a zen buddhist monk's blog about things almost zen and telling it the way it is - zen or not (yet)

December 29, 2009

raging against the machine

It's not about WHAT you say, it's about the way you say it.

Recently, one Saturday afternoon, my wife and I found ourselves surrounded by anti-globalization demonstrators who were throwing stones and setting cars alight! True, on my mother's head! Now, we understand what they're upset about but we're not too keen on the way they're voicing it and neither were the hardworking shopkeepers who had their windows smashed!

Can we just take a moment and think this one through?

There are not enough jobs.
The big companies own everything.
We don't get paid enough.
There's not enough food for the poor.
There are too many poor.
I don't have a villa in France and a BMW.
The big 8 (or is it 20 now?) must stop buying up and controlling everything.
We want to eat strawberries in December.

Wait! Back up. What was that last one? Strawberries in December! What's that got to do with globalization and the price of fish?

Well! I'll tell you.

If we're all so keen on having our favourite fruits when we want them, or buy flowers for our girlfriends/mothers/lovers anytime of the year, or that gen-u-ine baseball cap we wear to cover our faces when out torching the 4x4's; well, someone has to produce them! And, because there are so many of us wanting these anachronistic, non-indigenous items; that same someone has to produce loads of them.

Do you see were I'm going with this yet? (Probably NOT, if your too busy out there ruining the livelyhoods of inocent small-business owners whose stores just happen to be on the route of your latest rage against the machine - or if words of more than two syllables are challenging for you)!

So next time, as your packing your homemade incendiaries in your imported rucksack and tying the shoelaces of your branded sports-shoe made by children in Asia (assuming you can perform these motor-skills by yourself) take a second to reflect on the fact that if we lived with the seasons and with the healthier local produce of our hard-working under-subsidized farmers, there wouldn't be any globalizing fat cats for us to throw rocks at!

Eat local - buy local - don't be loco!

晴 雲 法 声 seiun hosei

December 27, 2009

Wabi Sabi baby

Commercialism for commercialism, Buddhism for Buddhism, I'd rather be in Japan.

Wherever I've been to study Buddhism, so far at least, there has always been some kind of commercial venture connected to the supposedly spiritual experience. I'm not criticising you understand, it's just an observation. Of course it's normal than when people travel a long way to study with one master or another, they would like to take home some souvenir of the event. It's very similar to rock concerts; you pay to see the band and then you buy all the anciliary crap being sold outside the venue to take home and never wear or listen to again. That's just how we are; buoyed up by the warm afterglow of a rocking hard concert and with the last song still ringing in our ears, (in some cases like mine this can go on and on for years and leave the eardrums permanently damaged and ringing) we trot off to the zen boutique, or the Rigpa store to buy our dingly danglies in a vain attemp to perpetuate the feeling. But alas, when we get home, these things are placed lovingly next to Buddha or draped around the neck of Kanon, until eventually, they meld in with all the other "stuff".

So, if I'm going to do this, and I know I am, I'd rather it be stuff from Japan for its esthetic beauty and its draconian simplicity.

Wabi Sabi baby!

晴 雲 法 声 seiun hosei

Travelling & discovering

Travelling is such sweet pain!

Here we are in Geneva airport waiting to fly to Germany for a week's retreat with Sogyal Rinpoche. We've just paid CHF28.00 for 2 sandwiches, 2 coffees, and 2 bottles of water! Here's what the only free table to sit at looked like when we arrived...

...and here's how "clean" it was...

"That's right folks, don't touch that dial." This is Switzerland! Land of precision watches (and trains), chocolate, banking, ski slopes, and ordered tidyness - mmmmmh, not in this airport!

Whilst we wait for the delayed flight from Frankfurt, we thought we'd read the Sunday paper to pass the time - 2 newsagents later we still don't have one because they've sold out! I'm talking about the only French speaking newspaper published on a Sunday (today) in the French speaking part of Switzerland (where Geneva is situated just in case you're not sure) and you can't get one!

