Category Archives: Teachings


Yes, who ever you are and what ever you do having some overt recognition isn’t nothing. It’s not like one does things in order to receive applause, far from it. So when recognition comes the appropriate response is to bow (inwardly) and accept with grace and gratitude. Then move on.

Before I move on here is a link to a site where Jade was listed as one of 20 top religious blogs of 2014. Thank you Theology Degrees. Jade was one of two Buddhist blogs in the whole world to be listed. How kind of you to look kindly on this internet space.

And then there is Zen College Life which lists the 50 best Buddhism Blogs. There are some brilliant Buddhist blogs listed there and I’m suitable honoured to be part of the list.

Thank you one and all. I’ll not let this go to my head!

Contemplating Empty Space – Garden of Delight

A Sangha friend wrote me recently contemplating empty space. And as I walked the other day in the neighbourhood around Berkeley Buddhist Priory I started to compose a response in my mind. Here is something of what came to me.

You say you are surrounded by stuff, seeds as you call them. Seeds put there by you to aid you in your creative life. A potential garden of beautiful and wonderous delight. Twas a delight this spring to encounter your creative mind and stash of fabrics and whatnot surrounding you. And that was after your friend had moved loaded boxes to your downstairs storage ‘shed’!

You say you need to thin out those seeds to weed in order to give the rest space to grow. As you say, I simply do not have the space, the time and energy to nourish and bring to fruition all the ‘seeds’ piled up in my house. True, so true. I know somebody who would fill a van with your fabric stash, drive it back to the UK and start sewing. You have what she buys on EBay. I do however find myself wanting to caution you. To pause for a moment.

You say that the koan (problem) of daily life arises naturally and having objects fall of shelves and be tripping over things is a sign – to do something. (And I know you are ahead of me on this one already, smart as you are.) The sign, any sign, is not floating in mid-air it’s attached. In this case, to you. You who are living and moving around in mother earth, grounded and growing. You are the number one seed of inspiration without which nothing will grow. The sign just points the way forward. Thank goodness for signs aye?

SO obviously in general the daily life koan arising is pointing right back to the one who is the primary seed, the source of nourishment and of inspiration. Too often there is a rush to get stuff back on the shelves, get back on track, so to speak, when a brief pause will show the empty space (immaculacy) within and around the arising of the koan. Yes, one needs to do what needs to be done and the Sangha Treasure, the pole or pillar going deep into the earth must be seen, known and recognized for daily life watering to be effective. Constantly returning to that truth.

Weed away good Sangha Treasure.

Sit Like a Frog

When I think of Shunryu Suzuki I think of frogs! In his talk To Polish a Tile he talks about how the frog sits; becoming one with its surroundings.

When you become you, Zen becomes Zen. When you are you, you see things as they are, and you become one with your surroundings.

To Polish a Tile Suzuki Roshi, Transcript of this talk given in 1967 and also found published in Zen Mind Beginners Mind, page 80.

In 2010 I had the honour of visiting the Founders Shine at San Francisco Zen Center where Suzuki Roshi is remembered. My companion and I made bows and offered incense and we couldn’t help but notice all the frogs on the various side altars! Frogs featured in a number of his talks during¬†¬†his short time teaching at SZC. Twelve years and what a huge influence.

I’m on Vancouver Island at the moment where there are numerous walking trails between housing estates. Yesterday I walked past a large pond with ducks cruising up and down. A sign announced this to be a sensitive area and to keep to the paths, so I did. There was a strange noise coming from the Bull rushes. Perhaps a frog!

Like so many others in the 1960′s, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind was my introduction to Zen. I remember the page with just a fly on it, page 69. That more than anything left a lasting impression. But I don’t know why.

A Parable

This information and story came to me recently via an email. Make of the story what you will.

Jizo with staff, jewel and hat?
Jizo with staff, jewel and hat?

I’d like to share with you this old Japanese story. This is one of those children’s stories that generations of Japanese grandparents used to tell their grandchildren.

In Japan, the statues of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha are commonplace, often at the roadside. They may be solitary, but often we see six of them, one each for the six realms (hell, hungry ghosts, animals, ashuras, humans, gods) in which Ksitigarbha is at work.

Once upon a time, there was a poor couple, an old man and a woman. The New Year’s Day was just around the corner, but they didn’t have money to buy rice cakes for the New Year. The old man had made five straw hats during the evening after a day’s hard work in the field. “My dear old lady, I’m going to the market to sell these straw hats, and I will buy some rice cakes,” said the old man. But he couldn’t find any buyers. It was snowing hard, and there weren’t many people in the market. He couldn’t sell a single hat. He was sad, thinking how disappointed his beloved wife would be. On his way home to the village, he walked past six statues of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. Snow was piling up on their head and shoulders. “They must be feeling cold in an evening like this,” thought the old man, and he put the hats on the statues’ heads. He had only five straw hats, and he didn’t have any hat left for the sixth statue. “I’m very sorry but I have only five hats,” said the old man to the last statue. Then, an idea came to his mind, “Well, please wear my old straw hat. I’ve been wearing this for some years, and it is a bit worn out, but it is better than nothing.” It was New Year’s Eve. The old man went home, without wearing his hat, and his wife greeted him at the door. “My dear, I’m glad you managed to sell all of your hats, but did you have to sell your own hat?” “No, no, I couldn’t sell any,” said the old man, and explained to his wife what he had done. His wife was very happy to hear what her husband did. “You did a very good thing, my dear,” said the wife. Just after midnight, they heard some singing outside. They opened the front door, and found some rice cakes at the doorstep. “How strange! Where did these rice cakes come from?” In the distance in the snow storm, they could see six statues of Ksitigarbha marching their way back, all wearing a straw hat and singing a song.

In another version of the same story, the old couple was visited by six monks wearing straw hats on New Year’s Eve. The monks brought them some rice cakes for the New Year. The old man recognised that the sixth monk was wearing his old straw hat, and then he knew that the six monks were not of this world but the six statues of Ksitigarbha.
In gassho