Ceremonies: Long Readings for Afternoon: Song Of Enlightenment – Yongjia Xuanjue

Song of Enlightenment  —Yongjia Xuanjue   There is a leisurely one, walking the Dao, beyond […]

Enlightenment Is Something We Do Together

Conversation is itself a kind of meditation, a way we can accompany each other through life. We can share errors, painful mistakes, dreams, losses, discoveries, or just the ordinary glowing things. That’s a good day. Article by John Tarrant published in Lion’s Roar magazine February 18, 2014.

Linji’s Enlightenment & the Awakenings of Great Chan Teachers

John revisits the awakenings and koans of the great teachers, among them Yunmen and his teachings. In the layered quality of the teachings there is a common thread in our lineage: we are all in it together, all held by this great path, we put ourselves in the vessel and see what happens. Each of us holds a piece of the story—trust the piece you hold. As recorded Fall Sesshin 2019.

Bodhidharma’s Enlightenment

“No merit whatsoever!” Bodhidharma responds to Emperor Wu in Case 2, in the Book of Serenity. David follows Bodhidharma’s path, and the process of practice.

About Enlightenment

Allison Atwill at Summer Sesshin 2019 – Talks about enlightenment on July 27th.

Hoping for Enlightenment

Allison Atwill gives a talk at the 2016 Summer retreat.

Dharma Theme – Zen Luminaries: A Series of Conversations with Jon Joseph Roshi

Modern Zen Luminaries—a series of Zen Buddhist scholars, writers, poets, translators, and practitioners—join PZI’s Jon Joseph Roshi for lively discussions online, with a focus on our Chan lineage. Recordings from the 2021 September 27th & November 1st Monday Zen Online meetings.

Zen Luminaries: A Conversation with Peter Hershock hosted by Jon Joseph

As recorded Monday, November 1st, 2021, as part of a series of conversations with important Zen (Chan) voices: translators, writers, scholars, and practitioners.

Ceremonies: Long Readings for Afternoon: Taking Part in the Gathering – Shitou Xiqian

Taking Part in the Gathering —Shitou Xiqian    The mind of the great Indian Immortal […]

Ceremonies: Long Readings for Afternoon: Beginner’s Mind – Shunryu Suzuki

Beginner’s Mind —Shunryu Suzuki In the beginner’s mind there is no thought, “I have attained […]

Ceremonies: Long Readings for Afternoon: Relying on Mind – Sengcan

Relying on Mind —Sengcan   The Great Way is not difficult;  it just precludes picking […]

Ceremonies: Long Readings for Afternoon: From The Record of Linji

From The Record of Linji —Linji Followers of the Way, as I look at it, […]

Ceremonies: Ancestral Words for the End of the Day 

Ancestral Words for the End of the Day    (All: palms together, heads bowed) Liaison […]

Sutra Book: The Great Heart Sutra – Spoken

The Great Heart Sutra (Sutra follows this description, with words that may be spoken or […]

Sutra Book: The Great Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra – Sung Version

The Great Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra —Sheet music score by Richie Dominge 2007, in separate post […]

Awakenings of Linji & the Great Chan Teachers

John revisits the awakenings and koans of the great teachers, among them Yunmen and Linji. The love, and attention, and faithfulness at the heart of the stories and teachings of the Chan ancestors is their gift to us. And everything we bring to it is an addition into this great heritage, and is part of the layering. Transcript from a video talk in Fall Sesshin 2019.

More Spells for Passing Through Danger & Demons

Everyone is assailed by demons right now. Demons have a long history in the culture. If you’ve got demons, you’re alive! But you don’t have to get on board with them. Demons come out of your own heart, just like enlightenment. Tess Beasley reads from James Hillman’s “Dreams & the Blood Soul.” Michelle Riddle & Jon Joseph chant a Zen spell for dispelling demons, the Sho Sai Myo Kichijo Dharani. John reads Keats and Coleridge.

Haven’t We All Been Susan Boyle?

“I like to find instances of Zen in pop culture where people have never heard of Zen. Along these lines, it’s always nice to have what you think is going on, turn out to be not what is going on. This is particularly so when what you think is going on is embarrassing or sad. This is the basic Buddhist enlightenment story: that what is going on is more interesting than you think.”

Carl Jung’s Red Book

Jung’s journey is interesting, harrowing, ridiculous, pompous, incomprehensible, amusing, sad, frightening, wise—the whole range of the human is there. Jung’s point of meeting with Buddhism is that, at a time when darkness seemed and was near, he offered the example of a trust in the deepest possibility of transformation, and in the involuntary processes that we contain, and in the depths of what it is to be human.

