Saturday, December 7, 2019

Opening Remarks 11/7/19; Atonement 11/8/19; Nothing Special 11/9/19; Nothing Special Part 2 11/10/19

Awakening 12/1/19

Bodhisattva 11/17/19

Simple 11/3/19

Your Life 10/27/19

Prajna Wisdom 10/20/19

Moment 10/13/19

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Bodhidharma, "Vast Emptiness" 8/29/19; Joshu's Supreme Way 8/30/19; Sun Face, Moon Face 8/31/19; Continuing Sesshin 9/1/19

You Are Not The Boss by Elihu Genmyo Smith

What is yours to do? What is not yours to do? What is yours not-to-do?

You are not the boss – not the boss of "your" thoughts, not the boss of your feelings, not the boss of "your" reactions, not the boss of actions and reactions of others, not the boss of conditions inside or outside. You are not the boss of events close or far. And yet we often act and react as if we are the boss or should be, as if things and others should be as we wish or desire. Do you believe you are the boss? Please look closely, when things are not as you wish, do you react with anger, sadness, hatred and more? Please notice when this arises – and see what your skillful practice effort is. Do you notice suffering harming, the creating of suffering harming, right here, right now? If so, this is exactly where and when practice effort is called for, where Bodhidharma asks us to bring forth the not-at-peace heart mind, so as to set it at peace.

Saying I, often we lie.

We may not know that we lie, we may believe this “I” story as who we are. We may believe we must act on the basis of I - but this is not so!

This is not a matter of theory.

There is nothing wrong with the word I, with saying I - but holding onto “I” creates trouble, because of clinging to “I like, I do not like, I am, I am not, I want, I don’t want, I think, I feel, I believe, I don’t believe.” These clung to emotion-thoughts create troubles for others and for us. These clung to “I’s” perpetuate and solidify boundaries and duality, me and not-me. Believing these “I”s as truth - rather than as simple provisional terms - holding onto these - creates harming and suffering; these “I”s becomes a basis for reactive habits. When fulfilled or thwarted, “I” reactive habits are basis of hatred, anger, greed and delusions. This is not a matter of theory.

Holding to I, entangling in I, we miss this life intimacy right here; we miss our life. Holding to I, believing I, believing not-I, we miss what we can not miss, miss this “never failing manifestation of the (mysterious) truth of the awakened way.”

The Dalai Lama writes, “The innermost demon, the one anchored most deeply within us, is the notion of a separate self, the greediness of “me.” This profound ignorance carries with it all false views, of which attachment to self is most fundamental. Its two root errors - apprehension of self and self-love - are the worst we can have. They accompany and support one another; jealousy, covetousness, aversion and so many other painful states flow from them.” (p. 57 Essential Teachings)

Being peace is Buddha Dharma - being peace right here now.

When Huike comes to Bodhidharma, his request is “My heart/mind is not at peace, Please pacify it." Bodhidharma replied, "Bring me heart/mind, and I will pacify it."
Huike response is, "Although I've sought it, I cannot find it."
"There," Bodhidharma replies, "I have pacified your heart/mind."

Huike shows practice reminders and tasks - “My heart/mind is not at peace, please pacify it." When we notice not-at-peace, when we believe and feel not-at-peace, when we act out heart-mind not at peace, react based on not-at-peace, even believe that these reactions will bring peace, right there is our practice, right there we must do/be/make appropriate practice efforts. And in response, just as Bodhidharma encouraged Huike, “bring me your not-at-peace heart-mind and I will pacify it”, we too must clarify not-at-peace heart-mind in order to be at peace.

When you are not at peace, what is occurring? What are you believing? Knowing, believing knowing as reality, hinders being present. Not-knowing is a step in practice, in clarifying, experiencing and responding.

Being not-knowing, clarifying practice effort, is doing what is yours to do, not doing what is not yours to do, not-doing what is yours not-to-do. This is ongoing not-knowing practice. Other wise, we believe we are the boss of all sorts of beings, all sorts of conditions, the boss of all sorts of circumstances. You are not the boss – even of the arising-passing “I”.

