A reading from Shobogenzo Zuimonki

On Wednesday our meditation group studied a short text from Dogen’s collection of talks to his monks and lay trainees, Shobogenzo Zuimonki.

“In a dharma talk, Dogen said,

Even if you are speaking rationally 1 and another person says something unreasonable, it is wrong to defeat him by arguing logically. On the other hand, it is not good to give up hastily saying that you are wrong, even though you think that your opinion is reasonable.

Neither defeats him, nor withdraw saying you are wrong. It is best to just leave the matter alone and stop arguing. If you act as if you have not heard and forget about the matter, he will forget too and will not get angry. This is a very important thing to bear in mind.

The original Japanese is dori, which means, (1) principle, truth, (2) reason, argument”

We had a good discussion about what this meant to us and how we interpreted it in our daily lives.

It is one of the most radical aspects of our Zen Buddhist practice, and one of the most difficult.
Radical and difficult because it is totally in opposition to the way my experience and conditioning has been formed.
The society forms us to always argue the point, always put up a good debate, always assert myself.
Build up the Self with Views and Opinions, stories and history.


Insight Timer

For a long time now I have been meaning to write a post about this meditation app Insight Timer

When I am at home I use it every day, mainly for timing meditation, there are beautiful sounds to signal the start and end of meditation periods.
There are also some optional background sounds to accompany meditation for those that find that helpful.
Also there is a massive quantity of guided meditations from meditation teachers all over the world.
It only works with smartphones or tablets, there isn’t a desktop version yet.

A Quote from Thomas Cleary on the Avatamsaka Sutra

This post is about my Buddhist practice.

Since last August I have been studying a Kindle copy of Thomas Cleary’s translation of The Avatamsaka Sutra. 

I had an insight a while back after reading somewhere that psychologists studying brain function had discovered that brain waves of people who were asleep and brain waves of people watching telly where identical.

I realised that daydream I get into when watching telly, involvement in a fantasy, was similar to the daydream when indulging in my hobby of reading novels, crime fiction, thrillers, one after the other, all filling my mind with dead bodies, threat to the person, sinister happenings, crime scene, whatever. I started to connect the feelings of anxiety I sometimes have, with that, and I realised I was wasting my time, what had seemed like harmless recreation was actually something “not good to do.”
One of the purposes of Buddhist practice is to “wake up”. Being asleep in bed is one thing, quite necessary for most of us, but sleepwalking through our life is another thing.

The practice of meditation does over time allow us to see what the mind is doing. When washing the dishes, is the mind running out into fantasy, or mindful of the task?

Peter Gabriel had something to say about this “no more miracles, loaves and fishes, been too busy with the washing of the dishes”.

I’ve no idea if he was referring to Jesus settling down to domestic bliss?

Or, recommending washing dishes mindfully, like many mindfulness teachers do?

When the mind drifts off, commenting on things, planning, chattering away to itself, its just thoughts, thoughts are normal, what the brain does, but how thoughts can run us! And distract us! Haven’t we all had some kind of accident, or mishap, when our minds have been away in daydream?

So, just dropping the fix of my addiction to crime fiction, and hoping to make more use of my free time, I started to read the Avatamsaka Sutra, with the determination to start at page 1 and finish on the very last page.

I’m fairly near the end now, focusing on this book almost  to the exclusion of other books, since last August,  and I’ve only understood it on a shallow level. However I feel  a lot of benefit and peace of mind from reading it.

When I found a part I particularly liked I have done some text art by copying the text into Pages, then changing the font and text size, then taking a screen shot, then using a free app called Colour Splurge,  to make a virtual digital sampler, like  those embroidery samplers that people used to do and hang on their walls.


So this is a quote from Appendix 1, in which Thomas Cleary is interpreting some of the items he has chosen to use in his translation.

I thought  it basically sums up  what is going on in my mind  a lot of the time, grabbing on to things, trying to get things, even by posting stuff on the internet. 

Frugal Shopping

Part of a  receipt from a recent visit to Aldi.
I will talk you through some of the healthy choices supported by this shopping trip. The first item on the list is porridge oats at 75 p.

This forms the basis of the usual breakfast Chez Herbmwormwood.

Put a tablespoon or two of oats in a dish, cover with soya or almond milk and leave overnight.

You can add dried fruit  if you want.

In the morning put it in a microwave and cook on high for 2 minutes, stirring half way through.

Take out of the microwave and allow to stand for 2 minutes, then add anything else you like, such as more fruit, toasted sunflower seeds, nuts such as pecans, yoghurt or cream.

The farmhouse seeded batch will usually be eaten for healthy lunch, with cheese, banana, peanut butter, marmite etc.

Note very cheap leeks @ 19p. British Leeks no less. These went in a curry, used instead of onions,  with the butternut squash, some of the carrots and a side dish of curried cauliflower.

Soft citrus and oranges are very reasonably priced compared with other supermarkets,  and very tasty.

Not technically vegan, as they are coated with wax  made from shellac, which is ubiquitous with non organic citrus fruit.

However, since I am eating the oranges on medical advice (since being diagnosed with iron deficiency anaemia), I am not beating myself up about it.

The bourbon creams and jammy wheels are accidentally vegan biscuits, for snack.

The biscuits are  not particularly healthy on their own, but add some tasty empty calories, to make sure there are enough.