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.
Weaving some of Maezumi Roshi’s commentary into a talk on Zenki—”undivided activity”—Nyogen Roshi reminds us that all the Buddhist teachings are pointing directly at the individuals who receive them. “What is Buddha?” Roshi asks. “Buddha is awake! Who is awake? Is there anyone there but yourself?”
Maezumi Roshi answers the question, “How do we open ourselves to wisdom?”
Transcribed from a recording made in July 1993.
The manifest koan is you, what is apparent and appearing, depending solely on right now. Nothing else. If you’re still caught in the comparing mind, the judgmental mind, you won’t see it. If you’re trapped in seeing objects as separate from you, you are far from it. But I think everybody here is starting to sense it…
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…
Those of us who practice are lucky when we encounter difficult times. Before that, we coast along in a comfort zone, thinking that bad stuff will be taken care of and the good guys will win and everyone is going to live happily ever after…
In a powerful talk that touches on the six perfections in Buddhism as well as Dogen’s writing on samsara and nirvana, Nyogen Roshi exhorts us to cultivate selfless awareness through our practice…
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.”
Reflecting on why more of his students aren’t experiencing breakthroughs in their practice, Nyogen Roshi indicts a lack of faith in the practice itself as the culprit. Specifically, he pinpoints a cynical reluctance to believe anything that we haven’t personally perceived as the hindrance to insight. “When you hear about some of the wonders that […]
The image of a migrant father and his young daughter lying dead on a bank of the Rio Grande prompts Nyogen Roshi to reflect on Buddhist teachings around suffering. Drawing on his own experiences with suffering as well as lessons handed down in the Zen tradition, Roshi concludes that the story of the Buddha contains the only possible remedy. “Who else other than yourself is sitting there?” Roshi says. “You can only look into your own mind. If you can understand where the pathway is, simply trust the words of the Buddha. His own life was the prescription and the path.”
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.”
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.” […]
Reading from the book “Awareness” by Anthony de Mello–a Jesuit priest and psychotherapist who grew up in Mumbai, India–Nyogen Roshi marvels at how much the Jesuit’s teaching sounds like instructions from masters in the Zen and Tibetan traditions. “Death is not a tragedy at all. Only dead people fear death…”