Zen is transmitted I Shin Den Shin. 'Shin' is mind, or heart. So, from one real person to another. But how many is the real person? One, or many, or both?

'Mind' doesn't mean the personal, karmic mind, obviously. And, likewise, heart.

In the Shiho, the document of transmission, the whole lineage is written out, one name after the other. And all the names are connected by a single red thread. A heart thread. So all the names are an expression of that heart.

This heart.




Master Dogen said that Zazen is the dharma gate of ease and joy.

To understand what he meant we need to consider the fundamental Buddhist insight that we suffer because we believe there is a self and that there are things which belong to the self. And because we think that in our ordinary life we constellate our experience around this. Like wrapping a bandage round and round a non-existent head. 

Dogen also said that Zazen is casting off body and mind, and one of the things he specifically means is that when we sit, we cast off this sense of me and mine. So experience is unwound, fills everywhere. And we can understand that suffering is not inevitable.


The whole zen literature is a commentary on practice. Actual practice. Your practice.

Before spiritual language degenerates into religion, it is always the effort of a real person, using what is available, to describe their actual experience.

Always the effort of a real person to describe their actual experience. And because we too are that real person, it describes our experience. Not the experience of some far distant moment after decades or lifetimes of practice, but this moment, when we drop the familiar dualities of self and world, mind and body and so on. The language is often shocking and startling because it needs to be, to knock us out of our habitual configuration of experience around a 'Me'. So, for example, the writer Douglas Harding describes Zazen as being like having no head. He doesn't mean that cognition, sensation and so on disappears. But rather that we lose the sense of this experience as mine. So rather than locating this aliveness within a space called me, there is just this aliveness, which fills everywhere.


More On the Heart Sutra:

(3) "The bodhisattva of compassion...."

Buddhists have a persistent difficulty with the particular and the universal. When we consider Avolakitesvara/ dynamic full functioning/ dependent origination, we tend to make a picture of something vast, and lurch between that and our particularity now.

It was for this reason, I suspect, that Okumura said that practice was the five skandas seeing the emptiness of the five skandas.

We start with this experience, this particularity, this now, and it floods out everywhere, because it is unconstrained by the bell jar of the self.


Buddhism is a medicine for the sickness of the self.

It takes us a long time to realise it. What drives us to start to practice is a sense that something is missing. That we may be caught in the in breath of narcissism, or caught in the outbreath of depression.  We may feel like there is dirt on our face which we can't wash away. 

But rather than something missing, something is not yet missing: the deep belief that there is a Me.

The fundamental belief in Buddhism is anatta, no self. In Zen we express this as emptiness. This belief is the foundation of everything else; Interdependence, total dynamic functioning and so on. It is why when we chant the Heart Sutra we chant that the Bodhisattva of Compassion, practicing Zazen, sees the 5 skandas as empty and thereby relieves all suffering. The oscillation, the breath, is not between the inflation and deflation of the self but between the 5 skandas and everything, seen as vast compassionate space. We cannot lift ourselves, yet we are lifted up.

The sickness never really leaves us. But nonetheless, everything is illuminated

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