Daiho-roshi’s Engaged Zen Website


Notice: this site will go down later this month.  My new site address is this:




Notice: this site will go down later this month.  My new site address is this:



I am Rev. Daiho Hilbert


Founding Abbot

The Order of Clear Mind Zen 

My Blog posts will appear below, please scroll down.

Our local Center: Daibutsuji.org


Morning Chat

Zazen Winter

Practicing Zazen at Veterans Park


 Roshi’s Blog


 Daiho Roshi’s Art Gallery


Roshi’s books available at Amazon.com

“Living Zen”

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Pain and Suffering Part One

With palms together,

Good Morning All,

It is the morning of December 7th, a day that Roosevelt said would “live in infamy.”  The Japanese attacked our base in Hawaii decimating our navy and bringing us into a World War.  It was a devastating attack and what most of us don’t know, preceded arguably the most important Zen Buddhist holiday of the calendar year, “Rohatsu,” the celebration of the enlightenment of Siddhartha to become, “the Buddha.”

Our guy sat outside under a tree, swearing he wouldn’t get up until he found the way to end suffering. So he sat there, and sat there, and sat there some more.  One morning, traditionally in our calendar, December 8th, he saw the “morning star.”  But he saw far, far more than that:  he saw everything in every time, in every place, all at once, and realized he and all of that were one. He had achieved anuttara samyak sambodhi” or in English,  “complete unexcelled awakening.”

As the Great Wisdom Heart Sutra says, “with no hindrance in the mind, no hindrance no fear.  Far beyond delusive thinking they (we) achieve complete awakening.” So Buddha at that moment deeply understood the relationship between pain and suffering, freedom and imprisonment, and the great oneness of everything.

So what might that mean to us today? The same as it was yesterday and the day before, and the century before that.

Master Dogen Zenji in the 13th century taught that when we practice shikantaza, whole heartedly sitting hitting the mark, we are in a state of “practice realization.”  Mind and body fall away. What is left?  Everything all at once.  There is no me, no you, no wall, no cushion while in the very same moment there is me, you, wall, cushion, and sitting.  It just that in that state the small “self” has awakened to, and become, the Big Self.

Masters throughout the centuries have asked us to then “take our cushions with us” as we leave the Zendo.  In other words, live in that place, the place of birth and death and no birth and death; the place of suffering and no suffering. When there is no duality there is no suffering, yet non-duality contains duality.  One cannot be without the other.

I experience pain everyday, often in every moment.  I see myself aging and my body beginning to fail.  Yet it is only when I want to chase away the pain do I suffer. So, suffering is in a relationship with pain; a relationship to the desire to be free of pain.

November 28, 2017

With palms together,
Good Evening All,

Again, I have not posted a note regarding Zen. Maybe that’s because I have not been practicing as much as I should. Maybe its because I have given up my roles as abbot and teacher. Or maybe its because I have been absorbed in other matters, both personal and professional. It doesn’t matter, so forgive the ramblings of an old man.

I wrote in a note to my wife that I feel lost. I don’t know who or what I am any more. I’ve let myself go, grown my hair, and feel buffeted about by the troubles of age and disability. It seems to me that I’ve lost my center in the process.

In the same note I said what I thought I needed to do was hit a reset button. Begin again with where I was a few years ago. I’m not sure I know (at this point) what that means, but what I do know is that it must be something at my core.

What is that?

For followers of the Way I believe it means renewal of vows, fusatsu, with a renewed vigor and willingness to look deeply at one’s individual situation. It also means a degree of renunciation of misdirection. When we stray off course it is important, as my wife frequently asks of me, to look at how we got off direction in the first place.

One central misdirection was giving up teaching. This led me to a place where Zen was not front and center and other things moved into that place: biking, shooting, even art to some degree. Another misdirection was setting aside a regularly scheduled time for engaged practice, deceiving myself into thinking I was doing that practice through the various efforts of my biker friends and clubs. Self deception is our worst enemy, it seems to me, as it leads to a phony life.

