rivers into islands

rivers into islands

Friday, December 9, 2016

Heaven Teacher

You should entreat trees and rocks to preach the Dharma, 
and you should ask rice fields and gardens for the truth.  
Ask pillars for the Dharma and learn from hedges and walls. 

Dogen Kigen. from “Bowing, Prostrating the Marrow”

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Face of buddha


face of buddha

in each moment....


There is within...moon;
There is within...leaf;
There is within...river;
There is within...wind;
There is within...

That which is named buddha,
appearing in each step,
at each door...


A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. 
Albert Einstein

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Original Mind

Shinichi  Maruyama

Studying texts and stiff meditation can make you lose your Original Mind.
A solitary tune by a fisherman though, can be an invaluable treasure.
Dusk rain on the river, the moon peeking in and out of the clouds;
Elegant beyond words, he chants his songs night after night.


the mind is exactly this tree, that grass
without thought or feeling both disappear

Friday, October 7, 2016

Three Treasures

Lance Kinseth, Three Treasures, 2005

THREE TREASURES: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha

The three treasures, if attained, not three at all.

Without direct realization, the very gateless, inseparable treasure seems distanced, and so no cure for suffering.

For human beings, Dharma remains a truth-gate rather than a key.

In the painting, What can be seen?

With direct realization, not three; no more Buddha, Dharma, Sangha medicine, not even Zen medicine,

Then that which exists: no birth, no death; unborn

Still, even with a brilliant adamantine fall, in each moment, a little stench of awakening, an afterglow of sorts taints awareness.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Your Preciousness Cannot Be Lost

You should understand that no thing ever falls short of its own completeness.

John Daido Loori, from “Commentary” [on Panshan’s 
awakening], in Kazuaki Tanahashi and John Daido Loori, 
Translators. The True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen’s 
Three Hundred Koans, p.29


Everything has one thing.  This one thing swallowed heaven, earth, and everything.  
If you want to find it, it is already far away. 

Yong Song, from “”214. What Is One Thing?,” in 
Seung Sahn, The Whole World Is A Single Flower, p.134

Monday, September 19, 2016

Zen Essence

Lance Kinseth, Zen Essence, 36”x36

Every day priests minutely examine the Dharma
And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
Before doing that, though, they should learn how to read
The love letters sent by the wind and rain, the snow and moon.

There is a bright pearl within me,
Buried for a long time under dust.
Today, the dust is gone and the light radiates,
Shining through all the mountains and rivers.

Yueh Ch'a-ling

The rain has stopped, the clouds have drifted away,
And the weather is clear again.
If your heart is pure, then all things in your world are pure.
Abandon this fleeting world, abandon yourself,
Then the moon and flowers will guide you along the way.


Sunday, August 21, 2016


ZEN ZA WILD GRASS offers a story about yourself.  You wear the appearance of a river, Earth, a star and more, and yet, that wonder is, perhaps, still distanced.  But when this story ends, no matter how long it takes, there is no long a “you.”  Then, there is something that has never been hidden, that is always unhidden.  Even then, there are many quirks and shadows and ouches and small and large graces still, but there is no longer suffering.  There is no life or death.  Sky still looks blue and grass looks green, but they are not.  They are you.  Whole world and worlds and stars and ocean and birds and piles of dead leaves and moon and more moons are “you” and “mind.”  To arrive in such a terrain where you already are, and then arrive again and again, the task is to taste more than to think and know.  Then there are no more puzzling gong-an/koans/kong-ans, no more buddha, no more Zen.  Zen is to study self, but mainly the large written Zen record is what not to do.  Zen is worthwhile because it it clean--there is no dust in it--but in the end, which right now, which is past,present and future, fall in-between the letters of words or concepts, and open the experience of who you are.  

There has never been such a thing as “Buddha,” so do not understand it as Buddha. 
“Buddha” is a medicine for emotional people; if you have no disease, you should 
not take medicine. When medicine and disease are both dissolved, it is like pure water; 
buddhahood is like a sweet herb mixed in the water, or like honey mixed in the water, 
most sweet and delicious. And yet the pure water itself is not affected.

Thomas Cleary, The Five Houses Of Zen, p.9

Its light penetrates everywhere and engulfs everything, so why does it not know itself?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sun Roams Bottom Of Sea

Lance Kinseth, Ocean of Zen III: Sun Roams Bottom Of Sea, 2016

The sun roams the bottom of the sea.
Shinkichi Takahashi, from Afterimages

SWIMMING ON THE SURFACE paradoxically touches the bottom.  Each everyday event is rooted in the bottom/vast source--small-as-vast.
          (after Dogen Zenji, Kaiin Zammai, “On the Meditative State That Bears the Seal of the Ocean” )

Which is to say, obversely, vast-as-small, Gutei, Book of Equanimity, case 84 states:
The ocean of ten-thousand worlds is engulfed in a hair-tip. 


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


1. BY LEGEND, SIDDHARTHA experienced realization upon seeing the morning star.  All of the sutras and commentary mean nothing against this experience.

