Newsletter October 9, 2014

What if Zen is a path without progress, where progress is just another illusion? …A path that’s complete and fulfilled before we even take a step. The journey of a lifetime begins with a single step, after all… but perhaps it also ends with that same single step.

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Below are some excerpts from our latest Newsletter, Oct 9, 2014. Please signup for our newsletter by scrolling to the bottom of this page (see the box Subscribe below) OR scroll to the bottom of any other page on this site (see Subscribe/Connect).

Newsletter October 9, 2014

Greetings to all,

The Sunday Sit and Precept Discussion is back on, starting this Sunday the 12th with sitting at 9am. We will aim to finish up the tea and discussion around 10.30 this time, and will be looking at the third precept: don’t lie. Everyone is most welcome!

There is also a sangha meeting this Sunday at 11am with optional sitting from around 10.30am. Please remember that to become a Voting Member of Mountain Cloud we need to attend three sangha events, either meetings or samu.

This month we won’t have a zazenkai on October 25th. Instead we’ll hold our next zazenkai on November 9th, from 9am to 4pm.

With thanks to everyone for your ongoing practice.


Please review our Calendar for Special Events & Retreats and our Weekly


• Chado New Mexico: One of our friends in Japan wanted to let us know that there will be a chance to experience Japanese Tea Ceremony on Friday, October 17th. Please click here for more details.

• Three Treasures Prison Project Update: Each Thursday Pancho will be in Cabin 4 from 4–6pm sorting through papers connected with his work in the State Penitentiary here in Santa Fe. He would welcome any company. If you’d like to drop in and offer some help with the filing, and at the same time find out more about what he is doing in the prison, please feel free to just go ahead and join him in Cabin 4.


We could really use some help in two areas: various kinds of jobs around the zen center, and new members of the zendo team. Please contact us if you might be interested in knowing more about either. Of urgent need, is someone to volunteer to take the trash and/or recycling.


We have various ongoing costs in running Mountain Cloud. Please consider making a donation to help it keep flourishing. As we are a non-profit organization, any gift is tax-deductible.



A quick look at Zen’s early ancestors in China can be a bit surprising….

… a homeless wanderer far from his homeland, with wounded eyes and a body so undernourished he could just about float across the Yangtse River, and no more sense in his mind than to do anything other than find a cave and live in it like a wild animal, neither sleeping nor talking to anyone…

… a one-armed vagrant who stood outside in a blizzard all night, and who ended up so hated by rival teachers of Buddhism that they plotted and schemed and had trumped up charges brought against him, as a result of which he was publicly executed…

… a leper who couldn’t find anyone who’d give him the time of day until he met the one-armed penniless vagabond, with whom there was apparently a meeting of minds, as a result of which he somehow was cured…

… a fourteen year-old boy too young to have any social status whatsoever…

… an illiterate youth from a disadvantaged ethnic minority who could only find work hauling firewood, and who, when he wanted to join a monastery, wasn’t even allowed to work in the kitchen, let alone getting near the actual monks, and instead got no further than the rice shed, where he pounded rice all day, and sometimes late into the night too, husking and milling it…

It seems you can’t serve two masters. And it turns out there is only one master anyway.

When we’re wishing our practice was in some way “better,” more “perfect,” or thinking we’re failures in either life or practice or both, we might spare a thought for these ancestors in our own Zen lineage, and ask ourselves just what kind of perfection we’re imagining is necessary in a meditation practice. And perhaps turn our concern around, and remember that all we have to do is start right where we are, as we are. It might even be that we not only start there but end up there too.

What if Zen is a path without progress, where progress is just another illusion? …A path that’s complete and fulfilled before we even take a step. The journey of a lifetime begins with a single step, after all… but perhaps it also ends with that same single step.

Surely that can’t be right?!

Ask the breath, the next inhalation and exhalation. Ask the bark of the dog, the steam wafting from the cup of tea, and the trembling ripple on the tea’s surface as you blow on it to cool it down. Maybe they know the answer.

With love,

Image: From Mountain Cloud Zen Center Image Catalog

2 Responses to Newsletter October 9, 2014

  1. Jochen Sautter October 21, 2014 at 9:20 am #

    Dear Henry,

    “A path without progress.”

    After practising Shikantaza for many years, I am familiar with this idea: “Mushotoku” – without goal. Shikantaza aims nowhere else than here and now. “This very mind is Buddha”, not another one, to be obtained. I like this attitude a lot – which could, at the other hand, be just a form of self complacent agony (that’s a subtle point).

    At the same time I am quite inspired about what you say about koans and working with them (I have no experience with koans at all). There seems to be a contradiction. Koan practice assumes, that my practice here and now is fundamentally incomplete: I have NOT resolved the koan yet, and I aim for another point in the future, where I would have resolved it. That seems to undermine the fundamental paradigm of pracising beyond any goal or desire for progress.

    Thanks in advance for a comment on this, and gassho from Freiburg, Germany.

    Jochen Sautter

    • Events Administrator October 24, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

      Dear Jochen,

      Thank you for your comment and your excellent question for the MCZC website. Of course I have no definitive answer but here are some thoughts.

      First, there is something known as “buji” Zen – “nothing happening” Zen. This is in a sense a critical term. Something is supposed to shift through practice. It’s just that it won’t happen by our wanting it to happen. Our very wanting is what has to shift. Yet, to assume that nothing happens or changes in us through practice is not right.

      The koan is “designed” to aggravate our wanting (possibly). It brings up our desire for bodhi-mind, which is probably a good thing; but, it also brings up our cravings, our dissatisfaction, our longing for some kind of release. From the point of view of Kanna Zen (koan Zen), this is also a very good thing! We are forced to sit in the discomfort of wanting some shift– a shift that can only come through giving up our desire of it.

      I’m not sure if I’m just making things less clear here!

      Another approach: each koan has a power. It has an energy that can burst through into us and transform our whole view of reality and self. Yet it can’t do that as long as we are wanting it to do that. Only through total surrender can that happen.

      Koan Zen is challenging for sure. But it can also be the most liberative thing a human being can go through….

      With warm wishes to you,


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