Dharma Talks given by Nyogen Roshi at the Hazy Moon can be inspired by a koan, a sutra, the writings of our Zen ancestors, modern scientific explorations, a student’s question, or today’s headlines. In every talk, you hear the vitality of the living word, the spontaneous expression of prajna flowing from the awakened mind that cuts through our confusion to encourage and invigorate our practice.
Far from being anachronistic curiosities or puzzles to tease the intellect, koans are literally steps on the path of liberation. In his introduction to a translation of The Blue Cliff Record, one the the classic koan collections in the Zen tradition, Maezumi Roshi wrote, “You yourself become the case–this Blue Cliff is your very life.” […]
Luckily for me, my teacher Nyogen Roshi keeps repeating the same thing over and over again. (I’m beginning to realize that’s what teachers do.) In nearly every one of his weekly dharma talks he ends up reciting a set of instructions given to him by his teacher Maezumi Roshi in the early days of his training…
Wherever Dharma is being manifested it is always this state of awareness here with each one of us. There are no barriers except for what we erect in our thinking minds. You can’t overcome thoughts by trying to suppress thoughts, but that’s what we often do when we begin…
“Do you want emancipation?” Nyogen Roshi asked in a recent talk on the enlightenment experience of Seigen Gyoshi, the Seventh Zen Ancestor. “Do you want freedom from birth and death? Only when you begin to open the eye clearly will you see how a shadow of an attitude shapes your experience of this…”
After a particularly beautiful period of meditation, Nyogen Roshi is prompted to share his inner experience of zazen. Though setting aside striving and expectation can be difficult, the rewards are beyond measure. “You relax and release,” Roshi tells us, “then at a certain point, you begin to feel good, and the sitting itself becomes rich. You experience the wonder of what you truly are.”
Riffing on an exchange between Huike and his disciple Seng-ts’an–the second and third patriarchs of Chinese Zen–Roshi tells us that our own delusional thoughts are like the sin that Seng-ts’an believed was the reason for his suffering. Our thoughts, like Seng-ts’an’s belief in his transgression, are the real cause of our trouble. “You cannot speak ill of yourself and attain the way,” Roshi says. “We take a vow not to speak ill of the three treasures. You’re the three treasures! You are the wonder–if you can wake up.”
Kasan said, “Cultivating study is called learning. Cutting off study is called nearness. Going beyond these two is to be considered real going beyond.” A monk came forward and asked, “What is real going beyond?” Kasan said, “Knowing how to beat the drum.” Again the monk asked “What is the real truth?” Kasan said, “Knowing […]
In a powerful and wide-ranging talk, Nyogen Roshi touches on quantum physics and the delusion of understanding; how to listen to a talk; the importance of knowing how to die well; and how his last dokusan with Maezumi Roshi, his teacher, illuminates an exchange between Obaku and Rinzai (and vice versa). But the most basic […]
Bringing up some practice instructions from Dogen Zenji, Nyogen Roshi tells us that the chatter of the unenlightened mind obscures the wonder of the world as it truly is. “Cease and desist,” Roshi says, quoting Dogen, “and you are like an ocean taking in a hundred rivers.”
Responding to a talk from a long-time student, Roshi commends the student for seeing how we reinforce our own suffering when we hang on to any kind of negativity. “If you constantly work in negative images,” Roshi says, “that is what you produce.” That fact highlights the key insight of Zen: “How do you begin to […]
Doing non-doing is the essence of Zen. Far from laziness or indifference, the stillness of zazen is the site of transformation. But reaching the still point does take effort. “Sustained effort will lead you into the joy,” Roshi tells us, “into the wonder of what your life is truly all about. The doorway opens there–all pathways lead from that point.”
Recent serious illnesses in the sangha prompt Nyogen Roshi to confront us with a fact that we usually prefer to avoid: The basic ground of the egocentric mind is the fear of death. Zen practice, Roshi then reminds us, offers a way out of that trap–and the way is always right in front of us. “You can begin to experience something quite marvelous,” Roshi concludes.