2. So Man Gong, seeing many stars, asks, What is your star?

3. Even blind,  seeing no stars, What star do you experience?

What does Siddhartha, Man Gong, and the blind adept experience?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Ocean Is In My Chest

Lance Kinseth, Ocean Of Zen Series: The Ocean’s In My Chest, 

The ocean’s in my chest.
Shinkichi Takahashi

WHEN THINKING ABOUT ZEN, the most popular objective is a simple, clean, non-attaining calmness that seems to address suffering.  But there is still a latent suffering that continues.  The direct experience associated with the term “Zen” is quite different,and it addresses this latent suffering.

Invisible suffering is the latent suffering that is present in all that we are, 
in the guise of ignorance, attachment to the self, and a false perception of reality.
Matthieu Ricard

And so, what is that direct experience?....

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Fallen Upside Down In An Ocean

Lance Kinseth, Ocean Of Zen Series: Fallen Upside Down In An Ocean, 48"x60

What do you do if you fall upsidedown in the ocean?
Seeing Sahn 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Original Face

falling upside-down into ocean

FOR YOUNG Hui-neng, hearing a phrase in a market...

dwelling nowhere, bring forth that mind...


intimacy vs. emptiness...a direct experience, not an insight 


LATER, ADEPT HUI-NENG admonishes: 

your original face before your parents were born...

Hui-neng, Siddhartha, flower, sky, soil, sun, moon, you & I, George Washington, dog, rain, river are there...


HUI-NENG--a late admonition:

neither coming nor going...

Monday, April 25, 2016

buddha vs The Buddha

“Buddha” was initially more of a non-image like the Upanishad’s Brahman or Chinese Tao referencing a totality that cannot be represented well by an image.  The stupa, a deer, a footprint with a circle representing the wheel of dharma were some early imagery related to “buddhaology.” 

“Buddha” describes a self-nature that is akin to a world soul rather than to an individual, with the totality being expressed in every facet of the immanent world.  This buddha is the authentic self-nature, and the direct experience of buddha counters a sense of birth and death and specialness.  In his lifetime, Siddhartha may have been acknowledged as a venerated teacher rather than as the Buddha. 

However, human nature tends to create a derivative, culturally-comfortable “assurance” of a sustaining self-as-ego after death. Along with a transcultural emphasis on ancestors, pre-Buddhist concepts such as karma and rebirth and special birth and death characteristics of unique selfs termed  “Buddhas” with supreme enlightenment.  The ego might mollify into an insect, person, god, hungry ghost and so forth before, and rarely, transcending this “wheel” into a nirvana where there still may be an egoic quality.

With the written Buddhist record beginning long after Siddhartha, It is impossible to say what Siddhartha really said or believed.  Even in the later centuries when writing was established, the “records” of, for example, 7th Century adepts are not really records of fact but recounts penned later by adherents.  Buddhism had also splayed out into various sects in various cultures, with their own interpretations as to authentic Buddhism.   And the history of each Buddhist sect is, in fact, a record of a roller-coaster of degeneration and reform, subject to periods of cultural support/influence and outright attack and gaps in lineage. 

The Zen sect of Buddhism is astonishingly text-rich, even though the experience that forms the primary point of Zen is clean, deconceptual, and cannot be taught.  This text-rich information is primarily about what this Zen experience is NOT.  This Zen experience references a universal dimension of human experience that has worn many names.  it precedes Buddhism and is an experience of authentic self-nature.  Siddhartha is idealized as an ultimate example of experiencing and then living human experience from this experience. The task appears difficult and yet it unhidden and “speaking” everywhere.  It diminishes a deep suffering that we often do not recognize by liberating selfness from a sense of separation.  While everything is empty of self, 

(no Bodhi tree
no mirror/stand
nothing to polish
no where for dust to finally, solidly, alight)

authentic nature or true home is a rich fullness.  As Tachu notes what you see, hear, and experience is yourself.

everything changes
everything is inseparable
not seeking

When we turn to human life, we tend to find a boundary a the skin, and more, we imagine a separable eternal essence that (in Buddhism) might be imagined to pass through physical animal, and psychic god and/or hungry ghost forms, to finally attain nirvana, and yet, perhaps imagining becoming a free entity on a spiritual mount.  However, with such a turn, we remain bound. 

When we turn to a flower or a cloud or a mountain, we do not see the need to polish these events.  And further, the being-ness of each of these events is boundless.  A spring flower is in the evolution of a star and appears with the tilt of the Earth into the sun and melds light into mass, so that eh flower is a radiant event perhaps akin to a wave in the ocean with the Oceanus in the wave and in the flower.  

Monday, February 22, 2016

Seeing Sound

Lance Kinseth

Listen for the sound of a single hand.

And then what occurs when you cut this hand in half?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

No Buddha No Mind

ORIGINALLY THERE IS no such thing as Buddha, but by necessity the name was given to him.  Originally there is no such thing as mind.  To attain enlightenment is to realize the one thing.  For the sake of illustration, it is said that the one thing is empty, but it is not really empty—mind of no mind is the true mind, wisdom of no wisdom is the true wisdom.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Communal Lore; Not Much Zen

BUDDHISM HAS NO “universally shared core text… …no central source of Buddhist authority,” * and yet, all Buddhist sects are very “text-driven, text-rich.”   Why? Cultural authority* and appeal.

