Rev. Suirin Ray Witham

Wake Up

Anyone who has any exposure to Soto Zen tradition has likely heard that zazen practice has no goal. We are not sitting in meditation to achieve enlightenment. We are not doing zazen to acquire psychic powers, intuition or great wisdom. Any or all of these may occur but not if we establish them as goals, not if we sit in order to achieve them. Peace of mind may be the most popular reason that people begin meditation, but during the practice we discover that it’s so illusive, all we can do really is practice.

Tick Tock Teisho

Nothing within your mind is more important than focusing upon this moment, posture, breath, and the open and receptive mind - Zen Mind, empty mind. Even during day-to-day activities this focus is important.

Tanden - Spiritual Field

On my way to discovering Zen, I studied most of the popular religions, even a few that were quite unpopular. I noticed that most religions have two separate teachings. They have an esoteric teaching for disciples and accomplished members of the clergy, and monks perhaps, and another exoteric teaching for everyone else; everyone else being those exterior to, or outside the family of specially initiated.

The Original Face

Which of those thoughts tumbling through your mind is more important than seeing into your true nature? Why do you allow these random ideas and sensations that are passing through to distract you from seeing your "original face?" I can hazard a guess. Because all of our lives these thoughts, these bodily sensations, keep flipping through the pages of the mind. This is this, these are is the closest things to us. Each of us has this, all of us deal with it one way or another, and we begin to think that all this mental activity and physical sensation ... this is all ME.

Matters of Concern

There is a very old Japanese book, not ancient by Zen standards, only a few hundred years old, called Hagakure. Hagakure means Fallen Leaves. It is a collection of ideas and thoughts by and about samurai, an inspirational and motivational manual, if you will. I don’t know whether "fallen leaves" is meant to refer to the fallen samurai ancestors, or to the inspirational words and phrases scattered like so many leaves among the students of Bushido, The Way of the Sword; no matter, it is wonderful reading and its thoughts apply equally to students of The Way of Zen.

Don't Get Comfortable

Please don't be too comfortable. We spend most of our lives trying to be comfortable. We always tell our guests, "Make yourselves comfortable.... Make yourself at home." This is the one place, though it feels like home, we don’t want to be too comfortable. Be grateful for those little discomforts and nagging pains that keep you awake. We try to keep it kind of cool in here, so that the heat doesn't cause drowsiness. The whole point of zazen is being awake.

Cosmic Breath

Good morning. Welcome to the Zen Buddhist Temple. It is Sunday, May 25th. We always stress during instruction, focusing on the breath. In fact the various teisho, talks and sermons, Dharma talks and other lectures, go into great detail about how to focus on the breath. It is an important aspect of zazen, but it is also sometimes a bit confusing, or ambiguous. The breath is actually a link between the mind and body, and for this reason it is important to be conscious always of every aspect of breathing.

Chuang Tzu and Anger

In the State of Lu there was a man by the name of Wang Tai who had but one foot. He had as many followers as Confucius. Chang Chi asked Confucius, "This Wang Tai is a cripple yet he has as many followers in the state of Lu as you do. When he stands up he does not teach, when he sits down he utters no word. People go to him empty and come back full. Is there such a thing as teaching without words? Can the mind be perfect while the body is deformed? What kind of man is he?"

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