Craig French - Community

“The more intimate I become with Zen, it’s less of a religion. It’s just about living. Buddhism is living right, its just waking up.” - Fong Sam

To inspire the sangha in our new center, Craig French gives a reading from Crooked Cucumber, the story of Sunryu Suzuki and San Francisco Zen Center. Craig and the sangha get cute as they discuss community, what it means to help out, the connection between different lineages of Zen, bringing Zen to the West, and whether the Ramones were trying to start British Punk Rock on purpose.

Brad Warner - Ghosts & Spirits

“We think we understand what this world is and what we are but we might be completely wrong.” - Brad Warner

Brad Warner reads from Kobun Chino’s “Life and Death” and sparks a lively discussion about the end of science and whether we even really understand what’s happening in our lives right now, let alone what happens in an afterlife. The sangha discusses life and death as the present moment, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, whether our culture has overly sheltered itself from confronting death, whether brambles are intentionally killing sheep, and in the end a cup of hot chocolate brings Jared to the moment of life and death itself.

Brad Warner - A Naked & Sincere Mind (Remembering Nishijima)

“The naked and sincere mind at the present moment is more balanced and free. There is more humor in this state of mind.” Gudo Wafu Nishijima

Brad gets back to his roots and fondly remembers his teacher, Gudo Wafu Nishijima. With a reading from a brief biography by fellow student Gustav Ericsson, Brad talks about what made the man the precise and idiosyncratic teacher he was. The sangha jumps in and gives their impressions, discusses the intersection of Buddhism and Christianity, Nishijima’s theories on the biological effects of zazen, the value of storytelling, the wildness of zazen, and whether scientology is no more ridiculous than all mythology. 

Dave Cuomo - Ananda and the Dharma of Not Getting It (History of Zen pt 3)

“Sometimes getting it means not getting it.” - Dave Cuomo

Dave Cuomo continues his History of Zen series w/ pt 3 - Ananda. He’s the great unreliable narrator of all Buddhist scripture. Dave tells the story of this sweet and simple character and looks into the wisdom in his unenlightnment, what it means to live a life of service, and why Buddhism requires us to ask stupid questions. 

Nina Snow - Love and Kindness

“When people are kind its like a beautiful virus that goes around and infects everyone. It’s gorgeous.” - Nina Snow

Nina and the sangha wade into the messy grey areas of being nice. Reading from “The Thousand Eyes and Hands of Compassion” in Brad’s latest book, they explores the nuanced ways compassion is as much about the way we treat ourselves as it is being kind to others.

Emma Roy - Dogen and the Eternal Age of Collapse

Emma discusses the life of Dogen with readings from Hee-Jin Kim’s “Dogen - Mystical Realist.” She explores parallels between Dogen’s time and ours including the the recurring feeling that we’re living on the verge of collapse. The sangha dives in and debates why every generation seems to feel that way even as the world shambles along without ending.

Dave Cuomo - Hopeless

“Hope is what religions sell when they need to get donations and don’t want to explain the whole truth.”

Dave tries to shock the sangha with a talk on the delusion of hope and the liberation of being hopeless, letting go of our ideals in favor of being open to what is. It’s a talk about goallessness and the freedom and kindness that come from giving in to reality. The conversation is lively and not without disagreement as the sangha discusses expectations, whether there is a basic goodness in staring at the wall, whether we can live without desire, dealing with death, and how pretty a leaf can look in the sunlight.

Brad Warner - Why Did Bodhidharma Come From The West?

“You have to have a sense of the great gravity of life and death or Zen is not something you’re going to want put your energy into.”

A Q&A w/ Brad Warner, answering classic questions such as, what do I do with my mind in meditation, why did Bodhidharma come from the West, does Zen take a certain maturity or can children do it, is Zen hurting my memory, should we be reading more, and why does Brad anger so many people on social media?

Erik Andersen - Seeing True Nature

“We’re not looking for true nature, we’re not studying true nature, we’re not researching true nature. You sit down and you’re seeing true nature.” - Erik Andersen

Erik continues his inquiry into beliefs and how they can hinder us. He looks at what was meant by the classic Zen promise of "seeing true nature," beliefs as attachment, and how this is all worked with in psychology, while the sangha turns the discussion to mental health and whether it's possible to be happy about being sad.

Dave Cuomo - History of Zen pt 2

What was Buddha’s problem? - an empty container for an open question

Dave continues his series tracing the philosophical and social history of Zen. In part 2 we come to Buddha himself, what was the social context he was teaching in, who were his teachers and what did they teach him? What was the problem he was trying to solve and how did he solve it?? The sangha discusses our connection to history and whether history is even knowable, what, if anything, Buddha was doing differently, and of course, what is the meaning of life?

Brad Warner - The Problem Might Be Society

rad opens Dogen’s Eihei Koroku at random to see if the spirits have any special message for us, and settles on a reading of “A Demonstration of Six Magical Powers” (dude whoa), where Dogen gets a little sarcastic. The sangha discusses whether it is possible to feel sarcastic during satori, why we eat so many sweets, whether we would rather lose all of our senses than see a loved one be eaten, before making their way to an interesting conversation o the use of anti-depressants and whether or not they would classify as “altered states” in Buddhist terms.

Brad Warner - Limitless Potential (Zenki pt 3)

“Maybe if you can get comfortable with letting go of things, then the ultimate letting will be a bit easier. I hope so anyway.” - Brad Warner

Brad concludes his retreat series on Dogen’s Zenki with a reading of his own translation “Limitless Potential.” He discusses ethics, the full moon atonement ceremony, and some of his early dating mistakes. The sangha delves into what exactly Dogen might mean by “states beyond life and death,” how to deal with death and dying, managing rage and the proper way to take a punch, and of course, timely for the season, how to deal with your family over the holidays.

Brad Warner - All Functions (Zenki pt 2)

“The ego can grab onto anything, even the realization that the ego doesn’t exist.” - Brad Warner

Part 2 of Brad’s talks from the Mt Baldy retreat on Dogen’s Zenki. He reads Nishijima’s translation, as well as portions of Okumura’s “The Mountains and Rivers Sutra,” the sangha discusses the differences between Soto and Rinzai, kensho and satori, near death experiences, the miracle of sitting on your couch watching a godzilla movie, and the divine light that is eating a pizza.

Brad Warner - How to Harness Your Practice

Q&A night with Brad Warner, tackling the big questions - how do we harness our practuce in difficult circumstances? What does Buddhism say about love? Wasn’t Cha Cha the best? There’s also some great geeking out about the poetry inherent in Chinese characters.

Dave Cuomo - Intro To Zen

If you’ve ever been curious what exactly we do here and why, this is your chance to find out! We cover all the basics from extended Zazen instructions to what exactly we do here in Zen and why. What does it all mean? How do I be the greatest meditator of all time and will that help? Is life just one continuous mistake? Find all these questions and more here!

Nina Snow - The Neurotic Emotional Veil

Nina leads us in a a reading from Charlotte Joko Beck - Experiencing and Experiencing. It's a conversation about how we objectify our world by seeking out experiences instead of resting in the act of experiencing. Why are we so reluctant to let go of the things that we know hold us back? Why do we cling to an illusion of safety when freedom lies in giving in?

Brad Warner - Two Truths

Brad talks us through the often maligned teaching of the two truths. It’s about the absolute and the relative, trying to see the forest and the trees. It’s about zazen and the underlying sub strata we find there where everything is ok, combined with the reality that nothing is certain and there’s so much to do. How can both truths be true?! And what are we supposed to do with that? Explore the contradictions with us here!

Brad Warner - Don’t Argue With an Ox

“The entire world is using human beings to see itself; the entire universe is studying itself through us.” - Shohaku Okumura

“Although the power of a wise man exceeds that of an ox, he does not fight with the ox.” - Dogen

Brad gives a reading from his favorite Zen author, Shohaku Okumura, The Mountains and Waters Sutra. It’s a talk about mountains studying mountains, how the universe is using us to study itself, and why even if you’re certain you’re right it is still never wise to argue with an ox.