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Posts Tagged ‘Unity’

I post this as a counterpoint to all the celebrations of July 4th’s so called “Independence Day.” 

Flose Boursiquot and Chip at Rally June 30th 2018The poem is written by Flose Boursiquot and taken from her incredible book Close Your Eyes, Now Breathe.”  The picture was taken on July 30th in Delray Beach, FL at the “Families Belong Together” rally sponsored by http://www.moveon.org where she was one of the incredible speakers.  She is with Chip Frank my friend and former production manager when I was a Unity Minister. How lucky we were to meet her! She gifted me her book for which I am ever grateful.

 

Voice

I have a voice!
you cannot silence me
my feet burn through the pavement and leave enough dust
for my grandchildren to make clay pots
the thoughts that travel through my mind leave textbook pages
ashamed

you cannot silence me
my boot straps awaken the Black Panthers and take notes from
Malxom X
I know what it means to starve
a physical pain that engulfs your intellect and spirit

you cannot silence me
I am a young Nikki Giovanni with words so freeing notebook pages
fling their legs open when i peek at them with a side eye
master’s grandchildren stand miles away when air escapes my
lungs and thoughts juxtapose that of W.E.B. DuBois

you cannot silence me
I am not a mindless crab in a bucket
i refuse
yes, i refuse to step over the hands and feet of my people
we are intertwined like the molecules in our bodies

you cannot silence me
my children will not wake up caved in by debt, miseducation and
fear
they will know that beauty doesn’t solely lie in blue eyes
and that wealth isn’t manufactured green on trees

you cannot silence me
my ancestors taught me how to read a map
they left blueprints imprinted in my DNA
if I ever lose my way, i look in the mirror
touch my wide nose
feel my naps
embrace my brown skin
and i find my way

you cannot silence me
death does not scare me
i welcome heavy words sung by kings and queens on the block
they are reminders of journeys taken so i can stand here today

you cannot silence me
my back may weaken
but my boots will carry
my brothers and sisters will lift me

you cannot silence me
because with every step i will roar
we will roar
arm-in-arm, a destiny will be set
and we will achieve

*********************

This poem was written by an incredible woman a “24-year-old Haitian-rooted palm tree dancing in the Florida sun” woman. “She is a product of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communication and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.”

I hope you’ll buy her book!

In gassho, Shokai

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Emerson: “A man is what he thinks about all day long (page 24).”[1]robert-aitken-roshi

Robert Aitken, The Mind of Clover: “The self that is autonomous and also one with all things is the self that is forgotten… How do you forget the self?  In an act—in a task. You don’t forget yourself by trying to forget yourself.  When you are absorbed in your reading, the words appear in your mind as your own thoughts (page117).”[2]

Wow, how often have you thought about the self, what makes us who we are, what will happen to our “self” after we die and more.  In both Emerson’s writings and the writings and teachings of the Zen masters they remind us that the “self” is represented by our thoughts and how absorbed we become in them.

We are all able to remember a time when we were so absorbed in our thoughts that we actually felt that we were there in that moment encompassed by them, moved by them, one with them.  The self and the thought were merged together and ultimately represented “who” we were.  So if our thoughts were fear thoughts or anger thoughts our behavior represented them and manifested them in our life.  We found ourselves afraid, or mad, or sad, or jealous or even revengeful.

If our thoughts were joyous or selfless or curious or inventive we found ourselves in a totally different place.  Thoughts create your reality and the way you see your life, live your life, and experience your life.  I am a happy and sometimes funny person just like my dad.  There are times when people will say to me, “What are you so happy about don’t you know “X” is happening!”  Well, of course I do!  But I’m not going to make that leak into my emotions and end up having a bad day!  There are a lot of awful things going on in the world so I could be mad, sad, and upset 24-7!  I “choose” to live otherwise!

