Zen Study Group

See our virtual practice schedule for meeting times.

August Discussion, led by Christopher Genyu Spinler:

Birds, Boats, Firewood, and Fish: Manifest Absolute Reality in Dogen Zenji’s Genjokoan

As a verb, the word “manifest” means to display a characteristic; as an adjective, “manifest” means clear or obvious to one’s senses or comprehension. In Genjokoan, often considered the heart of Dogen Zenji’s Shobogenzo (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye), we are challenged to set aside our habitual patterns of thought and become open to encountering our everyday lives as the manifestation of absolute reality and to see the manifest absolute reality of all things.  In this discussion group, we will engage in a “mind and body” study of Genjokoan: while seeking a conceptual understanding of the written words of Genjokoan, our aim will also be towards the actualization of this understanding in our day-to-day lives. 

Proposed Reading/Discussion Schedule

  • Wednesday, August 12th: Sections 1 – 4
  • Wednesday, August 19th: Sections 5 – 8
  • Wednesday, August 26th: Sections 9 – 13

September Discussion, led by Bob Tremmel:

Iron Grindstone Liu and Life on the Margins

Liu Tiemo, also known as “The Iron Grinder” or “Iron Grindstone Liu”  (ca.780-859) was one of the most colorful characters in Chinese Chan (Zen) practice. Not only was she one of the rare women to enter the annals of Zen, but also one of those unique individuals who could operate on the edges of institutional Zen by maintaining a connection with institution-based teachers, while apparently living and practicing quite independently.

In September I’m hoping we can accomplish two things: first, take a deep dive into the literature that gives us insight into Liu’s life and practice; and second, come to a better understanding of  the role women and others on the margins of orthodoxy have played in the history of Zen.

I’m not sure exactly at what pace we’ll be able to proceed through the texts I’ve gathered together for these discussions, but below is a provisional order to follow—at least at the beginning with links to all the texts.

“Iron Grinder: The Cow.” Case 60. Book of Serenity

“Kuei Shan and Iron Grindstone Liu.” Case 24. Blue Cliff Record.

A Woman of Zen. Melissa Myozen Blacker

“The Blue Cliff Record Case 24.” Commentary by Daido Loori.

“That Other Story About Iron Grindstone Liu.” Commentary by Dosho Port.

“Te Shan Carrying His Bundle.” Case 4. Blue Cliff Record.

“On Lay Practice in North American Zen: A Meditation.” James Ishmael Ford. Monkey Mind Blog. February 2, 2019

 “Why Some Buddhist Teachers Don’t Ordain.” Sean Murphy. Tricycle, July 9, 2019.

Poems Selected from the Collected Songs of Cold Mountain. Trans Red Pine.