the 4 rules from the late Master Sheng Yen

By 玄史生 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Jia shared the 4 rules from the late Master Sheng Yen of the Dharma Drum Mountain:

When you wish for something, ask yourself these four
questions: Is it needed? Is it wanted? Is it obtainable?
Is it advisable?

The four attitudes to take towards others: grateful,
thankful, transforming, and inspiring.

The four keys to good fortune: know what you are
blessed with, cherish it, help it grow, and plant seeds
for future blessings.

The four steps in dealing with any problem: face it,
accept it, deal with it, let it go.

Mindfulness provides incredible freedom

Shared by Jing

It provides the ability to question the accuracy of the perception provide the ability to respond to the feeling/emotion rather than react. It helps me to understand the truth, sometimes we display good qualities, sometimes bad. Sometimes the output looks like success, sometimes failure. But we are not defined by these qualities or behaviors.  

Mindfulness helped me to surface that wisdom to pull me out of the “dark valley” I thought of at that moment.  I hope to keep practicing to live as the oneness of mind and body.

What is “Mu”?

Shared by Ann.

Mu is a koan associated with Rinzai zen. In one story associated with this koan, a monk asks a teacher whether a dog has buddha nature, and the response is “Mu!” – (No). Later, the monks ask the teacher the same question and get the opposite answer – “Yes”! (Note: this article references a book focused on Mu.)

Mu is the concept of pure or profound awareness. One of Ann’s teachers recommended that she practice saying mu. She originally ventured into the woods but found the experience awkward, feeling like a lion cub that needed to learn to roar. She later followed her husband’s suggestion and used Levi’s stadium as her practice space – projecting Mu into the venue at times when the rest of the crowd was roaring with support of the 49ers.

Ann has a practice of ending her days by saying Mu. Doing so allows you to express your intent to strive for awareness. In the same way that her teacher encourages her, she encourages us to find opportunities to practice.

Omotenashi おもてなし

Shared by Kaz

Omotenashi has been part of Japanese culture for a long time. Omote means front, nashi means nothing. Omotenashi means from the bottom of the heart, sincere. Omotenashi is an important concept from the tea ceremony which is closely related to zen. The host who is serving tea and the guest are treating each other sincerely.

There are a couple of zen phrases closely related to Omotenashi.

Ichigo ichie (一期一会)is a famous zen phrase, literary means “one time, one meeting”. Often this phrase is translated to “Once in a lifetime”. Each moment is unrepeatable and special in its own right. Appreciate this moment and focus on this special moment.

Mukudoku (無功徳)Don’t expect any returns or rewards for doing something.

We can prepare, sit and talk at our zendo with Omotenashi.

Deepak shared Atithi Devo Bhava, a similar concept in Indian Hindu-Buddhist philosophy.

Don’t try to ride two horses at the same time

Flower by Olga

Talk by Ann

From Daily Sutras (禅宗日課聖典)


You are the Light itself

Rely on yourself

Do not rely on others.

The Dharma is the Light

Rely on the Dharma

Do not rely on anything other than the Dharma.

Rev Ito, the founder of our zendo, used to tell Ann, “Don’t try to ride two horses at the same time.”

Ann grew up as a Catholic and then studied Rinzai zen. After Rinzai, she learned Soto zen. Which religion is the right horse for her? Buddhist or Priest? Wife, mother, friend?

Everything changes, including the horse you are riding. It doesn’t mean you have to ride the same horse for the rest of your life.  

Zazen helps to see who you are.


shiki soku zekuu ・kuu soku zeshiki

Shared by Jia

This calligraphy by Rev Ito hangs in our zendo. Jia shared the meaning of this phrase.

色即是空・空即是色 is a phrase from the Heart Sutra(般若心経). It means Form is Emptiness, and Emptiness is Form. Emptiness is a crucial concept in Zen. To me, it has two folds of meaning. First, Emptiness is the true nature of all the things in the world. It is different than Nothingness. It doesn’t mean nothing exists at all. Instead, it tells us that nothing exists permanently, and nothing is entirely independent of everything else. Emptiness is impermanence. Second, Emptiness is a mode of perception, the way of looking at things happening around us. It is No Feeling, though. It instructs us to empty ourselves from presumptions, presuppositions, and prejudices, which are harmful thoughts in our minds. Emptiness can lead to true empathy. So why does Buddha teaches us Emptiness? I think Buddha wants us to focus on the true empty, impermanent nature of things, and be empty of all the egos and all the attachments, so we can reach No Suffering. Emptiness is very powerful.


Oscar talked about empathy.

With the current state of the world and our country, I find myself feeling angry at myself and feeling useless and powerless for nothing being able to make any changes. Through meditation I found out that the difference I can do is to reduce hate in the world. But how do we do that? While meditating I told myself that through empathy I could achieve that. Meditation taught me that separation is the biggest illusion we tell ourselves as humans. Since we are raised and taught different cultures, religions, and politics, but we are all one species who are trying to strive through nature and the communities we build. Ultimately we all bleed red and we all share similar emotions.


Talk by Chris

What is the source of desire? How are we to act on our feelings of desire – how we want ourselves or others to behave?

Chris shared a story about a neighbor who, many years ago, hosted a loud party. They informed Chris the day of the event that they would be holding a party that night and to let them know if it was too loud. That night it did disturb Chris’s family, and he let them know. This resulted in a strained relationship between the two families.

Recently, many years after the first party, the family hosted another celebration – a backyard birthday party with a live band. Chris saw this as an opportunity to reflect on what he had learned through meditation and see if he would react in a different way. Again, the party was loud and went on very late. Would he again confront them or take a different approach?

This time Chris chose to see if he could take another approach. To partially escape the pulsating sounds of the live drummer just on the other side of his fence, he moved to a bedroom on the other side of his house and cranked up a source of white noise. This worked out and allowed him to get a good night’s rest without asking his neighbors to tone down their celebration.