In Unity and New Thought teachings we use affirmations to help us focus on the great “self” and keep ourselves motivated.  You might subscribe to a website or blog or newsletter that helps you stay positive.  I get some great tips and affirmations from those I follow on Twitter, a blog, or get emails from.  My dear friend Harold Wardrop a Divine Science minister sends me an affirmation and prayer every day.  Harold’s affirmation for today was “There is nothing that can challenge me that cannot be handled and turned into a blessing that I will hardly be able to contain. So it is.”

Image what your day would be like if your “self” focused on those words from Emerson from Aiken, and from Harold! Remember your thoughts create your reality and thus your “self.”  Which “self” do you want to appear—the sad, mad, angry self?  Or the happy, prosperous, loving self.  It all depends on what you think about all day long!

Let me know how it goes with your “self”!

ingassho

Shokai

[1]Floris, O. Inspiration & Wisdom from the pen of Ralph Waldo Emerson. www.odeliafloris.com

[2] Aitken, R. (1984)  The Mind of Clover Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics New York: North Point Press

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We are currently studying a book by Shunryu Suzuki entitled Not Always So, Practicing the True Spirit of Zen.  In the chapter entitled “One with Everything” he talks about how we can make more or less problems in our lives and he relates it to making cookies.  How wonderful is that!  So just in case you’ve discovered or created or uncovered some problems in your life making cookies may just be the answer to them!

He writes. cookie with sunglasses

In short don’t be involved in making too many homemade cookies your ideas of big or small, good, or bad.  Make only as many as you need.  Without food you cannot survive, so it is good to make cookies, but don’t make too many.  It is good to have problems, and without problems we cannot survive, but not too many.  You don’t need to create more problems for yourself; you have enough problems (page 123).[1]

The “problem” isn’t that we like chocolate chip cookies.  I have a recipe that I call “Everything but the Kitchen Sink.”  Suzuki calls my cookie “One with Everything.” I’ve made them many times for our Zen group for a pot luck supper or an all-day zazenkai.  I start with the basic peanut butter cookie recipe and then I put in whatever I have in the cabinet that might be great in a cookie, chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, and more!  Each cookie is so heavy it takes two hands to eat it!

Sometimes my life feels like that, so heavy I can’t get out of bed in the morning or fall asleep at night.  Sometimes I make too many cookies and they go stale before I can eat them and other times I eat them all and then get indigestion and gain 3 pounds!  During those times I’ve forgotten to take Shunryu Suzuki’s advice and “make only as many as I need.”  Having no problems in life can make our lives boring, small, and inconsequential.  It is when we encounter problems and then discover the solutions that our lives begin to expand. We may see a wonderful change in our consciousness, our prosperity, our health and in a myriad of other ways in our lives that we never thought could be possible.

I bet each of you can remember many times in your life when a “so-called” problem at home, work, or in an organization that you belonged to turned into the best thing that you ever did.  For me one particular situation comes to mind.  I had a disagreement with the powers that be at Unity Church’s world headquarters.  So when going through the ordinary bureaucratic channels did no good I decided to start my own association of churches, ministers, and teachers and create a seminary to train and ordain them.  I did that and for several years we helped people around the world get credentials and degrees to continue working at their current churches, create their own churches, and more!

A problem turned into a bigger and better idea, had the problem never existed the wonderful work that all of our members did would have never been possible.  So make just the right amount of cookies in your life, fill them with just the right ingredients, and bake them just enough—not too much and not too little! Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Eat your goodies today! Let me know how they taste!

In gassho, Shokai

[1] Suzuki, S. (2002) Not Always So, Practicing the True Spirit of Zen HarperOne: NY, NY

[2] picture of the cookie is from We Heart It.

 

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Sharing the Merit

Showing our gratitude, practicing the way of awareness
Gives rise to benefits without limit.
We vow to share the fruits with all beings.
We vow to offer tribute to parents, teachers, friends,
And numerous beings.
Who give guidance and support along the path (page 170-71).[1]

It just happens to be 5 days before Christmas as I am beginning to think about what I will write next for my blog. The theme has been prayer and so I scoured my numerous book shelves with books on prayer both Unity ones and Buddhist ones and low and behold what did I see this wonderful book given to me by my sangha, Chanting from the heart Buddhist Ceremonies and Daily Practices by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Monks and Nuns of Plum Village in France. I noticed there was a cloth bookmark and as I lifted it to open to the page there to my surprise was a short chant entitled “Sharing the Merit.”

