Zen & Poetry

Posted on Jun 22 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter

Primary Point: Why do you, as a Zen Master, bother to compose poems?

Zen Master Seung Sahn: For you. [laughter]

PP: When you compose your poems, do you actually write using “beautiful language”?

ZMSS: No. This moment appears, then compose a poem. Not checking situations, and not making anything.

PP: In your teaching, you say that people suffer from word sickness, so word medicine is necessary. Would you describe how you use language in your poetry?

ZMSS: Simple! Only whatever situation comes up or appears! Any style of writing is OK. You know, Korean, Japanese, English, any kind of writing, but most importantly, only what appears.

PP: This seems too simple. I love reading your poetry because it allows me to connect to this moment, so what if I was to say to you, “I love your poems; they are so beautiful,” what would you say to me in response?

ZMSS: I don’t care! [much laughter]

PP: Of course. In your teaching you often talk about candy, something that gives us a good feeling. So a Zen Master’s words can sometimes be candy and sometimes hooks. Is there candy in your poems? Are there hooks?

ZMSS: Yes, sometimes candy and sometimes hooks appear in my poems, but realize that I don’t create candy or hooks in these poems. They are written, with no intention, only for all of my students.

PP: What happens in your mind when you read or hear other peoples’ poetry?

ZMSS: I don’t check other peoples’ poetry. The mind with which I read other’s poetry is only a practicing mind, so the meaning appears. Then I only comment.

PP: So, what is the best way to read your poems so that I may learn your teaching?

ZMSS: Put it all down, everything! Then my mind and your mind can connect.

PP: That’s not so easy. Is poetry Zen? Does true poetry manifest Zen mind?

ZMSS: Zen mind, poetry mind, writing mind, practicing mind, all are not different.

(From a Letter to the Polish Sangha)

November in Warsaw

Fifty people together in one room.
Sitting Zen for three days.

Try mind. Bread
And potatoes and onions.
Fifty people eating together.
Get energy. Find the true way.

What is the true way?
Don’t know? Primary point?
Before thinking?
Someone appears. Hits the floor.
But is that the true way?

November in Warsaw.
The sky is dark.
Fifty faces are shining.

(from Bone of Space by Zen Master Seung Sahn)

PP: So would you say it is better to write poems or to talk about poems?

ZMSS: If you see clearly, hear clearly, and smell clearly, then everything is clear. So, right now… what appears? People talk about how one poem is this and another poem is something else. This is making something.

PP: So, only read the poem, then [claps hands] cut off all thinking, and then only what appears in this moment is all that is necessary?

ZMSS: Yes. It’s very simple. For example, in my poetry book Bone of Space, when I traveled around Europe, for each city I visited I wrote a poem. If you read these poems you will understand the situation, condition and relationships that existed during that trip — how I connected to each country, each city, and how I understood these cities. Something would appear, and I would make a poem. This is not special; in writing poetry, I only see clearly, hear clearly, smell clearly, and think clearly. My thinking is clear, not checking anything. just think clearly, then make your poem.

PP: In the west there is a rhyming poetry style, or in Japan there is Haiku, which is limited to 17 syllables. These are poetic structures, but it appears to me that Zen poetry has no structure. Is this correct?

ZMSS: Yes, that is correct.

PP: So, whatever appears we write it down?

ZMSS: Haiku poets only follow Japanese style. This style is very tight and many people are attached to its form. Zen means, don’t attach to name and form. Perceive everything. Don’t attach to the particular country, people, forms, situations, or conditions — only become one. Then some idea will appear; that’s the poem. That’s it, OK? My poetry does not make anything. It’s the result of seeing clearly, hearing clearly, and thinking clearly.

A long time ago in Japan, there was a well-known region called Matsushima. Matsushima is a place by the ocean, with mountains, rivers, trees, and flowers. Matsushima inspired many beautiful poems. At one time the famous Zen Master and poet named Basho decided to visit. When Basho saw the beauty of this place he wrote this poem:

Matsushima —
ah, Matsushima!

Three clear lines! This is a very famous poem. Only Matsushima is Matsushima — it is very simple. That is the most important point. This is great Zen poetry.



Calligraphy Class Photos

Posted on Jun 14 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter

This past Sunday we had the Preview Calligraphy Class taught by Kitchen Master, Chong Yew. He has over twenty years experience as a calligrapher and has many examples of his work available for purchase in the Pagoda Gift Shop. The gift shop is open on Wednesday evenings 6:00 – 6:30PM after our Public Vegetarian dinner. All proceeds go to support the Zen Center. A big thank you to Caroline Hardman who attended the class with her son and took these wonderful photos of the event.


