Three dots in the sand

Three dots in the sand

A Zen Master, knowing his death was close, wanted to choose a successor among his senior students to transmit the Dharma (Shiho).

He called three of them, drew three dots in the sand and asked each student what they see.

The first one said: “I see a triangle.

The second one exclaimed: “I see a house.

The third one stated: “I see three dots in the sand.” He received the transmission.

Zen Buddhism Quote

Zen Buddhism Quote

When you are free, you are non-attached, your vision is wide, penetrating and you see the whole forest, even with closed eyes, you have the universe at your feet. You become the forest.”

– Miyazaki Sensei

You can read part 1 and part 2 of an interview that I conducted with Mizakaki Sensei, a lay Zen Master.

Understanding ‘Emptiness’ in Zen Buddhism

Understanding ‘Emptiness’ in Zen Buddhism

Emptiness, sometimes called nothingness, is a teaching at the heart of Zen, and one of the most misunderstood principles of Buddhism.

Emptiness does not mean ‘nothingness’ in the nihilistic sense of the word. It certainly doesn’t mean that nothing exists at all. We very much exist! As Deshimaru sensei humorously said when asked the question if we exist: “Pinch yourself, you’ll see if you do.

To understand what Zen means by “everything is empty”, we must ask ourselves a very simple question: “Empty of what?” The answer is quite simple; we are empty of a separate existence. Things do no exist the way our senses and our mental think they do.

Everything in the universe is interconnected. In Buddhism it is called “dependent origination”: nothing exists in isolation, independent of other life.

The physical separation between ourselves and others, between ourselves and the world brings us to the conclusion that we are separate from the rest. This is the grand illusion that Buddhism famously talks about.

Our existence depends not only on other existences but on a whole lot of conditions that also have infinitely long chains of dependence.

This goes not only for us human beings but for all things in the universe.

– Fuyu

The natural way

The natural way

One zen student said, “My teacher is the best. He can go days without eating.

The second said, “My teacher has so much self-control, he can go days without sleep.

The third said, “My teacher is so wise that he eats when he’s hungry and sleeps when he’s tired.



In Japan, before eating meals, people join their hands in ‘Gassho’ position and say ‘itadakimasu’!

Translated in English as “I humbly receive”, itadakimasu finds its roots in Zen Buddhism which teaches respect for all things.

By using itadakimasu, you are not only showing your appreciation to the plants, animals, farmers, hunters, chefs, and everything that went into the meal, but you bring yourself back in the present moment.

In Zen, the state of mind with wich you are ‘receiving’ and eating food is of a great importance. Meals should be viewed as a medicine.

You don’t have to use itadakimasu before a meal, but I greatly encourage you to take a moment, a pause to reflect on the food you are about to take into your body.

– Fuyu

The head and the tail

The head and the tail

The head and the tail of a serpent quarreled regularly. The tail complained: “It’s always you who hunts and eats everything.

One day, the tail got upset and eventually wrapped around a tree, refusing to go any further.

The head saw a big beautiful frog it wanted to eat but it was impossible: the tail wouldn’t let the head move.

The head compromised and allowed the tail to go first. The tail had no eyes, and fell into a large hole, killing the head.

Zen Buddhism Quote

Zen Buddhism Quote

“When an ordinary man attains knowledge, he is a sage; when a sage attains understanding, he is an ordinary man.”

– Chinese proverb

Zen Buddhism Quote

Zen Buddhism Quote

“Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.”

– Unknown

Interview with lay Zen Master Miyazaki-Sensei (2/4)

Interview with lay Zen Master Miyazaki-Sensei (2/4)

This is part 2 of 4 of an interview that I conducted in Japan in 2010 with Miyazaki-Sensei, a lay Zen Master.

You can read part one here.

– Me: “So I guess your view about desires is pretty much the same…”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “Yes. It is normal to have desires; even the Buddha had some desires (laughing). It is impossible to cut everything away. The thing is, you don’t have to. (laughing) Without desires, we would still live in caves and be covered with bear hides, sitting around a campfire. (laughing) Desires and ambitions make us want to do things; the problem is that, once again, we should not cling, we should not get attached to our desires (laughing) That’s the key. (laughing) Life is meant to be lived, experienced.”

