Thursday, October 29, 2009


We'll be sitting Halloween Saturday. 330pm, 711 Robinson. Come join the silence. There's nothing to do. Just sit there and stare at the wall. Nothing to think about. What could be easier? I was talking to John Fortunato about a review of a comic book I read recently...about logic. Yes, logic. The book is LOGICOMIX: An Epic Search for Truth. In the page below the great logicians Bertrand Russell (the teacher) and Ludwig Wittgenstein (the student) are wandering around a wintry garden. The student is destroying the teacher's system of logic. Emptiness and form. The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Zen Services Saturday, October 24

Come join us Saturday, October 24th, 330pm at 711 Robinson for Zazen and Zen Buddhist Services. We'll be there lighting incense and beating on the fish and ringing the bell. Below is another useful quotation from Zen Meditation in Plain English. I like this little book. I like going back to basics, starting all over from a beginner's mind. I find in Zen you don't need a lot of tools--a a zafu and zabuton, some instruction in sitting, a sangha to sit with, a few prayers that keep drilling into the mystery of who you are. /Bobby

What we find in the day-to-day practice of Zen is somehow ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. In the midst of the usual, we learn to pause, to make a difference in how we appreciate the great complex dance of cause and effect, and to enter into that dance more and more fully and caringly. We become better able to appreciate forms and the formless, the relative and the absolute, being still and still moving.
--Page 92, Zen Meditation in Plain English
by John Daishin Buksbazen

[Note: I like to have an image in the blogs and this one seemed right today. The photograph above is of my home altar with a childhood photo of my deceased brother. The little statue is Hotei. He's sitting down and practicing Zazen. ]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Saturday 17th we will be sitting

(This wonderful photograph is from the website, Boulder, Colo)

Yes, we will be sitting Saturday, 330pm, 711 Robinson. Same old, same old. Ring the bell, chant the chants, ring the bell some more, sit and stare at the wall, walk the kinhin walk, sit and drink some tea, talk a little bit of the talk, ring the bell, go home. Nothing new, nothing special. In fact, an ordinary day at the sangha. You could do it at home...
But true Zen practice cannot be fully experienced in all its diversity and richness by just one person alone. Sooner or later it becomes important to join with a group of people who together form a community of practice. The community of practice comes out of each person’s determination to achieve some fundamental understanding of what this life really means, what this self really is.

If a Buddha is one who realizes and lives enlightenment, and sitting is the deepest expression of that realization and life, then community is nothing other than going deeper and deeper into that realization, and becoming more and more at one with that life.
—from Zen Meditation in Plain English
(the chapter on Community, or Sangha)
By John Daishin Buksbazen

Monday, October 12, 2009

John Daido Loori Roshi, 1931-2009

John Daido Loori Roshi passed away last Saturday. I read his two books The Heart of Being and The Eight Gates of Zen when I was preparing to receive Jukai, the Buddhist precepts. Both were important to me, and I recommend them highly. He was a pioneer in American Zen--one of the first Zen Roshis from the United States. He received transmission first in the Soto lineage and then later in the Rinzai lineage. He established the Zen Mountain Monastery in the Catskill Mountains in New York and the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen. He called himself "a radical conservative," according to the very good New York Times obit. And this from Harvey SoDaiho Hilbert's blog:
I met him once in California at the 800th birthday of Master Dogen. He walked with a slow deliberateness and slightly hunched back. There was a slight smile on his face and seeming twinkle in his eyes. He taught through himself: a manifest buddha. Yet, also, was challenging. His teaching was as historic masters, the kyosaku [the "encouragement" or "warning" stick] and a word or bell were always present.
As practitioners we all owe something to his practice and his work. I recommend following the various links to learn more about him and of course reading his books.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Zen Meditation in Plain English

Yes, we will be sitting this week, Saturday, 10/10, 3:30pm, at 711 Robinson in the Kern Place neighborhood near UTEP.

The last few weeks we've had newcomers come sit with us in Sangha. It's always a pleasure to introduce new folks to the art of sitting cross-legged (sometimes sitting on a chair) and staring at a wall. They've had questions of course--how to sit this way or that way and why do we do this or that. Like, why do we stare at the wall? Good question. Sitting is always a question, even as one evolves in her practice and the months become years and the years become more years. Etcetera. So I was glad to find this book at the Barnes & Noble: Zen Meditation in Plain English by John Daishin Buksbazen. Nothing fancy, no bells and whistles. It's just a simple little how-to book which I find refreshing and fun. I bought the last copy, so I'll call the B&N to tell them they should order some more. Below, to make life a little bit easier, I'm pasting reviews of the book from Amazon and Publishers Weekly-- Review
The jolt of confidence you get when discussing a day's performance with a seasoned veteran can take any activity to a higher level. In his concise and informative Zen Meditation in Plain English, meditation veteran John Daishin Buksbazen gives detailed directions for each step of Zen-style meditation, from getting into the different postures and developing breath concentration, all the way up to intensive training periods. With only one short chapter on what the mind should be doing while "sitting" (as they say in Zen), his focus is on getting the fundamentals right. He also offers a rare introduction to the importance and mechanics of group practice and a well-selected "Frequently Asked Questions" section at the end. While Buksbazen repeatedly says that there is no substitute for a good teacher, until you find one, Zen Meditation in Plain English will do nicely. --Brian Bruya

From Publishers Weekly
Buksbazen, a psychotherapist who was ordained a Zen priest in 1968 and is affiliated with the Zen Center of Los Angeles, offers practical and down-to-earth advice about the specifics of Zen meditation. He begins by encouraging readers to get involved with meditation and not just read books about Buddhism: "After all, cookbooks are fun to read, but... they are most helpful to somebody who is actually involved in cooking." The bulk of this short primer is concerned with introducing the basics of zazen, or seated meditation: how to position the body, particularly the legs; how and when to breathe; what to think about. Helpful diagrams illustrate the full lotus, Burmese, kneeling (seiza) and other positions. Buksbazen even provides a "zazen checklist" to help beginners remember all of the steps involved in zazen, which as he notes is more difficult than it appears. What distinguishes this book from any number of Zen self-help books is its final section, which focuses on community. Arguing that "true Zen practice cannot be fully experienced in all its diversity and richness by just one person alone," Buksbazen builds a strong case for the powerful effect of being involved with a community of other practitioners. He follows this ideological argument with concrete information about group practice, including meditation retreats and other intensive training periods. In all, this is a fine introduction to Zen meditation practice, grounded in tradition yet adapted to contemporary life.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Our New Blog

Hello. Welcome to the new blog for our sangha--Both Sides / No Sides: A Zen Community for El Paso and Juárez and the surrounding region on both sides of the border. We meet every Saturday at 3:30pm at 711 Robinson in the Kern Place neighborhood. (See the google map pasted below.) Many thanks to Sangha member John Fortunato for lending us a large room ("a clean, well-lighted place") in his home to serve as our Zendo. John also creates a nice flower arrangement for our altar each week.

Our lineage is traced through the Soto Tradition. We have no priest or abbot serving our Sangha now, but I organize and facilitate our services and events. I also serve as primary Ino. John Fortunato helps in all of these chores.

My name is Bobby Byrd. For a number of years I've been a student of, and received Jukai from, Harvey SoDaiho Hilbert Roshi of the Clear Mind School of Zen (and before that of the Zen Center of Las Cruces) . Our services include chanting the Three Refuges and the Heart Sutra in English, two 25 minute periods of Zazen (seated meditation) with Kinhin (walking meditation between). Afterward we chant the Heart Sutra in its Japanese (actually, Sino-Japanese) form, we have a short incense ceremony, serve tea and talk and we conclude by repeating The Four Great Vows. It's a nice time, and we invite all to come sit with us.

I like to see an image in a blognote, so here's a photograph of John Fortunato and me in the Zendo. When we first began sitting at 711 Robinson, usually it was just John and me. Now our Sangha has grown to 25 folks on our mailing list, of whom we'll have five to 10 people sitting with us each week. But there's a lot more room.

On this blog we'll make announcements about upcoming services and events, and I'll add information now and again that might prove helpful to your practice. We hope this blog can become a place of conversation about the practice of Zen Buddhism for El Paso and Juarez.

Soon we'll also have a FACEBOOK page which will upload the feeds from this blog. If you have questions, please write me at

The map is below.

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