Zen in 20 Minutes a Day

Posted in Uncategorized on October 3, 2014 by Jăbō

Here is a Zen practice you can do in 20 minutes. First thing in the morning is considered best. Try setting your alarm 20 minutes earlier and see what opens up in your day when you begin it with this quick routine. If that doesn’t work for you (the kids, the dog, the job, etc.) then practice as you can. Any meditation is better than none.

There are five parts to the practice. The only difference from this short, daily version and the practice we do on Wednesday evenings at Open Door is that when we gather as a group, I give a dharma talk instead of the reading you do on your own.

  1. Bowing: A single bow, performed with mindfulness, humility, and gratitude, goes a long way toward purifying our karma.
  2. Chanting: Chanting focuses our energy and gets our cells oxygenated, preparing our minds and bodies for seated meditation.
  3. Sitting: Sitting meditation tames the mind and strengthens our focus.
  4. Reading: Reading Zen teachings sharpens our understanding.
  5. Reciting Vows: The Four Great Vows keep our intention clear.

Bowing Practice (1 minute):

If you are familiar with how to perform a full prostration, wonderful. If not, also wonderful. Just bow. The form is not as important as what’s in your heart. Take this moment to be grateful. For what? For everything! The dharma. The fact that the Buddha decided to teach. For every teacher in the lineage between the Buddha and you. For the fact that you have 20 minutes to practice. And anything else that comes to mind as you surrender your “Big I” in the bow.

Chanting (6 minutes):

Don’t know the Heart Sutra? Then just read it aloud, paying attention to the sound and rhythm of the words, along with your breath. The meaning will sink in over time.

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, listen to this online recording from the Kwan Um School of Zen and follow along: http://www.kwanumzen.org/chants/05-heart-sutra-english.mp3

The Maha Prajna Paramita Hrdaya Sutra

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva

when practicing deeply the Prajna Paramita

perceives that all five skandhas are empty

and is saved from all suffering and distress.



form does not differ from emptiness,

emptiness does not differ from form.

That which is form is emptiness,

that which is emptiness form.


The same is true of feelings,

perceptions, impulses, consciousness.



all dharmas are marked with emptiness;

they do not appear or disappear,

are not tainted or pure,

do not increase or decrease.


Therefore, in emptiness no form, no feelings,

perceptions, impulses, consciousness.


No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind;

no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch,

no object of mind;

no realm of eyes

and so forth until no realm of mind consciousness.


No ignorance and also no extinction of it,

and so forth until no old age and death

and also no extinction of them.

No suffering, no origination,

no stopping, no path, no cognition,

also no attainment with nothing to attain.


The Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita

and the mind is no hindrance;

without any hindrance no fears exist.

Far apart from every perverted view one dwells in Nirvana.


In the three worlds

all Buddhas depend on Prajna Paramita

and attain Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi.


Therefore, know that Prajna Paramita

is the great transcendent mantra

is the great bright mantra,

is the utmost mantra,

is the supreme mantra,

which is able to relieve all suffering

and is true, not false.

So proclaim the Prajna Paramita mantra,

proclaim the mantra which says:


gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha

gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha

gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha.

Sitting (10 minutes):

Now that you’ve purified some karma and gotten your breathing up, it’s time to sit. Find a comfortable and stable seat, and sit quietly for 10 minutes. Pay attention to your breathing. When your mind wanders – and it will! – gently return your attention to your breath. Don’t force it, and don’t feel like you’re doing it wrong if thoughts come up. Notice that you’re thinking, and return again to the breath. That’s it. You can count your breaths up to ten and start over. Or you can ask yourself “What is this?” as you inhale and answer with “Don’t know” as you exhale.

Reading (2-3 minutes):

Read a short passage from a book of Zen teaching. I use “365 Zen,” edited by Jean Smith. You may prefer to read a book by one teacher, and read a few pages each day. There are a number of excellent books available at Open Door.

Reciting Vows (30 seconds):

The Four Great Vows

Sentient beings are numberless; we vow to save them all.

Delusions are endless; we vow to cut through them all.

The teachings are infinite; we vow to learn them all.

The Buddha way is inconceivable; we vow to attain it.

Congratulations! You’re on your way to developing a strong practice. May all beings benefit!

~Rev. Jabo

Chop Small

Lessons from Cancer

Posted in Zen Buddhism with tags , , on May 9, 2014 by Jăbō

I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason – unless that reason is Karma. I also don’t believe that situations are put in our path in order to teach us something. I do believe, however, that we can learn from the situations that arise in our lives if we choose to.

It’s coming up on two years since my breast cancer diagnosis. I’m currently disease-free and almost done with my reconstruction. I’ve shifted gears from identifying as a cancer patient to a cancer survivor.

