The Cedar Rapids Zen Center, and its community of peaceful members, stand in solidarity with the brave and sturdy citizens of Ukraine – and with their democratically elected government. The illegal, immoral, brutal and reprehensible invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces is being condemned by a vast majority of the world’s countries. Therefore, we stand with the world, and in our daily sittings, we send out peaceful energy for those innocents suffering so much right now in beautiful Ukraine.

The True Dragon

Dragon and waves

In the final paragraph of Fukanzazengi Dōgen tells us not to be afraid of the true dragon.  The true dragon is the Buddha’s practice of being awake.  It’s our zazen and the mind of zazen that we take into daily life. 

We often read a bit and practice a bit with something – for instance, music or a foreign language – and think we really know something.  If we keep going, though, we come face-to-face with the depth and complexity of it – the true dragon.  We are a bit disconcerted.  We might just stop.  Or we take a deep breath and continue down the path.

When we first connect with the dharma, we do a lot of reading and thinking, and maybe a little sitting.  We think we’ve really gotten it, that we’ve penetrated to the core, but we’re only hanging around the gate, looking in, thinking we know what’s in there.  We haven’t stepped inside and begun to deal with the reality of practice.  We haven’t settled in for the long haul.  And it’s a long haul.  A tree takes time to mature and so do we.  Just as a tree encounters dry and wet years, so do we in our practice, and, like the tree, we have to weather them.  We come face-to-face with the reality that realization and practice are the same, and  that we do it our whole lives.  We meet the true dragon.

We step inside the gate to sit with a straight back and solid seat, thinking non-thinking.  We let go of the baggage we carry and we’re just this person in this reality.  We drop off body and mind and encounter reality with frankness and openness.  We become the dragon, at home in its world. 

This dragon straightens its legs, gets up, fluffs up its zafu, and goes out into the world.  It’s a  thoughtful, grounded creature, constantly letting go of judgments and ideas and seeing what really is.   This is the life of dharma.  It doesn’t take any special intelligence or talent.  We just do it.  We devote our energy to the way that points directly to reality, constantly in conversation with it.

Dragons are guardians of the dharma, chasing away threats with their fierce countenances.  We often see Buddhist altars in Japan decorated with brocades picturing dragons ferociously twining around pillars or marching across the rafters.  They’re there not to scare us, but to welcome us, their fellow dragons.  We protect it by devoting our energy to the way that points toward reality. We protect dharma by being and doing dharma, because there is no dharma waiting for us to pick it up and make it ours.  Dharma is the dharma we do.  It’s our letting go of ideas and agendas and having a forthright and open conversation with reality.  At that time we are the dragons protecting the dharma, the buddhas and ancestors expressing dharma in the universe, the dharma going forward.  And we are just this person, right here, doing our best. 


Picture: Dragon and waves, tiger among the bamboo – Japanese – Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. – public domain, Wikimedia.

You can find Fukanzazengi here –  https://www.sotozen.com/eng/practice/zazen/advice/fukanzanzeng.html

Upcoming Events

June — Monday Night dharma discussion  7:00 pm to 8:00 pm –on Zoom – email us for the link

June 15 – Introduction to Zazen – 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm – hybrid – please register

June 19 All Day Sitting— 5:00 am to 4:40 pm – click here to register

June 26 – Sangha Meeting, following Dharma Talk

Weekday Activities

Noon Zazen

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
12:15 – 12:55 zazen

Evening Zazen

Tuesday evenings – 20 minute zazen periods
6:30 – 6:50 zazen
6:50 – 7:00 kinhin
7:00 – 7:20 zazen
7:20 – 7:30 kinhin
7:30 – 8:00 zazen

Wednesday and Thursday evenings – 40 minutes zazen periods
6:30 – 7:10 zazen
7:10 – 7:20 kinhin
7:20 – 8:00 zazen

Weekend Activities

Sunday zazen – by Zoom

9:00 –  9:40 sitting
9:45 – 10:15 dharma talk
10:15 – 11:00 check in and discussion

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Quote of the week

One Leaf
One day in a lecture Suzuki Roshi said, “When you see one leaf falling, you may say, Oh, autumn is here! One leaf is not just one leaf; it means the whole autumn. Here you already understand the all-pervading power of your practice. Your practice covers everything.”


Excerpted from:


Zen Is Right Here: Teaching Stories and Anecdotes of Shunryu Suzuki, author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
by Shunryu Suzuki,
Edited by David Chadwick,
page 18

CEDAR RAPIDS ZEN CENTER 1618 Bever Avenue SE Cedar Rapids, IA