The Great Way Is Not Difficult

Zhaozhou taught, “’The great way isn’t difficult if you don’t pick and choose.’ As soon as I speak,
you’ll think, ‘That’s picking and choosing,’ or ‘That’s clear.’ But I don’t identify with clarity. Can you live like that?”
A student asked, “If you don’t identify with clarity, what do you live by?”
“I don’t know.”

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PZI Events Calendar

W E L C O M E  to the PZI Events Calendar! Here you will find all upcoming events and registration links for PZI Zen Online retreats, sesshins, and weekly meditations & talks. Search by individual event, day, or month. Save to your Google Calendar or iCal Calendar. No experience required to participate. Questions? Contact


Sunday Zen with Guest Host Jesse Cardin: August 21st

Weekly Meditation & Talks: Monday – Thursday, join us

Alternating Tuesdays: PZI Talk LIVE! with Gaffney & Hitchcock return in September

Upcoming Retreats: Open Mind w John Tarrant & Tess Beasley

Open Temple: August 1st – September 30th

Next Sesshin: Door After Door Opening Inside w John Tarrant & Friends, October 4-9



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Planting Pines: Monday Meditation with Jon Joseph

July 18 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

Free – $10


When Linji was planting pine trees, Huangbo asked,
“What’s the good of planting so many trees in the deep mountains?”
“First, I want to make a natural setting for the main gate. Second, I want to make a landmark for later generations,” said Linji, thumping the ground with his mattock three times.
“Be that as it may, you’ve already tasted thirty blows of my stick,” replied Huangbo.
Again Linji thumped the ground with his mattock three times and breathed out a great breath.
“Under you my line will flourish throughout the world,” said Huangbo.

—The Record of Linji, Pilgrimages, II, (Kirchner, 2009)

When I recently read the above story of Linji’s work planting trees, I felt a wave of appreciation. How great, to beautify the temple with green pine trees! How wonderful, and even modern, to thoughtfully plant conifers for future generations! And then, Thump! Thump! Linji hit the ground three times with his mattock. What the hell was that? With the thumps, I could feel him sounding the beat of Earth’s heart, keeping time with the song of the universe. It is the thump of life and possibilities.

Linji’s teaching is a layered wisdom tailored perfectly to our present condition. What good is it to plant trees in the deep mountains? What benefit do we gain from registering new voters? Is it of any use to fight gun violence? Why try to house the homeless? With the thump of his mattock, Linji, in my mind, is guiding us away from the scorecard we keep on our universe, our perceived wins and losses. Instead, he is urging us to appreciate engagement in the great way, a way that knows no difficulty.

It is a way full of wonder and magic.

When Emperor Wu met Bodhidharma, he asked how much merit he had gained by building temples and ordaining monastics. Bodhidharma simply replied, “No merit whatsoever.” Bodhidharma’s universe is both vast and free of limitations. In that universe, trees, rocks, sticks and octopi shine with a kind of light of life. It is our universe as well.

I love trees, and plant as many that our property can support. Years ago, a stately blue oak, which stood near our hilltop water tank, blew down in a windstorm—we could see that its core had rotted. A few years ago, I planted an oak seedling on that same spot, but it then died in the heat of summer. The next year, I planted an oak sapling, put a drip hose on it, but it too succumbed to the heat, insects, and blight. This spring, I started a third seedling. At a foot a year, it will take several decades to grow to size. No matter. I planted it to make a natural setting for the hill where our water tank stands. I also planted it for future generations, to give them hope.

Merit in the all of it can’t be measured.

We can only listen to the thump of the mattock, to the beat of Earth’s heart.

—Jon Joseph

A body leaves the world.
But do its hopes leave the world?…
Rivers promise wherever we move will be somewhere,
maybe a root to hold onto.
And always, so many suffer more than we do.
Can’t you feel a current inside?
Don’t try to explain.

—Naomi Shihab Nye, Tanya’s Winter (excerpt), in Everything Comes Next

Jon Joseph Roshi


Join us for a koan, meditation, dharma talk, & conversation. All are welcome. Register to participate.


July 18
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Free – $10
Event Category:


PZI Online Temple


Jon Joseph Roshi
Register here to attend: