Dharma Talk: Continuous Practice of Bodhisattvas: Shinzan Palma

Shinzan Palma, Sensei: Continuous Practice of Bodhisattvas
April 29, 2017 Southern Palm Zen Group”

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Dharma Talk: Koan Study in Pursuit of Enlightenment: Phil Sengetsu Kolman

Phil Sengetsu Kolman: Koan Study in Pursuit of Enlightenment
March 25, 2017 Southern Palm Zen Group”

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A Holiday Story from Inside


XYZ  Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in  Florida, was no place to spend Christmas, but some of us have, and sometimes even we could see a Christmas miracle.

At the time, I lived in one of the eight “butterfly dorms” on the compound, a dorm with four separate pods extending from a long central hub. From the sky, the dorm was in the shape of a giant butterfly. It was arranged so that the four guards in their brown uniforms in the Plexiglas-enclosed office could watch all four pods from one spot. Each pod had two floors of twenty-four two-man cells, the upper floor lined by a rail-protected walkway and leading to stairs at either end, and with six separate one-man showers, one large television high enough we could not reach it (the guard would come into the pod with the remote to change channels), three rows of benches for television watchers, and two steel picnic tables with seats.

We were the worst of the worst-child molesters, murderers, rapists, armed robbers-nobody got into this prison by jaywalking or cheating on their taxes.

We wore blue shirts and pants, the pants having one white stripe on the outside of each leg. And yet we had our own little society, with friendships and small groups of men. Racism was a storm cloud that hung over our society, but we kept a cautious truce, knowing if anything racial got out of hand, it would result in a brutal riot.

Dusty, a three-hundred-pound white man, was a racist. He used the N-word like it was his personal mantra and ranted about how obnoxious, nosy and uneducated “they” were at every opportunity. And though I thought of myself as a liberal without racist attitudes, even I was sometimes a little nervous around the black men in our dorm. After all, white inmates, were outnumbered three to one in this prison.

Dusty was once a car salesman. Now he made his money by running football tickets, that is, being the bookie for most men’s gambling. The men could figure which of them won by watching the football game on television, and later Dusty would being them their winnings. We were forbidden from having any cash on the compound. Instead we purchased coffee, deodorant, radio batteries, and snacks at the canteen, with a magnetic strip on the bottom of our inmate ID cards. It was almost like a credit card. The ban on real money was meant to prevent gambling, but you could still gamble, betting two packs of tobacco, one pack of factory made cigarettes, or one pack of coffee, all worth three dollars.

Some of us got money from our families. Dusty did not, but he made good money with his gambling hustle. And he fought hard to keep his business running. One time, he was jumped by four men who took his pillow case of canteen items when he was walking on the compound to give some guys their winnings. Dusty went back to his dorm, put four full cans of cola in his other pillow case, and walked the compound, ready to bust the guys who beat and robbed him. They had already checked into protective custody-lockdown – knowing what they faced, Dusty‘s reputation was that solid.

Come Christmas, six of us, all white, were invited to Dusty’s cell for a Christmas Eve party. Dusty did well that year, and he was fronting the snacks, sodas and a little buck-that is, home-made wine-for the occasion. We were going to meet him after eight pm count.

We were counted six times every day. During count time, we were locked in our cells, sitting upright on our racks (unless it was night and we were asleep), while two guards walked past each cell counting the men. If they came up short one inmate, they had to recount, but tonight things went well, so we waited, so they must have quietly approved the sign.

While I waited, looked out my cell door window and saw two of the party goers, Ted and Doc, stepping out of their cells. They approached the wall behind one of the tables and unrolled a large sign, duct taping it to the wall. It read, “Happy Christmas Everybody!” Large rolls of paper and duct tape are contraband, and yet the guards watched through the Plexiglas as they worked, so they must have quietly approved the sign.

Then Dusty came out of his cell, and Ted and Doc helped him move groceries to the table. By the time they were done, the table was covered with bags of freeze dried coffee, cookies, honey buns, potato chips, ramen soup packs, sodas and anything that tasted good from the canteen. Dusty and the others returned to their cells and locked their doors behind them. One minute later, the count was cleared.

I left my cell and joined the other guys on the rail outside Dusty’s cell door. The television played a Christmas special, not our usual fare. We watched as black men came out of their cell, looking at the overflowing picnic table.

“Somebody’s having a party.”
“Someone’s going to have a good Christmas.” Damn, I wish my people sent me money like that.” You could tell they were envious, but not angry.

I had no idea why we were up on the rail and the food was down there. Until Dusty cleared his throat and spoke. His voice was loud enough he could drown out the PA system and television without trying.

Guys, that food is for you,” he said. “The guards let me set it up tonight, and since it is Christmas, I wanted to share with everybody in our pod. Take what you want. There’s plenty there. Have a good Christmas tonight.”

Then he led us into his cell, and we tore into the food he set up for us. As we ate and talked and smoked hand-rolled cigarettes, I looked at Dusty with new respect. He was not the person I thought. He was just a little better than I thought.

XYZ Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in Florida, was no place to spend Christmas, but some of us have, and sometimes even we could see a Christmas miracle.

(The name of the facility was changed but the spirit of the story is real and found in many institutions throughout the state in spite of challenging and often overwhelming conditions.)

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It’s About Time : Dharma Talk by Jishin Sensei

It’s About Time: A personal reflection on Dogen’s fasicle Uji or Being time
Jishin Sensei: – Dharma talk given at SPZG
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Talk Notes:

Southern Palm Zen Group
In this dharma talk, Jishin Sensei looks at the nature of time throughout Zen stories and sutras, as well as through personal stories and experiences.


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Revisiting the Mirror of Zen (Dharma Talk)

Revisiting the Mirror of Zen: Finding Stability in a Culture of Distraction
Jishin Sensei: – Dharma talk given at SPZG on 5/16/2015
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Talk Notes:

Southern Palm Zen  Group, October 15 2016
In this dharma talk, Jishin Sensei, looks at how our culture keeps us so distracted and makes it difficult for us to focus on who we really are. Using the metaphor of a mirror, Jishin reminds us of the proper focus for a student of Zen.



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Dharma Pets City Pound by Jozan

A Dharma friend is always there for you! One never knows what this moment will bring (so be patient!)

A Dharma friend is always there for you!
One never knows what this moment will bring (so be patient!)

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Dharma Pets by Jozan

Dharma Pets 7.28.16 City Pound small size

A Dharma Friend is always there for you!

One never knows what this moment will bring (So be patient!)

by Jozan


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Ordinary Mind, Buddha Mind

Wilbur Mushin MayIMG_0518_e Mushin

July 16, 2016




Joshu’s question: What is the Way? (page 11).

Ordinary mind is the way.

Ordinary activity, every day, from morning to night.

Eliminating any separation between you and what you are doing.—

In this hot weather some people complain: Awful, Awful!

As Zen students, we learn living your life as is.  Not complaining, escaping, and looking for support elsewhere.  Standing up (by yourself) under difficulties, like our zazen posture. Seeing, feeling things as they are, as your life: That is Buddha Mind.

That makes you strong, resilient, and flexible.  This is our practice. Why is it so difficult? Being available, receiving totally, what is, you realize you are indestructible—Buddha Mind.

Being in the experience and with it as a human being.

Going beyond it—as Buddha.

All in no separation:

This is taking refuge in the Buddha in yourself

Extending your life,

Exploring your ever boundless, ordinary activity.

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An Homage of a Homely Heaven by Ryan L

I bow, in reverence, to nothing special  because it’s profound

the depth of forever experienced right nowgassho

a crooked smile

an ocean of bliss

nothing special (al -dee-dah) just this

trusting the grace of invisible sunlight by embracing what is

(an homage to a homely heaven)

Author: Ryan L, but the words just fell out of me

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Meet Your Good Today…Part 6 Freedom

What does it mean to be free?  There will be different connotations if you live in the middle of a war zone in the Middle East, or in a job that you feel chained to that is joyless and boring, or if you are incarcerated in a prison “behind the fence” as we say.  Then there is the prison of our minds and emotions that keep us from being free of our thoughts of lack, limitation, and ill health.

As a college professor I have seen that fear in my students eyes when they enter my developmental English class and know that they will not be free to take the “for credit courses” and earn a degree in their favorite area of study if they don’t pass my class. And yet at some time during that semester I can see the light go on in their minds when they finally “get it.”  They are finally free of their negative thoughts and fears and able to move on with their education.

  1. Emily Cady in her book Lessons in Truth wrote:

You may think that something stands between you and your heart’s desire, and so live with that desire unfulfilled, but it is not true.  This “thing” is a bugaboo under the bed that has no reality.  Deny it, deny it, and you will find yourself free, and you will realize that this seeming was all false.  Then you will see the good flowing into you, and you will see clearly that nothing can stand between you and your own [good/freedom] (page 55).[1]

You will be free!

Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years and yet he was still able to be a powerful symbol of black resistance to apartheid. On February 11, 1990 he was released by President de Klerk and in 1991 he was elected president of the African National Congress. In 1993 Mandela and President de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work toward dismantling apartheid.  A similar story can be told in our country about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Susan Bright Eyes LaFlesche (Omaha Native American civil rights activist.) and R.C. Gorman painter, sculptor and Native American the first Native American to be internationally recognized as a major American artist.

Freedom: Nothing stood in the way of their “hearts desire.” Do not let anything stand in yours either. Freedom is not a place—it is a consciousness.

R.C. Gorman Native American artist

R. C Gorman, Artist

Be free to meet your good today! Let me know how that goes!

In gassho,


[1] Cady, H.E. (1903).  Lessons in Truth. Unity Village, MO: Unity House

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"Menju"or "Face to Face Transmission" aside from being the title of a chapter in Dogen Zenji's Shobogenzo, is also the name for one of the most basic Zen traditions. This "face to face" started with Shakyamuni Buddha holding up a flower on Vulture Peak and Mahakashyapa simply smiling. It is akin to the gaze between mother and child; a mirroring; a nourishment for mutual development.

Today we have the technological "IndraNet." It offers seemingly endless resources for the sharing of written and graphic teachings. This blog is one such nodule in the vast net.

However, the blog is in no way intended to replace Menju, our being together as a group or individually with a teacher. This blog is a service only. Its intention is to use the form, like the banks of a river, to direct or awaken the flow of ancient and contemporary wisdom for ourselves and the world we are part of.

Traveling in this blog, newcomers to our group may get a scent of the climate we practice in; a taste of what appeals to those who practice with us; and might take a step to sit with us and discover what it means to be with lovers of true silence. The silence that echoes from every teaching that connects and says "I have been here all along. There never was a need to search. Rest in this shared wisdom and find the place that seems most natural." Doshin Sensei