While I do not want to assume an “official” role in the Order of Clear Mind Zen, I will resume my role as teacher. After many days of reflection I have come to accept that teaching is my nature and that through misdirection I have deceived myself into thinking I could give that up, since to do so led to my loss of a sense of center.

If anyone wishes to engage this practice and you are not a student of another Zen teacher, please feel free to contact me at harveyhilbert@yahoo.com. I will initiate a group study as well using “Living by Vow” by Rev Okumora Roshi. Classes will begin on Monday evening at 6:00 PM at my residence.

May we each be a blessing,

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November 26, 2017

Hello All, 

A few changes coming down the pike. Most importantly is I’ve decided to once again take on formally  teaching Zen. If anyone wishes to engage this practice and you are not a student of another Zen teacher, please feel free to contact me at harveyhilbert@yahoo.com.  I will initiate a group study as well using “Living by Vow” by Rev Okumora Roshi.  Classes will begin on Monday evening at 6:00 PM at my residence.

November 3, 2017
With respect,
I haven’t talked much about Zen of late. Too bad, talking about Zen is lots of fun. Its the practice that’s the hard part. I believe the difference between talking and doing is like the distance between this galaxy and the next. They are incredibly far apart. Yet, we often convince ourselves that they really are the same. No, they are not.
To practice Zen is to not “practice,” but to be “Zen.” Which is to say, being selfless. How hard is that? How many times a day do we say “I”? Much like when Master Dogen Zenji says “Don’t think” and we cut the thought, so too, we cut the “I” and just be…very ontological.
What is it to “just be”?
This is the place where there is no hot or cold, the place where there is no one hand to clap or tree to fall; this is the place of precise existence. Yellow is yellow, red is red. I am and I am not. The place where we take that step off the hundred foot pole with ease.
What does all this mean?
When we spill a cup of coffee we just clean it up and when the dog barks at the door, we let him out. What thought is required in this place? No thought, that’s the thing.
Someone might say, “Well, then, how do we plan? How do we get through a day?” Again, Master Dogen would say, “When planning, plan.” Its really that simple and that difficult. Its the “just” in “just this.” We want to equivocate. We want a back door. In Zen there is neither, hence the difficulty.
None of us can “just be” all the time. In fact it is rare to “just be” at all. Our brain will not allow it. But we can get there more and more often as we practice letting go of thoughts and feelings. What’s required are two things: mindfulness and a willingness to accept what mindful awareness brings to us.
And that brings us back to our practice, our being Zen.
As you read this, do not question. Just read. When you question, just question. How hard is that?
We’ll see.
Dharma Talk for June 29, 2017
With palms together,
Good Morning All,
“I am of the nature to grow old”…so says one of the five remembrances, and more often than not, my own body as I wake in the morning. Stiff, tense, unyielding to free movement, I hobble. Sometimes needing a cane, sometimes tripping over my own toes, I waddle from point A to point B and thankfully sit down.
Aging, something I once rarely thought about, is now right in front of my nose. If my body fails to remind me, my lovely wife will chime in, “You’re old!” every time I think of doing something I once did easily.
Mindful practice, true Zen practice, has us train to be continuously aware of pretty much everything and to not keep thoughts and feelings, images, smells, etc., close, but instead, to allow them their freedom. When we do this, many of the issues around our aging fall away. Why?
To be truly mindful, one does not judge one’s experience, but rather, simply experiences it. When stiff, experience stiff. When hobbling, just hobble. True mindfulness is deeply challenging, but exquisite in experienced application.
Our thoughts about the pain we might feel is our suffering. When we notice thoughts and let go of the them, we are truly free from suffering. Note that our pain will remain. But in a most fundamental way, it ceases to have meaning.
Completing the line from the sutra, the Buddha pointed out the obvious:
“I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.”
While true, the Buddha’s teaching on mindful practice (or what I sometimes refer to as Zen in Motion) is a way to escape the suffering resulting from aging. Hobbling, stumbling, being stiff as a board, all of these are my personal practice points. Each of us has them. Be grateful for them. They are our teachers.
Dharma Talk for June 22,2017


