Zen Study Group

See our practice schedule for meeting times.

September 2022

Poison Blossoms and Fox Slobber: Readings from Hakuin Zenji and the Rinzai Tradition

The last two study groups have drawn on readings from outside the Sōtō Zen tradition that
informs our practice at Des Moines Zen Center. This month we’ll continue with this approach by
looking at texts associated with the Rinzai Zen tradition, a school of Zen that dates back to 9th
century China. A central figure in these readings will be Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768), who is
credited with reviving Rinzai Zen in Japan by emphasizing life-long zazen practice combined
with koan study and disciplined living. We’ll open by reading three translations of one of
Hakuin’s most well-known works, Zazen Wasan. From there we’ll move to Hakuin’s
commentary on Dogen’s enlightenment experience, and then finish up with excerpts from
Introduction to Zen Training, a book written by Omori Sogen, a 20th century Rinzai teacher and
sword master.

Study Group Readings:

October 2022

Led by Rev. Eishin Tom Houghton

In October, the study group will read and discuss excerpts from the book, “Verses From The Center: A Buddhist Vision of the Sublime” by author Stephen Batchelor.  This book is a translation of and commentary on the Mulamadhyamakakarika, the great second century C.E. work by the Indian Buddhist teacher Nagarjuna.  Batchelor refers to Nagarjuna as the “poet of emptiness.”  Throughout the twenty-seven chapters of his work, which cover various topics, Nagarjuna guides us down a path that walks a middle way between the extremes of “it is” and “it is not,” “I am” and “I am not,” eternalism and nihilism.  The study group will focus on selected topics.  The first week will cover the Buddhist topics of awakening and nirvana.  The second week will cover the topic of contingency.  And the third week will cover the topic of self, or no-self.