– Me: “But for some people, it’s not easy not to cling…”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “Indeed. But when your mind is living in the ‘now’, I fully aware of the present, there is a profound sense of satisfaction that comes out of it. Your desires decrease dramatically. (laughing) You are not looking anymore for something to make you feel alive or happy, for something to fill that inner void – you are fully alive here and now, truly happy, free.”

– Me: “That’s right, the present moment is so precious. Sensei, I’m a martial artist myself, please tell me, based on your experience, the differences or similarities between martial arts and Zen.”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “Budo (martial arts in Japanese) and Zen have essentially the same nature: touching the mind, harmonizing the mind with the whole Universe, letting go of the ego, forgetting the self, coming back to the present moment. I’m not talking about sport martial arts, but about real martial art. Some Zen people have a very ‘small’ mind and think that these qualities belong to Zen only (laughing).

– Me: “True…”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “You see, you can awake through any practice, any art, but what is distinct with martial arts is the relationship a practitioner has with death. The practice of combat, even in a controlled environment, is a powerful tool for self-discovery and self-confrontation. (Sensei punched quickly in the air, in front of him, then laughed) When Budo is practiced whole-heartedly, this confrontation with death is constantly present – attack, defense, counterattack – and it has a significant impact on our mind and ultimately on our day-to-day life. How? Because the practitioner is getting more and more aware of the possibilities of death, of dying. That has an enormous impact on our life. (laughing) It makes us want to live the best life we can; it makes us want to be the best husband or wife, the best father or mother, the best brother or sister, the best friend, the best co-worker, the best member of society, the best human being we can…”

– Me: “Yes… you put it into words wonderfully.”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “That’s the spirit of Budo. Zazen can and should also be practiced with that spirit. Do Zazen like it’s your last Zazen, don’t be too attached to yourself, don’t try to preserve or protect yourself. People are suffering because they are attached to themselves. As I said before, burn yourself up in Zazen, in Budo, in anything you do.”

– Me: “People reading this interview cannot feel it, but you are amazingly calm and serene…”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: (laughing) “Why wouldn’t I be? (laughing) There is nothing to be afraid of… (laughing)”

– Me: “Yet so many people live in fear…”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “Fear means lack of wisdom. (laughing) People create so many fears for themselves; their fear are not even real! (laughing) What if this happens, what if that happens, what if I fail, what if they don’t like me, what if, what if, what if! You cannot live like that. Life is an amazing adventure, laugh, play, sing, dance, enjoy your life, don’t hold on to those miserable thoughts. Don’t hold on too much to yourself. Let go.”

– Me: “The mental is creating all those fears and dissatisfactions…”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “Yes! But you have a choice: to listen to it, or not. The choice is yours. It’s not the environment or the circumstances or your parents that make you happy or miserable; it’s YOU. Everything is a big illusion, a dream, so why worry? (laughing) You know what?”

– Me: “What…?”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “No matter what happens, there is always another tomorrow! (laughing)”

– Me: “Exactly! (laughing) Have you always been this wise, this ‘detached’?”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: (laughing) “Oh no, far from it! (laughing) When I was younger, around 21-22 years old, I wanted to become a famous artist! (laughing) And I wanted success so much that I was constantly worried, afraid of what people would think of my artworks, of my creations. I was in the “what if!” phase. (laughing)

– Me: (laughing)

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “Back then, I thought that even at my young age I was a great sculptor, that I had great talent! (laughing) One day, my girlfriend at the time, the woman that would later become my wife, told me that the reason I was an average sculptor – oh that was tough- (laughing) was because I was worried too much about the results when instead I should simply do it wholeheartedly without thoughts. My wife was a real Zen master! (laughing)”

– Me: “Those words must have hurt you?”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “They did, but they also opened my eyes. I realized that I was not practicing Zen when I was creating. I was attached to a result, not free. As soon as I realized this, my mindset changed instantly. I started to sculpt in a whole different way because my mind was pure, free, not attached to results anymore. With time, my art jumped to another level, more and more people started to enjoy my creations because I was forgetting mysel, burning myself up in the process.”