It is not for us to speak of the faults of others, or fix others, and it is not for others to seek out, find and fix our faults, entanglements. It is not even for us to “fix’ our faults but simply clarify and be skillful-appropriate practice right here right now, compassionate responding in the midst of not-knowing.

Unfortunately, entangling in anger or hatred, entangling in I and not-I, often feels good. It seems to energize, enhance and strengthen self-righteousness and self-centeredness.

Anger and hatred can be like pumping up self. Experiencing, being present, zazening, we can sense how this occurs viscerally, physically, mentally and in other ways. Please look at your experience. Do you sometimes enjoy anger and hatred, just as you may enjoy various other addictive poisons? A recent commentary was titled, “Hatred Enhances Your Self-Esteem.” Unfortunately, harming suffering also results hatred - though in pursuing anger and hatred, the addictive pursuit may lead us to forget harming suffering.

Please look closely at anger or hatred when this arises for you. How do you practice when it arises? Do you feed and nurture arising reactions of anger and hatred, the various shadings of these thoughts, feelings and perceptions?

Personal anger, political hatred, economic, historical and ideological justifications, religious, racial, ethnic enmities, and their many variations and justifications are poisons which perpetuate suffering, even as we might enjoy them. Look closely. Are anger and hatred justified by what others have, what they have or will do, what they believe, who they are or other imaginings about them? Does Bodhisattva compassionate practice, our Bodhisattva practice, extend even to those who turn "against us, (even) become sworn enemies and (even those we believe have, will or may) abuse and persecute us?" Not denying or overlooking that they are sworn enemy, that they abuse and persecute us, what is extending compassionate practice?

Zazening/sitting is experiencing - forms of “I” arising are the opportunity to notice, to look at arising reactions, to notice believing and holding, and then do/be appropriate and skillful practice.

What “knowing” do you hold as self, as other?

And because of this knowing, what are you doing, what mind chatter follows, what emotion-thought reactions? Practice is settling right here. Practice is calling others by their true name, calling our self by our true name. What is their true name? What is your true name?

Holding to a fixed, permanent, separate self, to a separate others, to a fixed story, becomes suffering, becomes harming.

Holding to anger and hatred is shrieking with pain while we insist on drinking poison and spraying it on others. Please do not blind yourself and others.

There is no problem with I, and we make all sorts of problems with I; no problem with not-I – and we make all sorts of problems with dreams of not-I, dreams of other. When we make problems, when we discover problems, our practice is taking good care of them, appreciating them, serving them, liberating them. This is pervading everywhere, our traceless life. Being this continuing traceless awakening is our life, is who you are.

This perfect way excludes no difficulties. This perfect way knows no difficulties.

© 2019 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Smile 6/9/19

Non-attainment, Not-knowing 6/2/19

Mother 5/12/19

Sesshin Talks

Opening Remarks  5/22/19
Beings are Numberless  5/23/19
Delusionary Desires are Inexhaustible  5/24/19
Dharma Gates are Boundless  5/25/19
The Buddha Way is Unattainable  5/26/19


by Elihu Genmyo Smith

We are family – we are all family. This is ongoing intimacy. To paraphrase my teacher Soen Nakagawa Roshi, we are all members of the same nose-hole family.

Right now, you are prefect as you are. And so is every one.

Right now, you are in the perfect place as is. And so is every one.

Right now, you are doing exactly what you need to be doing.
And so is every one.

There is no where else at this very moment that you should be, nothing else that you should do.

Do you believe otherwise?

Do you believe otherwise about others?

Do you act, mentally, physically, otherwise?

Do you notice adding or holding “otherwise”, “otherhow”, “othershould” ?

This perfection practice is right now, this ongoing changing; including the self-addictions - fears, reactions and attachments, even hindrances - seemingly bumping up against this moment as is - this moment ongoing changing, impermanence.

Practice is acting appropriately with family – being-seeing differences in equality, equality intimacy in the midst of differences, the particularities of each family member as is now.
This manifests in knowing not to offer alcohol to an alcoholic even though they are family, feeding those who are hungry, not having meth or valuables around when a speed addict shows up, calling the police when someone is violently abusive, and calling paramedics when someone has a stroke or seizure with which we need help. This is being family.

