Kanzeon is the Japanese name for the Bohdhisattva of compassion, known more commonly as Avalokiteshvara or Kuan Yin. She is usualy depicted as having many hands and eyes: the eyes see the suffering of living beings, while the hands work to relieve that suffering. In this video, John examines the imagery used to depict Kanzeon, and the deeper and more subtle meaning that is being conveyed.

Adapted from a kusen given on


One of the core ideas of chinese buddhism is that all living beings have buddha nature. This derives from a number of sutras, the pre-eminent one being the Tathagatagarbha sutra. In this video, John examines the concept of buddha nature using the evocative imagery of the word ‘tathagatargarbha’ [buddha womb/embryo] itself, to help clarify the concept .

Adated from Kusen 289 given on 16th June 2020

This Dharma Position

In this video John examines a poem by Uchiyama Roshi:

though poor, never poor,
though sick, never sick,
though ageing, never ageing,
though dying, never dying:
reality prior to division,
here lies unlimited depth

Adpated from kusen given on 13th June 2020

The Buddha Vehicle

The buddhist state has nothing to do with thinking or willing. We’re not spiritual warriors.We are not on a hero’s journey. Yet because thinking and attempting to grasp reality with our minds is so much a part of who we are as human beings, buddhist teachers will use expedient means.
In this video John discusses expedient means and examines the parable from The Lotus Sutra of the burning house, which famously illustrates this concept.

Video adapted from Kusen no. 286, given on 6th June 2020

More on Expedient means can be found in the links below:


A Stick of Incense

On the altar there are usually three objects: a statue of Manjushri, some flowers and a stick of incense, held in an incense bowl. In this video John discusses how these can be evocative symbols that express something heartfelt about our practice and our lives.

Adapted from Kusen given on 2nd June 2020

Letting Your Body Leap

What are we actually engaged in when we sit in Zazen? Unlike other meditation practices, there is no given object to focus our attention on, and no graspable instructions telling us what we should be doing.
In this video the practice is clarified not so much in terms of an activity of the ‘mind’,  or the consideration of an ‘object’ of meditation, but as something physically enacted which involves the whole of us, and thus a ‘fall’ into the space of zazen.

Kusen given on 9th June 2020

Dogen’s Dharma Hall Discourse Number 24: An Expression Never Before Expounded

In this video John examines one of Dogen’s Dharma Hall Discourses, which expounds a very different view of both time and expression to our habitual sense.
This view can wake us up to the urgency of living right now, of being alive together with all beings, that all of our life, all the now-moments within, no matter how mundane they seem, are part of something bigger and more alive than we can currently see, have meanings for others that we cannot fathom, hold significance beyond our imagination, and have causes and repercussions that extend in all directions. Therefore, we should be attentive and grateful, even when doing the washing-up.  

Adpated from Kusen given on 30th May 2020

A person in the mountains should love the mountains

It is often a puzzle for us when we practice how to respond when thoughts, daydreams, emotions or fantasies arise. While we shouldn’t try to push them away, neither should we get caught up in them. But how?

The quandary is based on unquestioned assumptions about the self.

In this video, reference is made to one of Dogen’s poems which helps to illuminate a way out of this predicament by challenging the dualistic assumptions which underlie it.

The Poem:
A person in the mountains should love the mountains,
with going and coming, the moutains are his body.
The mountains are the body, but the body is not the self
So where can one find any senses, or their objects?

Teaching adapted from Kusen given on 26th May 2020

‘Life is too short to be in a hurry’ – Thoreau

Transitions (Wellington Southern Walkway, NZ)
Transitions, photograph by Anne Dick, Wellington Southern Walkway, NZ

A practitioner’s perspective, on and off the zafu – Two

There’s something rather absurd about rushing to get to zazen (meditation) yet that’s sometimes what happens –  arriving to sit out of breath and with a head still teeming with the busyness of the day. For some people lockdown will make that less likely, for some people more of a risk.

Although our practice of zazen is of just sitting without any specific focus it can help to have a transition at times like that, just before the bell rings at the start.

Counting the breath from one to ten can help recalibrate. Counting one on an in breath and two on the out breath then continuing like that up to ten before dropping from the counting into full awareness. 

If the body is tight with tension, doing a brief body scan before the bell rings, without making any conscious effort to relax, can allow your body to have the space to release into the sitting.  

First becoming aware of the breath in your abdomen before taking your awareness up to the top of your head then from the top of your head, over your face and neck down your shoulders and hands to your fingers then from your shoulders down your torso, back and front, down your legs and feet then returning up the body back to the top of the head, noticing as you travel through the body in each direction how each part feels, without trying to change anything. 

Then the bell rings and you can just sit.


The Expression of the Water

When we practice, we release the world and ourselves from the grip of our certainty. However it is not exactly that our limited views are wrong, and we should try to ‘lose’ them, or that some are more illuminating that others, or that if all views could be taken together they would finally fully illuminate the practitioner. All views, no matter how many, are all the expression and life of this phenomena right now, which interpenetrates and is interpenetrated by all dharmas, everywhere.

Adapted from Kusen given on 19th May 2020