Essentially, “zen” that is established/shared stands to be more derivative and even degenerative rather than original.  Derivative practices serve social/psychological perceptions rather than the original intent that challenges social/psychological perceptions, and can even degenerate into negative, exclusive vs. inclusive, practices.

Buddhist sects associated with “Zen” prioritize a “radical dismissal for the need for intermediaries—whether Indian texts, local religious adepts, or supramundane bodhisattvas.”*  This grows out of a sense of the practice as “demonstration—not explanation” that advocates a personal and direct experience of the awakening experience that is credited to Siddhartha Gautama, “outside the teachings.”* 

The written record of the words of Siddhartha comes after centuries of oral tradition that reinterpret the original experience in not just one way but in diverse Buddhist orthodoxies and diverse schools within those orthodoxies.  How much Siddhartha literally said and how much others interpreted and embellished and how much was favored and how much was lost tends to suggest that there is nothing reliably coming directly from Siddhartha.  Even centuries later by the time of Hui-neng, when Indian sutras were being diligently copied, the historical accuracy of his Platform Sutra is debated.*

The record of the original experience of Siddhartha is cultural lore, not fact. And lore has the sweetness of accommodation that has allowed Buddhism to spread.  “Accommodation” [i.e., comfort/familiarity] equates with melding with pre-existing cultural values or political values of the time that supported it.  Pre-Siddhartha Indo-Asian orientations such as karma, reincarnation, nirvana and dominant cultural mores were added to post-Siddhartha cultural values in the outspread in Asia such as ancestry, literacy, and the value of communal/societal/familial connection.

Paradoxically, there may be more written about Zen that favored demonstration rather than explanation than about other Buddhist sects.  In its many cultural expressions, “zen,” being “outside the teachings” raises sutras to “canonical status.”*  And as lore rather than “history,” Zen practice embellishes and favors.  The foundational, “rock-solid” genealogy of specific transmission from patriarch to patriarch is not rock-solid, not coherent for centuries after Siddhartha and then for centuries after Bodhidharma.*  Perhaps most bothersome is the attribution of special birth and magical/psychic powers to Siddhartha and subsequent patriarchs and the God-like reverence to his image when, paradoxically, his awakening deals with seeing a true nature that experiences interpenetration rather than personhood. 

Whether generally Buddhist or specifically Zen sect, culture tends to reboot Siddhartha’s experience to an individual self-nature that survives individual death.  Meditation, clothing and images and Zen aesthetics become distinctive and “correct practice.” 

In established centers, practices of Zen Buddhism are typically appealing when they address psychological and social suffering, offering simplicity and calmness that can distract from and even obstruct realization.  Meditation and social gathering and social action may become a system of social support than self-realization, even incorporating aspects that have nothing to do with Buddhism, such as appeasement of traditions of folk demons or prophesy that fund built structures and priests in Japan and contemporary global activities that link Zen with activities such as writing, yoga, diet, and daily habits.   

Siddhartha’s awakening experience offers the resolution of a deeper existential suffering, involving the direct experience of all as true body, experiencing ultimate (yet everyday) reality, where there is no Buddha, no birth/death.

Buddhism has housed Zen through centuries, but Siddhartha’s awakening experience is not unique to Buddhism.  That experience is a dimension of human experience that precedes Siddhartha.  Zen pops up from time to time when someone breaks through broad cultural barriers to awaken, including rather extensive barriers present in Buddhist practice.  Zen involves “an awareness that does not rely on anything.”*

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Shifting Sensation Dissolves To Stillness

Nagasawa Rosetsu

SIITING IN ZA (at rest) or in the midst of the everyday, there is this enduring, shifting flow of thought, moments, weathers, mountains, continents, planets, moons, stars, galaxies, atoms, aging, breath, sounds, remembrances of phrases of sutras, scientific data, daydreams,
and in all of it , a cognitive understanding of a sense of nothing to which dust can reliantly
cling, and therefore nothing to which to attach to—all affirming Siddhartha’s disturbing, 
albeit comforting dictum that change is a constancy.

With realization, suddenly, there is stillness in all this change.

There is this direct experience of one thing in all of this shifting sensation.

With realization of just one thing, stillness emoting calmness, tranquility, serenity, eloquence, grace.

In Buddhist lore, in morning star, What does Siddhartha directly see that passes through the gate of shifting sensation?

Not buddhas, not oneness, not emptiness—all shifting things--

Something very direct, very intimate, very simple.

Friday, January 15, 2016

No Mind No Body No Buddha

Keep beginner’s mind.

PONDERING THIS MIND, what if the words were “How much does your mind

Two ounces + 100 quadrillion tons = 0 might realize true nature.

What if the words are “You have no mind.”

What if the words are “You have no body.”

What if the words are “There is no Buddha.”

What if the words are “You have no mind, no body, and there is no Buddha.  Neither
mystic nor esoteric, but rather rational and practical, what does Siddhartha see?