Zen Master

Dukkha: Our Truest Spiritual Friend

Kyong Ho Zen Master (1849-1912) once said “Don’t expect your practice to be always clear of obstacles. Without hindrances the mind that seeks enlightenment may be burnt out. So an ancient once said, “Attain deliverance in disturbances.””

Difficulty arising in our lives is a precious opportunity for authentic spiritual practice, and transformation. So often, our practice rests firmly in the realm of past time, and otherwise we tend to view times of difficulty and suffering with a degree of woe and seemimgly entitled self-pity.

As avowed Buddhist practitioners, our job is to fully embrace the reality of each and every moment, especially in times when we might feel apt to lay down our fair weather resolve, forgetting that without the friction of the road, a vehicle cannot propel itself in any direction, forward or backward.

Dissatisfaction affords us the opportunity to behold our minds, moreso than perhaps any other state of being, and that is because of our aversion, our pushing it away from our tendency for full, dichotomy shattering immersion. In times of joy, we don’t struggle to experience either the underlying phenomenon fully, nor the filter of joy through which that experience is digested, however in times of sadness, anger, despair, and even mere irritation the inverse is true. We find ourselves especially removed from the still, and always inescapable reality unfolding before and through us, at which time we might be able to inquire “what is this” really? What is seperating my heaven from hell? At those times, we might be afforded an objective glimpse into the play of mind, wherein when clearly beheld, we can even pull a smile from the furthest depths of our despair. That is, a free step in any direction from our previously predetermined-by-conditioning lives.

Again, Master Kyong Ho said “Without hindrances the mind that seeks enlightenment may be burnt out.” Indeed in joy, without aversion, it is difficult to behold the mind, to play in the field of consciousness. This was the motivation for the ancient’s instructions toward world weariness and asceticism. Yet, in my view and that of many modern people, why pull tears from the well of elation? And yet, wading in that well, we’re liable to lose our way to the full vest of our experience. It’s suffering that propels us to seek truth, and indeed, suffering happens, regardless.

Thus, the adage continues, “Attain deliverance in disturbances.“ Dukkha, that is, suffering and dissatisfaction in all of its many varied shades and degrees is the real realm of cultivation, and when it appears we must be vigilantly prepared to meet it enthusiastically with the transformative and wisdom rendering light of awareness and great questioning, as the truest spiritual friend we’ll ever encounter.


The Tea Ceremony by Thich Nhat Hanh


“You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea.

Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup.

Only in the present, can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy.

If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea.

You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone.

Life is like that.

If you are not fully present, you will look around and it will be gone.

You will have missed the feel, the aroma, the delicacy and beauty of life.

It will seem to be speeding past you. The past is finished.

Learn from it and let it go.

The future is not even here yet. Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it.

Worrying is worthless.

When you stop ruminating about what has already happened, when you stop worrying about what might never happen, then you will be in the present moment.

Then you will begin to experience joy.”


January 18th 1769: Hakuin Ekaku dies

On this day in 1769, the Japanese Zen Buddhist master Hakuin Ekaku died. He was one of the most important masters of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism, known for its rigorous - and occasionally forceful - training methods. Hakuin was born on January 19th 1686 in Hara, a small town at the foot of Mt. Fuji on the Tokkaido Road between Edo (modern day Tokyo) and Kyoto. Rinzai Zen Buddhism is distinguished by its rather eccentric teaching methods, favouring verbal coercion and sometimes physical violence in order to encourage a student to experience satori - instant enlightenment. This distinction has historically made Rinzai the religion of Japan’s samurai warriors, while Soto - the other main Zen school - was favoured by farmers and peasants. However, Rinzai Buddhists also use mental, as well as physical, training, and spend long hours meditating on koans, which are riddle-like questions with no discernable answer. Ekaku died on 18th January 1769, aged 83, leaving behind an important legacy in the development of Zen Buddhism.

“What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
- Ekaku’s famous koan

Too lazy to be ambitious,
I let the world take care of itself.
Ten days’ worth of rice in my bag;
a bundle of twigs by the fireplace.
Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment?
Listening to the night rain on my roof,
I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out.


Photo by Xavier Allard.

Why The Stag Night Shouldn't Have, "Gone Further"

It’s so tough to see Tessa interrupt Sherlock and John during the stag night game.  We wish that things, ‘could’ve gone further’, we know they would have and yet, it is exactly right that they did not.


1) Tessa’s story causes emotional epiphany in sherlock

Tessa’s story deeply affects Sherlock.  He is moved and then he is confused as to why.  This is clarity coming to him about his relationship with John.  This is him looking back and realising that he’s mourning something the didn’t even know he had.  This is pivotal to his Mayfly man/Bloody guardian realisations.  He cannot fully realise his feelings without Tessa’s story.

2) The, 'crimescene’, investigation causes a sexual epiphany in Sherlock,

Tessa’s, 'crimescene’, investigation serves a similar purpose for Sherlock with regards to his sexuality.  Here he will put himself under the magnifying glass and search for clues of something very important and yet very basic.  Why are the clues to humorously simple?  Because this deduction, that Shelrock is gay, is actually a very obvious one.  Even to himself, once he is willing to look.  He doesn’t need sophisticated clues: even the most cursory look at his sexuality immediately tells him that he’s gay and that he wants John.  Nonetheless, without this scene he could continue to avoid looking at his sexuality for who knows how long.

