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Talks & Essays


Our Path Is Limitless and Vast

Published in Buddhadharma (Winter 2010)
"Consider how many sentences you could write containing the words 'dharma' and 'women.' When I put them together,the next word that wants to come into the sentence is 'potential.'"

Through the Dharma Gate

Published in Shambhala Sun (November 2010)
"In meditation, we're making an offering of ourselves. We're announcing our desire for the deepest meeting of all, the one between the vastness and the individual, between what is without form and what exists as form. We offer ourselves as the place where these two great realities might meet and mix and create something new."

Free From the Prison of Gender Roles

Published in Shambhala Sun (May 2009)
"For decades, Rita Gross has been a unique and provocative
voice in religious studies and feminist theology. The
title of one of her books, Buddhism After Patriarchy, was a bright
jolt, the simple juxtaposition of those words obliging us to take a
hard look at the relationship of one to the other."

Hidden No More: A Review of "Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens, and Macho Masters"

Published in Buddhadharma (Winter 2009)
"So here's the thumbnail review: Read this book. What we know of Zen has been
incomplete, because the part about women--their stories and their teachings
through the ages--has mostly remained hidden from ordinary sight. Grace
Schireson's book is an important contribution toward making our understanding
of Zen whole."

The Whole Way

Published in Shambhala Sun (March 2009)
"This is how I've come to think of awakening. It's everywhere--as sudden and complete as the crash of thunder on a summer afternoon, as promising as a distant smudge of cottonwoods, revealing the presence of water. There are times of drought, too, when the very idea of awakening seems to have dried up under an unrelenting sky. We might think of awakening as something that happens inside us, but, as with a landscape, we also happen inside of it."

Sudden vs Gradual Enlightenment

Published in Buddhadharma (Spring 2009)
"We've reached the point where any discussion of Zen that doesn't take into account new findings about its literary and cultural history looks like quaint mythologizing, instead of something that can be refined through new research and deepening insight."

Koans for Troubled Times (2008)

Originally published in Buddhadharma
"Twelve hundred years ago, a few Chan innovators had a fierce desire to leap out of the usual ways of doing things and into new territory--not to escape the catastrophe looming around them, but to more fully meet it. If they were going to be helpful they had to develop, and quickly, flexibility of mind, an easy relationship with the unknown, and a robust willingness to engage with life as they found it. Perhaps most importantly, they needed a really big view."


Stepping into the Beautiful Project: Uncertainty, Grace, and Being Human (2004)

Baccalaureate Address, Colorado College
"What does it mean to be alive in a universe that's like a vast sea, and everything we know and experience is no more than the sunlit foam on the surface of the waves of that sea? And how is it that that sunlit foam--the world as we experience it--is so terribly lovely and so awesomely difficult, all at the same time?"

Koans as Art (1998)

"These paintings gave me the light of my childhood, which I knew in my cells but wasn't aware of. So I had the world, and my own life, in a way I didn't before, because I became conscious of something, and could articulate something, which had until then been immensely important but unconscious. And this is how koans can work: They illuminate the essential nature we already are but lose touch with. They too can give us the world, and our own lives, in ways we didn't have them before."

Entering the Dream of All Beings (1998)

"Between the world of form and the world of emptiness there is another world, the world of the dreaming of all things. It is the place we are never alone, where all beings interpenetrate and transform each other, where life dreams itself into existence moment by moment, over and over again."

Delusions and the Transforming of Them (1998)

"If the prerequisite for happiness and sanity is to have this ideal life, all of us are doomed, because no one, not a single one of us, does...This is exactly the kind of delusion our practice is about letting go of. Not so we can come into some kind of perfect life, but so we can come into relationship with what is actually true about life...This is human life. Exactly this. The vastness throws up redwoods and skyscrapers and killer whales and human beings who are exactly like this, and it is not a mistake."

Enlightenment (1997)

"So what is your enlightenment? it is the place you came from when you were born and it is the place you will return when you die. It is home. The particular wave that is you rises and falls for such a brief moment from that great ocean of essential nature, and that wave is entirely ocean, is home itself. As children the taste of salt water still lingers in our mouths, but as we grow older the memory of ocean recedes, leaving a feeling of longing, of inexplicable exile, in its wake."