How perfect is that! “God is good…all the time” as my friends at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale always say. And they are right, even when it doesn’t seem so. When we say and do the right things, right things happen in our lives. So not only is it important to believe the words above in our chant it is imperative that we live our lives as the example of them. And not just at Christmas time but 365 days a year.

Whatever you do don’t turn away your good when someone showers you with gratitude by saying, “Oh, it was nothing.” That demeans their gift of gratitude, and equally as important, you are turning away your good. In Unity we encouraged our students and congregants never to do that as you don’t know what good may be coming your way and if it hears those words of rejection it may decide to bless someone else with that “good.”

And that “good” could have been prosperity, a new job, a visit from a long lost friend or relative, or a healing. So always accept your good with grace and gratitude. Use the above sutra and share that grace with others whenever you get the opportunity. Christmas is the time of giving so instead of giving material possessions try giving kind words, your help, your love, and your gratitude and watch your good manifest in miraculous ways—especially without expectation of receiving.

Give simply for the gift of giving. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1]Hanh, T.N. et.al. (2007) Chanting from the heart Buddhist Ceremonies and Daily Practices. Parallax Press: Berkeley, CA

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The Prayer of Faith

By Hannah More Kohaus

God is my help in every need;
God does my every hunger feed;
God walks beside me, guides my way
Through every moment of this day.

I now am wise, I now am true,
Patient and kind, and loving, too;
All things I am, can do, and be,
Through Christ the Truth, that is in me.

God is my health, I can’t be sick;
God is my strength, unfailing, quick;
God is my all, I know no fear,
Since God and Love and Truth are here.[1]

As we are dealing with the terrorist attacks around the world this beautiful poem/prayer came to mind one night. I learned it early on in my time at Unity church and memorized it for times when I was in need of a healing or help in a situation in my life. Although we see the words “God” and “Christ” throughout you can replace them in any way you feel comfortable. Sometimes I replace them with the word “love” for love is all there really is unless of course we don’t believe that then “fear” or “hatred” may be all we feel for the moment. But if you let it—love can appear and take over in your life.

Although the terrorists took over the city of Paris for a few hours it was not long before love took over, people helping people, people lighting candles and laying flowers all over the city. People from every country on earth praying for the injured and the dead .

There will always be people on earth who are angry at life and want to take that anger out on others, there will always be people who love and love is the most powerful energy on earth and love will prevail. Love can turn the heart of a future terrorist, if we believe it can.

Love has healed the sick, fed the hungry, and clothed the poor. Love has made people run into a burning building to save some one or jump into a raging river, or pull a person out of a sinking car in a canal.

If you let it love can over take fear, anger, and hatred. Even Jesus on the cross said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” I had a congregant who was stabbed over 60 times by an assailant in her kitchen, the police found him, he was tried and went to jail. One day she realized that if she did not forgive him he would control her life for the rest of her life. So she went to the jail and faced him one-on-one and did just that. Her forgiveness saved her life and her mental stability. The justice system took care of the perpetrator.

When hate fills your heart find someone to love.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] http://www.unity.org/resources/articles/prayer-faith

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Verse of Pure Practice
Abiding in this world of endless space,
A lotus flower is not stained by muddy water.
We follow the unsurpassable one,
Whose mind remains pure and free (page59).[1]

The above is a good example of a short verse that you can use when you want to center yourself. It brings you to the idea of the power of mind and its ability to remain pure and free in any situation, even if it’s “stained by muddy water.”

Our thoughts are the prisons in which we live. Those thoughts lead us to actions of peace, contentment, anxiety, fear, or any myriad number of emotions. To release ourselves from them a wonderful place to start is with a centering verse, prayer, or song. It’s called a “pattern interruption.” When the monkey mind has hold of you it is important to interrupt that negative pattern of thinking and replace it with something else.

