An Encouraging Word or Two


Happy Birthday & A Feast Day 


This past week we celebrated the day considered to be the birth day of Shakyamuni Buddha and the feast day of Julian of Norwich, a Christian mystic. Many celebrated and recognized Julian of Norwich as a Saint, someone who is wholly virtuous and the designated birthday of Shakyamuni Buddha, an awakened, transcendent being.

Both holy days are a way to recognize these figures as worthy of regard. To celebrate their spiritual vigor. To remember the work can be done by us.


During a time when nations are teetering on collapse from within, these celebrations give us an opportunity to stop and consider there is more to life than meets the eye. More to life than the constant barrage of injustice that is happening in plain sight. More to life than suffering. As stated in Hamlet:


There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy [science]


There are those among us from the past and present who have lived and do live remarkable spiritual lives that uplift us on our journey. They represent the ideals of spiritual practice for they are those among us who give everything in order to discover the Truth. They encourage us to do the same by being ordinary, real people who become extraordinary,  transcendent people of the Truth. It takes fearless courage and big-open-handed generosity.

As the shelter-in-place continues, we need to remember to look up to those of us who have given everything, their whole life to relieve suffering through a spiritual journey. Suffering, for both Shakyamuni and Julian of Norwich was the cause of their exquisite, spiritual lives. Both sought the Truth after a recognition of suffering in the world, in their own life. Each one set out on a journey – an interior journey to find the relief and remedy to the ever-present mash-up of the samsaric world.

There is no doubt that suffering in the world is in plain sight on many, many levels. Shakyamuni and Julian are an encouragement to each one of us – to see the force of suffering which is pervasive and evident, as a cause for us to set out, to begin and continue our journey for freedom from the unreliable, impermanent world. And to do it with fearless courage and big-hearted generosity. To vow, not to give up and when we do to return and keep going.


Hip Hip Hooray!

Hip Hip Hooray!

For Shakyamuni.

For Julian.

For you & me.

Humming Bird


Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image credits

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Zen Proustian Cake by Rev. Yao Xin Shakya


No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory as this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me.

Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?…

And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea. -Proust


Proust in his ambitious novel, Remembrance of Things Past may, at least in this famous passage about eating a cake, resemble the curious activity of Siddhartha Gautama at the Plowing Festival. In biting into the sweet madeleine he bites into a morsel so familiar he enters a delicate ecstasy from a remembrance of the past. He suggests that all of us have, at some basic level, the intuition to transcend the material world. Proust’s recollection of eating a piece of madeleine cake points to an undeveloped insight and skill that reaches out across time and space through ordinary crumbs.

Siddhartha Gautama, when near death from six years of austere asceticism recalls a thing from the past perhaps his first bit of this greater nature. It was a remembrance of a time where he sat under a tree in his youth and looked within himself. This memory, this remembering seems to be a turning point, a point where a simple, spontaneous energy, though dormant, became active.


Siddartha’s Story

The story goes that when Buddha was a child, he attended an annual celebration called the Plowing Festival. As often happens to children, he was very bored with it all, and so went and sat under a tree. There, he spontaneously entered into profound meditation through observing his breath. At the end of the festival his parents discovered him beneath the tree, roused him from his inner absorption, and took him home. He never repeated what he had done that day beneath the tree, but he never forgot it.

After years of practicing incredible austerities and yoga, Siddhartha found himself without true realization. At this point he vows to sit beneath a tree and to remain there until he attained enlightenment. But how would he do that? What should be his practice, since everything he had learned in so many years had proven useless?

Under the tree he recalled his childhood meditation at the Plowing Festival. “Might that be the way to enlightenment?” he wondered. It seemed unthinkable that the simple, spontaneous practice of his long-ago childhood could be a small bite into Nirvana. But something from deep within him spoke, saying: “That is the only way to enlightenment.”

The only way to enlightenment is what the old patriarchs call, “turning the light within.” It is there where we find the way; it was the way Siddhartha found. The future Buddha facing his own suffering remembered that simple, very simple thing he did so naturally as a young boy.

He knew the extremes of luxury and austere ascetics had failed to awaken him. Near the end of his six years of austere and arduous ascetics, nearing physical collapse, he heard a group of girls pass by playing a lute. He thought,

“When the strings of the lute are loose, its sound won’t carry. When the strings are too tight, it breaks. When the strings are neither too loose nor too tight, the music is beautiful. I’m pulling my strings too tightly. I cannot find the Way to Truth living a life of luxury or with my body so weak.” -Buddhist Studies

A young girl, Sujata, seeing him fall and faint from weakness presented him with a bowl of some milky rice. There was no more struggle in the two extremes and he was open to just accepting what was given. And at that moment he entered the beginning of what might be called his authentic spiritual path.

That is Gautama’s story and it is a wonderful story. It is a marvelous story. It helps us to remember the requirements of the Zen path; honesty with the self and the world. Gautama’s recollection is a Proustian cake available to each one of us. He recalled what he knew and cultivated it on the path to enlightenment. His realization shows the importance of cause and effect, the deepness of our relative being, and our changing nature. He was willing to change and let go which requires humility and confidence.

When we remember how fragile and impermanent everything is we have a possibility for faith in the “Real Nature;” what the old patriarchs call “Buddha Nature” or more simply, “True Mind”. We also have the possibility to change and be humbled by change as Siddhartha was.

These two realizations, the relative, impermanent nature of all things are two wings of the same “iron bird.” This relative, impermanent being is included in “Buddha Nature;” we don’t need to look for any “Nirvanic realization” outside this “Samsaric world.” Siddhartha heard a lute under a tree and awakened.

Proust’s character, who recalls in a fragmentary moment the seed of transcendent intuition, much like Siddhartha, encourages us that realization is in the here and now. In Chinese Buddhism, we talk about having faith in the Buddha Amitabha and the Pure Land. The All Enlightened Amitabha, is no other than our “Buddha Nature;” his Pure Land is no other than our Mind when it is pure, when it doesn’t dwell in separation with the world. There is nothing magical yet, it is a mystical path.

