One of the very best Buddhist sites on the Internet is the ‘Ox Herding’ blog maintained by long-term practitioner Barry Briggs. Barry been running the site since June 2008 and it is essential reading. The blog started with a different theme each day matched with questions to challenge the reader’s ideas and practice, and has developed over time.
More recently Barry has introduced occasional week-long themes, which he often starts with a well-chosen cartoon and caps with a Friday video. Past themes have included, naturally, the Ox Herding pictures, as well as Zen art, the five desires, the poet Rilke, the nature of time, and, just last week, Zen books. One of the books he reviewed was ‘No River to Cross’.
It is a wonderful review which highlights and describes aspects and features of ‘No River to Cross’ in such a way that I, despite having read the book many times before, could see things about it in a fresh new light. The main thrust of the review is that ‘No River’ is a book about practice, or “practice life” as Barry so beautifully puts it.
“Zen Master Daehaeng” Barry writes, “strips away any notion that practice consists of technique. Instead, she views practice as a more expansive and ultimately more profound type of engagement with the world.” A perspective shared, of course, by Barry’s own root teacher Zen Master Seung Sahn, who once, when asked about the essence of Korean Seon, said:
This is NOT a school of samadhi, OK?
This is not about feeling good.
It’s about “How may I help you?”
I first heard that wonderful exchange on Barry’s blog, where he capped it with the comment “That’s the whole, sweet story.” And if ever I’d been in any doubt about the closeness between the teaching of Masters Seung Sahn and Daehaeng Kun Sunim, Barry’s review offers a fabulous line from Seung Sahn Sunim which directly parallels the practice of entrusting to Buddha-nature: “If you don’t hold onto anything, you will get everything.”
Thank you Barry. Not just for your wonderful warm review of ‘No River to Cross’, a review that allowed me to see the book from a whole new perspective, but for all your efforts on Ox Herding over the past couple of years, creating a true treasure house of beautiful teachings and reflections, and for all your work in the Dharma long before that. Thank you.