• Whale Head by Rafe Martin

    Campeyya Jataka 2020

    Long ago the Campa River was the boundary between the kingdoms of Anga and Magadha, and there was often fighting between the two kingdoms. Sometimes Magadha won and sometimes, Anga. One day the King of Magadha, having been beaten in battle, was fleeing from the warriors of Anga. When he came to the Campa River, he thought . . .

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  • Painting by Rafe Martin

    Body Exposed in the Golden Breeze

    A quote from Yunmen, a late T’ang era teacher, that Kapleau Roshi particularly loved were his words on the Birth of the Buddha. Legend says that the newborn infant Buddha took seven steps and declared, “Above the Heavens, below the Heavens. I alone, the Honored One.” . . . .

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  • Painting by Rafe Martin

    The Dream Within a Dream

    Buddhist tradition says that Maitreya, (the Gently Loving One) is up in the Tushita Heavens right now, working on skillful means (upaya) to help deluded beings down here on Earth find liberation from suffering. Upaya is one of the ten paramitas or "perfections," that bodhisattvas must bring to completion on the way to the complete realization of Buddhahood. . .

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  • Painting by Rafe Martin

    Bodhidharma and Peace of Mind

    “Bodhidharma and Peace of Mind” is case no. 41 of the Zen training text, Wu-men kuan, (Mumonkan), Gateless Barrier. Created by the unusual Chinese Zen monk, Wu-men, in the early 12th century, the book, comprised of 48 koan cases along with Wu-men’s illuminating commentaries and verses, draws on the sayings and doings of earlier 8th & 9th century. . .

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  • Avalokitesvara

    Are Bodhisattvas Really Real?

    Buddhism speaks of bodhisattvas or “wisdom beings.” The name is quite literal. In Sanskrit, “bodhi” means “wisdom” and “sattva,” “being.” These are said to be the countless, spiritually maturing, growing-up and grownup beings throughout the universe, dedicated to the Path of dropping self-centeredness (an ultimately unreal position), and attaining the way of truthful, which means selfless and, so, wise and compassionate being and doing. . .

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  • Avalokitesvara

    Trying and Failing

    Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by the difficulty of ongoing Zen practice. We realize how immature we are, how little wisdom and compassion we might actually be able to embody in our ordinary daily lives, how weak our aspiration, how thin our courage, how shallow our commitment to deepening realization. Or we may doubt ourselves when stuck for a long time on a particular koan – if we’re doing koan practice. It can be difficult. . .

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  • Tigress

    The Tigress Jataka

    Long, long ago, ages before the bodhisattva attained perfect enlightenment and became the Buddha of our world-age known as Shakyamuni, he was born into a family of wealthy Brahmins. He grew up learning the wisdom, rituals, and skills of his station. When he was grown he was honored. Nobles saw that he had the bearing of a king; the wise looked up to him as a sage. Warriors and merchants felt he had the wisdom of a leader. . .

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  • Buddhas

    Buddha's Enlightenment

    [From the forthcoming book, Before Buddha Was Buddha, by Rafe Martin, Wisdom Publications, Spring 2018.] When Prince Siddhartha Gautama was twenty-nine he was struck by the reality of aging, sickness, and death . . .

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  • Kannon

    Great King Goodness

    Through the testing of his resolve and the fires of life experience, the Bodhisattva rises to another level. The great gift he gives is non-violence. Having saved many lives and established justice and harmony, he brings peace to two realms, actually, to three . . .

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  • Kannon

    The Golden Bird

    Let’s go back to childhood before we knew were Buddhists, before we really knew much more than that the grass was green, and the sky blue. In the Grimm’s Brothers’ tale of “The Golden Bird,” . . .

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  • Buddha

    A Few Words on Jukai

    Zazen sitting is the foundation of our practice. But getting up, leaving the zendo, and living meaningfully is the point. Realization experiences, moments of actually dropping attachment to the concept of an interior . . .

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  • Kannon

    The Zen of Tarzan

    Let me tell you a little story from a youth spent or mis-spent reading Tarzan comics. Once a year DC put out a gorgeous, extra-thick Tarzan annual. It had a wonderful animal painting on the cover, different each year...

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