Articles (PDFs)

We recommend the following free articles (for now these are all PDFs), which can be read on your computer or printed out. We have many more free PDFs to share which will be gradually published. 

Related Traditions:     Related Teachers:

  • 7 Questions for 7 Teachers

    This book arose from the challenges that Buddhist teachers face in adapting the presentation of Buddhism, with its origins in different Asian countries, to western, and more recently, African understanding. We hope that the book will help to make the deep benefits of Buddhism accessible to more beings.

    We asked seven teachers from around the world to answer seven questions to shed light on some of the main issues arising from this cultural adaptation as Buddhism moves from Asia to the West and Africa.

    This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center.

  • A Buddhist Life in America {WIT Lectures}

    “THE WIT LECTURES AT HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL are an exploration of living a spiritual life in the contemporary world, a subject of great importance today as we see the suffering of so many beings in the face of human greed, hatred, and confusion.

    This book by Joan Halifax tells us about a life that touches both suffering and joy. It is the story of a Western woman’s journey to compassion. It is also a book that explores engaged spirituality, a way of practicing compassionate action in the world.” – excerpt from the Foreword by Thich Nhat Hanh

    “WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE SPIRITUAL IN THE MODERN WORLD? It does not mean being a Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, or Jew. Let us look at one person’s story to see if there is a partial answer in a life. And perhaps we can consider how a spiritual tradition from Asia has led some of us to a way of being that is closer to home.

    Buddhist practice, psychology, and philosophy are touching the lives of many in the Western world. For some of us, Buddhism offers a way of contemplation and seeing that is helping to work with the inheritance of our era. It has touched me for thirty years, first through books, and for more than twenty years through meditation practice.

    Twenty years after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the sixties exploded in our hearts and minds. Many of us wanted to expand our inner and outer horizons as well as to commit ourselves to human rights and simple living close to the earth.Thirty years later, the nineties seem to be a time when we are renewing our vows and putting them to work in a practical way. This new but old path is called “engaged spirituality,” a way for us to bring our spiritual practice into the everyday world.

    What follows are fragments of a life that are pieces of a quilt, not a whole cloth. I tell the story to you in the hope that you will see how the inevitable struggles along the way, the passage of time, and a spiritual practice can lead one home. Although this lecture series is about spirituality and everyday life, I hesitate calling myself spiritual. My sense is that the spiritual flows between beings, be they with humans or other beings.” ~ excerpt from Joan’s opening remarks in Chapter 1

    This limited edition of A Buddhist Life in America: Simplicity in the Complex by Joan Halifax Roshi was presented to her by Charles Daishin Rue Woods on August 14, 2000, at the Omega Institute Rhinebeck, New York.

    This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center.

  • Being Met by the Reality Called Mu

    Of Koans : “R. H. Blythe said that Zen is poetry. What does he mean by poetry? Certainly he did not use the word poetry in the sense of what we commonly call verse. Rather, he meant that the essence of Zen, like the world of poetry, comes from the spontaneous, natural, unfabricated energy of meeting reality directly. This quality of immediacy is in our every day practice, and is also reflected in the so-called literary body that we call koans. T

    he mystery of koans and their poetic veracity comes about because they are non-discursive, based in life, full of allusions, and nonlinear. They invite us not to use the thinking mind but to allow the thinking mind to drop away by being absorbed completely into the koan body so that a genuine experience of intimacy can present itself. Practicing with a koan is like a muscle that moves us into the reality, something that gathers us up and releases into the present.” ….

    “… sometimes we think we have to solve life, and we hear inside ourselves the phrase: My life is a koan. After some years with my first teacher, I came to realize that the point is not to solve the problem but to be informed by the spirit of the question. If one is looking for a solution, an outcome: the right relationship, practice, teacher – a perfect world – disappointment 7 will surely follow. That’s not what life is about. That’s not what this practice is about.

    This practice is not about being in an ideal or idea; it cannot be about trying to get anything or anywhere. Maybe through the friction of the koan, the habit skins begin to drop off, or maybe the habit skins are the very richness that gives life to life. Which ever, a koan can show us what we are wearing and what is underneath.

    That is why the first koan {Mu} in the Mumonkan is so demanding and precious. There is No solution.

    ~ excerpts from this article by Roshi Joan Halifax  (2005)

    This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center.

  • Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death …

    … An Interview with Roshi Joan Halifax By David Jay Brown.

    “I interviewed Joan on December 16, 2009. I felt a lot of gratitude that she took time from her busy schedule to speak with me, and she was very kind and gracious. We spoke about her work with people who are dying, some of the most important lessons that she learned from this work, and how the LSD research that she participated in during the early 70s helped to motivate her to do more work with dying people.” ~ from the interview transcript – David’s opening remark before the Q&A

    This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center.

  • Health Care in the Himalayas – The New Yorker

    Delivering basic care to the remote Himalayas.

    “We are a team of committed volunteers who make an annual month-long journey into the most remote regions of the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau to provide medical and humanitarian aid. We train local healthcare providers and meet the healthcare needs of those who live in these isolated mountain communities.” ~ excerpt from the Nomads Clinic – their work is the primary subject of this article.

    This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center. It was authored by Rebecca Solnit and published in the December 21, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.

  • Impact Study/BWD: Supportive & Palliative Care (2009)

    “Health care professionals report a lack of skills in the psychosocial and spiritual aspects of caring for dying people and high levels of moral distress, grief, and burnout. To address these concerns, the “Being with Dying: Professional Training Program in Contemplative End-of-Life Care” (BWD) was created. The premise of BWD, which is based on the development of mindfulness and receptive attention through contemplative practice, is that cultivating stability of mind and emotions enables clinicians to respond to others and themselves with compassion. This article describes the impact of BWD on the participants.” ~ excerpt from the study

    This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center.