I recommend that you have several types of prayers, verses, sutras, or songs that work for you. Something that will help you get centered. So what does it mean to be “centered”? In Buddhism we look to become one with our breath and when we do we feel at the center of all there is. Our body responds by lowering our blood pressure, slowing down our heart beat, and calming our breath. Soon we are overcome by feelings of peace and tranquility and emptiness and fullness. We have entered the stream.

When we feel as though we have entered the stream it is because we are centered on the here and now. We are centered on the only moment that exists—this one.

One of my favorite teachers and authors is Father Robert Kennedy he is a Catholic Priest and a Zen Buddhist teacher. In his book Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit, The Place of Zen in Christian Life (2005), he used an anonymous prayer which sounded like one I had heard many times during my life as a Unity Minister. I have written it below but changed some of the words.

My name is I am,” He paused
I waited. He continued,
“When you live in the past,
With its mistakes and regrets,
It is hard because you are not centered.
My name is not I was, my name is “I am here and now.”

When you live in the future,
With its problems and fears,
It is hard. Because you are not centered.
My name is not I will be, my name is “I am here and now.”

When you live in this moment,
It is not hard because you are
Centered right here and right now.
In the only time and place that exists.
Thus my name is I am.”[2]

What name have you given yourself today? Where have you been centered—on fear, anxiety, negativity, and suffering? Have you entered the stream yet? Help your mind “remain pure and free.” Let me know when you enter the stream and I will meet you there!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Tanahashi, K. (2015). Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala: Boston and London

[2]  Kennedy, R.E. (2005). Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit The Place of Zen in Christian Life. Continuum: New York and London

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My teacher and friend Wilbur Mushin May recommended this wonderful book to me about one of our ancestors Master Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1768) called Wild Ivy translated by Norman Waddell.  In the book there is a chapter entitled “Zen Sickness” which shares several ideas about sickness and health and the ways of the ancestors to deal with life as it appears in bodily challenges.

I was especially taken by one story and meditation called “The Soft-Butter Method” (pages 90-91) it was very similar to some of the healing meditations that I learned and used while I was a Unity minister.  So I decided to try it out on myself to help me with some problems I’d had with my digestion since I got my braces on.  Wow, within a day or two I began to feel much better and the symptoms all but disappeared.  I have continued to use it once or twice a day and look forward to even more fantastic results.

I hope you’ll try it and let me know if it helps you in any way.  In gassho, Shokai

The Soft-Butter Method

“Imagine that a lump of soft butter, pure in color and fragrance and the size and shape of a duck egg, is suddenly placed on the top of your head. As it begins to slowly melt, it imparts an exquisite sensation, moistening and saturating your head within and without. It continues to ooze down, moistening your shoulders, elbows, and chest; permeating lungs, diaphragm, liver, stomach, and bowels; moving down the spine through the hips, pelvis, and buttocks.

At that point, all the congestions that have accumulated within the five organs and six viscera, all the aches and pains in the abdomen and other affected parts, will follow the heart as it sinks downward into the lower body.  As it does, you will distinctly hear a sound like that of water trickling from a higher to a lower place.  It will move lower down through the lower body, suffusing the legs with beneficial warmth, until it reaches the soles of the feet, where it stops.

The student should then repeat the contemplation. As his vital energy flows downward, it gradually fills the lower region of the body, suffusing it with penetrating warmth, making him feel as if he were sitting up to his navel in a hot bath filled with a decoction of rare and fragrant medicinal herbs that have been gathered and infused by a skilled physician.

