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.
“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 […]
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.
In this excerpt from a wide-ranging talk, Nyogen Roshi emphasizes the importance of continuous practice for the practitioner who aspires to true liberation from suffering. He also cautions us not to see the imperative of “home-leaving” as necessarily involving “shaving our heads and putting on a funny costume.” True home-leaving, he tells us, means freeing ourselves from the “nest” of delusional beliefs, opinions and preferences…
Ego’s job is to make things seem solid and safe, but ego’s sense is always delusional. When we see that whatever ground we hold onto in our delusional mind keeps us separate, then we can enter into this world of oneness. The world of oneness exists here now. It cannot be reached conceptually…
Reflecting on the Hanamatsuri ceremony–when Sangha members offer flowers and bathe the body of a statue representing the newborn Buddha–Nyogen Roshi reminds us that this ritual of purification is simply another reminder that cultivating samadhi is the point of our practice…
Nyogen Roshi reminds us that zazen–Zen meditation–means non-thinking. When we cultivate this non-thinking state, we realize our true nature. “At the heart of the teaching is a practicing Buddha,” Roshi says. “That’s what you are, at the heart.”