We are all addicts, we are all self-addicted – in our particular ways, in some circumstances and at some time. The extent, variety and nature of self-entanglement and blindness varies greatly, as does holding to thoughts, believing, pursuing or rejecting feelings and so forth. Practice is the practice as this self-addicted family member, awakening is the awakening of this perfect family self-addict.

Just as addicts turn to their addictions rather than face fear, anxiety and other conditions, so we often turn to self-addictions out of fear, anxiety and conditions in the face of and in reactions to changing circumstances which are hard to tolerate, hard to experience. It may be hard to be present, experiencing, in the midst of ongoing changing life, even in zazen. And our practice is skillfully (or not so skillfully) working with these anxieties, these fears and whatever body-mind-universe arises, even that which leads us to want to turn to our particular addictions.

Noticing addictions arising, it is important to engage what is skillful in our life practice, our zazening, whether it is labeling thought, being breathing, experiencing, being koan, chanting, bowing – whatever particular practice supports and nurturance enables us to be right here, enables us to open to what is hard to be, rather than our particular addiction tendency, the reactive tendencies of turning from this moment and acting out addictions.

Impermanence, ongoing changing, means that life itself will offer opportunities of arising self-centered addictions, self-centered entanglements. Please be attentive as your life, how and when this arises in your life. What are your addiction reactions? What is your skillful practice effort?

Precepts in various forms help us notice, become sensitive to, practice with these self-addictions arising. Impermanence manifesting this moment, bodily, in and with others, in and with the world, this physical mental universe – these seem to call forth reactive habits of various sorts which are our particular holding self, our caught entangling self. These are our moment moment practice opportunities, practice effort supports in the face of the tendencies of suffering harming reactions.

The Buddha’s Awakening is discovering what always is so – in the midst of this ongoing changing, right now as is. Whether we acknowledge and experience this, or whether we miss this, refuse this that we are, even deny and disparage this, it is so. This “always so” is in the midst of, exactly, the particulars of this moment ongoing changing, in the midst of skillful and appropriate responses to this moment as it is right now. This is being not-two, being not-knowing.

A refusal to see this always-so and to see-be this ongoing changing as is right now can be described as “caught in self-centered dream,” as in the Four Practice Principles. This is not something one must believe, but a reminder – a reminder to notice what is so, to live-manifest our ongoing practice life. And we are supported and encouraged in this BECAUSE life circumstances denies and challenges self-centeredness.

Formulations as a description of “being human” such as the Five Skandhas (form, sensation, perception, discrimination, awareness) or the Six Sense Organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind), may lead us to misinterpret these formulations as a justification to focus on a narrow perspective of being human – as if the human is just within the bag of skin and bones, of body-mind. Other aspects of biology, language, culture and society also encourage this.

Practicing zazen, zazening in myriad forms, is being human interconnectedness and open flow of the inside outside universe, experiential senses which are this openness, the myriad dharmas right here that we are, this very body.

Ongoing changing is the awakened life as is, this form emptiness, this emptiness form, the ongoing opportunity of manifesting who what we are, myriad realms, myriad circumstances. It is the opportunity, so to speak, to flex our wings as the universe, this no-thing special. This includes all considerations, fears, attachments and so forth.

When caught, entangled and acting out and reacting in self-centered attachment and holding to what we believe, what we know and want, what we expect and hope for, we are shying away from this reality, this life we are; we may be blinded by fears and believed hindrances.

This universe right here is our opportunity of being not-knowing, going beyond knowing, taking the step off the 100-foot pole and living this universe.

Expansiveness is myriad directions, myriad dimensions, inside as well as outside – zazening is being who what we are - and we discover this zazening.

Your life right now is witnessing, is this moment impermanence, this marketplace reality we enter with open hands, open heart. It is the “ongoing dropping away of body-mind of self and others” that Dogen Zenji writes of, “no trace of realization remains and this traceless realization continues endlessly.”

This is living non-hindrance non-fear in the midst of impermanence, in the midst of ongoing changing, even in the midst of arising of beliefs about how this or that are hindrances; please notice when a sense of hindering circumstances and hindering people arises for you, when this is believed by you, is a source of reactive habits for you.