Inasmuch as all things are created by the mind, when you engage in this contemplation, the nose will actually smell the marvelous scent of pure, soft butter; your body will feel the exquisite sensation of its melting touch.  Your body and mind will be in perfect peace and harmony. You will feel better and enjoy greater health than you did as a youth of twenty or thirty.  At this time all the undesirable accumulations in your vital organs and viscera will melt away.  Stomach and bowels will function perfectly.  Before you know it, your skin will glow with health.  If you continue to practice the contemplation with diligence, there is no illness that cannot be cured, no virtue that cannot be acquired, no level of sagehood that cannot be reached, no religious practice that cannot be mastered.  Whether such results appear swiftly or slowly depends only upon how scrupulously you apply yourself.”[1]

[1] Waddell, N. (1999) Wild Ivy, The Spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin. Shambhala: Boston, MA

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To live in the great way
is neither easy nor difficult,
but those with limited views
are fearful and irresolute:
the faster they hurry, the slower they go,
and clinging cannot be limited;
even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment
is to go astray.
Just let things be in their own way
And there will be neither coming nor going.[1]

Several years ago I was watching a video recording of a Ken Blanchard book The One Minute Manager preparing to teach the principles for a training that I was doing for one of my corporate clients and I heard him say “the faster you go—the slower you go.” Having not been a Zen Buddhist student at the time I thought that was a brilliant management philosophy to take to heart. I recalled the many times that I’d hurried through an assignment in college or a project at work and in my rush I ended up making lots of mistakes and writing things that made little or no sense. Thus the negative feedback was not good—but it was well deserved.

When I began studying Buddhism I often read and heard this phrase and discovered that Ken had gotten the idea from some wonderful Buddhist or Eastern philosophy.

When was the last time you rushed through something and it ended up being not your best work, or incorrect, or even harmful? Hopefully you learned something from the experience that has helped you in your life.

So what does the first line mean—To live in the great way is neither easy nor difficult, but those with limited views are fearful and irresolute. I know when I was a Unity minister we tried to help our students and congregants to see the world in these terms: Maybe good, maybe bad. You may be wondering how the world could be this way. You may be thinking that you know what good and bad are and how they arrive in your life and what they look and feel like. But I know in my life sometimes what I thought was “definitely bad” turned out to be “good” and what I thought was “definitely good” turned out to be “bad.”

A failed job turned into a brand new adventure in a new and exciting job and a beautiful brand new car turned out to be a lemon! How about you?

The sutra even goes so far as to say we should not be attached to “the idea of enlightenment.” We should just “let things be in their own way and there will be neither coming nor going.” There will be neither striving nor staying put, neither happiness nor sadness, neither expecting the bad nor the good. Our job is to simply take life in each moment as it comes. Dealing with the good, the bad, and the ugly with equal aplomb, not grasping, clinging, rejecting, or ruminating over it. Just this in this moment: maybe good, maybe bad. Who is to tell since none of us have a crystal ball taking the world at face value, living in the moment, and making lemonade out of lemons is a great recipe for a fulfilling life.

How refreshing is that?! Try it, I think you’ll like it and if not, so what! Try making iced latte next time instead!  This is to live in the Great Way!

In Gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Osho, Hsin Hsin Ming, The Zen Understanding of Mind and Consciousness Attributed to: Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese (Sosan, Zen) Patriarch

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Attributed to: Seng’tsan, 3rd Chinese (Sosan, Zen) Patriarch

To return to the root is to find the meaning,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment
there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
we call real only because of our ignorance.
Do not search for truth;
only cease to hold opinions.

 

I was sitting quietly at home after Zen on Saturday morning and was drawn, once again, to pick up this wonderful book, To Meet the Real Dragon, by Gudo Nishijima and conveniently enough he was talking about the ‘roots” of Buddhism and the many branches/schools that have come since Gautama Buddha walked on earth. He said, “We must always remember that true Buddhism is something real—something active and alive. If our teachings and institutions lose contact with that source of life and vitality, they will become a hindrance rather than a helpful vehicle on the way to the truth (page 122).”[1]

Buddhism is much more than the sutras and the tenants and the rules and the rituals that have been created over these 2500 years, much more!

So what does this phrase imply to “return to the root is to find the meaning.” For me it brings me back to a time when I knew only a little bit about Buddhism—to the reason I came to Buddhism, simply to sit quietly in time and space and to be free. To calm my body, mind, and spirit even in the midst of living a busy active life of teaching, training, writing, volunteering, and housework—to remain one with the source of life—especially in the midst of that long list.

It is an opportunity to allow myself the simple gift of “sitting in the silence” as we used to say at Unity. Unity minister, teacher, and writer Emily Cady in her empowering book Lessons in Truth wrote these words, “You need not worry. You need not be anxious. You need not strive—only let it. Learn how to let it (page 126).”[2]

As you can see Emily Cady agreed wholeheartedly with the Faith in Mind sutra even though she may have never heard of it or read it. “Truth” is eternal and everywhere present. Thus the sutra says, “Do not search for truth; only cease to hold opinions.” Just this. . .

Sitting alone or sitting with a group is a great time to NOT search, to NOT hold opinions of what a great period of sitting you had or what an awful period of sitting you had—to cease naming and labeling. To simply “let it.” We do enough naming and labeling with everything else in our lives why not take a few minutes each day to give yourself a break from it. Wow, that would be a relief wouldn’t it!

To go “beyond appearance and emptiness” to be free of them for just a moment as we sit “in the silence” and become one with it, whatever it is. I hope you’ll try it…I think you’ll like it!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

[1] Nishijima, G. (2009) To Meet the Real Dragon, Dogen Sangha Publications www.dogensangha.org

[2] Cady, H. E. (1903) Lessons In Truth, Unity House: Unity Village: MO

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So let us refresh our memories of the three treasures: taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.  So when we look at the way we view the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, let us hold them as “one.”  As it says in Master Hakuin’s The Song of Zazen, “Then the gate to the oneness of cause-and-effect is thrown open.  Not two and not three, straight ahead runs the Way.”

Our picture of the Buddha the man and the Buddha concept that we are all one and the same seems like an untruth.  How easy it is to stray into the negative or doubting place when we hear ourselves say harsh words, or gossip, or treat people unkindly.  We begin to think: HA I’m not the Buddha, look what I just said or did.  I am a mean, awful, untrustworthy person!  I am not like the Buddha at all!

But fortunately for us “straight ahead runs the Way.”  So if we fall the first thing we do is simply get up, and then we move forward putting one foot in front of the other.  We are now moving ahead in time and space, are we not?  So simply acknowledge your behavior and remember your vow to not disparage the three treasures and move on—quickly and quietly.  Remember the Buddha tried many things throughout his lifetime to find the way.  And in the end we need to return home to the oneness that we all are.

Peter Levitt in his wonderful book The Essential Dogen Writings of the Great Zen Master (2013) quotes an excerpt from an Allen Ginsberg poem entitled “Song (page xv-xvi).”  And where Ginsberg uses the word “love” Peter says it could be replaced with other words such as wholeness, oneness, unity, and Self.

The opening lines:

Under the burden

Of solitude,

Under the burden

Of dissatisfaction

The weight,

The weight we carry is love.

The final lines:

Yes, yes,

That’s what

I wanted,

I always wanted,

I always wanted to return

To the body

Where I was born[1]

We too want to return to the oneness of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha where we have the opportunity to experience the oneness of all there is.  We do this through following the life example of the Buddha, the teachings, and the community where we sit together as one breath, one body, and one mind.  For me this is what I hear Allen Ginsberg saying in that last phrase this is to “return to the body where I was born.”

Travel lightly, Shokai

Things to focus on this week:

  •  Step one: Begin by remembering the three treasures throughout the day.
  • Step two: Set your intention to do so before each possible encounter and after each slip and fall.
  • Step three: Remember this is a life journey not a destination..
  • Step four: Finally, keep a journal on the precept and make note of how learning to embody it in thoughts, words, and actions is affecting your life. Good luck with that!

[1] K. Tanahashi, P. Levitt. (2013) The Essential Dogen Writings of the Great Zen Master. Shambhala:  Boston, MA

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