We are surrounded by people, most of whom are British, and most of whom are wearing big fur aprés-ski boots. I know I said the service here is increasingly poor but as yet it still doesn't snow INSIDE the building!

I blogged at about this date last year as my wife and I travelled to Nice and how nervous everyone was then. Well, it hasn't gotten any better. In fact what has gotten worse is everything "around" the travelling experience. The airport has been recently "improved" - actually what that means is that they have somehow squeezed an extra row of shops into the main concourse so that now you have even more opprtunity to buy seriously overpriced rubbish you'll never use again whilst being stuck behind an overweight mother and her three screaming and unruly children because the corridors are now reduced to the width of an anorexic cat-walk model.

Travelling is such sweet pain and whilst the illuminated amongst us know that the journey IS as important as the destination, they probably haven't flown Air France or tried to buy a Sunday newspaper in Geneva.

- seiun hosei joza

December 26, 2009

Feeding Greed - a major pastime

So this is Christmas!

I haven't been on for a while and now, in the late evening of Christmas day, I have a strange feeling of forebodance which urges me to write. A feeling born, I'm certain, out of nothing in particular but more from something general and omni-present.

2009 has been a very tough year for many of us and the troubles are not over yet. Our world is in a seriously sick state despite the wonderful things being achieved by some world leaders for care in this time of ill health. Unfortunately, greed is not only ever-present but growing stronger every day as per its nature and, here in the west at any rate, we are fueling its needs like never before!

I'm not going to bang on about the commercialism of Christmas and how its real meaning has been forgotten because that's a very prickly thorn and grasping it without adequate protection could be very painful indeed. Suffice it to say that it was always designed to get the masses doing the bidding of it's "inventors", so, actually, it is fulfilling its raison-d'être very nicely thank you!

Here we are, in spite of the dramatic financial climate and spiritual drought, out there buying things we don't need with money we don't have for people who don't want them, and all of this without as much as an umbrella. There are already a plethora of bleeding hearts out there whinging about social rights and freeing recidevists to carry out their destiny of ruining those of others. I won't enumerate nor name them here and, if you don't know what I'm talking about, it doesn't really matter. What does, is that we are buying ourselves into oblivion and casually drinking coffee with friends as we do it; numb to the fact that it is actually ourselves we are consuming. Our bodies, our minds, our environement and our entire planet are being fed to the greed-machine that is the western psyche of today. Where is the great dietician, the personal trainer, who can get us to consume less and slim down before we either eat our planet into extinction or get so fat we knock it off its axis? Where is the Florence Nightingale who can nurse us back to health before it's too late? But then wait, I'm forgetting in my naïveté that greed doesn't think it needs healing; it feels fine gorging incessantly thank you very much! The more we eat, the more we're hungry and, this is the sad part, the more we will do anyhing and eat anything to satisfy this desire.

Greed lives, greed grows, greed conquers all, greed rules! Take a look at yourself; are you greedy? Could you do with losing a few pounds, eat a bit less, buy a bit less, waste a bit less?

More, more, waste, waste, buy, buy, bye, bye.

- seiun hosei joza _/|\_

November 30, 2009

Leaves fall - that's natural!

So the leaves are falling! Well they usually do around this time of year but THIS year they have hung on longer than usual. The weather has been unseasonably mild and the life-force even stronger than usual. The inevitable is inevitable but that doesn't stop us from hanging on like "grim death" - what an unusual saying; life hanging on like death!

Oh! how we hang on to things, any "thing"; possesions, feelings, fears even! Yes, even our fear of something must remain "ours"; it's our fear of flying or of small places, or of maybe having an attack of fear about being affraid! Hanging on somehow makes us comfortable, even if that means feeling comfortable about being uncomfortable! As long as we can identify these feelings as being "ours", we are OK.

Our ability to hang onto life no matter what; our desire to continue to live against all odds like the trees around me now, is why we are the dominent animal on this watery planet, but...

Couldn't we do things a little differently comme mème? Couldn't we learn to let go of some things? Do we really need to hang on to anger, greed, jealousy, and our ignorance of how our neighbour feels or in what they believe?

"Difficult", you say, "that's how we're made", you repeat like a mantra (hanging on to our platitudes). Well, NO, that's not how we're made but I believe for most of us that it is difficult. However, we must try to return to how we WERE made; return to our original self; our original nature without predjudice and with just enough fear to keep us safe from any "real" dangers and not those we create in our heads! Sometimes our leaves need to fall, it's natural and after all, they're not really ours anyway, but simply lent to us for a while. Hanging on to stuff just increases our fears; fears that things are changing, and, we don't like that! But nothing is more natural, nothing is more "true" than that everything changes - stop hanging on!

- seiun hosei joza

November 01, 2009


I've just has one of those days when you say; "you wouldn't believe the day I've had!" - and you wouldn't, trust me. So bad I'm not even going to bore you with the details!

But...in boring my wife with the details she said to me " Well it's over now and you'll never have to live it again." How wise is that?

Bad days, bad weeks, bad months, bad years - once they're over, they're over! Ooof! But that's not the problem is it? The problem is staying positive as we are living through these bad times. Buddha taught us that ignorance of our true self is the root of our suffering and that the root of our ignorance is our mind's habitual tendancy to distraction. Always looking for something to do, to fill the quiet moments; making sure it is never on it's own! To calm this habitual tendancy we need to bring the mind to it's natural place, it's home. The best. way to do this is through meditation, but, beware!

When we face 'ourselves', when we momentarily remove all the distraction and noise, all the visual and auditory stimuli, we are left with ourselves! Attention, this can be a frightening experience! To paraphrase Sogyal Rinpoche; for the most part, we waste our lives, we fritter/twitter it away with banalities and our constant desire to be distracted and entertained. So, when we sit quietly and all those distractions cease, all we're left with is what we have in our heads. For some people this is enlightening, for most; a challenge and for a very few amongst us it can prove to be too much to take. Please sit meditation with a group, a master if posible, but at least a friend until you're ready to try it on your own. Allow all the noise of our daily lives to slowly quieten down and alow your thoughts to carry on on their way; don't hang on to them, don't try to figure them out. Eventually, negativity in your thoughts will diminish; negativity in your life will diminish.

- seiun hosei joza

October 26, 2009

Family and earthworms

So,... the family is here!

Recently there have been a number of reports about how the 'family unit' was/is an invention of 1950's-marketing from the US and that in reality it doesn't exist - just like Santa Claus! The latter, an incredibly succesful marketing idea of a 'soft-drinks' company is nevertheless, based on some solid history, as, I suspect, is the idea of a family unit.

What I am SURE of, is that this loud, vibrant, intoxicating and all-consuming bunch of people who came to our house this weekend are the most wonderful gift life can give us today. Yes! they have taken over! Yes! we are out of our comfort zone! Yes! in one sitting they will consume more than my wife and I would in a week, and No! I no longer have possesion of the TV remote! But...

The love, the caring, the unconditional acceptance that you are 'one of us', that you 'belong', is, well, just overwhelming! I wouldn't give this up for anything in the world! Buddha renounced his family; his young wife, his new-born son, his doting father and his closest friend, but that was Buddha and we are all better for what he did. Me, I'm still getting the hang of this; I'm still learning about sacrifice and detachment, about living and dying, about letting go. I'm not ready. This may be a failing in my Buddhist advancement; in my journey toward enlightenment, but...and it's a big BUT, as a Boddhisattva, am I not supposed to renounce my own salvation from the endless cycle of suffering until I've helped EVERY single person pass over to the other shore? Yes of course I am, that's what it's about and therefore whether or not I'm a good Buddhist has to take a back seat for the moment; I have some work to do and I could not start in a better place than by observing how this unit we call "family", functions. They love, care, share, confide, comfort, encourage, protect, teach, give, give, and give. "Not mine!" I hear some of you say, and yes, that too is a reality but for now, I'm observing and commenting on my family.