Open House and Yard Sale

Posted on Jun 08 , 2011 in Newsletter & Upcoming Events

Our Yard Sale / First Annual Open House will be on Saturday, July 9th and will include events such as live music, calligraphy, baked goods, and an auction. Please come represent PZC and show our strength in numbers as we open our doors to the local community. Contact PZC Resident Darlene Demers or House Master Troy Rapp if you have any items to donate, which can be sold to raise funds for the Zen Centers’ needed repairs. You can email Darlene at mudduckbooboo@aol.com or call Troy at 401-321-6665.


Calligraphy Class

Posted on May 26 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter & Upcoming Events

Sunday June 26 – 12:00 – 1:00PM: After our 10:00AM scheduled long sitting we will begin a series of six Chinese Calligraphy classes which will be offered every other Sunday after the scheduled long sitting or Dharma talk. The one hour long classes will be $15 each or $80 for all six. Paper, brush, old rag, newspaper, saucer plate, and ink can be provided for an additional $15 but feel free to bring your own.  Please register through our office at 401-658-1464 or director@providencezen.org.



Bodhidharma Scroll

Posted on May 26 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter

Our Guest Master and Providence Zen Center resident, Kimball Amram, asked me to post this beautiful scroll he has hanging in the staircase leading to the Kitchen. It is a copy of Bodhidharma from the Chosen Dynasty (1392 -1910) and measures 17.5″ x 55″. The actual artwork itself measures 15.5″ x 27″. If you are interested in purchasing this beautiful scroll for your home or Zen Center please email kimballamram@yahoo.com. All proceeds go to support Providence Zen Center.


Zen and the Art of Living

Posted on May 19 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter & Upcoming Events

July 16 – 29. Register for one day or for the entire program.  To register for your retreat online – fill out the retreat registration form.

Non-Members – $65/day – $820/whole retreat

Members – $45/day – $560/whole retreat

Dharma Teachers – $35/day – $440/whole retreat

You can download and print the Zen and the Art of Living PDF here.

Special Guest Colin Beavan will be leading workshops July 23rd -24th! He is the author featured in the film “No Impact Man” and a dharma teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen.

“Colin Beavan is a liberal schlub who got tired of listening to himself complain about the world without ever actually doing anything about it…”

-from noimpactman.typepad.com

Other classes and workshops will include: • Organic Farming & Gardening • Pita & Bread Making  • Yoga  • Kong An & Consulting Interviews  • Dharma Talks • Sutra Workshops  • One Day Retreat  • Kido  • Bonfires  • Work & Community Practice

Experience Zen Center life and how to apply Zen to your everyday life.For more information please email director@providencezen.org or call 401-658-1464.


In addition to regularly scheduled morning and evening practice:

Saturday July 16 – Intro / Orientation.

Sunday July 17 – 9:30AM – 3:30PM One Day Meditation Retreat. Orientation for first time participants begins at 9AM.

Monday July 18 – 8:30AM Organic Gardening Day with Garden Master, David Barstis. 4 – 5PM Yoga with Theresa Murphy, PZC Resident. http://theresamurphy.net/

Tuesday July 19 – Bread Making Workshop 8:30 AM – 2:00PM with PZC Resident and Dharma Teacher Diana Starr Daniels

Wednesday July 20 – Garden Work Period 8:30 – 10:00AM, 1:30PM Dharma Talk with Zen Master Bon Haeng (Mark Houghton), 4 – 5PM Yoga with Theresa Murphy, PZC Resident. http://theresamurphy.net/ , 7:00PM Kong An interviews with Jose Ramirez, JDPSN after special chanting.

Thursday July 21 – 8AM – 4PM South County Farm Day, road trip to Nancy Hedgpeth, JDPSN’s farm for work practice.

Friday July 22 – Kido 9AM – 12PM Chanting with Senior Dharma Teacher Edith Lebowitz, 4 – 5PM Yoga with Theresa Murphy, PZC Resident. http://theresamurphy.net/ , Pita making workshop after Yoga in the afternoon with the Abbot George Hazlbauer.