  • Mindfulness for Cancer and Terminal Illness, 2011

    Summary from the paper: “… more research is warranted into the efficacy of mindfulness interventions for people who have serious illness. However, the indications from 21 existing research and anecdotal evidence lead us to surmise that mindfulness as an intervention has great potential benefits for those who are suffering from a catastrophic illness. MBCR {Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery} is a group-based mindfulness training program that has empirical support for its benefits in terms of improving coping, quality of life, decreasing stress, improving mood and enhancing qualities of spirituality and personal growth in the face of cancer diagnosis and treatment.”

    This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center.

  • Reflections on Receiving Jukai

    “What is this life really about? Many people throughout space and time have asked this question. As Buddhist practitioners, we have a vehicle for reflecting on this question — the Precepts or Jukai. In Japanese, Kai means ‘vow’ and Ju conveys ‘to let go.’ Daido Loori Roshi offered a story to illustrate how he interprets the meaning of Jukai. One day, his young son was standing on a dresser and just threw himself from that height into his father’s arms. This is a wonderful description of what Jukai feels like. Receiving Jukai is letting go, letting go into the best of who you really are, no longer restrained or confused by a false sense of the lessness of things.”…. ” ~ excerpts from this article by Roshi Joan Halifax and Irene Joko Bahker, Jisen McFarland, Beate Stolte, Jean Wilkins (August 2007)

    This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center.

  • The Altruist – Mind & Life Spring 2014

    “Much has been made over the past several years about the state of American health care. What it needs, what it does not, and who is responsible for both. Lost in that discussion, however, is the very nontheoretical and yet everyday experience of becoming ill, or facing mortality, and engaging the clinician in hospital rooms that do not distinguish between red and blue states. What happens when politics are trumped by diagnosis?” … Curious? … then check the full article by downloading the PDF.

    This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center. It first appeared in the Mind and Life Spring 2014.

  • The Circle of the Way

    “On the great road of buddha ancestors there is always unsurpassable practice, continuous and sustained. It forms the circle of the way and is never cut off. Between aspiration, practice, enlightenment and nirvana, there is not a moment’s gap. Continuous practice is the circle of the way. This being so, continuous practice is unstained, not forced by you or others. The power of continuous practice confirms you as well as others. It means your practice affects the entire earth and the entire sky in the ten directions. Although not noticed by others or by yourself, it is so.” ~ Zen Master Eihei Dogen

    This article is Roshi Joan’s commentary on The Circle of the Way … “… can we understand that “monastery time” is every minute we live? The vision of the circle of the way is that everything we do is practice. Underlying everything, there is a deep continuity in all our thoughts and actions and beneath our thoughts and actions. Western people find it very difficult to comprehend the continuous way. We like to separate things into pieces and take them apart. It is how science is practiced, how business is done, and how we see the world. It’s the genius of Zen Master Dogen to bring us into seeing how we don’t have to structure our lives into cells, that instead we can experience “being” in flow, and shift our perspective on time into time-being.

    The Buddha says, “To practice the dharma is swimming upstream.” For Westerners, it’s not just swimming upstream—it’s swimming against a tsunami. We have to change the view from it’s my life to this is our life. As one man dying of prostate cancer said to me: “We belong to each other.” We belong to the earth, we belong to the sky. We inter-are. Wisdom, compassion, body, mind are not separate. The same applies to our very moment-to-moment experience, to our experience of time, which is not separate from being. Each moment is causally intertwined with all other moments. We are intertwined with each other in a causal flow of multiplicities and multiple processes that Dogen calls time-being.

    Dogen teaches, “Continuous practice is the circle of the way.”…. ” ~ excerpts from her commentary

    This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center.

  • The Old Woman’s Rice Cakes

    Roshi Joan’s commentary (2-pages) on the koan “The Old Woman’s Rice Cakes.”

    This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center.

  • Waking Up

    Insightful and humorous story of Roshi Joan’s personal experience from Upaya’s Prison Outreach Project.

    This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center.


  • You are YOU

    “One of my students has studied Aikido. He said his teacher told him something that was the most important thing he ever heard. His teacher said, “You are you”. I agree with his teacher and add that because you are YOU, I am you, and you are me.

    I don’t mean that you are the little ego self “you”. I mean YOU are all beings. You are the redwood tree and the rattlesnake. You are a Mexican immigrant illegally crossing the U.S. border. You are a scientist making nuclear weapons at Los Alamos. You are an African-American imprisoned on Death Row, and you are a rich, white, male Republican.

    This practice allows us to be liberated through our differences into the experience of non-separateness. Every time you create an “other”, then you are not YOU. Every time you objectify, there is less of you. Every time there is a self and there is another, you have been diminished.

    If you are YOU, then you are a Bodhisattva. If you are doing good things for others…like serving as a caretaker for the sick, working for community development through the arts or reforming the prison system…then you are one of these enlightened beings who has chosen to live in the burning house of worldly existence. You have chosen to come back and experience birth and death again and again to really serve beings who are suffering. If you realized awakening and then said, “To heck with the rest of the world”, your awakening would not be “You are YOU”.

    Upon awakening, the Buddha said, “I and all creation simultaneously realize the Way.” That was how the Buddha said, “You are YOU.” Bodhisattvas help unawakened beings see that they, too, realize the Way, and that they are YOU…..” ~ excerpt from this article, which was Edited by Marsha Scarborough and Joan Halifax Roshi

    This article (PDF) is sourced from Upaya Zen Center.



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