What is it about us that makes us fight and war against each other because of perceived differences? Maybe our "perceptions" have just gotten stronger and stronger over the millenia and in fact we are deepining the need to show we are different rather than trying to improve our understanding that in fact we are all the same. Hate, anger, and jealousy are so much more interesting as emotions aren't they? They "fuel", they "nourish", just like a fast food restaurant does; unfortunately the result on our mental health is also similar! Watch however a group of people that love each other, interact. Watch how they think about the other one first; put their needs on hold until their loved one is "OK". Then, think about it; about how their effort in doing this was just as easy as the effort you expend in hating someone; in fact it's much less, it's liberating, it's the Buddha way! Can't we all just try it for a while? See how it feels? See that we all would be much better off and that laying claim to a piece of soil-and-rocks, that doesn't actually "belong" to any of us anyway, is a useless waste of time and energy; we'll all be under that same soil-and-rocks one day and the earthworm is not discriminating; they'll eat anyone no matter what colour or religion.

If you are priviledged enough to be in a family like mine, please remember that not everyone is and that you could go a long way to help those around you by passing on a little of your joy!

- seiun hosei joza _/|\_

October 12, 2009


Autumn really is taking hold of things now; the sky is lower, the quality of light is changing, the vines have just about finished their cycle.

We are so like those vines don't you think? We grow from something small and almost insignificant to get stronger and take shape. Some, straighter than others, some taller, but nevertheless all with the same 'raison d'être'.

Then we learn from other vines around us how to "be" and we do our best to copy and maybe even, "improve" on their example. Wow - how wrapped up in ourselves we are at this time, TRYING to be "something"!

Next we work hard to produce something valuable and, the more or bigger we produce our something, the more valid we believe we are. "I'm a vine and I produce grapes, in fact, that's what I am; a grape-maker." - not just a vine!

Some of us even believe that because we are a "grape-maker" from a certain country that we make grapes better than vines from any other country! Some countries even go to great lengths to convince it's vines of this and that they are even better than vines in any other grape-making country in the world! "Be proud!" we're told, "You're the best in the world."

Some of us are, by nature, a different colour than the vines around us and we tend to judge them and praise ourselves because of that fact. But, what we produce is consumed and excreted away just the same as what is produced by others.

Then finally, when our producing days are over we are stripped of all our worth and allowed to die in winter. However, life is not linear; this is not the end of a straight line. No, after dying we lie dormant for a little while and then we grow and start again; a new circle of existance, a new chance to do better. Maybe bigger grapes this time or maybe more grapes or, just maybe, we could be like the vines I see here on the hills around me and just "be" vines. Just do what we do without pomp and circumstance, without effort or prejudice, just, be vines.

We are no better or worse than anyone else; we are all born into samsara and we all have the ability to stop the cycle of birth and rebirth but, whilst we are driven by greed, anger, and ignorance, we will just keep returning to bare fruit for someone else's profit, and suffering in the harsh world we are born to.

Until we learn that we are not different from others, that we are ALL the same, our lives will continue to be cyclic and the wine we produce somewhat sour!

_/|\_ seiun hosei joza

October 08, 2009

break down the walls

Where ARE we going on this little blue planet of ours?

A lovely friend of mine describes herself as "Like a butterfly in a bottle"; flapping, turning, always bumping into the glass walls and bruising her wings. Locked in a corporate machine that pays no more attention to her than a little boy with his prey in a jam jar, she is running out of air. She has been loyal, hard-working and dedicated but none of that seems to count as now they leave her dangling; waiting for the faceless fat-cats to decide her future!

The jar of course, is in her head and she herself was the glass-blower but, she knows this. We all construct some kind of 'wall' around ourselves, initially maybe, to protect ourselves from the harsh exterior world we live in. However, eventually it also becomes the thing which locks us "in" with seemingly no escape. We have to stop "building", let's break a few things down instead. Our minds are like water in a glass; contained in a finite area. However, if we break the glass, the water can go wherever it would like to and without being diminished! It has the same volume, the same clarity, the same quality! Free of constraint, free to experience whatever it desires. Break down the walls, break the control our minds have over us, break the cycle of suffering.

Sit zazen, allow your mind to go wherever it wants; allow it to be free. Don't 'fix' on thoughts and ideas - don't build walls that may become your own prison.

_/|\_ seiun hosei joza

Holes, hearts, healing!

I met a wonderful little girl from Bolivia yesterday; full of life, smiles, laughter and mischief. She came here 4 years ago because of holes in her heart and now after a fabulously successful operation she comes back from time to time for a check up. Life, at once fleetingly precarious now seems in full bloom.

Her 'joie de vivre' is infectious and made me think about how much time we can waste worrying about things that don't exist and, even if they do, that worrying changes absolutely nothing!

_/|\_ - seiun hosei joza

October 05, 2009

Try again.

Another busy week last week and again full of emotions and experiences; one moment in control, the next not! But! Why do we feel we need to be in control? I believe in what the Tibetans say: "we grasp at everything vainly trying to put off the moment of death."

Oh yes, grasp, grasp, mine , mine, don't invade my space, why are you touching my things? "Who moved my cheese?"

I was talking to the owner of a Shiatsu school yesterday who told me about the world of Shiatsu-teaching and the lack of communication and sharing within them. Admitedly, I started the discussion by mentioning my frustration at the constant bickering in the zen community which is still prevellant. What is it about us humans that even when we decide to try to "offer" some understanding and/or compassion or comfort that we nevertheless feel it necessary to try to distinguish our "offer" as better or more valid that someone else's! Does it really matter what our lineage is? or, whose method/teaching we follow? Isn't it simply enough that we want to "help"? Does the "receiver" care who taught us or what our beliefs and convictions are as long as they feel benefitted by our actions? NO! of course they don't!

If a person enters your dojo seeking guidance, comfort, understanding, perhaps even a little compassion, do you ask them who their parents are, or who they work for, or what diplomas they have? Based on their answers, do you then decide if you will help them or not? Well, if you do, you're not a Buddhist! You do not have universal compassion. And, to my Dharma brothers and sisters; you are not respecting your 4 vows of a Bodhisattva. TRY AGAIN.

If I can, in any way, bring a little compassion or healing into someone's life by sitting zazen, laying of hands, or simply listening to them, then I am going someway toward honoring my vows.

_/|\_ - seiun hosei joza

October 01, 2009

Level of suffering...

I was told today about a presentation given yesterday at the UN here in Geneva by a man who was imprisoned and tortured for 13 years in Argentina!

My reflections:
What do I have to complain about? I've never known this level of suffering and hope never to! For me, this really puts things into perspective; why am I so wrapped up by the fact that someone was short with me on the phone today - boo hoo! Get over yourself and get on with it!

What keeps a man alive that long under such atrocious conditions? Apparently, the un-ending desire to expose to the world what terrible acts of horror these awful people performed! How can some of us turn out kind and loving and some of us hateful and nasty?

Is it true that we only have the level of suffering that we can handle? Does life really work that way? Do we continue to accumulate bad kharma until we reach the level of our potential to handle the consequences? This seems a rather dangerous equation and I prefer not to ponder it, especially as I have dear friends and lovely family members who have endured much and they don't have a bad bone in their bodies!

_/|\_ - seiun hosei joza

September 30, 2009

Does a dog?

I saw a beautful black labrador dog-for-the-blind on the bus this morning. how devoted they are! how peaceful and fulfilled; at the service of someone less fortunate than the rest of us; someone who needs them and is fulfilled by them. they're happy with so little, or maybe actually it's so much! they have a purpose and their love is unconditional! everyone is the same for them - black, white, yellow, they don't care, the love all of us.

do you really need to ask "does a dog have the Buddha-nature?" ?

we could all learn something from watching them.

_/|\_ seiun hosei joza

September 29, 2009

Fighting the horn-ed ones

today I had to go head-to-head with the horn-ed ones, the denizens of the commercial world, the bottom-feeders of our lowest realms, the Dantean grubby low-lifes; the bank and it's myriad small-minded minions!

pressuring me now for weeks by pretending not to see the truth, they closed ranks and came at me from all sides like Mara's flights of arrows. I began to react but instead, sat back, removed all useless emotion and poof! they were gone!

it's so important to realize that when we let emotion enter into a situation, we are no longer in control! other external things govern the outcome, we change nothing, and if we do, it's only for the worst!

easy to say but hard to do, you say easily. saying what's hard and doing what's easy might just be the very thing you think is not!?!? hard and easy are the same thing, it's just your mind that changes it's viewing aspect.

_/|\_ seiun hosei joza

September 28, 2009


"Take your emotion out of the equation!"

is it as easy as that?

actually, yes it is! our emotions just get in the way and cloud our judgement. try pretending you are someone else; someone not involved in the situation, and ask yourself what would you do. what is the goal? what would you like to achieve? how would you achieve it normally, without the emotion?

that's what you should do.

_/|\_ seiun hosei joza

grow a pair

"we'll work something out" he said, placating the distraught woman.

I say, this is not enough; it's only putting off the problem until later and hoping it will go away. I read an article today about the number of people in therapy because they're in a relationship or a job which they don't like but feel powerless to change. how many of us are on a similar situation? too many I think!

I have also felt recently that certain aspects of my life were being decided/controlled/hindered by outside factors; "they won't like it if I change that, so I shouldn't", "if I do that, it will affect someone else, so I can't' etc. etc. - social integrity and hundreds of years of peer-pressure mold our actions so that they are "acceptable" - but to whom?

let's not 'work something out later'; let's work it our now! if you don't like your situation, either change your mindset toward it or recycle yourself! "oh it's easy for you to say" I hear you shouting, "but it's not easy to do" - well, isn't that the crux of it all? it's only acceptable/palatable if it's "easy"! well, if it's the easy but not-what-I-want option you have chosen, then stop whining about your sort! you're the one allowing choices you've made to govern your life. grow a pair and change what you don't like and if those around you don't like it, well, they'll just have to grow a pair also!

_/|\_ seiun hosei joza

September 26, 2009

angels?...we all have at least one...

just like the story of the monk who searched for the meaning of zen "everywhere" before returning home to realize that's where it was all the time - I was awakened to my inner self today by the person who means more to me than anything and to whom I was not being particularly attentive.
the "real" strength in some people is their ability to allow you to be yourself without you feeling you were being guided or manipulated - who show you the path without pointing - who awaken you without shaking! some people call them angels - i call her my wife!

_/|\_ seiun hosei joza

September 13, 2009


we bought some little knick-knacks in Tokyo as souvenirs for our family - they cost nothing but the reaction from our family members was fantastic. they were so happy that we really felt we should have done more!

what's small for us may be big for ot
hers, what's a problem for us, may be everyday for others. our perspective is very individual but the object of our scrutiny doesn't change - things are what they are, not what we think they are...

demons, demons, demons...

i'm concerned about someone near me that i love very much and is "preoccupied" with something they don't want to talk about!

how can we help our loved ones when they're worried? do we pretend not to notice? do we push them in a certain direction?

demons are around us all the time - (we must drink tea with mara everyday) - some are louder than others but ALL are only illusion! give love, give love, give love...

January 14, 2009

progressing to the past!

what rubbish i've been reading recently; so called zen teachers/masters are writing mystical psycho-babble, and others are slating each other in their blogs!

what's sad, if the above wasn't enough, is that tens of thousands of genuine people follow these guys! where are the true teachers? where are the real masters? i know they're out there somewhere?

there's so much ego out there you could make an omelette. das Über-Ich is firmly represented in our zen community - now aren't we supposed to be getting rid of that, or did i read the wrong books?