December 31, 2011

Season’s Greetings from Shinzen

New Year, New You!

An Advanced Perspective

--The Dharma Wheel by Shinzen Young

Update April 2014 - I came up with a new English translation. Check it out here.

December 16, 2011

Interview with Skeptiko

I was recently interviewed by Alex Tsakiris for the Skeptiko website. We talked about God, near death experience, and a gazillion other heady topics. 

So if you’re up for some hot skeptic-on-skeptic action, check it out! 

Update on Expand-Contract YouTube Channel

Check out the new features on my Expand-Contract You Tube channel! 

Per creator Har-Prakash Khalsa: 
“Just wanted to give you-all the heads up on the new face and improved user interface on the expandcontract Shinzen Mindfulness YouTube channel
Besides the new look there's a key word(s) search in the top right of the page that users can take advantage of (It needs a little fine tuning - but it's now up and running : ).

Shinzen-style "dharma on demand" just got a whole lot more user-friendly - I couldn't be happier!”

December 1, 2011

From Vipassana to Zen

I sometimes describe my approach to meditation as “a Burmo-Japanese fusion practice created by an American Jew who got turned on to science by a Roman Catholic priest.” 

The Burmo part refers to the 20th century Burmese technique of Noting which was developed by Mahasi Sayadaw. The Japanese part refers to the Expansion-Contraction paradigm of Joshu Sasaki Roshi, who teaches at Mount Baldy Zen Center and other locations. Essentially, I’ve taken the Roshi’s paradigm of expansion and contraction as the nature of consciousness (which he teaches through the intuitive method of koans and mounted it within the systematic framework of Noting. 

Whenever possible, I encourage my students to go the Source and study directly with Sasaki Roshi. However, the style of practice in Zen is radically different from, almost diametrically the opposite of, the style of practice in Vipassana (although, when things go well, the results should be similar). In Zen practice, one first learns how to flow with impermanence (expansion and contraction, anicca) through doing—riding on the rhythm of a highly ritualized schedule. After doing impermanence for many years, the Zen practitioner will begin to see that impermanence is also the nature of their sensory experience—both subjective (image, talk, emotional body) and objective (sight, sound, physical body). In Vipassana, the order is reversed: a person first carefully observes the senses, sees their impermanent nature and (hopefully) later learns to express that impermanence dynamically through their energy and actions.

In order to prepare students to make the transition from my relatively laid back Vipassana retreats to Sasaki Roshi’s extremely rigid and intense Rinzai Zen retreats, I prepared a series of talks that I call Zen Prep Talks. If you’re interested, you can listen to them here (or go to, click on "For Students", and click on "Zen Prep Talks" at the top of the page).

Recently, a student sent me a link to a video by Tom Davenport called "Bodhidharma's Shoe" that shows how Rinzai Zen practice is done under Sasaki Roshi’s leadership. Perhaps some of you will find it fun and interesting if you’ve never had contact with that tradition. Here’s the link. Enjoy.

By the way, the Roman Catholic priest that turned me on to science was an Irish Jesuit I met in Japan, Father William Johnston