With respect for all, Good Morning Everyone,

What do we think of when we think, “Zen Buddhist Priest?” Many new acquaintances have reacted with great surprise as they discover I am an ordained Zen Buddhist priest, and more than that, the founder of an Order of priests and lay persons. Perhaps it’s my “get-up,” as my wife refers to it, to wit: black leather biker vest with various biker patches, black jeans, do- rag on my head ( a head now covered with silver gray hair), and black boots? Ya wonder?

I am delighted by such responses as they offer an opportunity to help people check their assumptions. And assumptions are a great hindrance in authentic communication, are they not? So often we assume we know something about a person by their dress, car, house, gender, and (let’s face it) the color of their skin. Its this last item that truly bothers me. I detest racial prejudice and its resultant racism. I do so for a variety of reasons not the least of which are the stereotypic assumptions we make when using skin color as a filter through which we understand who is standing before us. While many of us today have taken on “White

privilege” as a cause, I believe it is a contemporary example of the above noted filter in action. I see it as racism, pure and simple. Perhaps understandable racism, but racism nonetheless. Anytime we make a judgement about someone by virtue of the color of their skin it is racism in my opinion.

Now this all said and, while I believe White privilege exists, (as does a certain gender based privilege, class privilege, and so forth, we cannot assume each White person, male or female person, or a person of a certain socio-economic class manifests or abuses that privilege, yet they each may possess it.

Does the possession of “privilege” equate to being an oppressor? I ask this as it seems to me today they are being caste into the same bag. If one possesses a drug are they a user? Or an archery set, a killer? No. Possessing something means very little until it is used.

The argument is, however, that certain folk, White folk, in particular male White folk are perceived to be granted somethings simply because they are White males. This may be true some of the time or even most of the

time, but it is not true all of the time. The assumption that it is true all of the time is the issue itself.

I have a PhD from a rather prestigious university. I once was the CEO of a large system of private mental health centers. I was granted Inka (Dharma Transmission) by my teacher after only five years as abbot of his Temple and Zen Center. Privilege? Right? If you have assumed I accomplished these due to privilege granted by the color of my skin, what are you? I say, you are a racist.

Without being defensive let me paint a picture for you that shreds your stereotypic racist assumptions. First, I was born into a dirt poor and quite violent family. I dropped out of high school. I was from the lowest of economic classes in the United States. My mother, a high school drop out, earned a living waiting tables or getting close to men with money. I applied for jobs out of the newspaper as I had zero “connections” (the true source of privilege in my opinion) and was told quite often to get my “ass” out of the place as “they” didn’t want “my kind.”

As many poor Black folk, I enlisted in the US Army as soon as I could. So I was an Infantry soldier with no skills but to kill and in killing was shot in the head. Privilege, right?

After combat I was “retired” at 19. I was treated as a vagrant. I was homeless for a bit. I had no future. Privilege, right?

At some point someone told me I should go to college. I had taken the GED and passed it despite dropping out in the 9th grade. After college I applied to the CWRU doctoral program and was admitted. To get admitted one had to score in the top two percent on the Millar Analogy Test. Privilege, right? Along side me were people of color and folks from around the world. I was nothing special.

So after graduation with $100.00 I rented an office and opened a counseling practice with zero clients. Ten years later I had seven offices in two states, owned four companies, and was a very popular speaker on PTSD. Privilege, right?

After a few years of driving 90 miles each way each weekend to practice with my teacher I was ordained. Privilege, right?

Of course none of this is on my sleeve. What you see is an old White guy in biker gear and you assume you know me and if I was successful in life it was a result of White privilege. And you dare not to think of yourself as a racist? Privilege, right?


