torsdag 4 september 2014

The chirping of the morning bird

The chirping of the morning bird is a special one.
Like the call of the service bell it calls out, breaking the silence.
It calls out in remembrance of things.
Things to come, things past, things present.
All things, comprised into one chirp.
It cannot be shown to any one else, you have to be there yourself in order to realize the magic.

- note from returning from the morning service


torsdag 28 augusti 2014

Just open the door


Every morning in the monastery there was an morning service at 5.00.
A young man living in the monastery for a while went, every morning, to the morning service. 
Not only did he go there, he went there 20 minutes ahead of time to meditate.
Every morning when he got there, an monk was already sitting there.
After the service on the last day, the young man went up to the monk to thank him for sitting with him every morning. 
The monk replied:
- No problem, I just open the doors.


fredag 22 augusti 2014

Bookreview: Vandring på spårlös stig


Kanja Odland Roshi is a ZenBuddhist priest in the lineage of Harada-Yasutani. She has been a student of both Roshi Philip Kapleau and his successor Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede. She was ordained as a priest in 1999, and was given permission to teach by Roshi Kjolhede in 2001. Together with Sante Poromaa Roshi, she has been instrumental in the creation of a full-time training temple in rural Sweden called Zengården, as well as the growth and development of a network of City Zen Centers in Sweden, Finland and Scotland. This, her first book, was published in 2013.

In the book you will find retreat diaries, a description of how to perform Zen meditation, excerpts from instructions to a student, a tale from Japan and a depiction of the first meeting of zen. These things are all very good, but the book also contains Kanja Odlands own images, which add an extra layer upon this creation of hers. 
The pictures are alone enough to buy the book. They often give more than the text itself, although the texts are not bad, at all, the pictures are somewhat brilliant. I really look forward to seeing more books from Odland, even one with only pictures and reflections around them.

Kanja Odland has an talent for making good stories. A talent that really shines through in this book. The stories presented are almost all about herself and her experiences, but nevertheless are they, each on their own, an object of a good, thoughtprovoking, tantalizing, teaching.

Some may say that retreatnotes, or any diarynotes are not worth reading, and i sometimes agree, but with this book, Odland has proven that there are gems out there, and this is one of them. 
My only wish were that there were more...

If there is one thing I think the book lacks, aside from more digressions on some places is that it should have been written in english. But considering the language used sometimes, I foresee an english translation coming...

All in all, all I have left to say is thank you Kanja Odland for the book and for your practice.


måndag 11 augusti 2014

Loose floortiles


Every house should have an loose floortile or squeaky step.
What better reminder of practice is there?


måndag 25 november 2013

Bookreview: The accidental Buddhist


In reading this book, you get the feeling of being a passenger on the Dinty W. Moore journey of Discovery, this trip: Buddhism!
By being allowed to come along the journey we get to experience a variety of sights and shows as we are bussed/driven/ferrried/flown along to see different locations and people in the various paths of the American Buddhist scene.
And what a journey it is. 
Moore learns to sit and count his breaths at a Zen retreat, sets up a Buddhist altar in his home, visits a Tibetan Buddhist community, meets a Jesuit priest who teaches Zen, Meets a woman who runs a business that makes meditation cushions, studies a copy of Mindfulness in Plain English at a Theravada retreat led by its author, and meets His Holiness the Dalai Lama. 
And thats just some of the things we encounter in his travelogue.

The Writing, throughout the book is easy to read, conversational with loads of observations that are humourous, honest, selfrevealing and insightful. 
Add to that that it is an good surfacesurvey of the landscape, and you have yourself a book worth reading.

But as to all chartertravelling theres an downside.
Yes, there is sights, shows and whatnot, but if you are looking for something more look elsewhere.
This is a quiet journey towards insight. 
Perhaps too low-key for eager inquirers as it is a bit shallow at times.
Moore might have a very witty writingsstyle, and i must confess i laughed out loud more than a couple of times, some of the jokes are more of insidejokes.
The depth he goes in to each stop on the journey is sometimes not enough time even to get to the bathroom..
That being said, Moore's journeyjournal is valuable on an entirely different, perhaps unintended, account: as a travelogue detailing the tremendous diversity that is American Buddhism.

In the last chapter, a real nugget, he discusses the landscape of Buddhism and how we and it can coexist and benefit from each other .
He shows us the geography of Buddhism, American style, and discusses it in short bursts, Moorestyle. 
And its this Moorestyle that makes this book a good book. There is numerous books on ”innerjourneys” and the like, but there is only a few good men, and Moore has the rare ability to be both sincere about religion and good-humored about the human condition.
Moore concludes, as i'd like to too, as i'm coming to a close that, concerning God's existence, he's not going to worry. "If there is a God, I should live my life according to principles of kindness, compassion, and awareness, and if there is no God, well then i should live my life according to principles of kindness, compassion and awareness anyway. How wonderfully simple. How Buddhist.”

torsdag 31 oktober 2013

Bookreview: There is no God and...