What are our reactions to events and people that seem to be hindering our life, hindering me, my, I? What is hindered? How to be this hindering moment, zazening in the midst of hindrance?

We may only experience this non-hindrance, non-fear, when we have engaged in extended practice; it may even seem that this is only accessible in the ongoing activities of practice. Truly, this can’t be missed; nevertheless - though this can’t be missed, we must experience this for our self in order to manifest and nurture this always-so life we truly are.

Our practice effort is necessary as a result of our tendencies to focus on likes and dislikes, focus on and believe the various forms of self-centeredness.

Nothing is lacking. Yet for most of us most of the time, we miss this that we are, this right here, believing and acting as if this moment there is something lacking.

During zazen, especially in sesshin, Soen Roshi often led us in an exercise together - standing up from zazen, lifting our arms overhead and then lowering them, making large circles while chanting, “All is revealed as it is now; all is realized as it is now; all is enlightened as it is now.”

Please live this revealed life, be this realized being that you are, manifesting the enlightened way.

© 2019 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Being Peace

by Elihu Genmyo Smith

Life is being peace, being awake.

Being awake is zazen; zazen is being peace.

Being peace is not being perturbed by changing conditions. Not being perturbed even by body changing, mind changing, not being perturbed even by the changing condition of being perturbed.

Life, this life we are living right now, is the opportunity to be peace as this universe – even this universe when we are not-at-peace, the universe which seems to us not-at-peace. Living this universe, zazening, nurtures and supports us being at peace.

How are we not-at-peace? Not-at-peace manifests at times for me when someone I am close to, someone I love, is pained, is ill - especially my children, even though they are adults. For you, it might be when you are ill and pained, or have been so for a long time and there seems to be no healing resolution. Or not-at-peace might be when some terrible violence is being done by people to “others”, humans or other beings.

We are, and we can be, just sitting in the midst of ongoing changing, non-thinking in the midst of arising passing; not doing even peace. Non-doing is doing this moment as is. This being peace and ongoing changing is not-two.

Life is ongoing discovering of the ways we are unwilling or unable to be-at-peace in the midst of living being peace, not be-at-peace in the midst of ongoing change; to notice our specific way of not-willing to be the unperturbed life we are. Discovering not-at-peace is our practice reminder and invitation.
This moment may be self-centered attachment in the midst of peace, agitation and even pain in midst of doing peace, peace in the midst of clinging, peace in the midst of reactive habits; this life is ongoing changing, nothing else.

Are we unable to be-at-peace in the midst of this experiencing, unwilling or unable to be at peace bodily, at peace in various mind states of this functioning moment. Are we unwilling to be this form of “clinging experiencing” peace – despite being peace? This unfortunately results in and compounds suffering and harming. And it offers us the suffering reminder to see, do and be what is, to do what is called for in this moment peace - to liberate knowing, liberate not-knowing.

The 6th Ancestor said, “sitting is not giving rise to, not holding to, thoughts regarding whatever objects; zen is seeing, experiencing, our nature without becoming perturbed.” He further states, “Not seeing others and circumstances in terms of right or wrong, good or bad, or shortcoming, is being imperturbable nature.”

We can be caught up in reacting to changing body-mind conditions, changing world conditions. Have you found this in your life?

Are there thoughts and feelings, clinging, that blind you to this peace moment, hinder the doing and experiencing peace in the midst of changing circumstances? Do we miss this that we cannot be other than? Even being blinded to peace is the opportunity of manifesting peace.

Do we “go on about” self or others - humans, animals, diseases, demands, afflictions and world conditions? Are these ways that we cling to dualistic views, hold to should and should not, thereby missing who we always are, missing the peace right here? What is true in your life?
What is experiencing peace? What is experiencing peace bodily, doing peace in our actions? What is mind at peace? Please reflect on this. Please attend to body-mind sitting, muscles and sinews, to arising-passing emotion-thought. Please settle in this sitting, in sensing here, this experiencing moment, body, breath. What is excluded from peace? What excludes peace for you?

When do we find that we are not-at-peace? What is occurring? Please look closely at what you do or are knowing this moment, what embodying is, what enminding is.