Special Announcement June 20,2017

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Last night I spent a good deal of time considering what I am doing. My health is not all that good, my body is in a good deal of pain, and I don’t see it getting any better anytime soon. My duties to my students as a Zen Teacher are suffering as a result. I believe it is a good time that I stop one-on-one teaching altogether. Those who are sewing wagesas I will take you through the Refuge ceremony, but beyond that will no longer teach on a personal, individual level. That said, I am imposing a deadline. Please be ready within the next two weeks so that we might offer a ceremony around the first week of July. 

If you wish to continue training in Zen, I refer you to the abbot of our Order, Rev. Shukke. Her website, http://daibutsuji.org has all of her information on it.

So, to be clear: I am closing our study group and will no longer offer dokusan except to those taking refuge and who are sewing. After that ceremony, I will refer you to Rev. Shukke for continued training should you desire.

It has been my sincere pleasure to be your teacher. I will continue to offer my words on Facebook and through my blog. Thank you and deep bows to each of you.

Yours in the Dharma,

A zen buddhist temple in the Soto tradition based in Las Cruces offering traditional zen meditation.

Dharma Talk for June 11, 2017

Good Morning All,

There are three pure precepts in Zen Buddhism: 1. Cease doing evil, 2. Do good, and 3. Bring about abundant good for all beings. These three hinge on our understanding of good and evil. Not so easy. What is “good”? What is “evil”? Some might say, “If you don’t know, you’re lost!” But that is no answer, its a distraction. Some might say, “Let’s use the Hindu, “Ahimsa” as a guide, ‘do no harm.’” This might get us close.
Using ahimsa as a guiding principle we might ask under what conditions might we be able to do harm or be unable to do harm. If we practice and realize the non-dual nature of our existence, we might say “if we are all one, then I cannot harm another as I would be harming myself.” In fact, in oneness, harm itself becomes meaningless. For to do harm requires one being committing an action against another, thus creating a duality.
From here we might say “good” is non-duality and “evil” is duality. Within each possibilities either exist or fail to manifest. In duality I can do harm. In non-duality, I am not able to do harm. Thus, to vow to cease doing evil is to reject duality, to do good is to reside in non-duality, and to bring about abundant good for all beings is to assist others in realizing non-duality.
This last pure precept requires further attention, however. Abraham Maslow noted there is a “hierarchy of common human needs.” Like a pyramid, the bottom level is broad and includes all of our physiological needs such as food and shelter. He argued that to move up the pyramid to the highest level, that of self-actualization” (or what we may consider “enlightenment,” one must first meets the other needs.
In such an understanding, then, we who take that third pure precept must understand that we are vowing to assist others in doing just that. We in the Order of Clear Mind Zen understand this precept as a vow to social action, or what is called “Engaged Zen.”
What will each of us do today to assist others?
Be well,

Dharma Talk for June 10, 2017

With palms together,
“…with no hindrance in the mind, no hindrance therefore no fear…”
from The Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra
The sutra teaches that when we are in a state of samadhi (complete one pointed awareness) there is no hindrance in the mind, that is, no duality: we realize you, me, and the entire universe are not separate, but are one. In such a place there can be no fear. The wave and the sea are one. In this place there is no birth or death; all that is, always was and always will be.
How so?
The dropping away of an identification with self and acceptance that this “self” is a creation of the mind and has no substantive reality; this practice allow us to see clearly our original nature, a nature that does not change, that has neither been born nor has died; it is the Buddha Nature itself.
Some may consider this our “soul” but that would be incorrect. The Buddha Nature is not individuated. It is, rather, universal everything all at once. We might say that as we are born in the relative world, the Buddha Nature may have the opportunity to see itself. When it does I view that as enlightenment.
Its not that anything has changed. Only the veil has lifted from our eyes, a veil our brain produces by its natural function. That everything is one has not changed; it was simply always there. We just don’t see it. Our practice is not only to open our eyes to this original nature, but to keep them open.
While Dogen Zenji says zazen (seated meditation) is practice realization, sitting zazen on a cushion is not enough. Our practice continues throughout the day and that realization ought arise within our each and every breath because each breath is practice itself.
We practice being our Buddha Nature as we walk, talk, sit, and behave in each moment. It is this practice that makes us close followers of the Buddha Way. It is how we enact ourselves as fearless bodhisattvas.
We, followers of the Buddha Way, keep this practice close. It is the “rod and the staff” that comforts us not just through the darkness, but also in the light.
“…Far beyond delusive thinking they finally awaken to complete Nirvana…”
The sutra closes with this chant, “Gone, gone, gone to the other shore, attained the other shore, to beyond the other shore, having never left.”
Indeed, heaven, earth, hell, and all other imaginings, are here right now. We make our lives feel what we feel they are. As someone once said, “Life is not a rehearsal…”
Live as if you mean it.
Be well.



