closet, a shirt fell from a hanger (like Dogen’s body and mind falling away).
    Let it all fall away.
    Looking up at the hanger, as if looking back at life,
    Don’t get hung up there…

    Then in the end, all of these insights are impermanent, falling away, falling away; or to write them down and share them with you.


    O. B. Ray

  6. Well said, Roshi!

    Thank you!

    With palms together,

  7. Hello Roshi,

    There waS more to my comments above. If you are interested, please see "Is there life after death?" #72 and #73.

    Have a great weekend,

    O. B.

  8. Dear Roshi,
    Thank you for this marvelous post. What a beautiful expression of one's life.


  9. The sound of a pebbleApril 13, 2009 at 6:12 AM

    Hello Robert,
    I have read your comments in "Step by Step," above, several times. I agree and relate intimately with each of them. The words that came to my mind on continued koan practice is that it is like fine tunning, such as a radio or a car. But they (koans) are unique, fulfilling and complete in their own right. Gassho,
    O. B.