Friday, December 29, 2017

Dear Sangha, 

To close out the turbulent year of 2017, join us before your NYE festivities on Sunday at 4p for zazen and a New Year's celebration. 
2017 is significant, as it marks the 50th anniversary of Taisen Deshimaru bringing our lineage of Zen from Japan to the West. 

We are also humbled to close out our first year in our new home at St. Luke and St. Matthew, and are grateful to all of you who have come to sit with us in our earliest stages.  We wish you peace in the new year and look forward to many more years to come.


Monju-Do Zen Fellowship  

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lose Your Mind, Have Faith in the Bones- Thursday 10/5 Kusen

Lose Your Mind, Have Faith in the Bones

Lose your mind. Don’t go crazy, but lose your mind. Practice with your body: Pay attention to your breathing; strong inhalation; slow deep exhalation; head press the sky; knees press the floor; back Straight; chin in; eyes open looking downward.

We use mind too much day to day. In a city like NY, everything is mind. Everything is thinking, and very little is intuitive. In this space, lose your mind. Bring your attention down to your Hara, the area beneath your belly button. This is your center of intuition—your gut, the third eye. It generates energy that goes throughout your body. Your breathing and posture help to concentrate that energy. It requires the full effort of your body through the posture and breathing. In this way, Zazen can make one stronger. Not forceful, But stronger in one’s self and intuition.

To practice Zen one does not need to engage in displays of force or strength. We have all the strength we could possibly need. It is not located in the mind, but in the bones. This is why in Zazen there should be no muscle tension—or very very little. Allow the bones to set your posture. Allow the bones to do what they were designed to do. Bone is stronger than muscle. Bone does not contract. That’s why it is stronger. Zen is a practice that goes down to the bones, to the marrow of the bones. Zazen cuts through the delusion that we are strong because we exert or because we assert our egos. Those are delusions and illusions. The bone doesn’t speak. It sits, and it sets. Bones abide. Become bone!

Muscle tension is a function of the brain. It is a response from the nervous system and the exertion of the muscular system. Muscle contraction is something controlled by our impulses, our will, intention, and anticipations. Lose it! And then you’ll be doing Zazen. In this practice, naturally, unconsciously, and automatically, the mind and the hara come back to oneness, back to what they already are e.g. our natural state. Settle down into the bones, let the bones do the work.

When it comes to your mind, letting go does not mean to make yourself stop thinking. That’s strength, force, and ego. Let the mind wander, but stay attentive. Let the thoughts pass through, just like the noises outside. The sirens, the voices, the traffic, we cant control that. We can’t run with the traffic. So lose them. Same with the noise in the mind. It is just internal noise. In Zen, there is no visualization practice or projection practice. We are here and now. That’s why we keep our eyes open. There’s nowhere else to go and nowhere else to be. No time, but the present. No need for mind, but a need for effort and attention.

The practice letting your mind go, of losing your mind, is the practice of Hishiryo: “thinking not thinking.” It is the practice of non-attachment. It is true liberation. Liberation from your thoughts, from the naturally arising feelings, from the emotions, and even discomforts.

If there is a faith to be had in Zen, it is faith in your bones. The bones are strong. And you are strong. Faith in the bones is the practice of cultivating intuitive wisdom- wisdom that encompasses the mind and the thought but is not encompassed or generated by the mind. We can only practice Zazen by letting the mind go. Satori [enlightenment] is not a place or state of mind or a feeling. It is being here and now, sitting on the bones. Putting your effort on your posture and your breathing, bringing that attention down to the hara. Dogen says that Zazen is satori; it is enlightenment. Mind is not necessary. Zazen is just practice and faith in the bones[ shikantaza—“just sitting”].

At the end of Zazen, we are going to chant the Hannya Shingyo [the Heart Sutra]. We chant it in Japanese, not to be cool, but because it is a practice of non-attachment. In the moment, we do not give time or space for translation in our language to ponder the meanings of the sutra. Nonetheless, on your own time or with friends, study it. The Hanny Shingyo’s meaning is powerful. Yet for the ceremony, follow along if you can, and if not, that’s ok too. Just be here and now. Just as in Zazen, chanting is just breathing. We breathe down to the lower belly so that the register of the voice goes deeper. It is not a show, it is a practice. The inner meaning of the Heart Sutra, that is, the “heart” of the Heart Sutra, mushotoku says “without profit, without gain.” That is the attitude of mind. It is the practice of the body. Essentially it means to lose your mind and have faith in the bones.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Zazen and Samu Sunday 9/24

Dear Sangha, 

Hope you are enjoying the first day of Autumn with this summer-like weather. I want to let you know that we will be changing things up this Sunday for our regular zazen session. We will do a period of zazen and then will do some samu, mindful work practice. Since we've moved into our current site, we have had the fortune of so many folks coming to sit with us. All that sitting takes a toll on our cushions. The zafu cushion is the most important element of the zendo. It supports our bodies in zazen. The infinite merit encountered in zazen would be nothing without the zafu. Before and after zazen, we bow to the zafu because it does so much work for us. Sometimes, we need to do some work for the zafu. Sunday's samu is dedicated to providing the compassionate practice of strengthening our support, our zafus. 

We will do zazen, a short ceremony, and get to work on filling zafu cushions. It is not the most glamorous of work, but it is the most necessary. I hope that you'll join us. The work is a little messy, so wear some clothes you don't mind getting a little sweaty in (it is supposed to be pretty hot on Sunday).

Thank you for your continued support of the zendo. your support brings life to the dharma practice here in Fort Greene. 

Food For Thought: Here is a link to a Dharma talk given by renowned Zen teacher Barbara Kosen. It was delivered in honor of the 50th anniversary of the life of Zen in the West brought by Taisen Deshimaru, Roshi, the founder of our lineage. It's a good read! 

(photo from

Monday, September 11, 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Zazen This Thursday

We're back from summer break! Zazen will resume on the regular schedule (Thursday 7:30-8:45 and Sunday 4:30-5:45. Looking forward to seeing you!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Summer Break: No Zen

Dear Sangha,
Please note that Monju-Do will be closed   Thursday 8-24 and Sunday 8-27.  

Regular zazen schedule will resume Thursday, August 31st  through the Labor Day holiday.
Thanks to everyone who came to our first full day retreat on Saturday, see you all next week. 


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Day of Zen August 19, 2017

Dearest Sangha, 

I am happy to announce our first Day of Zen Retreat, which will be held Saturday, August 19. The day will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 4:30. I will send a full outline of the schedule in the coming weeks. The retreat is an opportunity to deepen your Zen practice through longer meditation time, shared meals, and one-on-one instruction. We will be introducing new elements to the Zen experience at Monju-do, including: 

-Intensive zazen practice 
-Traditional Monastic breakfast (genmai) and vegetarian lunch
-Ceremony/chanting practice (and training for those interested)
-Samu (mindful work practice)
-Yoga for Meditators

Zen retreats (called Sesshin) are incredibly important for the life and health of our Zen group. The word sesshin means "to touch the mind." In a powerful way, the day long experience of sesshin transforms individual practice and community life in an intensive, though natural way. The time practitioners spend with one another breathes life into the spaces of practice (the dojo). It sanctifies the practice space and solidifies the individual practitioner's resolve to practice because there are others present to share the "one mind" of zazen. During sesshin/retreat, more than any other time, the experience of being one with the cosmic order of reality occurs in shared zazen. In an intensely personal (though shared) way, sesshin is a time when zazen does the teaching and provides the motivation to further pursue the infinite merits of zazen practice. 

The minimum donation is $35 to cover building costs and food.

*** We ask that you please let us know that you can attend by August 15. No matter what, no one will be the turned down, but we do need to know to account for the cost of food and proper planning.
Sign up by replying to this email 

*** We also ask if anyone is interested in chanting/ceremony training or Dharma instruction to please be in touch with me at

Beginners are welcome, so spread the word. We hope to see you there! 

Below you will find some food for thought regarding preparation for the retreat:

Reflection by a Zen master about Sesshin/retreat: Our Time Together- Kusen by Robert Livingston Roshi

As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

With hands palm to palm, 

Malik Hokyu
Lead Monk