Reflections on/of the Heart Sūtra

I began formal Zen practice in 1993, in a tiny rural monastery in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico known as Bodhi Mandala (now Bodhi Manda — hippie era mistranslation finally corrected after 30-some years). They gave me a cot in a rickety old ex-Catholic dormitory, a black robe in two pieces called kimono and hakama that I had …

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The Consolation of Philosophy: Study as Path, Wisdom as Mother

When the 5th century Roman philosopher Boëthius was under house arrest for treason (he got on the wrong side of a political fight, basically), he wrote his best-seller, an allegorical play in which he is visited in prison by Philosophy, personified as a wisdom goddess. When she first arrives, he complains about his misfortune, especially after he had a faithful …

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Positionality is Ancestral Karma

Two talks on the complex current discourse known as “positionality”, which basically means that the social roles and conditioned state we experience the world through determine how and what we can perceive and know. I propose that the practice of inquiry into positionality is both a foundation for the insight into the emptiness of the sense of self (anattā), and …

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Mindfulness and its Discontents

A series of talks on “Mindfulness,” the great universal self-improvement practice. Ok, not quite. But mindfulness is awesome. Just not in the way the magazines want you to think. We’ll start with the basics of Buddhist Mindfulness. What it is and may not be, how we can discern its presence or absence as an embodied state, why it’s so important, why …

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Vastness & Engagement: Exploring the Diamond Sutra

Coming out of a few weeks of conversation about foundational themes in the Buddhist systems called Mahāyāna, or “Great Vehicle,” we look at one of the most important and beloved texts of the Mahāyāna school known as the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajñāpāramitā), the Diamond Sutra (vajracchedikā sūtra). I’m reading through it slowly, in Red Pine’s ch’an/zen-oriented translation, and reflecting on some …

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Mahayana View: Vastness & Collective Liberation

A series of talks and meditations I began at the lunar new year (Yang Earth Dog), on Śivaratri, that look at practice as understood by the visionary Buddhist movement known as the Mahāyāna, or “Great Vehicle.” I think it rambled a bit to start, especially the one on whether our practice is progressing, which almost veered into “Is American Buddhism …

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The [Poisoned] State of the Union

On the evening our beleaguered president gives his first State of the Union address, I give mine. I talk about the early Buddhist framework for understanding the world in terms of three interwoven causes of pain and unskillful action: The 3 Poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion. Meditation: the Central Column as felt alignment leading to Eliot’s “still point at …

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Buddhist & Hindu Yogas are less separate than you think

A month of talks exploring the relationship between Buddhism and Yoga, or between the many “Buddhist and Hindu Yogas” plural. I wove in some history, but tried to stay close to actual practice issues. 1. Embodiment. Meditation: Orientation through the senses 2. Focus & tranquillity: the practices of jhāna/samādhi, and the pleasure of Rapture (pīti). Child Gotama under the rose-apple …

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