Sutra tracing in English and Chinese characters

Here are some pictures of the sutra tracing and copying practice (shakyo 写経) that we will be working from in our practice group. These are from the short sutra Boundless Life Ten Line Kannon Sutra.

Boundless Life Ten Phrase Kannon Sutra written by Shogen
Boundless Life Ten Phrase Kannon Sutra written by Shogen
Boundless Life Ten Phrase Kannon Sutra traced by Shogen
延命十句観音経 Boundless Life Ten Phrase Kannon Sutra traced by Shogen

The Body is the Bodhi Tree

The Platform Sutra of the Sixth patriarch tells the story – and it is a story, it didn’t actually happen – of the contest to the succesion of the fifth patriarch, Hongren. He asked his followers to write a poem to demonstrate their understanding. His senior disciple, Shexiu was the only monk who wrote a poem, which was as follows:

The body is the bodhi tree
the mind the bright mirrors stand
always polish attentively
to prevent dust from settling.

This was famously countered by an illiterate labourer staying in the monastery, Huineng, who responded:

Bodhi originally has no tree
the mirror has no stand
the buddha nature is always clear and pure
where is there room for dust?

In this video the meaning of the first line of Shexiu’s poem is explored.

Video teaching adapted from Kusen given on 23rd May 2020

More on the mind verses competition can be found here:

further references on the mind verses competition can be found here:


A Zen Life in Trousers

Zen trousers, photograph by Anne Dick

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

When I started sitting with the group the  suggestion was to wear something dark and loose to allow for flexibility and minimise distraction.

My first stage of experience with Zen was dominated by a preoccupation with finding the right trousers. Somewhere there was a pair of trousers credible enough to wear to the office and stretchy enough to help me navigate zazen (sitting meditation).

This continued as an undercurrent. Although I had a sense that the sitting I was doing was worthwhile, I gathered aiming to get results was not quite the point so put much of my effort into sourcing the right trousers.

By now I was accumulating a fair number of stretchy black trousers and began to feel optimistic about integrating my work and sitting needs via my wardrobe. Then I cracked it and found a pair which had it all – accommodating but not baggy, pockets, the works.


References: Kusen 281. The body is the Bodhi Tree

Sansui Kyo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to navigationJump to searchIn this book, Dōgen equates mountains and waters with the Buddha’s body and speech

Sansui kyō (Japanese: 山水經), rendered in English as Mountains and Waters Sutra, is a book of the Shōbōgenzō by the 13th century Sōtō Zen monk Eihei Dōgen. It is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful of all of the 95 books of the Shōbōgenzō according to Stanford University professor Carl Bielefeldt. The text was written in the fall of 1240 at Dōgen’s monastery


Enlightenment for Dogen

In his essay Genjōkōan, written in 1233 for a lay practitioner, Dogen makes this instructive statement about the nature of enlightenment:

“To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion, that myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening”

In this short video the meaning of this phrase is illuminated by discussing the various meanings of ‘self’.

Adpated from Kusen given on 16th May 2020.

For More on Dogen’s Work Genjo-Koan, see this link below:


The wren

Artwork by Margaret Kerr

The wren
Earns his living

Margaret Kerr


Not Personal, Relational

Video adapted from kusen given on may 12th 2020.

Although in Zen there is a teacher and a student, the true teacher is the wholehearted interaction between them. The face of this teacher, perhaps now, perhaps lifetimes away, turns towards all beings.
Apdated from Kusen given on 12 May 2020


The Gateless Gate Case 18, Tôzan’s Three Pounds of Flax

A monk asked Tôzan, “what is Buddha”? Tôzan replied “three pounds of Flax”

This video teaching is adapted from kusen given on 9th May 2020

For some references to the gateless gate see the following post:


Walking and chanting the Lotus Sutra Odaimoku

Shogen walking whilst chanting the Odaimoku お題目 Namumyouhourengekyou 南無妙法蓮華経 in a tranquil area in Scotland with birdsong.

The Odaimoku お題目 chant – repeating the title of the Lotus Sutra Namumyohourengekyou 南無妙法蓮華経 – is principally associated with the Nichiren-shu school but was originally part of a Tendai chant, the school in which Dogen Zenji grew up with.

Here I am walking in a quiet Glasgow park whilst chanting, at a fairly slow pace so I’m not too much out of breath! We have been chanting it in our Chanting Group recently online.


Walking and chanting the Boundless Life Ten Line Kannon Sutra

Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo 延命十句観音経 – Boundless Life Ten Line Kannon Sutra. Shogen practicing chanting whilst walking in a peaceful spot near Glasgow in Scotland.

The Boundless Life Ten Line Kannon Sutra is chanted at various times such as by monks at Takuhatsu ritual begging while they walk in all weathers. It has a lot of energy and you can try it walking, or running slowly.

Visit our Chanting Group page