3) John spiked his drink,

Much has been made (and rightfully so) about Sherlock thinking that he’s slipping John a drug in his coffee in THoB.  There’s a fail-safe to this transgression, however, he never really did drug him.  It really was just sugar.  P.S. How adorable is that?  He slipped him some sugar?  :3

Anyhow, In TSoT John’s had enough of Sherlock’s controlling ways and decides to celebrate his new-found freedom by drinking a couple of shots and slipping one to Sherlock.  All joking aside this is not exactly an above board thing to do to someone.  Especially not if one is deliberately trying to get into someone’s pants.

This gesture serves to be suggestive of a romantic/sexual innuendo on the part of John and this sends a clear clue to the audience: this is a romantic situation.  

However, if Sherlock does hook up with John because John slipped him a drink, then we have a pretty serious breach of trust, there.  Even if Sherock 'doesn’t mind’, to the audience, there’s still an element of Sherlock’s will being manipulated or his agency being take away.  Moftiss would not do this to Sherlock and he would not do this to us. They would not rob us of a fully deliberate, eyes-wide-open, sober romantic breakthrough.


This playful flirting is deeply rewarding to the audience and I’m sure incredible enjoyable to John and Sherlock: we’ve literally never seen them happier.  But, it’s just a taste of what’s to come.  It’s a confirmation of what we all know: this is what these guys need and want.  But, for them to have actually had sex or have made out in this context would not have been in the appropriate setting or situation.

The way these guys will get together will be majestically poetic, it will be perfect and beyond well-earned.  It won’t be the luck of the draw that John happened to get Sherlock drunk.  That’s just not the grand romantic scenario that we or they deserve.


Mrs Hudson and John wrap up the purpose of the stag night scenes, nicely,

Whenever someone asked a certain Zen master how he was, he would always answer, “I’m okay.” Finally one of his students said, “Roshi, how can you always be okay? Don’t you ever have a bad day?” The Zen master answered, “Sure I do, On bad days, I’m okay. On good days, I’m also okay.” This is equanimity.
—  Pema Chodron, The Places That Scare You

Please join me in sending healing energy and gratitude for the recovery of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh who is suffering from a brain hemorrhage.

It’s my distinct honor to be the executive producer and narrator of the documentary feature The 5 Powers that tells the largely unknown story of Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, whom Martin Luther King nominated for the 1967 Nobel Peace Prize, Sister Chan Khong and American anti-war superhero Alfred Hassler and the creation of the 1958 Montgomery Story comic book that turned Martin Luther King Jr into a Superhero.

External image

The film will be out in Fall 2015 and God willing Thay (as Nhat Hanh is referred to by his inner circle) will be able to join us for the US premiere.

The cosmos is filled with precious gems.
I want to offer a handful of them to you this morning.
Each moment you are alive is a gem,
shining through and containing earth and sky,
water and clouds.
It needs you to breathe gently
for the miracles to be displayed.
Suddenly you hear the birds singing,
the pines chanting,
see the flowers blooming,
the blue sky,
the white clouds,
the smile and the marvelous look
of your beloved.
You, the richest person on Earth,
who have been going around begging for a living,
stop being the destitute child.
Come back and claim your heritage.
We should enjoy our happiness
and offer it to everyone.
Cherish this very moment.
Let go of the stream of distress
and embrace life fully in your arms.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Our True Heritage

'you always live alone'

Mrs Hudson: Zen Master #1

It is said that when a student of Zen buddhism wants to understand, ‘zen’, that he will go to his master and the master will tell him a nonsense phrase, 'koan’, to cause him to have a spiritual epiphany, 'satori’.  

In TSoT, Mrs Hudson gives Sherlock a pointed little speech about how much, 'marriage changes people’. Here, she will say something very unusual, 'you wouldn’t understand because you always live alone’.  This is patently false.  And it is very unexpected from Mrs Hudson,

(Cognitive dissonance, discomfort: “I always live alone?”)

Through a majority of the show up to that point, series 1 and 2, Sherlock has lived with John in a domestic arrangement that many have hinted has romantic overtones.  The person who seems most consistently convinced of this is Mrs Hudson.  

In TEH, she continues to be obstinate in the face of John’s very clear claims that, 'Sherlock was not my boyfriend’.  Her response, “live and let live, that’s what I say”.  She is unwilling to concede that Sherlock and John were anything less than a couple.

And yet in TSoT she says these words to Sherlock, ’…because you always live alone’.  They ring out as false and also as painful, for me.  And I think Sherlock, too.  He is put in an uncomfortable position: to remind her that’s not true would only reinforce her point that this will be a hard transition for him or that he may lose John altogether.

The thing is, why would Mrs Hudson, all of a sudden, turn into a Johnlock denier when she’s their biggest shipper?  I think that here, she’s being like the zen master: she’s saying something that’s not quite true and not quite false.  He did live with John but, did he really live with John?  Where they or weren’t they a couple, really?  Was he alone all the time he was with John, anyway, due to his self-imposed isolation?

These are the questions that the zen master needs you to look at.  A koan in the Western understanding of it is meant to be a nonsense phrase that basically makes you stop thinking and helps you access a higher plain of your mind, one without thoughts.  The koan is meant to also point out the fallacy of duality and get the mind to transcend it, to find an ultimate meaning, and enlightened reality.

Sherlock must ponder this duality, now: was he with John or not?  He was there but was he there?  (The last question applies to both John and Sherlock, I think.)

This is one of the ways that Mrs Hudson’s, 'wake-up tea’, is a real catalyst for what happens that day.  What his role in John’s life and John’s role in his life used to be will become clear to him this day.  He will find his satori.  

Here they’re all laughing about babies and he looks at Mary.  Then it hits him: he didn’t, 'always live alone’.  He always lived with John.  John was, in most ways, his boyfriend.  They had something and now it’s lost,