Dharma Talk for May 23,2017

With respect for all,

Good Morning,

The time is 9:07 and I am sitting outside at our patio table. The sky is a brilliant blue, cloudless, spreading from horizon to horizon. Public radio is offering “Performance Today” giving me a selection of beautiful classical music and for a moment here and there I am floating along the rivers of violin. Beautiful.  

The birds are at the feeder and I’ve filled the birdbath. Suki is at my side, Kathryn is in her “chambers” doing her morning rituals involving coffee, chess, and radio. What I am describing is our fairly typical morning time, although we usually begin in the studio with conversation and coffee. Today we both woke early.

Coffee, paper, pen and the world around me; this is my life, or a god part of it, for if not pen and paper, then brush and canvas. It is a world of discovery through stillness and application through action. We sit in stillness and the world as it is rising up around us knocking on our consciousness.  We walk in stillness and the world around us becomes a soft stream joining us in each step.  Letting our self created ideas of is and ought come and go, there is only this sound, that sight; this thought, that feeling.  What a wonder it is!

So, reflecting in the stream of the morning’s stillness, our lives take on a character.  We will manifest that character through our actions during the day and night.  Who are we?  What are we capable of?  What is in front of us this morning to do and how will we be in the doing of it?

Will we be gentle in tongue and step?  Will we be compassionate for those who are angry and hurtful toward us or others?  Will we be the buddhas we already are if only we were to allow ourselves that level of vulnerability and freedom?

I don’t believe we will be as we wish.  I believe to be the person we would wish to be takes practice and deliberation.  It takes discipline and a willingness to reside in doubt.  Few of us have these attributes of character, although we each have the capacity. My prayer for the day is that I will, myself, bring into the world the love and compassion I feel and do so without fear.  Now that makes my morning a first step toward liberation and revolution.

Dharma Talk for May 21, 2017

There are days when aspects of our lives seem overwhelming and there are days when everything seems like a dream come true, delightful and to be cherished. We tend to seek one and avoid the other. I have learned this is a mistake because we are always too close to actually know which is which, and indeed, they may not be different at all, depending on our point of view.

There was a Buddhist sage who taught us that to choose one or another takes us away from the Dharma. Why? Because the Dharma is simply the direct experience of reality. This is where we practice to abide. So, the “good” days and the “bad” days are neither good nor bad, they are simply and completely, our days.

To have a preference and to abide in that preference takes us away from what is actually there before us. Our life as it is in that moment, and the fact is, there can be no other moment. So, when happy, be happy; when sad, be sad. There is nothing more.

If this sounds a bit pessimistic it is not. What can possibly be greater than being awake in each and every breath? Regardless of our experience, each experience is but one facet of a greater diamond called our life. When dark here; light there. We might consider the flowers that bloom or the birds that sing or the clouds passing overhead. We might remember those who came before and those who will be to come in this vast eternal golden braid. Our pain on one day may be our joy in the next. But even if its not, it is still ours to experience and ours to learn from. 

May we each remain in the present, period.