As we shine the light sincerely on our human condition and develop a strong faith in Buddha Nature, we realize the importance of accord with all Dharmas, with the world. It is like the Buddha Shakyamuni agreed to accept a simple bowl of milky rice from a young girl. All moments of life can be a moment of harmony, a moment of expression of what the middle path is when the mind is pure.

Harmony with the expressions of the moment is, like the young Siddhartha, to simply sit and turn our energies within. These energies, which are usually externalized to the world in distraction after distraction, are nothing fancy. They are thoughts, desires and images that we firmly but kindly harmonize naturally with our Body-Breath-Mind. It is like the following experience of a Zen priest who goes to visit his seriously ill mother in hospital.


Yao Xin Shakya’s Story

I was alone looking at the pained face of my mother. She gave so much of her life energy for me, for my life. Although she was asleep I saw the agony she suffers. It was hard to see, hard to know.

Suddenly, she woke up.

I remember her eyes looked directly at me, as though she looked through me. I couldn’t look her in the eyes, so I began talking to hide my discomfort. At one point, she smiled and looked outside. I did the same. We sat together watching a magpie play with the wind. It lasted at least five minutes; five minutes of total silence, of total presence.

Looking together in the same direction I had the most authentic moment I ever had with my mother. At one point, she looked at me and smiled a big, wondrous smile. I didn’t say anything, but I knew I just had a wonderful moment of truthfulness, a simple and deep moment far from any of my preconceived habits or desires.

I never before felt so close to my mom. I felt as though I met her under the Bodhi tree in the hospital. This moment with my mother was my Zen Proustian cake, my bite of enlightenment.


Our Bodhi Tree

No matter what Buddhist technique we use, our point is to be one-pointed and to realize our True Mind. Just like the ascetic Gautama, we are able to find a Bodhi Tree. We decide to sit under it and never get up until we find enlightenment within. We allow impermanence to penetrate to the point we are humbled by it, we live by the precepts, and firmly trust our Buddha Nature.

Our Bodhi Tree every day is in every moment, but our ideas and wishes and desires may block the true mind. We return to one-pointed, single-mindedness, one breath at a time to enter the Pure Land. It’s available to those who attend to it, one moment at a time.


Humming Bird


Author: FaShi Yao Xin Shakya

Image credits: Madeleine Cakes

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 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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Quietude. Dogen’s 3rd Awareness




Quietude – a state of stillness; calmness, and quiet in a person or place

Really, quietude is not about noise or sound or silence. It’s not a drugged state either.


Some stories come to mind…


When I was a high school student and had difficulty falling asleep, I’d turn my clock radio on as I went to bed and listen to a baseball game.  Within minutes I would fall asleep.  The sound was a comfort.  Fast forwards several decades, we are living with noise as comfort all the time. Music is played in stores and elevators, and gas stations, and waiting rooms, and dentist offices.  Most people walk down the street wearing ear buds.  It seems that, collectively, we feel the need to be surrounded by noise of some sort.  There is even a TV commercial, I have no idea what product is being advertised, but a couple goes on a camping trip and can’t fall asleep because of the forest sounds.  They play street sounds on their phone and instantly go to sleep.  We have become used to being surrounded with noise.


Many years ago, I attended a silent Zen retreat.  After the retreat, on the car trip home, I remember commenting that I thought the retreat was very noisy, lots of talking…that people weren’t keeping the form of silence.  My car-mates totally disagreed.  They felt it was a particularly silent retreat.  This puzzled me.  I slowly began to realize that the noise I was hearing wasn’t from other people.  What I thought was talking was actually my mind.  My mind was where the noise was coming from…thoughts, memories, judgments, plans.  After the fact, I could see that the actual physical silence wasn’t a comfort for me. The noise that was making me so discomforted was in my mind!


Late last August I was in an accident walking my dog and broke the neck of my femur.  It took a trip to an Immediate Care center and an ambulance to get me to one of the best orthopedic hospitals in the area.  It was about 7:00 p.m. when I was finally transferred to a hospital bed.  Every slight move of my leg brought excruciating pain.  Laying perfectly still brought relief.  Being perfectly still brought thoughts of deep breathing, remembering that I wasn’t my body, wishes for a miracle that the pain would go away and my leg immediately healed.  The pain was like a grey cloud hovering around me.


Early next morning Liz and I met with the surgeon.  He recommended putting three pins in the bone rather than a hip replacement.  We agreed and I was scheduled for surgery at noon.  Liz was able to come with me to the surgery prep area. I was hooked to the monitoring machines but had not yet been given any anesthetic. This is where I experienced quietude.  I didn’t know it at the time, but as I waited I just wanted to be still.  I told Liz not to ask me any questions.  I just lay still.  Liz watched the machine monitoring my vital signs…everything went down…breathing, blood pressure, and heart-rate.  In remembering back, I knew I was in some spiritual place.  I wasn’t afraid.  I could hear the sounds in the room and hallway.  I was aware and not aware.  I was not trying to meditate or do deep breathing.  I just went into a deep quietude…a place of no desire, a place of contentment.

It was not a place I willed myself into.  It just was quietude. Quietude is ever present. I went there.

Humming Bird

Author: Lao di Zhi Shakya

Old Earth

Zen Contemplative Priest of the Order of Hsu Yun


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 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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See, Seek Not

Often in spiritual life we find seekers rather than seers. It comes out of our misunderstanding of Reality. Below there are two stories that show us when we seek, we get worn out and feel as though we are a ‘failure.’ When this happens we have fallen into the common mental formation of “measuring and comprehending.” I know this may be a surprise. Most of us have been trained to seek liberation rather than see it. It’s time to see it.

Seeking leads to all sorts of frustrations because it rests upon buried desires of getting something. Even when we are told there is nothing to get – the samskaras, those buried devils deep within our mental consciousness, surface like hungry ghosts wanting to achieve, taking up measures and holding tight to comprehension. 

All of this mental business of thinking and desire leads to suffering; as our dear Shakyamuni saw as a young man.  Life, the world of wanting, is suffering and the cause is desire. Simple. Clear. But overlooked again and again because we want to achieve – we want to be somebody who is successful. It is our human inclination.

We are like the young monk in the monastery who is asked by the Abbot, 


What are you up to sitting there in silence.” 


 “Becoming Buddha.”  The young monk responds.


At that answer, the Abbot picks up the infamous brick and begins to polish it leading the young monk to ask,

“What are you up to rubbing that brick?” 

Now here is the turning which we often overlook – the Abbot’s turning is a reflection of the monk’s response. That’s all he offers. A reflection of what the young monk is doing. 

He says, “I am polishing the brick into a mirror just as you are polishing the mind of the lower self into a Buddha.” 


AHEM! There it is. It’s a joke of the highest level. Reflect what the seeker is trying to achieve and he might stop his inclination to achieve. He might be able to see, rather than seek. Reflect on your mind and you might stop the inclination to achieve.


Yes, really. 

The seer sees that he cannot do anything to achieve liberation. Nada. But wait. I now hear the cries and screams from all of us who have been doing, doing, doing what we call practice for years. Bowing, prostrating, sewing, chanting, contemplating, sitting, studying. 

 What about all of that? 

I say, “all well and good.” BUT…sorry, there is a but here….if you are seeking enlightenment, wanting to achieve success, measuring your progress, taking pride in your comprehensions, loving it when others think of you as mastering the Dharma, telling you how well you are doing – well, then you are like the young monk who seeks to become Buddha! 

God, help us. 

We need a change in mind, in our thoughts and thinking about practice. We need to know the primary cause and not our small secondary cause of effort. When we are given – yes, given sight to see it is not something we did – but a gift. There is no guarantee that if you do this and this and this and know that and that and that you’ll transcend samsara, the world of suffering. 

Transcendence is a gift. Not some method of polishing the self-ego to get it. No, it is transcendent, intuitive, beyond the smallness of mind and all the samskaras of mental formations. The mental formations are like clouds in the sky – they block the Light. In what our dear Chan Master Hongzhi called, the clear circle of brightness. What Rumi spoke of as the field beyond rightdoing and wrongdoing; that place where the Soul lies down too full to speak. 

So, if you have the inclination to practice measuring your progress, contemplating what you feel you comprehend and claim it in the category of success – you are seeking – not seeing. Seers see. When they see that they are putting their trust in the things of the world they turn the mind away. And they do this again and again and again until the mind stabilizes on what is real and what really matters. 

Measuring and comprehending are the Way of seekers, not the way of seers. Now we are ready for the two stories.


The first story.

The first one is about a team of Americans who traveled to Southeast Asia to study Buddhism in a remote area. Where huts were more holes than walls, where dogs roamed in packs and barked all night, where buildings lay half-finished. All things appeared to be in disrepair and decay including the Temple. When the main monk met with them they asked to see the Temple where they would practice and he responded in a rather perplexed way to their question. You see, they were standing in the Temple – in the midst of stacks of rotting supplies, half-built walls, torn and leaking cement bags, equipment and tools broken down by the heat and elements. 

The Americans were stunned but silent. As soon as they could get together in their team they decided to clean-up the place, organize and salvage what they could and build the Temple for the monk. Not surprisingly, the monk explained; 

“No. No. No. This is the Temple. This is it.” 

Again, confused, unclear the team could not imagine how he could say that the piles of rubble, the waste, the broken down equipment was the Temple. The team planned to build what they thought was a ‘proper’ Temple. They agreed to raise money. To fix what the monk saw as the Temple and they saw as a mess.


The second story.

A woman, a devotee, was out walking thinking about the day. About the buildings along the city street when she noticed that the awning along an old brick building was rotting away. It was once dark blue but now appeared to be thinning and faded. The once clear lettering was no longer readable. Part of the material was torn and no longer held its shape. It made the building look older and unkempt.

But as she looked at the building she suddenly noticed right above the drooping awning was another awning. She couldn’t tell if it had always had been there or that if it suddenly appeared. IT, the sudden appearing awning, was a bright turquoise and it had an inexplicable lustre like a glow circling around it. Although the woman could still see the worn-down, dark blue awning, it no longer appeared as important. 






May we, with all beings, realize the sudden appearance of the Clear Circle of Brightness. May we study these stories and see what we may see. May we study our life to see what we may see. Being grateful for everything.

Humming Bird


Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image credits: Fly, 2020

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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Heave To —- by Lao Di Zhi Shakya

Heave To

Dogen’s Second Awareness: Be Content

For those of us who have forgotten, the first of the eight awarenesses by Dogen is Have Few Desires. A short discourse on it can be found here. Before I launch into the second awareness to be content, I want to encourage us by pointing out our challenge. It may seem odd to think a challenge is an encouragement, but for the spiritual seeker challenges require us to be courageous. This hot spot event of the global epidemic challenges us to use our courage to be content.

In order to shed light on this awareness and bring clarity to it, I have taken the liberty to change Dogen’s wording to: HEAVE TO. I think you’ll understand as I tell my story and the story of Voss.


My Confession

I have little to no experience with boats and sailing. What I do know can be said in one sentence. The stern is the back of the boat and the bow is the front. That’s it.

I recently learned what HEAVE TO means while reading the The Adventuresome Voyages of Voss. If you know about sailing, you know what it means and how to do it. If you are like me, you don’t know the meaning and need a brief explanation. Here is a sketchy explanation.

Heave To

Heave-to is a sailing maneuver used to slow a boat down in heavy seas. It is done by adjusting the sails and dropping the ships anchor in a storm. This maneuver keeps the boat from traveling with the high winds. For if the boat goes with the wind, it can be sucked down by the force of the water and capsize. The winds, you see, move faster than a boat can move. To the inexperienced and ignorant, heaving-to seems counter intuitive and dangerous!

Heave To is the same as Be Content while in life-threatening winds.

The Story

It is allegedly a true story of two men in a retrofitted canoe on the open Pacific Ocean during high winds. To say the least, many of us feel we, too are in high winds in a retrofitted canoe in unknown waters. If so, it is time to heave-to! Now the story.

In 1901, in Victoria, Canada, a young journalist asked Voss an experienced sailor if it was possible to sail around the world in a small boat.


Not every captain would be able to do it. But, yes I can captain such a journey!

The journalist, I’ll call him the mate, offered to pay the captain $2,500 dollars and half the profits from a book he would write about the trip, if the captain took up the challenge. The mate, who had no sailing experience at all, saw the impending voyage as an exciting adventure with minimal danger. Turning his experience on the high seas circling the globe into a best seller was his motivation.

The captain purchased a 38 ft dugout canoe carved from a single tree which he skillfully turned into a vessel capable of sailing on the open ocean. There was plenty of work and preparation before they set sail. When the canoe was finished, it included a one-berth cabin, tiller and three masts. Very tight quarters.

Making the effort to sail around the world in this canoe brought many difficulties. Gales, storms, high winds and rough waves on the open sea can dangerous for all boats and are even more perilous in an ocean going canoe!!! But the captain, trusting his sailing and navigating skills enough knew that the venture had a possibility of succeeding.

The first few weeks the weather was calm. The mate, the journalist, entered into an easy routine with the captain, learning the skills required for living on a small boat: cooking, cleaning, raising and lowering sails, steering and doing night watches to keep the boat on course.

During this time the two men worked and lived on board as friends. The mate didn’t feel he was obeying orders, he was just learning the ropes of sailing. The captain did not feel the need to assert his authority because the mate was a willing learner.

They encountered rain, choppy seas and thunderstorms but nothing that proved dangerous. Until one afternoon, the captain noticed the darkening clouds and that the winds and waves were stronger and it started to rain. He knew a gale was almost on them.  

At this point, the roles of the two men, take a drastic change. The mate, never having been at sea in a gale, was terrified and feared for his life. He did not trust that this amiable man who taught him how to cook could manage a storm this dangerous. He lost confidence in the captain.

As the storm got closer and winds got stronger and the rain started, the captain had to yell over the wind to his mate.


You have to go to the stern of the boat and drop this anchor overboard. I will tie this rope around you, so if you get tossed out, I can pull you back. I’m going to steer the boat and set the sails. We are going to heave-to.”


Terrified, the mate let the captain tie a rope around him and fighting the wind struggled to the stern carrying the anchor. When he got there he saw a huge wave coming straight at him. In sheer panic he dropped the anchor in the boat and climbed up the nearest mast. The captain yelled again, louder.


“Climb down and drop the anchor overboard right now!

Shaken, the mate climbed down and threw the anchor overboard. Fighting the wind and rain he struggled back, frightened, angry, defensive ready to argue with the captain. The mate felt that dropping the anchor was wrong. The boat should be going with the wind, not stopping in the middle of it. Didn’t the captain know how big the waves were? The mate saw the size of the waves and knew he was going to be drowned.

As the storm raged, the captain knew the power of heaving-to. He knew from experience what actions he had to take, and what actions he had to order his mate take to make the boat, his mate and himself safe. And he took them.

Having done all he could do, and knowing the space was too small for disagreements, he welcomed his terrified, angry mate into a surprisingly dry and steady cabin. The rain and wind and rough waves hadn’t stopped, but dropping the anchor, slowed the boat and it was no longer fighting the wind and waves. The captain helped the mate untie the rope and dry off. He offered him a cup of coffee and a seat to ride the storm out.

The Twofold View

Notice how similar this story is to our being asked to drop everything and slow down. To withdraw from the stormy winds blowing this virus across the globe, to have a cup of coffee, to calm down, to trust that dropping everything will keep us safe.

That is the material realm safety.

This applies to our spiritual life as well. Drop every fear-mongering thought – heave-to right in the middle of what comes into your life. Face the challenge without fear; trust, be confident in spiritual fortitude to get up and keep going. Study the teachings in a disciplined way – be reasoned with knowledge of spiritual teachings, take action when required, offer devotion and praise in silence and meditation. Give like the captain who knew the fear of his novice mate.

The novice seaman thought he knew more than the captain and almost lost his life. Take to heart the teachings – heave to and have few desires; two of Dogen’s life jackets in the storm’s of life.


Humming Bird

Author: Lao di Zhi Shakya

Old Earth

Zen Contemplative Priest of the Order of Hsu Yun


ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at:



Featured Images: Lying a Hull

Who is in Charge?

Spiritual life is a battlefield. 

Over time, the battle worsens for the serious spiritual adept – threats along the path are more ominous. The path narrows. The dangers more perilous. Hazards multiply. The demons of ignorance, of lust, hate, self-doubt, of pride, power, envy, jealousy assemble against the spiritual adept. The climb to the summit appears out of reach. The world of ignorance becomes enticing. Practice weakens, pleasures arise and the adept believes he is more awake, more powerful, more knowledgeable than others. He claims to know – claims to be a leader – ignorance claims jurisdiction of the adept’s mind.

Assumes power over others. Asserts himself as important. Disguises himself as superior. Becomes the ranking official. The demons have vanquished the adept. He becomes unreachable. Smug. Certain. Above others. No longer able to hear or listen. Blows off the Truth. He becomes certain. Assured and out of control. Lost in ignorance.

The adept has become unreachable and unteachable. Hardship is his only hope. Thinking he is in charge is his worst enemy. Being a spiritual seeker is not a career, a hobby, a secondary interest – it is all and everything that matters. There is nothing else.

Often, we find ourselves playing tiddlywinks with spiritual teachings – not realizing that spiritual teachings are potent in a way nothing else is. There is no aim of winning, no aim of getting ahead or getting anything at all. There is nothing to get. Nothing to lay claim to as the “me” and “my” so insistently try to do.

It seems the odds are stacked against us – that one lifetime is not enough time to defend our spiritual life and destroy the battalions of ignorance, lust, pride, greed, envy, jealousy and the many hindrances that we seem to face again and again and again. The enemy of our own desire seems to be upon us before we are able to stop it and vanquish it in such a way that we are free.

But all is not lost.

The spiritual gods assemble in the form of hardship. The ignorance becomes anxiety, the lust, dry and empty, the hate requires more and more harshness and self-doubt is bolstered by sycophants and drugs. The demons relish their victories and amass their forces while the spiritual gods seek help.

Defeated, the spiritual gods confess they need a higher power and a return to order; a return to discipline and practice. They need the energy to slay the demons that have taken them over. They need a powerful weapon against ignorance in order to see how they have capitulated to the fleeting pleasures of impermanent things.

For those who want to reach the summit, there must be a willingness to renounce greed-of-attachment and hatred-of-aversion. And this requires heavy lifting – a thirst for the Boss, the One beyond understanding. The thirst is big – big in the way one fights for a breath when drowning. YES. That’s what it takes. A fight for the face of the True Self as one fights for life. The Divine Eternal – Godliness – THAT which never was born and never dies. THAT. Life offers each one of us a chance at liberation – to find union with THAT by whatever holy name.

We need weapons. Yes. Weapons. Those things or ways that give us an advantage over the demons of greed, hate and delusion. AND, we need training on how to find and use the weapons – from a Master. It is as simple as that.

Let us for a moment return to The Bow & Arrow. Please read it as spiritual instruction. It shows the action of a Master; one who trained with a master archer. Trained his mind in discipline and practiced.

Did you read it?

Spiritual life is demanding and we have to be willing to give it time to master. You may ask, “How is the tale of the Bow & Arrow an instruction for me in my spiritual life?”

Actually, I hope you do ask that question.

The basic answer is twofold: The Bow & Arrow exemplifies the use of a weapon and a weapon that requires commitment and discipline in order to master it. The weapon needs to strengthen the student in such a way that it is an advantage against the demons of ignorance, greed, hate & delusion. The weapon does not need to be deadly in a worldly sense; it does need to be able to destroy the sloth & torpor of disinterest which means it must be challenging to the sloth & torpor of ignorance. AND…it must be able to slay the resistance to giving up ignorance.

Choose your weapon wisely. The Master in The Bow & Arrow,  selected the Bow and Arrow and all that goes with it. He found a Master to hand down the ways of the bow & arrow. In order to learn, he had to commit himself first and foremast to the work. The commitment must be there.

Your weapon need not be a weapon such as a bow and arrow, but it must be challenging and greater than ignorance. It might be gardening, the tea ceremony, sewing, writing, spiritual study or one of any number of actions. Being father, a mother, training a dog, a marathon athlete and such. What is important is that the chosen weapon is able to call you to devotion – again and again and again. An action that requires discipline and training. In other words, it requires a willingness to become a disciple – a follower of the discipline.

In Zen Buddhism someone does not receive a diploma stating he or she is a master; it is much more difficult because one is a master through the difficult-to-understand process of working with a master.  One does not go to a seminary for four or six years and graduate receiving a diploma; no. In Zen, one lives the teachings and realizes THAT Truth spoken about above.  There are many means; nothing is left out of living the teachings.

In the The Bow & Arrow, the man placed the arrow of his life on the bow of teachings and shot at THAT truth which is not a single target downfield; but is the ever-present mysterious Truth of the Tathagatha.

The man in The Bow & Arrow trained in such a way that he is called a master – not a dilettante or a spiritual shopper but a master. It’s not a casual commitment.


With this under our belt let’s take a closer look at the The Bow & Arrow.

This man, at some point in time, chose the bow & arrow as his weapon that would teach him the Truth and from the looks of what he did on the field, it did indeed teach him in a way expressed in action. The spontaneity of his action is the hallmark, the gold standard of a master. The reason is simple – we all know how to deceive ourselves and others with robes, pretty words and high-fallutin’ teachings and all sorts of spiritual paraphernalia. Our intellect, after all, can be the ally of phony baloney spiritual rhetoric.

But what action exactly shows this gold standard? Very hard to understand and pinpoint. Not looking for a reward is one. Not giving a rat’s ass about opinions of others is another. Devotion to the weapon. Offering free all the teachings to those that are sincere.

Zen is full of stories of slaps, fly swatting, sudden claps, blowing out candles given in a sudden burst to awaken you. Zen Buddhism is not trying to be nice – which is a word that comes from the French, meaning stupid – Zen Buddhism is punchy, provocative, evocative, potent, powerful, forceful, fierce training because the foes of ignorance, greed, hate and delusion are mighty. We all need a weapon in which to cut away, strip, flay, slay ignorance.

Ignorance is quite powerful. Its power has kept us cycling through lifetimes of karma. We need a thing greater than it to slay it.  Loss, some great, terrible loss is at times needed for some to awaken.

The Archer who showed up on that field was a master who did not care whether the crowd liked what he did or not – he shot the arrow in such a way it pierced the desires of wanting a performance. He sent the arrow flying into the heavens of Truth.

A true Master is not someone who is nice, but is able to strip away the ignorance of how you or I want or wish things to go. A true Master exhibits a wholeness (holiness) that no longer cares about the opinions of others but is concentrated on the Eternal Mark, the impenetrable Mark of existence. THAT. True. Self.

I ask once more, what weapon have you chosen or will you choose to master in order to pierce ignorance; to tear off the veil and see who you really are?

 I know I have said this many times, but I must say it again – a teacher is essential – a holy teacher who is willing to not give a rat’s ass about your self-centered feelings and thoughts and who has the skill to pierce the veil of ignorance again and again until you are able to do it for yourself. 

What weapon are you willing to devote your concentration, your mind, your heart to?


Humming Bird


Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image credits: Fly, 2020

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

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Images by Fly

Cooped Up? A Good Time for the Eight Awarenesses – First of Eight

Have Few Desires


In late winter the sugar ants arrive, uninvited.  We first notice one or maybe two walking across our counter top, scouts checking, we are not sure just what they are checking.  Then, a few days later there are a few more boldly walking on spoons and cups waiting to be washed.  A dollop of jam left on a knife is soon covered with ants.  And when at night we are too tired to clean-up the kitchen, the morning reveals lines of marching ants…going back and forth with their booty.

The arrival of the ants is very much like the arrival of desire in our mind.  We notice a small desire…wanting more sunshine, fewer clouds, warmer weather.  These are scouts that lead to more and more desire…moving to a warmer climate, which means a new house (renting or buying) and then selling or renting the one we have and finding a moving company and giving away furniture or selling it.  On and on it goes.  Our desires swarm around things, forms, feelings, perceptions, impulses, memories, experiences, fears.  This is how we think…wanting and not wanting.  Our desires just like the ants keep coming.  And soon we are miserable.

Over the past few years we’ve tried many strategies with the ants. Most of them involved killing lots and lots of ants. The ant problem eventually gets solved with great sorrow and regret at killing so many ants, which really aren’t causing any harm.

This year, thinking about the arrival of ants and the arrival of desire in the mind we are working with a practice of simplicity and persistence.  With the ants, it is obvious:  put all food away, leave nothing on the counters.  Rinse off all silverware, dishes, cups, glasses.  Wipe the counters down every time food is prepared.  Do this all day, every day.  The ants can scout around but they won’t find anything to message home about.

Simplicity and persistence can also work with desire.  We can physically begin to simplify our life, so example:  put away everything we take out.  If what we take out doesn’t have a “home” clean out drawers and closets until there is a place to simply put away what we take out.  Do this all day every day.

With mental desires, a key is to simply catch it when it comes up…see it scouting around for other desires to latch onto.  To begin with maybe we won’t see the scout desires, we will only notice desires when they become swarms…entangled thoughts.  Persistent practice can help here…when you notice a desire filled thought,  just say “STOP” and move the mind away from the swarm.  It takes persistence to pay attention to what our mind is up to.  In fact, if we want to have few desires we must pay attention all the time…minute by minute, hour by hour.



Memorize. Repeat. Practice.


Humming Bird

Author: Lao di Zhi Shakya

Old Earth

Zen Contemplative Priest of the Order of Hsu Yun


Image credits: Fly, 2020

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Study THIS – and Realize the Dharma Work.


These teachings are for your sake. Trees and weeds, tables and doors expound and exalt the Dharma for your sake. You, in turn, expound and exalt the Dharma for the sake of trees, weeds, tables and doors. This expounding and exalting is how Dharma work is. The work is not limited because Dharma work cannot be measured or comprehended. Measuring and comprehending disturb the mind. All things help you to cut off disordered and defiled thoughts and views coming from the measuring and comprehending. The Dharma work is infinitely numberless and universally performing. You might wonder what the characteristics of realization are and what are the causes of realization that lead to self-awakening and awakening others?  THe promise of cause and effect is inescapable. If you put your hand into a pot of boiling water, you burn your hand. The boiling water fulfills its Dharma. This is the nature of cause and effect. This nature is true of the mind. The teachings of realization promise and follow this law. If you put your mind on the non-essential, you will cycle endlessly in suffering and you will not be blessed with the characteristics of realization. The non-essentials are when you are given over to likes, dislikes and indifferences. Likes, dislikes and indifference are not essential causes of realization. If you put your mind on the essential, you will realize the Dharma work.


Service, Automobiles & Unselfishness

Awakening before dawn,

I cover my eyes and think of serving;

giving little services throughout the day.

I think of those who died –

over 150,000 others died during the night.

I bow before the feet of Divine Mother.

I take refuge in Divine Mother;

who reigns over birth and death. 


The image above illustrates the image of service. It says it quite beautifully in the visual image and is reflective of the bodhisattva vow. 

When, I a student of Dharma,

Look at the real form of the universe,

All is the never-failing manifestation

Of the mysterious Truth of the Tathagata.

The Bodhisattva Vow

To take refuge in the never-failing manifestation is the Way to break through the ignorance of our pervasive self-centeredness. And it is to take refuge everywhere all the time in any event, in any moment and in any place. The reason is clear – None can be other than the marvelous revelation of ITS glorious Light.  Nothing is left out. When we know and realize this mysterious truth ,we see the world as One Bright Pearl.

And, we follow the realization of our virtuous ancestors who extended tender care, with a worshipping heart – to all things.

Those services given freely, without an agenda, without strings, and yes, without cash are tender care. There is no merit to get, no fruit to ripen, no result to be cherished. Giving seeks no reward. It is empty of self-grasping. No trace of self-ego. When we take refuge in this never-failing manifestation, we know the merciful incarnation of Buddha.

But I get ahead of myself – let me go to what might seem to be a hard digression. So hold on tight as we make a sharp turn to automobiles. Yes, automobiles, especially new ones. But first a definition.




“Unselfishness is God *”  



Consider this quote. It is simple and points directly to the nature of the Divine – that Divinity which  is never apart from you, right where you are. Unselfishness is the state of being that Divinity, moment by moment by moment. One way to recognize we are not living there – WAIT – let me give an example of how we know we are NOT taking refuge in the Divinity of existence. As promised – in a short vignette on “automobiles.”


Image result for images of automobiles


The new automobiles are computerized to such a degree that the dashboard tells the driver when the tires need air. Sounds pretty good?

Stop. Be careful.

Whatever looks like a boon always comes with disadvantages; the dashboard alert is no exception. Yes, it tells the driver the tire pressure is low, get air. But this boon is filled with what appear to be many difficulties.

The driver is alerted to check air pressure, but this boon of an alert creates the problem of locating a gas station which has a functioning air pump. Finding a station with an air pump is just the beginning of the what some feel are hardships. Finding a gas station with a working air pump is not easy. It takes time. If we get the boon of finding such a gas station, we discover the air pump contraption is “out-of-service.”

But wait!

Before we are able to test the air pump for functionality, we have to deal with the weather. The signal on the dash that alerts the driver often occurs when the temperature drops to bitter cold degrees. Gone are the days when air used to be part of the service in a gas station along with filling the tank, cleaning the windows and paying in cash. They were givens. Services such as these are rare if not extinct.

Self-service-with-a-fee is the new normal. It exemplifies our current culture of we must pay for services even when we are the one who does the servicing. As most of us know, we are a culture that charges for just about everything; including AIR; even when we are the attendant.

The boon soon is seen as a curse.

The dashboard alerts require deep breaths, patience and yes, fortitude. If we are lucky enough to find a gas station that has an air pump, we button up our coat, find our gloves and climb out into the chill of winter in hopes of inflating the tires.

But the AIR isn’t free.

And those difficult machines in gas stations take coins.  Who amongst us carries coins? And – do we have the right coins? Enough of them? OK. The driver feels unlucky and needs to calm down. When the coins are gotten the air pump looks menacing.

If the coin slot is not broken or frozen or bent out-of-shape we remove our gloves and pay to turn the contraption on and hope that it actually works. All of this is done after we have unwound the frozen air hose and have taken a guess at which tire actually needs air. The boon is surely seen as a curse at this point. 

All for the want to shut off the dashboard warning icon. If we are unsuccessful, the icon turns into a compulsion because we are compelled to shut off that now glaring light. Usually this event from beginning to end is seen as demonic and the driver wants to kick the tires and to hell with the air. 

What…you ask, does this have to do with seeing unselfishness as DIvine.  The first glaring relationship is that we are taking the event personally – I sure hope you can laugh at yourself. It’s not personal. It’s — well, BIGGER than that self-interest. All along it is the mysterious Truth of the Tathagatha. Now – I hope you are smiling.


The person who reacts with annoyance, agitation, irritation to the light on in his dashboard, is apart from the Divine existence of the Buddha Self, to the never-failing of Buddha. He does not see everything as Divine manifestation but rather reacts to things as for him or against him, as good or bad, as right or wrong, as a pain-in-the-neck or as a blessing for him. Selfish interests abound. Ignorance of what to take refuge in continues. 

This reactive self is a manifestation of the selfish-ego which is what we mostly take refuge in. We want to fix, repair, correct, and get rid of what we see as a problem…and this reactive delusion thinks there is a right way to do it. I have found that impatience is often the General that leads the army of Mara (any internal demon that blinds us). The driver in the car gets frustrated and impatient to kill the dashboard light – to heed the warning.

Imagine if the driver knows and realizes the dashboard light, like everything, is the merciful incarnation of Buddha; of your Divine nature. The reaction is an illusion that leads to samsara. A henchman of Mara that leads us to split the things of the world according to our self-interest. In the case of the car – the driver splits the world between easy and hard.

As we continue to split the world, which whatever shows up in life, as good or bad  or right or wrong  we are looking at the world according to our self-interest. 





Those of us who continue to be reactive get a chance to see we are reactive and instead of arguing about it, or covering it over with “well, I am right, there is right and wrong” we get a chance to take refuge in the True Self – by whatever name you know it.  This turn requires that we study the self to such a degree we can forget the self. In other words, we practice unselfishness – not putting our self first again and again and again. Not seeking reward or credit. Not wanting praise or blame. Being free.

We respond or react to life according to our knowledge of the True Self. Until we take refuge in THAT, we continue to split the world according to our self-centered views.

May this teaching benefit all beings in every direction.

OM. OM. OM.  


Quote Unselfish is God – *Vivekananda. 

DEFINITION of UNSELFISH: “not putting yourself first; being generous with what you have; generosity with time, money and effort.” 

Humming Bird

*I was once dubious about working with a teacher,

but after a lifetime of practice, and working with Ming Zhen

I see the need and recommend to you

that you find a teacher.


Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image credits: Fly, 2020

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at:


IMAGE CREDIT: Wang zi-won; Meditating Mechanical Machinery

Car Image credit

The Yoga of the Bow And Arrow


There was a silence that came when the archer appeared. He was tall and straight and wore the robes of a Master archer. Many came to see him, to see if he could hit the mark that seemed an impossible distance away.

The wise among them knew the yoga of the bow and arrow – knew the Great Teaching of hitting the mark. Others came to see the skill of the archer; to see the arrow rise in a skyward arch towards the impractical target. Some laughed with satisfaction that this was an act of a fool.



Nevertheless, it was a large crowd – of seekers and sycophants; of bystanders and spectators. Young and old and able-bodied and disabled waited to see. Some cynical and skeptical, others hoping for the best; not knowing what the best would be.



The air was cool under a blue, brought sky. The ground damp from the morning dew. The grass smelled with growth and hope as the Zen Master moved to the furthest point from the target. A small murmur from those who watched him followed.


With anticipation building the crowd became antsy; some considered leaving; others did leave. When an unexpected, strong wind blew through the crowd there came a matching unexpected silence. Everyone turned to see this man outfitted in the regalia of a Master archer.

He walked slow, confident with a strong presence of sincerity.

No one spoke.

He strapped an ancient leather covering along his bow arm then pulled on a hand strap on his other.

The crowd turned to see him slip the arrow from the quiver and rest it on the bow.

All the movements were steady and even.

With bow in hand he pulled the bow string with arrow as far as his strength would taken it – the crowd moved closer.

There was more murmuring but a shush, shush quieted the soft voices.

Heads turned this way and that looking for the target. Some stood on tiptoes to see the target.

The bull’s eye stood still at the farthest point down field – everyone became quiet with wonder.

How could this Master hit the mark from such an impossible distance?

The Master set the bow and arrow, lifted in the direction of the target.

Drawing back the well-placed arrow, everyone saw the power and  strength.

Still and steady; he held it.

Then suddenly… he turned the bow towards the sky and let it fly.




There were very few that understood. Disappointment filled the minds of the bystanders and spectators. The cynics and skeptics were secretly sad but left in a huff, saying “I knew it was too good to be true.” The young shrugged and just didn’t care. There’d be another day to play somewhere else. There were critics who deemed the Master a failure. What do you understand?



Humming Bird

*I was once dubious about working with a teacher,

but after a lifetime of practice, and working with Ming Zhen

I see the need and recommend you find a teacher you can work with face to face.


a teacher wants to help you on your spiritual path.


Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image credits: Fly, 2020

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at:

Golden bow and arrow isolated on white background 3d rendering
Creator: koya79
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Truths


The Four Noble Truths

I am pretty sure most of you have heard of the Buddha’s four noble truths since Buddhism has been well-advertised in the West. But I wonder if you are able to recite them, in your own way of course, the way you took them in. Along with that wonder are these personal questions, do you live by them – that is, did they take root – and did they grow into a strength within you?

Just in case you’ve forgotten them – oh, don’t be embarrassed – I’ll stick them in right here just as a reminder. 


The Four Noble Truths

  1. The Truth of suffering
  2. The Truth of the cause of suffering
  3. The Truth of the end of suffering
  4. The Truth of the path to the end of suffering


I do hope they sound familiar. For those of you who have never, ever heard them or heard them once or twice and blew them off stay tuned. I am going to give a refresher.




I remember many years ago waking up in the morning and sitting on the edge of my bed thinking, “Life is so disappointing.” I hope you can have a good laugh – I certainly can. There I was first thing in the morning in a lovely house, in the middle of my career, with a wonderful partner, two dogs, a car, money enough to travel if I like, nominal health and I woke up declaring:


Life is so disappointing!


As I sat there I heard myself declare such a ridiculous pronouncement I fell back onto the bed and laughed and laughed and laughed. Once I stopped laughing I sat up, shook my head and declared:


Life is neither so disappointing nor so satisfying!


Huh. I thought to myself. Life happens without any of my declarations. Life, that is, existence of all life, goes on without me saying one way or the other what life is or not. Life rolls along, much like the waves on the ocean or the wind through the trees, or fire burning wood, or water running in a stream. Life happens. 


Ok. I hope you get this – because it has to do with the first two Truths. The Truth of suffering and the Truth of the cause of suffering. Let’s take a look.


There I was – saying to myself life is so disappointing. I was making a declaration of the Truth of suffering. Imagine living out the day of existence experiencing the day as sooooooooo disappointing. Pretty miserable. Smack dab in suffering. 


Now I was a newbie to the world of Zen Buddhism so I fell into the suffering of disappointment, but I had a fortune pocketed in my mind. I knew the Way to end suffering (this Way is the third and fourth Truths; the end of suffering and the path). Whew! 


Let me explain some of the pitfalls that many of us fall into when we think about these four Truths. The main pitfill is highlighted by my declaration which is a mistake that comes with consequences. If I had continued to live the day with the mind and body on the rudder of disappointment, suffering indeed would continue. Convincing me life is disappointing. The continuation would be long-lived because I would have seen the “world” the external “world” as the cause of my misery. That is not what Shakyamuni meant in the second noble Truth. The Truth is the cause of suffering is desire.

Wanting. Wanting. Wanting.

Let’s retrace that morning. “Life is disappointing” is the expression of an inner desire that if followed and believed would lead to more suffering. The inner desire, and more deeply than that, the seed of that desire was the cause of the suffering, not the world. As I said, “life, existence is neither disappointing nor satisfying. Life is. PERIOD. 

We, you and me, put our desire on life which sometimes gives us what we want, which strengthens the seed of suffering and sometimes cracks us over the head with not getting what we want which weakens our ability to be fearless, generous and wise. We tend to whine, sniffle, and fall into a vat of despair when we don’t get what we want. Afterall, we remain babies until we grow up in the Truth.

This scenario, one of many, shows us that we need a Way – a path on which to travel in order to end suffering. 

Now it’s true there are many paths out there – exclaiming this is the Way. It is at times like a barker at a carnival. Nonetheless, over time we, if we are lucky, we pick a path and begin the spiritual journey out of suffering. As we go along, the Path tends to incline and we tend to breathe in the heights of awareness and awakening. Let me illustrate.

The explanation above shows us a level of knowing how to end suffering. Let me repeat here before I go further. To know the world is NOT the cause of suffering is a big deal – not many see this Truth. But this cause is Truth at a particular level – where you are amongst those who see the world as existence – but there’s more to do. 


Some of you may be asking – “OK. If the world is not the cause of suffering, what is?” I think that question needs to be contemplated. Take for example the political conditions worldwide. There are those FOR and there are those AGAINST just about everything in the world making for more and more conflict. Now apply the Truth to this situation. “The world is NOT the cause of your suffering.” At this point you may ask, then if that is TRUE, what is the cause of suffering.”

Glad you asked.


The cause of suffering is in YOU….and to be honest and sincere…in ME. This is good news. Very good news. Even though you may want to continue to blame the world…the Truth is the cause of suffering is you and me. 

The basis of this cause is desire. You and I want things to go according to our desire. This suffering is our human condition and will continue on until you work on your inner attachment to wanting things to go according to your desire. 


So far, are you with me? Attachment to your desire is the clenching factor in suffering.

I can attest to this Truth. But that’s not much help. You need to experience it yourself.


It requires an honest, rather a stripping away type of honesty, to fess up to your wanting things your way. Some of us will lose this opportunity this time around and die in the suffering of wanting things our way. And…thankfully, some of us will do the work of taking a deep look into the self ferreting out the seeds of desire. 

This ferreting activity is just the beginning. There is another step which is more of a clear out like a power vac of the ego – where the ego is sucked up altogether. But that is for another day. We have to start the work with a sincere heart and examine the self until we see that the cause of suffering is in us – in you, in me. 

This is the Truth. 

Humming Bird

*I was once dubious about working with a teacher, but after a lifetime of practice, and working with Ming Zhen

I see the need and recommend you find a teacher you can work with face to face.

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image credits: Fly, 2020

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at:

Not Giving a Rat’s Ass

Credit: Fa Ming Shakya

In Honor of My Teacher.



I remember the bowing, lighting candles, unfolding the zagu  

A distant form – empty. Done. Completed. 

Sometimes taken as salvation.

Sometimes giving curses.

Said to be, “Nonsense!”


Eventually the bowing mat disappeared.

It gave shimmering promises.

Too far away. Too close up.

The thread never known.


Everything comes and goes. The bitter and the sweet.

All being. All this. All that.


When we make it out to the current, we stop struggling and 

Sail along watching all of it appear and disappear.

Right now it is best not to speak. Not to talk. Not to go up and down along words.

Nothing to say. IT is beyond compare.


Doing things right or wrong is an endless trap – a hamster running on the inside rim of a wheel.

IT is immeasurable. Uncountable.

Only the Bigness of the Unsayable satisfies the bottomless hunger.

But it can’t be made or taken apart.


All else are waves on the surface of the eternal ocean of bliss.

Inner desires are the waves.

For or against – wanting satisfaction. 

Getting it or not. Troubled waters come.


The smallest desire blocks the Way.


No giver. No receiver. No gift.

OM namo guru dev namo. 




Humming Bird

*I was once dubious about working with a teacher, but after a lifetime of practice, and working with Ming Zhen

I see the need and recommend you find a teacher you can work with face to face.


Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image credits: Fly, 2020

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at: