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.”
In one of the most famous Zen stories, Joshu asks his teacher Nansen, “What is the Way?” Nansen replies, ” Ordinary mind is the Way.” What is ordinary mind? Nyogen Roshi walks us into it. “Get quiet,” he says. “Purify the mind–which means stop talking to yourself. Just sit here in the present moment. What else is there to be known? You know everything there is, perfectly.”
In this excerpt, Hogen points to the power we have to reduce our own suffering. When we entertain fantasies of something “other” than what exists right now—no matter how painful or difficult the situation—our desire to escape from who and where we are actually creates more suffering for ourselves.
A talk on emptiness begins with Nyogen Roshi’s recounting the experience of “writing on water” with a stick when he was a boy growing up in Colorado. Far from indifference to the world around us, Roshi says, realizing the emptiness of all things through Zen practice entails profound spiritual awakening…
In a recent talk on the Bardo–the transition between life and death–Nyogen Roshi highlights an insight from a modern Tibetan master’s commentary on a classic text: Each of us exists in the Bardo right now…
Inspired by Yamada Roshi’s account of his kensho in the book, “Zen: The Authentic Gate.” Nyogen Roshi encourages us to remember that just as suffering and death are real, enlightenment is also real. “Without enlightenment, there is no Zen Buddhism,” Roshi says. “Yamada wasn’t some mythical character. I met him! He was a remarkable man […]
Recalling a talk that he gave when he was Maezumi Roshi’s student, Nyogen Roshi tells us he said he wanted to practice “blue-collar Zen”–it had to work in the grim places where he often found himself as a social worker specializing in child protective services…
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.” […]
If you’d like to include chants in your home practice, scroll down to find links to our complete chant book and Zendo recordings of several of the seminal chants in Zen.
Services introduce the aspect of ritual into our practice. Specifically, a “service” consists of a chant, performed in front of the altar, to transmit the energy, intention and benefit of our practice into the world we inhabit…
“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.”