Buddhist Language

In this video John discusses this quote by Pai Chang: “All verbal teachings are just like cures for diseases, because the diseases are not the same, the medicines are also not the same, that is why it is said that there is Buddha, and sometimes that there is no Buddha. True words cure sickness, if the cure manages to bring about healing then all are true words, if they cannot cure sickness they are false words. True words are false words, insofar as they bring about views, false words are true words, insofar as they cut off delusion, because the diseases are unreal, there are only unreal medicines to cure them.”

Adapted from Kusen given on 21st August 2020


Start of New Study Group 7/10/20

We will be starting a new study group on Wednesday 7 October, 5.30-7.00pm UK time.It will meet fortnightly. We will be covering Nagarjuna and early Mahayana. We will study some chapters of Nagarjuna’s main work, the MMK and will also study The Heart Sutra, The Diamond Sutra and the Vimalakirti Sutra.

If you are interested, please email us at


Pai-Chang’s Three levels of Zazen

Pai-chang, who lived during Tang Dynasty China, and was a successor of Master Mazu (Baso), said that there were three levels of Zazen.
The first level, which he equated with Theravadan practice, is non-attachment.
The second level, which he calls ‘the trap of Bodhisattvas’, is when we are no longer attached to non-attachment, but retain a sense of ourselves.
The third level is when the residual sense of self is dropped off, leaving just this is-ness.

In this video John examines this  to clarify the meaning as not pointing to a progressive system which we go through, aiming to attain and remain at the ‘highest’ level, but that each level is  more like a particular space within this vast hall of practice, and  we move freely between these spaces within our actual sitting.

Adapted from Kusen No. 303 given on

Practice Realisation

In this video John examines the relationship between teachings and practice.

Adpated from kusen given on 8th August 2020


The Buddha’s Enlightenment

In this video John examines the story of the Buddha’s enlightenment.
In the classic version, the Buddha attains enlightenment while sitting underneath the bodhi tree, vowing not to get up until he has finally awakened. In the night Mara attempts to unsettle him with apparitions of fear and desire.As dawn approaches the Buddha touches the ground and Mara disappears. As dawn breaks, the Buddha looks up to the sky and sees the morning star, at this point attaining awakening.

Adapted from Kusen given on 1st Augst



In this video John talks about faith within the framework of practice. In contrast to the common western view where ‘faith’ is synonymous with ‘belief’, here it has a subtler meaning. This has significant implications for how we approach our own practice and our fellow practitioners and how we engage with the lineage.

Adapted from Kusen given on 25th July 2020

The Eyes of Practice

In this video John discusses the difference between seeing the world through the eyes of the self, and seeing the world through the eyes of practice.
“When we see the world through the eyes of the self we grasp things with our certainty. So we say things like, “oh that’s a wall”, “there’s the sky out there”, “oh time is passing”, “my zazen isn’t very good today”, and so on, the quality of our experience has a slightly weird apparational quality about it, neither existence nor non-existence because seeing in this way, through the eyes of the self, through the eyes of certainty, the world exists within our mind, and, as it were, we exist within our mind as well.
Seeing through the eyes of practice is entirely different, we do out best not to grasp our moment to moment experience with our certainty, but sometimes we can’t help ourselves, and when we do we just learn to release that grip of certainty. And the feeling tone when we see in this way is entirely different, it’s as if we become soft, and open, and connected.

Adapted from Kusen given on 21/07/2020

Essence of the Way in each Shodo stroke

Inspired by Master Dogen’s Chapter 93 of the Shobogenzo ‘Doushin’ 道心, at the recent Zen Brush monthly calligraphy group by Zoom we were encouraged by these two well known characters dou 道 (Way/ way things are/ road/path) and shin or kokoro 心 (heart/mind/spirit/ aspiration/essence) that often come up in Buddhist writings.

Brushing them in the kaisho as well as the sousho ‘grass writing’ styles of Shodo calligraphy, we also explored their meanings, as well as their combined meaning when written together which could be variously translated as the essence of the way; the aspiration for enlightenment; the spirit to walk the path of freedom.

Dogen’s waka poem (translated by Heine) conveys this mood beautifully:

Seeking the Way
Amid the deepest mountain paths
The retreat I find
None other than
My primordial home: satori!

Master Dogen
The sousho ‘grass writing’ style

In chapter 93 Doushin he writes:

‘We should see the aspiration for awakening as foremost.. we must not see our mind as foremost.. should not forget the unreliability of the world and precariousness of human life’

Translation by Nishijima/Cross

It was great to see the group enjoying the flow of the brush, particularly with the movement of the sousho calligraphy, and finding balance in their own way. 

Folk worked with different sized brushes, ink and papers but were all absorbed by the strokes, shapes and feeling of the kanji 🙂

The next Zen Brush group is on August 24th, for more details please visit the D+P Studio.


Sitting together for zazen outdoors

Last weekend a few of us met early on Sunday morning at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow to sit together and have some time to chat about the practice and about posture. It was great to physically meet and enjoy summer zazen in the delightful fresh air next to the River Clyde.

We sat for two periods of 25 minutes, with kinhin walking meditation in between – we slowly walked, a small step at a time, around the silver birch trees which was lovely.

To stay up to date about our sittings or events, please see our What’s On page, or join our newsletter.


The Ghost Cave

The Buddha said that our state of perception when we meditate is not ordinary perception, it’s not a special kind of perception, it’s not disordered perception and it’s not no perception: so what is it?

Adapted from Kusen given on 18th July 2020