Archive for the ‘Zen’ Category

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

June 28, 2012
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is one of my favourite novels, even though I never managed to complete it.

It was a cult novel in the 1970s I came across it through a Swedish girl who I met on Mykonos, which was in itself a cult place to be.

I sat reading it that summer. But never finished. Never mind thought I, I will read next summer. The same thing happened.

For whatever reason it was destined never to be read to the end.

I do not even know what happened to my copy as I cannot find it.

Last year I was walking along the River Wey in Guildford thinking of a Hungarian friend, and there she was, sat by the river reading a book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Good choice I told her.

I must read, thought I. I picked up a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Last summer I started to read, exactly the same thing happened. I got part way through, no further.

But for a book I have never managed to get far into, it had a very profound impact.

It was the 1970s, and yet I can still recall what I read then.

The love we put into our work. Seeing beauty in what has been made.

Hating when I see people working with background music playing, as their soul is not in their work.

Newton’s Laws of Motion. Did they exist before Newton found them? Were they lying around waiting to be found?

I had this discussion with a speaker at a multi-faith meeting last year. He sadly was talking garbage.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has never been dramatized. Not that is until last Saturday on BBC Radio 4. I did not know at the time and only stumbled upon it when I was going back through the schedule looking for something else.

The beginning I just do not recognise.

The BBC once again demonstrate their crass stupidity. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance will only be held on-line for seven days.

The Zen is to have empathy with, engage with what you are doing.

An expensive BMW motorcycle. Use a piece of a coke can as a washer. Is this not to insult the machine? No. It is to recognise the properties of aluminium. That is will give slightly, be slightly sticky, thus ideal properties for a washer.

I do not think any other book or writing has had such a profound effect, other than Hermann Hesse and more recently Paulo Coelho.

The Narrow Road to the Disaster Zone

March 22, 2012

Matsuo Basho wrote The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a classic of haiku poetry, an account of a journey he made in 1689. He visited several places famous for their beauty, and because they had inspired poets in years gone by. The path he trod and the places he visited were devastated by the Tsunami that struck Japan a year ago.

To mark the first anniversary of the Tsunami and in honour of Basho, poet Stephen Henry Gill followed in the footsteps of Basho and like Basho wrote haiku poetry on what he saw and experienced.

No sooner had the spring mist begun to rise over the field than I wanted to be on the road again to cross the barrier-gate of Shirakawa in due time.

“Dousojin no maneki ni aite torumono teni tsukazu” 道祖神のまねきにあひて、取もの手につかず
(Not recorded in English:
Beckoned by Dosojin [the guardian spirit of travellers],
unable to put my hand to anything)

I was already dreaming of the full moon
rising over the islands of Matsushima.
“Matsushima no tsuki mazu Kokoro ni Kakarite” 松島の月まづ心にかかりて

“Natsukusa ya Tsuwamono domo ga Yume no ato” 夏草や兵どもが夢の後
These summer grasses
all that now remains of great warriors’ dreams. 

“Ishi no ka ya natsukusa akaku tsuyu atsuhi” 石の香や 夏草赤く 露あつし
Fumes from the stone
the summergrassis redden
the morning dew is hot

The gods seem to have possessed my soul and turned it inside out, and roadside images seemed to invite me from every corner.

With the pain of this secret love
my heart is full of tangled thoughts
like the wild fern patterns dyed on Shinobu cloth
of the far off north. (9C, by Minamoto no Toru)
陸奥(みちのく)の しのぶもぢずり 誰(たれ)ゆゑに 乱れそめにし われならなくに 河原左大臣

“Sanae toru temoto ya mukashi Shinobuzuri” さなえとるてもとやむかし しのぶずり
The busy hands
Of rice-planting girls,
Reminiscent somehow
of the old dyeing technique.

Late night thaw,
Snow crashing down from rooves:
As Basho’s was,
Another sleepless night?

“Dousojin no maneki ni aite torumono teni tsukazu” 道祖神のまねきにあひて、取もの手につかず
“Matsushima no tsuki mazu Kokoro ni Kakarite” (松島の月まづ心にかかりて)
I was already dreaming of the full moon
rising over the islands of Matsushima.

“Matsushima ya tsuru ni miokare hototogisu” 松島や鶴に見置かれほととぎす
Clear voiced cuckoo,
Even you will need The silver wings of a crane
To span the islands of Matsushima.

“Hamaguri no futamini wakare yuku akizo” はまぐり のふたみに別れ行く秋ぞ
As firmly cemented clam-shells. Fall apart in autumn, So I must take to the road again,
Farewell, my friends.

Many thanks to my lovely Japanese friend Misako Yoke for transcribing and posting on her blog.

Originally broadcast by the BBC on the first anniversary, but the BBC once again shoot themselves in the foot and fail to keep the programme on-line (two days left to listen).

It is a tradition of Paulo Coelho to mark St Joseph’s Day with a party for his friends. He always starts with prayers, first in Portuguese, then in many other languages. Yumi Crane spoke of the Tsunami. It was very moving. She was in tears. I was holding the hand of Mio. She was in tears. I was in tears. It was exactly one year, one week, one day since the Tsunami struck.

Songs From Tokyo was written and performed by Lindee Hoshikawa in memory of the Japanese tsunami.

Connected with everything

August 8, 2011

But I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything. — Alan Watts

Spiritual experience of a sunset

When the universe fits inside a dewdrop

April 26, 2011
When the universe fits inside a dewdrop - nagualero

When the universe fits inside a dewdrop - nagualero

Enlightenment is like
the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great,
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky
Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass.

— Dogen

Knowing others is Wisdom
Knowing the Self is Enlightenment…
Mastering others requires force…
Mastering the Self requires Strength.

— Lao Tzu

Before Enlightenment
Chop wood, carry water…
After enlightenment,
Chop wood, carry water…

— Zen Proverb

There is No Enlightenment
outside of daily Life…

— Thich Nhat Hanh

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

— William Blake

To see a world in a grain of sand

Here where I am

January 25, 2011
zen archer

zen archer

After having won many archery contests, the town champion went to the Zen master.

– I am the best of all – he said. – I didn’t study religion, never sought help from the monks, and succeeded in becoming the finest archer in the whole region. I heard that, for a time, you were the best archer in the region, and ask you: was it necessary to become a monk in order to learn to shoot?

– No – replied the Zen master.

But the champion was not satisfied: he took an arrow, placed it in the bow, fired it and hit a cherry which was very far away. Smiling, as if to say: “you might have saved your time, devoting yourself only to technique.” And he said:

– I doubt whether you could do that.

Without looking in the least bit worried, the master went inside, fetched his bow, and began to walk towards a nearby mountain.

On the way, there was an abyss which could only be crossed by an old bridge made of rotting rope, and which was almost collapsing.

The Zen master went to the middle of the bridge, took his bow and placed an arrow in it, then aimed at a tree on the far side of the precipice, and hit his target.

– Now it is your turn – he kindly told the young man, as he returned to firm ground.

Terrified as he gazed down at the abyss below his feet, the young man went to the spot and fired, but his arrow veered wide of the mark.

– That is why the discipline of meditation was worthwhile – concluded the master, when the young man returned to him.

“You may have great skill with the instrument you choose for your livelihood, but it us useless, if you cannot command the mind which uses that instrument.”

Posted by Paulo Coelho on his blog. Archery is a favourite pastime of Paulo Coelho.

Top story in The Prayer Daily (Wednesday 26 January 2011).

The Drunkard Disciple

December 3, 2010
drunken disciple - illustration by Ken Crane

drunken disciple - illustration by Ken Crane

A Zen master had hundreds of disciples. They all prayed at the right time, except one, who was always drunk.

The master was growing old. Some of the more virtuous pupils began to wonder who would be the new leader of the group, the one who would receive the important secrets of the Tradition.

On the eve of his death, however, the master called the drunkard disciple and revealed the hidden secrets to him.

A veritable revolt broke out among the others.

“How shameful!” they cried in the streets, “We have sacrificed ourselves for the wrong master, one who can’t see our qualities.”

Hearing the commotion outside, the dying master remarked:

“I had to pass on these secrets to a man that I knew well. All my pupils are very virtuous, and showed only their qualities. That is dangerous, for virtue often serves to hide vanity, pride and intolerance. That is why I chose the only disciple whom I know really well, since I can see his defect: drunkenness.”

Posted by Paulo Coelho on his blog.

Two streams

October 6, 2010


We talk about two streams joining but actually, all streams join. Every tradition, every human being, every creed. But they don’t know this. This is why there is big turmoil in the world now. I don’t know but maybe it’s getting so bad it forces people to face this fact. It’s got to be really bad, then it forces people to look inside. It doesn’t seem like anything is working outside. And I think of all the new faces here and that’s the best place to be, just where you are.

–Jakusho Kwong, Roshi

Jakusho Kwong, Roshi is a dharma heir in the Shunryu Suzuki lineage of Soto Zen and founded Sonoma Mountain Zen Center in 1973 as a rural, residential training center.

Also see

Jakusho Kwong, Roshi

Meaning of life

July 22, 2010
meaning of life

meaning of life

I once said to Zen Master Seung Sahn, “Sonsa-nim, life has not meaning!” He replied to me, “Yeah! Life has no meaning, but no meaning is BIG meaning and you must find this point.” It took many years for me to understand this teaching.

From Zen Mirror and It’s All Dhamma.

St Ann’s Well garden pond

May 1, 2010
St Ann's Well garden pond

St Ann's Well garden pond

This tranquil scene at St Ann’s Well in the Malvern Hills is very reminiscent of a Zen meditation garden.

The quirky café at St Ann’s Well is currently under threat and needs your support.

Picture from facebook support group.

also see

St Ann’s Well Café to close


February 11, 2010

Haiku is a Japanese form of minimalist poetry closely associated with Zen.

Haiku developed from renku. A poet wrote a line of seventeen syllables. A line of fourteen syllables was added by a second poet, followed by a line of seventeen syllables that would be linked to the first two lines. A fourth poet would add a fourth line, and so on.

Hokku consisted of the opening line. From Hokku developed haiku, a minimalist form of poetry broken down into three blocks of seven, five and seven syllables.

In the west haiku is written as three lines, but in Japan it is one line.

Haiku is used in Zen as a meditation technique.

An excellent example of modern haiku is the beautiful The marriage bed by Sian Peters.

Also see

The Old Pond


Four haiku by Basho

Leaves falling

A Zen Wave


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