Spilling Down Through All the Realms: The Light Inside the Dark

Once you really have a good connection with spirit, it will always be available to you if you turn towards it in a dark time. I’m not saying spirit is a false promise. It’s a true promise, but it doesn’t do our living for us. That living is the part we have to do for ourselves. And when we do that, then the soul comes in.

1, 2, 3, 4, Rhinoceros

When we are not bound by the story of our lives—the fictions, really—and not bound by the effort of knowing what everything is and where it’s going and what it should be, then a new kind of freedom appears. The body feels that and becomes at ease. You experience the wonder and beauty of just being here in the world of consciousness. 

The World Catches Us Every Time

Distraction can have a long arc, and until the end of the story, you can’t say what’s a distraction and what’s a calling.

The Paradox of Happiness

“Mostly, if a method for achieving happiness is not successful, people think something like, She should have loved me more. Or, I wasn’t trying hard enough. Or, I wasn’t holding my mouth right. Whether the needle on the blame meter points to yourself or to others, that particular machine will always seem to be malfunctioning. You try to do the method better, rather than looking at whether the method works. So let’s look at the method.”

Let Me Count the Ways

Love is an enlightenment story available to everyone, and that story includes being attacked by demons as well as being showered with roses. If we widen our gaze, in love, we discover what we like about ourselves and how we want to live our lives.

Meditating with a Tyger at the Summer Lake – Taking the Risk

Meetings in Zen can feel risky just like meeting a “tyger” or a mountain lion on a footpath. And yet that is the open gate, the place where we become available to the gifts of the universe. When barriers to experience are down, anything can happen. Guishan’s enlightenment did not stop his travels, and a tiger helped him think twice about leaving his monastery.

Enter Here, Step Through

Day two of 2018 Winter Sesshin. John Tarrant introduces the great koan “No,” a gift from the ancestors. The gift is what happens when we hang out with the koan. “No” as the purest gate. When we step through, we find out we’re here! It’s not personal, you’re harmonizing with the universe. Transcript from a recording on January 17, 2018.

Spring Equinox – Return from the Dark: Transmission – It’s Not Outside of You

Transmission happens when we let our hearts open. It comes from a free heart. Babies are transmission devices! Taking up the koan you are given—a little temple to live in. Koans do what they do without consulting anyone. The work reveals a wonderful quality, of the world coming to meet us. The great lesson: It’s not outside of you, and you can’t legislate your own enlightenment! 4 Vows: Jordan McConnell. As recorded March 21, 2021.

Sudden Awakening

“In even the simplest life, pain and disappointment accumulate—and at some moment everyone longs to walk through a gate and leave the past behind, perhaps for an earlier time when the colors were bright and the heart carried no weight. The quest for a fresh start is so fundamental that it defines the shape of the stories we tell each other.” Article by John Tarrant published in Lion’s Roar magazine on July 1, 2007.

Free & Easy Wandering Series: Following the Scent of Grass

John Tarrant begins with a wild Daoist story from the Zhuangzi, about a giant fish named Kun. The freedom is in your own breast and the koan path opens the way. Includes meditation segments, music from Michael Wilding, vows from Jordan McConnell & Amaryllis Fletcher, Cantor. PZI Zen Online. As recorded May 2, 2021.

Self and Ox Forgotten

Jon Joseph Roshi, Director of San Mateo Zen, considers the 8th Ox-herding picture along with a verse from 12th century poet Kuon Shihyuan. What happens if Ox and Self disappear? PZI Zen Online. As recorded May 3, 2021.

New at Pacific Zen Institute


New to Pacific Zen Institute? – Welcome!

WELCOME! At PZI we’re creating a culture of transformation through meditation, koans, conversation, and the arts. Explore and connect in PZI Zen Online events, our extensive Koans and Liberation Project Archive (KALPA), and more.


Register: Dreams of Awakening – Sunday Meditation & Talk with John Tarrant & Friends

PZI Digital Temple: 10:30am 
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Register: The Way Is Beyond Words – Monday Meditation & Talk with Guest Teacher Eduardo Fuentes

PZI Zen Online: 6pm PST
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All PZI Members Invited: Morning Meditations in the Open Temple through Year’s End

NOV-DEC 2021
PZI Digital Temple
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Register: PZI Talk LIVE! Finding Yourself in a Story – Tuesday Eve with Gaffney & Hitchcock

PZI Zen Online: 5pm PST
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Register: Buddha’s Life In Your Own Heart – A Two-Day Retreat with John Tarrant, Tess Beasley & Michelle Riddle

DECEMBER 11th & 12th
PZI Digital Temple 10-4
PST The Universe

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