We might find entangling in thoughts, in feelings, in greed or anger; might find that we hold and react physically, bodily, mentally, to “being” saddened, sorrowed, or desirous of changes in exertions and actions. What are the results of what we do, what others do?


A form of being peace is zazening, zazening in formal sitting and throughout life functioning. This allows and supports us to sense, be present in the midst of what is occurring, what we are doing, including doing not-at-peace, doing what seems to stop and hinder peace. In formal zazen we may more easily sense entangling and believed emotion-thought chatter, even simply clenched jaws, tensed shoulders.

When we hold and cling to not-at-peace, our responses, reactions, are pouring oil on fire. We do this in attachments and entanglements, pouring confusion, anger and greed onto the fires of not-peace beliefs, desires and sorrows. Even if our intentions are peaceful, are not to enlarge the fires, sometimes we are blinded by self-centeredness, by self-other ideas, by ideals, reactive habits, and are not present, not this experiencing moment.

In one way, zazening is an antidote to tendencies of pouring oil on fire, an alternative to adding to fires which burn self and others, the life of the universe.

Nevertheless, life is being peace even in being perturbed. Being peace, we can welcome and take good care, be joyously all sorts of perturbances. When not being peace, even when we are unperturbed we may not quite be so. Being imperturbable we can welcome all these perturbances, we can take good care in the midst of being perturbed.

Though we know this very well – yet we may miss this. Therefore, our practice is ongoing, atonement is over and over. In doing peace, being the peace we are, being sitting, zazening, we are supported experiencing - and with that we may sense, taste and appreciate who we are, do what we are doing, be the peace of life, doing what is called for this moment, this ongoing changing.

Remembering, knowing, experiencing, and sensing in all the ways you can – something terrible, non-clinging, let go of entangling. Something wonderful, non-clinging, let go of entangling. Not clinging, not avoiding, not knowing, is exactly this moment experiencing, this doing as you are. Life as it is, life as it is not.

There is much about which we may be “not-at-peace.” Our practice is, in midst of this, being this peace – experiencing, and as appropriate, noticing, clarifying this.

Live experiencing body-mind, live experiencing arising passing in this very world life.

Please live doing this moment. Being this, being peace, is responding to circumstances, manifesting this peace. Be this peace you are.

© 2019 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Joy and Fear (an article by Elihu Genmyo Smith)

The 6th Ancestor, Huineng, taught, “sitting means not giving rise, not holding, to thoughts regarding whatever objects; zen means seeing, experiencing, our nature without becoming perturbed.” He also said, “Not seeing others and circumstances in terms of right or wrong, good or bad, or shortcoming is imperturbable nature.”

Right here is joy. Right here is intimacy.

If we do see others and circumstances in terms right or wrong, good or bad, noticing this seeing others and circumstances in these terms - experiencing this - right here, in these specifics, is our practice, including doing what is skillfully called for from us.

When believing fear, believing hate, holding and acting out fear and hate, we miss the joy and intimacy right here. We perpetuate separation and suffering. Fear and hate perpetuate self-other dualism - in perceptions, actions and habits, thus causing suffering and harming.

This believing, this holding and acting out of hate and fear keeps us from this life, keep us from manifesting this joyous life – though we can’t be other than this. They cover up luminosity, cover up this luminosity that is joy right here, this intimacy moment. Instead, we stew in the arising fear and hate stories, in greed and anger. We harden them in seeming self-centeredness that we believe as truths, in life habits within which we become trapped. Based on these self-centered habits and confusions, we react to life circumstances in anger and greed. Such suffering! Such harming! Please notice when and how these arise for you.

Often there is little immediate choice in the arising of fear, of hate, the arising of anger and greed. They seem to appear as aspects of this ecology that we call self, this cause effect manifesting in body, feeling, thoughts, discriminatory creations and so forth. This is exactly our practice effort opportunity; as it is appropriate, each of us must skillfully make this practice effort.