2013 can be called a year of God, with both the nobelprize in physics for the theoretical discovery of ”the Godparticle” and the publishing of Brad Warners book ”There is no God and he is always with you”.
One of the major things that rub people with this years Nobelprize and in Brad Warners book and is best described by the author himself when he talks about the power, and troubles, of words, and in this case a specific word, God.

"The word God, on the other hand, is much more immediate and richer. Rather than asking you to ponder its meaning, the word God just punches you in the face, after which you have to deal with how to respond. It has all kinds of messy layers of meaning and connotation. It sparks emotions and tangents. Sometimes it makes people feel settled and happy. Sometimes it makes them angry. Or it makes them confused. Or it makes them frustrated. Or all of the above at the same time. It's a dangerous word.
"That's what I've encountered in my practice. Zen is not something dry and orderly. It cannot be easily fit into premeasured boxes. It's very messy, because it is alive. The universe we inhabit is a dynamic, living thing. God is a good word to use for what Zen is about because shoving the word God into a tidy intellectual container would be like trying to shove a live octopus into a Kleenex box." p 175- 176

But is it so bad to be rubbed sometimes?
Brad Warner first book, Hardcore Zen, came out in 2003, and, using an musicanalogy, it was a hardcore take on buddhism, and zen in particular. 
Since then he has produced, with this, a total of five books, and just like a rough diamond, smoothed out the edges. 
Notice i said smoothed, because in true Warnerstyle, they're still there.
The book is still a Brad Warner book, full of nononsense, straightforward writings, pokings and Brad's take on things ranging from the Godconcept to the Bible to various spiritual concepts all wrapped in a graceful, heartful, humoristic aura which really brings a new level to the reading while gently pushing the reader forward.

Brad Warner talks about what belief in God and what God means to him as a Zen Buddhist practitioner. 
He also recognizes that one of the difficulties with such questions is that the answers depend on what you mean by God, as well as what you mean by belief and by Buddhism.
The main subject of the book is the Godconcept, which we explore, through Brads eyes and writing, as he travels to different locations throughout the book, meeting people and exploring places and events. You might refer to it as a travellers guide in a dual sense, both in the world and in...

My favourite parts in the book is the discussion of "enlightenment porn" (pp 34-46) and the section on karma (pp 116-120). Which brings up two important topics, that doesn't have to do with the concept of God, and takes them back down to earth so to speak. 
In them he talks about the adoration of the ”enlightenmentexperience” and the misconception of Karma and the industry that these things has brought. Subjects worthy of another book i sense...

There are some minor obstacles though. 
He refers to his views of things as the Buddhist view rather than a Buddhist view, which is unfortunate when he, already in the beginining states that this is his takes on things. ”I wrote this book to explain what god means to me”. (p. VII)
His takes on the concept of God, is unconvincing, though thoughtprovoking, and might have been more elaborately discussed. Especially since he tries hard, though not hard enough to convince the reader of the rightness of his views in matters discussed.

When it all comes down to it, this book is basically about Brads take on the concept of God and other things in the spritual scene. Does that make it any less readable?
No. I still find it one of the best of his books.
Although ”Sit down and shut up” is number one on my list of his books, i would recommend this book to anyone who asks.

Thank you Brad, for a much needed, and very good, book.


tisdag 2 juli 2013

Bookreview: Special karma


The author of the book, Merry white Benezra, on her blog says ”Special Karma is a personal novel that tracks my experience as a resident at a Rinzai Zen monastery over an eight-month period. In it, I have tried to convey both the natural beauty of the setting, the everyday activities and challenges of monastic life, and some of the philosophical tenets underlying Buddhism. ”

This encompasses everything I have to say about the book really.
Its not so long, 130 pages, but packed with an very good, personal exploration of what practice means.
As the book progresses we are allowed to follow a woman, Iris, and her interactions and thoughts about the practice in, mainly, a zencommunity. There she meets Life, misconduct, practice, beauty, dharma.
The settings and characters are conveyed very well, and gives the book an ”feel-good” feeling although it is an very ”heavy book” in some ways.
She softly touches many of the ”troubles” that you can experience when in an close community, both within yourself and in interactions with others.

When you read the text on the back of the book you believe that its main theme is the misconduct of an zenmaster, which is an hot topic, as always.
However, the misconducting zenmastertheme is only subtly touched, and not, in my view explored enough. Its lingering in the dark shadows of the story itself, just like the shark in Jaws, just being there, using the music and settings to get the effects through.

In the end this is a book about love, really. Not only do you get an very intimate view from Iris, and the people she encounter through all the stages along the path of love. But you also get a view of all parts of love, that it hurts, its part of life and its all good practice.
Thank you for this.

May the force be with you