Zen Strokes


When you do zazen, try “A” way.  If “A” way doesn’t work, try “B” way.  I bow to the wisdom of these words.  I am not really your teacher.  You must teach yourself.  As far as practice goes, you are not your neighbor.  What works for her might not work for you.  What works for you now may not work for you next year.  Keep it open. [Robert Aitken Roshi ~ Miniatures of a Zen Master]

Keep it open.

When asked by a friend to list some “Intro to Zen” podcasts, that statement resonated in my mind.  Keep it open.  As a good fledgling researcher, I dove into my cache of podcasts and subscriptions to find the perfect introduction to Zen.  Not surprisingly, I found very little.  There is plenty on Zen Buddhist practice (koans, shikantaza, precepts, chanting, sutras etc) but we paint Zen with a very broad stroke and to find an adequate introduction is like chasing a shadow.  Zen is wider than just Buddhism – It is as wide as your life, your experience.

I refrained from saying that Zen is “greater” than Buddhism since that term tends to pander to the pejorative.  There is no lesser or greater vehicle of practice.  There is only your vehicle.  Your practice.  When a Christian prays with her whole being – that is Zen.  When an atheist reacts with a compassionate heart without celestial reprocussions – that is Zen.  When a Buddhist practitioner internalized the precepts and embodies a bodhisattva, that is Zen. 

When an archer hits his mark, he will embody the essence of Zen.  When he misses the mark, he also embodies the essence of Zen.  The mark is not the important part.  The goal is present and realization is possible but we open the path with our practice.  To reach it or not is secondary to the active essence of practice.

Keep it open.

So, I listed some great podcasts that will help explain Zen practice and Buddhist thought but Zen itself is beyond words and writings.  It is apparent in your practice and your daily life.  When you can read your life then you will gain an understanding of what Zen is.  Don’t bother explaining it to anyone though…that’s your Zen and not theirs.   


San Fransisco Zen Center

Great Vow

Rochester Zen Center

upaya zen center

Hope they are of some use.



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5 thoughts on “Zen Strokes

  1. what a wonderful reading to start today. thank you. the phrase, “why not practice right now, right here, doing this?” has been rolling around in my mind recently.

  2. Re: “essence of Zen” ~ one of my favorite stories. . .

    Story of Zen

    Kobun Chino Roshi, a Zen master and a master of Kyudo, the way of the bow, was at Esalen with his archery teacher, who was demonstrating Zen archery. He demonstrated a shot at a target and then handed the bow and arrow to Kobun and invited him to demonstrate his skill. Esalen is high on a cliff over the Pacific Ocean, so Kobun took an arrow and bow and with complete concentration and attention and care, he drew the bow and released the arrow into the ocean! When it hit the water he said “Bull’s eye”.

  3. Keep it open… very timely right now. I think I’ve become just a little frustrated with ultimately is my own unreal expectations of others and my own practice. Some one else’s way definitely isn’t my own… but it would be nice to have a someone you can depend on for good feedback… seriously, the life of a hermit monk is looking pretty damn good right about now.

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