September 10, 2014

Notes From a Buddhist Mystic. {Book excerpt}

notes from a buddhist mystic

The following is an excerpt from my book, ‘Notes From a Buddhist Mystic’, available for purchase here. The book is a collection of essays regarding my views on the Buddhist path.

Some of the content was previously published here on elephant journal.

Please let me know what you think! 


When I was a kid I wanted to be a writer.

True story. Not because I had some creative urge, but because I thought writers had it easy.

I thought writers just sat around writing all day and didn’t have to really work. That was my idea when I was very young. Anyone who writes knows that is ridiculous. But youth comes with many ridiculous ideas. I had a childhood friend who really wanted to be an actor for the same reason.

I’m sure he was also wrong, although he did run off to Hollywood when he grew up and he acts in a few commercials and minor things.

At any rate, at some point in my life I just stopped writing. Maybe it was all the writing I had to do to get an English degree. Who knows. But within the fast few years I started writing again. I tried to write a novel and that didn’t go so well. I tried to write some poetry and that didn’t go so well either. I tried to write about my political views and that was a failure too.

But then there was something else I found the will to write about: religion.

Well, I don’t really call it religion. How about the Dharma?

Or the Dharma of the Buddha? Because it’s not the same as religion, but also it is.OOOH. That’s hard to wrap our minds around.

I started meditating over ten years ago and after a few years I officially became a Buddhist. Buddhism spoke to me on a deep and personal level and I felt pulled to it in a way that I couldn’t have resisted even if I had tried. One of my teachers said that he suspected that it was related to Karma from a previous life. I’m not sure about all that, but I do know that becoming a Buddhist and taking different Buddhist vows was something I couldn’t resist.

So I started a blog and I wrote about Buddhist concepts for a little while, especially my personal journey. I submitted some articles to an online magazine called Elephant Journal.

I became a regular contributor. It turns out I can endlessly write about this subject. Article after article after article came out of me and they continue to come.

They say the Dharma cannot be expressed in words.

Yet we keep trying to do just that.

One of my heroes, Zen Master Dogen, wrote a work called the Shobogenzo, or Treasury of the True Dharma Eye. He spent thousands and thousands of pages elucidating concepts that can’t be explained in words. I’m nowhere near the writer he was, but I can only hope to be half as prolific.

I’ve included personal stories, lists of Buddhist virtues, and stories of great Zen masters. These are all just floating around at different points in the text, the Zen masters appear in chronological order except for Ikkyu, my favorite. He appears ahead of the others.

I hope you enjoy this collection. Some of it is from my work at Elephant Journal, some of it is from my blog, and some of it is original content that hasn’t been published anywhere.

It’s a bit of a mixture of different kinds of things, but I’ve tried to place the general meditation and Buddhism things at the beginning and the Ch’an/Zen specific things towards the end.

One more note: I use the term ‘Mahayana‘ several times. It’s a term for a large sect of Buddhism that includes many smaller branches including Ch’an, Pure Land, Tendai, and many others.

To put it as simply as possible: Mahayana Buddhism is centered in the belief that our true nature is Enlightened already.

I’ll go into that concept a great deal in this book.



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Editor: Renée Picard

Image: courtesy of the author

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