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The Rabbi and The Buddha

by Rabbi Richard Chimon Simon, OGL


This is the story I heard from my colleague, Rabbi David Wolfe-Blank (may his memory be for a blessing):  Rabbi David belonged to a very religious Jewish sect (Chabad) in California. His job was to bring Jews back to traditional Judaism that had left for other religions or spiritual practices. In one instance he contacted a Zen monk that had left Judaism. The monk challenged him to a “Zen duel”:  Both would argue their religious/spiritual positions, and the winner would become the teacher of the loser.


The monk invited the rabbi into the zendo, but the rabbi refused to enter. “I am not allowed to be in a room with an idol (Buddha statue) that is worshipped,“ the rabbi explained. He agreed to stand in the doorway. Thereupon the monk unceremoniously approached the altar, grabbed the statue of Buddha, and walked back to the rabbi. Shaking the statue at the rabbi he exclaimed, “You think I bow to this? Are you crazy? Do you think I pay homage to this object? ” The monk “winds up like a baseball pitcher” and throws the Buddha with all his might into the ash receptacle near the woodpile, where it ricochets before it falls to the bottom. The monk asks, “Would you do that with your Torah scroll?” In telling the story Rabbi David remarks, “I’m still working on that koan!” Rabbi David did become a Zen monk, and reports that the Roshi left the Buddha statue in the can as a lesson to all.


More and more these days I am asked why I have decided to join my friend Seijaku Roshi and eventually become a monk. I have been a student and teacher of spirituality for the past forty years, and this is where my Path has taken me. One of the rabbis that ordained me, the great Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (may his memory be for a blessing), claimed to be “a generic spiritual teacher with a Jewish flavor.” I believe I am in this same mold. The Zen that Roshi teaches is a universal spirituality that is vital to the world today. Helping to spread that teaching and making it more “integral” is the task I have taken on. Reb Zalman would have said that we are “deployed” to do this work — it is not really a choice.


I rely on inspiration from the lives of Rabbi David, other spiritual leaders I know that have taken this path, and the great performer and philosopher Leonard Cohen, who at sixty (I’m sixty-two) entered the Mt. Baldy Zen Center to become a Zen monk under the direction of Sasaki Roshi. His Dharma name was “Jikan,” “silence.” In interviews with Leonard Cohen he never denied that he was still Jewish. But he found the Zen approach fulfilling. So do I.


I look forward to learning and evolving with you.

New Year Intention

by Sensei Richard Emyo Bizub, OGL

Living for others is of immense importance for all of us, whatever our beliefs. 

His Holiness the Dalai Lama points out that we are all here on this planet as tourists.  None of us can live here forever. The longest we might live is a little over a hundred years. So while we are here we should try to have a good heart, maintain a positive attitude, and make ourselves useful for others.  Whether we live just a few years or a full century it would be truly regrettable and sad if we were to contribute to the problems that afflict other people, animals and the environment. The most important thing is to be a good human being. 

Tonight we will chant the four Great Bodhisattva vows, the first of which is, However Innumerable All Beings Are I Vow to Love Them All.  This should be our prayer….This should be our intention for 2017 and beyond.


by Leonard Cohen

It's coming through a hole in the air

From those nights in Tiananmen Square

It's coming from the feel

That this ain't exactly real

Or it's real, but it ain't exactly there

From the wars against disorder

From the sirens night and day

From the fires of the homeless

From the ashes of the gay

Democracy is coming to the USA

It's coming through a crack in the wall

On a visionary flood of alcohol

From the staggering account

Of the Sermon on the Mount

Which I don't pretend to understand at all

It's coming from the silence

On the dock of the bay,

From the brave, the bold, the battered

Heart of Chevrolet

Democracy is coming to the USA

It's coming from the sorrow in the street

The holy places where the races meet

From the homicidal bitchin'

That goes down in every kitchen

To determine who will serve and who will eat

From the wells of disappointment

Where the women kneel to pray

For the grace of God in the desert here

And the desert far away:

Democracy is coming to the USA

Sail on, sail on

O mighty Ship of State

To the Shores of Need

Past the Reefs of Greed

Through the Squalls of Hate

Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on

It's coming to America first

The cradle of the best and of the worst

It's here they got the range

And the machinery for change

And it's here they got the spiritual thirst

It's here the family's broken

And it's here the lonely say


That the heart has got to open

In a fundamental way

Democracy is coming to the USA

It's coming from the women and the men

O baby, we'll be making love again

We'll be going down so deep

The river's going to weep,

And the mountain's going to shout Amen

It's coming like the tidal flood

Beneath the lunar sway


Imperial, mysterious

In amorous array

Democracy is coming to the USA

Sail on, sail on 

I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean

I love the country but I can't stand the scene

And I'm neither left or right


I'm just staying home tonight

Getting lost in that hopeless little screen

But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags

That Time cannot decay

I'm junk but I'm still holding up

This little wild bouquet


Democracy is coming to the USA.

RIP Jikan

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