Saturday July 23 – No Impact Weekend – Workshops with Colin Beavan, author and Dharma Teacher featured in the film “No Impact Man”. http://noimpactman.typepad.com/

Sunday July 24 -No Impact Weekend – Workshops with Colin Beavan, author and Dharma Teacher featured in the film “No Impact Man”. http://noimpactman.typepad.com/

Monday July 25 – Work period in the morning then tea in the morning with Abbot, George Hazlbauer and Kitchen Master Chong Yew. Calligraphy class in the afternoon with Kitchen Master Chong Yew. 4 – 5PM Yoga with Theresa Murphy, PZC Resident. http://theresamurphy.net/

Tuesday July 26 – 10AM – 12PM Kong An interviews with Nancy Hedgpeth, JDPSN and Long Sitting meditation.

Wednesday July 27 – Raising bees and chickens for sustainability with PZC Resident and Dharma Teacher, Diana Starr Daniels. 4 – 5PM Yoga with Theresa Murphy, PZC Resident. http://theresamurphy.net/

Thursday July 28 – Zen and Yoga with Yoga Teacher and PZC Resident, Theresa Murphy and House Master Troy Rapp. http://theresamurphy.net/

Friday July 29 – Sutra Workshop.



2011 Summer Kyol Che

Posted on May 18 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter & Upcoming Events

Diamond Hill Monastery

Tuesday August 2nd – 21st

A Kyol Che (“coming together”) is a longer, intensive meditation retreat held in the winter and summer. Held at our Diamond Hill Zen Monastery, it is modeled after the traditional winter and summer retreats in the mountain temples of Korea. For more detailed information, download the Kyol Che Information Booklet (pdf format).

Please register for Kyol Che retreats at least one week in advance.

To register for your retreat online – fill out the retreat registration form.




Why Did the Chickens Cross the Road?

Posted on May 03 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter

To come to the Providence Zen Center where they can live in a humane, cage-free environment.  PZC has purchased chicks, affectionately dubbed the Dharma Chicks, which will be raised on the grounds and eventually provide eggs to supplement our food budget.  They will be joined shortly by pullets (young laying hens) which will provide eggs immediately for the kitchen.  The chickens are hybrids, a cross between Rhode Island Reds and White Leggins.  They are laying hens bred to produce eggs rather than supply meat.  George will be building a predator-safe Chicken Coop and Darlene Demers will lend her artistic talents to paint and decorate the coop.  Kimball  has volunteered to be the Center’s official egg collector.  Part of the day the chickens will be free-range.  Studies have show that free-range hen eggs are more nutritious and, I would guess, due to the natural and varied diet.  These eggs are a little harder to crack because of the higher level of calcium than store-bought eggs.  The eggs will be washed just before cooking.  Mother hens leave an invisible coating on their eggs that protect them from bacteria.  When the coating is left on, the eggs keep much longer than commercial eggs.  The Center also purchases eggs from a neighbor whose chickens are raised in the same humane, environment.  Stop by and see the Dharma Chicks.  They love visitors!  One more step toward sustainability and living gently on our earth.

-Diana Starr Daniels PZC Resident




Posted on May 02 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter


The Providence Zen Center recently purchased two Honeybee packages from a local bee keeper. Bee packages are 30 pounds of bees and a queen which were installed in hives from Nancy Hedgpeth’s apiary. The hives are located in the far end of the orchard, near the stone wall and away from human traffic. The Center provides an ideal environment for bees with fruit trees, a vegetable and flower garden, water and lots of land on which to forage. The Center’s primary intention is pollination of the orchard and garden and also to help support bees which have become threatened due to loss of habitat and the use of pesticides. Bees are highly sensitive to pesticides and could be viewed as the canaries in the mines. Any honey that is harvested in the Fall is secondary, but also welcome. I wore a recently-purchased bee suit to install the bees which had a complicated way of attaching the veil to the suit. I finally gave up in frustration and just let the veil hang loosely. However, a bee found its way under the veil and began buzzing around my face. I made an undignified exit by sprinting across the orchard, flinging the hat and veil into the wind and smacking at the air. Fortunately no one was around with a video camera to capture this unskilled moment. The bee survived.


-Diana Starr Daniels, PZC Resident


Zen Master Bon Haeng’s Birthday Celebration

Posted on Apr 27 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter & Upcoming Events

Dear Sangha and Friends,

Cambridge Zen Center, Providence Zen Center, and Open Meadow Zen Group invite you to a special celebration in honor of the 60th birthday of our beloved Zen Master and Guiding Teacher Bon Haeng (Mark Houghton). Please click the image below to view the original pdf.

Please join us for this special event!  For more info, call 617-576-3229 or email director@cambridgezen.com.

RSVP please and invitation is also posted through a link on the home page of www.cambridgezen.com.