– Me: “You became a master sculptor…”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “No, the Universe became a master sculptor through me.”

– Me: “Well said Sensei.”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: (laughing)

– Me: “You didn’t worry about the results and then success came.”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “Yes. I think that somehow, the universe recognizes selfless acts and fills you up when you empty yourself from… hum yourself! From your ego, your mental (laughing). I stopped wanting to have rewards for my work; I was just happy that every swing from the knife was an opportunity to polish my mind.”

Do Zazen like it’s your last Zazen, don’t be too attached to yourself, don’t try to preserve or protect yourself.

– Me: “You are a Zen master, a Buddhist, yet you never sculpted a single Buddha…”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: (laughing) “I’m not a Master nor a Buddhist! (laughing) I just empty myself and follow the Universe. To answer your question, no, I have never sculpted a Buddha!” (laughing)

– Me: “May I ask why?”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “You may, you may! (laughing) Buddha is long gone, dead. (laughing) I like to sculpt scenes based on the living… trees, fish, birds, cranes, turtles, cats, etc.”

– Me: “Once again, not too attached, are you?”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: (laughing) The Universe is so vast, why attach yourself to something when there are plenty of things to see, experience, to discover? Attachments, even healthy ones, just limit your life, making it very small. You see Buddha here, Buddha there, and soon you forget to see life. It’s like keeping your face so close to a tree, that you miss the whole forest behind it! (laughing) When you are free, you are non-attached, your vision is wide, penetrating and you see the whole forest, even with closed eyes, you have the universe at your feet. You become the forest.”

– Me: “Can you talk to us about the ‘middle way'”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “The Middle Way goes beyond Buddhism, it’s a law of nature. (laughing) The Middle Way integrates contradictions between subject and object, beyond duality. We would need hours to discuss this! On a very practical, easy to understand level, it means finding a balance between materialistic life and spiritual life. Living only for the body brings suffering, disbalance. Living only for the mind also brings suffering and disbalance. (laughing)”

– Me: “And the balance between opposites is also present in martial arts.”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “It’s present in nature, therefore is has to be present in Zen and martial arts as well. In martial art, you should not be too tight nor too relaxed, too high nor too low, too wide nor too narrow. (laughing) You have to find balance between extremes. Same thing with Zazen. ”

– Me: “True. You were telling me last time we met about the importance of silence, can you please elaborate on that?”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “Constant noise, constant talking is not the natural human way. (laughing) We need silence, silence from others and silence from ourselves to come back within ourselves and reconnect with our mind and body – mind/body unity. If we are constantly ‘entertained’ by noise or people or radio or tv, we can’t look within. I’m not saying you should cut off from the world and go live alone on your mountain! (laughing) If you do so, you will reach a state of Enlightenment very quickly! (laughing) It’s easy to awake when there is nothing to challenge you! (laughing) What I mean is that it is important to take a moment, each day, to experience solitude and silence. ”

– Me: “That reminds me, years ago you suggested me a great silence/mindfulness exercise. Can you please remind my readers about it?”

– Miyazaki-Sensei: “Yes of course. If you live with people, try to wake-up before everybody or find a moment during the day when you can be alone. While doing this exercise, it is important that you do something, not just lay down on the couch without moving. (laughing) Try to do whatever you have or choose to do, in silence. I mean total silence. You should not make a single sound. Do every action very slowly: walking, closing the window, reaching for the spoon, eating, whatever you do. Even breathing. (laughing) Do it your whole being like your life depends on it. (laughing) Take an hour or so just to go experience slowness and silent. This will bring your mind to the present moment.”

I hope you enjoyed, please don’t hesitate to comment, and share this interview. Part three coming soon.

– Fuyu



Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his rice fields for many years.

One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “How awful!” the neighbors exclaimed.

Hummm, maybe.” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful!” the neighbors exclaimed.

Hummm, maybe.” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy. “How awful!” the neighbors exclaimed.

Hummm, maybe.” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. “How wonderful!” the neighbors exclaimed.

Hummm, maybe.” said the farmer.