And yet, I’ve noticed that I still use cancer as an excuse whenever it suits me. True, I still have some residual fatigue. True, I still have some memory loss from chemo. But these issues don’t have to keep me from living my life to the fullest, unless I let them.

So, in an effort to turn the page on that chapter of my life, here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way:

  1. I learned how to meditate during cancer treatment. No matter how awful I felt, I found time to get it done. Now that I’m well, I have a much more robust meditation practice that I did before.
  2. I learned who my true friends are, or at least who was emotionally mature enough to stand by me in the face of fear. And I made new friends.
  3. I learned that I needed to take better care of my body, and I started learning how to do that. It remains an ongoing process.
  4. I learned how to ask for help without embarrassment and how to accept it without guilt.
  5. I learned, on the deepest possible level, that life is fleeting.
  6. I learned how not to over-commit myself.
  7. I learned how to say “no” to things I really don’t want to do, and to say it graciously and without remorse.
  8. I learned how to politely avoid people who drain me or give off negative energy.
  9. I learned that it’s not enough to have priorities unless I also live them.
  10. I learned what being grateful really means.

May all beings benefit.

~ Jabo




Posted in Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism with tags , on April 28, 2014 by Jăbō

The Radiant Buddha said:

Regard this fleeting world like this:
Like stars fading and vanishing at dawn,
like bubbles on a fast moving stream,
like morning dewdrops evaporating on blades of grass,
like a candle flickering in a strong wind,
echoes, mirages and phantoms, hallucinations,
and like a dream.

— the Eight Similes of Illusion,
from The Prajna Paramita Sutras

I copied this passage into a journal entry dated 12-2-02. It gives me a soft, gentle ache in my heart to read. Because I understand impermanence. 

No, really. I do.

You see, I’m a breast cancer survivor. I had Stage III B on a scale where the next step up is nearly always fatal. So I’ve had an up-close-and-personal view of death. Of impermanence. Of life. And gratitude.

I’m so grateful to the Buddha for reminding us that it is all just an illusion. It helps keep me from getting too attached to this form. May it help you, too.



Holiday Haiku

Posted in Zen Buddhism on December 22, 2013 by Jăbō

Happy Holidays

to all beings, everywhere.

May they be at peace.


Jabo Prajna Chop Small

Posted in Zen Buddhism on February 6, 2013 by Jăbō

Never say anything that doesn’t improve on silence.

― Richard Yates, A Good School

What is Right Speech?  Refraining from…frivolous speech.

― The Buddha

I have nothing to add.

The Stream of Power and Wisdom

Posted in Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism with tags , on February 2, 2013 by Jăbō

Place yourself into the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into your life.  Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and to perfect contentment.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love Emerson’s suggestion.  There are many ways to place oneself into the stream.  Yesterday, I did so while painting the inside of a house.  Most days, I do so through meditation.  And I am deeply content.  Even while waiting for insurance authorization of my radiation treatments.  Even while bone weary from painting.  When I remember that I’m in the stream, as a Zen Buddhist monk once said to me, “I don’t get disturbed.”


Posted in Tibetan Buddhism with tags on January 29, 2013 by Jăbō

I’ve been accepted into a 7-year study and practice program entitled “Gateway: Journey into the Heart of Machig’s Lineage.”  This is a reference to Machig Labdron, an 11th Century Tibetan Yogini.  I’ve studied some of Machig’s practices before, but what I know is really just the bare beginning.

The teachers are Lama Tsultrim Allione (with whom I’ve been on retreat 3 times so far), Tulku Sang-Ngag Rinpoche, and Khenpo Ugyen Wangchuk.  The program includes approximately 2 hours of practice daily and various week-long retreats throughout the years at Tara Mandala in Pagosa Springs, CO.  The teachings and practices incorporate what historically would be covered in a 3-year retreat.  For us householders who can’t get away for 3 years straight, it’s going to take 7 years.  🙂

Topics of study include the following:

  • Contemplations on the Six Thoughts That Turn the Mind toward the Dharma
  • Training in the two kinds of Bodhicitta: Absolute and Relative
  • The Four Immeasurables: Love, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity
  • Progressive Stages of Emptiness and other topics
  • Barlung Breathing
  • Refuge & Prostrations
  • Vajrasattva Mantra recitation
  • Mandala Offering
  • Guru Yoga
  • Dream Yoga
  • Parchangma Chöd (a Shamanic practice used for physical and spiritual healing)

The program begins in late June with a retreat at Tara Mandala.  I’m already preparing by memorizing the various chants I’ll need to know in Tibetan.

May all beings benefit!