Fear may be a whisper or quaking and haunting, hate a tickle or raging. Fear may not be sensed until it has been manifested for a while in various forms. Sometimes we sense fear bodily, sometimes in thoughts, in feelings, in stories, in justification, in reactive habits or even in flight. Hate may be justified in personal, familial, social or political ways, even in bodily raging. Please see how it is for you when these arise, what practice is called for.

Of course, fear and hate are often so mixed that only when we reflect, or even notice and talk about it, that we can sense this. The specifics, your specifics, my specifics, are what is important- important as our life practice. Whatever and how ever it manifests, when we notice this, whether “early” or “late”, that is when we can and must attend to this.

Some people say “they are the problem, I have the solution.” Or even worse, “we are the solution, you are the problem” -such nonsense. Recently, and in the past, variations of this have led to hate, violence, murder and genocide. It has become a theme in current social and political talk, with variations in regular use here in the US, in Europe, throughout the world. Please see when and where this is so in your life, please do what is called for from you when noticing this.

It is in the midst of this moment arising, noticing this, this is where, when, how there is choice; this is the opportunity for each of us.
The practice may be noticing how we are believing and clinging to knowing - this knowing of what is so, what I (and others) are and aren’t, what I should or should not do, what they should or should not do. Zazening is residing as not-knowing, not-holding in the midst of arising knowing. Can you do this? Will you do this? Not some idea, thought or another belief. Experiencing, this moment body-mind, even in the midst of knowing, in the midst of believing – this bodily experiencing right here, not clinging to body-mind, not holding to knowing, not holding to not- knowing. What is not-knowing? This ongoing changing - experiencing universe in many directions, in myriad dimensions. This is cultivating the joy we are.

The Heart Sutra states, “With no hindrance in mind, no hindrance, therefore no fear.” How is this for you? Is there fear for you? Please clarify this fear arising hindrance, please embody hindrance fear, please be this intimacy life in the midst of fear. Only thus can your Heart Sutra continue, “Far beyond deluded thoughts, this is nirvana.” Only thus can right here now be so for you.

Experiencing is zazening, is being this moment; even being what we do not want. Please cultivate this joy. This is non-thinking - which does not exclude thinking, does not attempt not-thinking, does not attempt something, does not even attempt “does not attempt.” This right now -“Vast emptiness, no holiness.” Right here – “don’t know.” This intimacy here.

What helps us, what helps you, inhabit not-knowing, be not-holding, in the midst of the arising habit of knowing and clinging? This is your zazen, this just now practice moment, this ever shifting practice moment, this effort opportunity and skill that is your ongoing practice; experiencing - ongoing zazening in myriad forms; this reveals, nurtures and supports, cultivates and manifests. And this is your bravery – to be this, to do this – rather than entangling and acting out the habits of fear or reactive hate, anger and greed in speech and action; being this rather than the clung to knowing and likes-dislikes. Zazening in the midst of this, zazening in the midst of the clung to knowing and likes-dislikes. Experiencing is the intelligence, effort and willingness to do this moment, being this moment, this zazen, that offers, reveals and nurtures our life, your life. Be the Bodhisattva you are. Be the Buddha you are.

© 2019 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Kōmyōzō zanmai:
The Practice of the Treasury of Luminosity
by Koun Ejō zenji (1198-1282)
translated by Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi
And Yasuda Joshu Dainen roshi

From beginninglessness, this samadhi is the seat of Awakening, the Ocean of Awake Awareness. This zazen is the Buddha's own practice, the sitting as Awake Awareness which is transmitted from Buddha to Buddha. You are a child of the Awakened Ones, so sit calmly in his own seat. Don't sit like a hell dweller, a hungry ghost or animal, a human being or jealous beings, or shining beings, those with only hearsay knowledge or those who fabricate enlightenment experiences. Just practice this just sitting of shikan-taza. Do not waste time. This is the practice place of Ordinary Mind. This is the complete practice of the Treasury of Luminosity. This is inconceivable freedom.

Full text available at:
Another translation at,

January 2019 Sesshin ; Opening Remarks 1/16/19; Parinirvana 1/17/19; Light Part 1 1/18/19; Light Part 2 1/19/19; Ordinary Mind 1/20/19

A Few Words 1/13/19

Sitting 1/12/19

Joy and Fear 1/6/19