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


Recorded Sayings of Master Joshu No. 73

We can often catch ourselves with the attitude that our practice is only ‘true’ when all the mess of our busy minds is cleared away. Even though we ‘know’ that our practice should be all-embracing, there is often the feeling that one needs to paddle hard in order to cross to the other shore. And even though we ‘know’ our practice should be all-embracing, there is often the conflicting feeling that one needs to drop that feeling of needing to paddle hard! This video discusses the way out of such self-spinning loops through an engaged concern for all beings in this moment, the true way to save this being. Not sometime in the future, but now

Adapted from Kusen given on 5th May 2020


Morning walking after zazen


The Mind Verses Competition

One of the founding myths of the Zen school in China is the mind verses competition between Shen-hsiu and Hui-neng, the sixth patriarch. In the story, the fifth patriarch Hung-jen asks his senior students to write a verse to demonstrate their understanding of Buddhism. Hui-neng, who is an illiterate labourer in the monastery, hears Shen-hsui’s verse and writes his own, which the fifth patriarch secretly approves and gives him the transmission


References: The Gateless Gate, Case 18


 Tung-shan’s Three Pounds of Flax 


 A monk asked Tung-shan, “What is Buddha?” Tung-shan said, “Three pounds of flax.


Old Man Tung-shan attained something of clam-Zen. He opened the two halves of his shell a bit and exposed his liver and intestines. Be that as it may, tell me: where do you see Tung-shan? 


References: Kusen 277

Artwork by Margaret Kerr
Artwork by Margaret Kerr

A parable in the Lotus Sutra describes a man whose house catches on fire while his children are inside, absorbed in their games. In order to lure his children out of the burning house, the father tells them there is a wonderful white cow outside.

A monk asked, “The white cow outside-what is it like?”

Joshu said, “Under the moonlight there is no need for color.” The monk asked, “That cow-what does it feed on?” Joshu said, “It never bites at anything.”
The monk said, “Master, please answer.”
Joshu said, “It is only proper that I should be like this.


References: Kusen 276. Mind verses Competition

Question: “If one becomes [a Tathgata] without transformation and in one’s own body, how could it be called difficult?” Answer: “Willfully activating the mind is easy; extinguishing the mind is difficult. It is easy to affirm the body, but difficult to negate it. It is easy to act, but difficult to be without action. Therefore, understand that the mysterious achievement is difficult to attain, it is difficult to gain union with the Wondrous Principle. Motionless is the True, which the three [lesser vehicles] only rarely attain.”[?] At this Conditionality gave a long sigh, his voice filling the ten directions. Suddenly, soundlessly, he experienced a great expansive enlightenment.