Dharma Talks Online

Click below to listen to dharma talks by Sosan, posted on the Clouds in Water Zen Center website:

Five Talks on the Awesome Presence of Active Buddhas

Talk #1, December 2, 2017
Talk #2, December 3, 2017
In this talk, Sosan continues an exploration of Zen Master Dogen's fascicle on the "Awesome Presence of Active Buddhas." She also shares the powerful poem,"Please Call Me By My True Names," by Thich Nhat Hahn, to make the point that zen practice is not just becoming "a newer and better version of ourselves" or settling for "a kinder, gentle way of suffering." The awesome presence of active buddhas is beyond our conception.  The way is to not cling to one's idea of one's self and instead realize that we are all active Buddhas.
Talk #3, December 4, 2017

The Nine Contemplations
How the nine contemplations on death and impermanence can help us wake up to our lives and live them fully.

Cultivating a Clear Mind
Practicing with the precept of “not becoming intoxicated.” Considering all the things that we do that distract us from what is actually happening in each moment. Ways we can practice with this precept, including ideas from Diane Eshin Rizzetto’s book, “Waking Up To What You Do.” October, 2017

What To Do When the Hurricanes Come?
Long ago, a monk asked a master, “When hundreds, thousands, or myriad of objects come all at once, what should be done?” The master replied, “Don’t try to control them.” Sosan talked about this story from Dogen’s “Only a Buddha and a Buddha”, as well as the alternate version from the Iron Flute (case 27). How can we receive whatever arises with equanimity? How can we be calm enough to have a wise and compassionate response? September, 2017

Racism and Collective Liberation
What is collective liberation and how do we get there? What does it mean to be a member of Clouds in Water Zen Center? August, 2017

Race and the Four Noble Truths
Addressing issues of race, racism, and white privilege using the Buddha’s teaching of the Four Noble Truths. July, 2017

Finding the Middle Way with Regard to Material Things
Do material things help or hinder us on the spiritual path? In honor of Ramadan, Sosan explores this topic with stories from the lives of the Buddha, Layman Pang and his family, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, and the monk Ryokan.
June, 2017

Plum Blossoms Don't Know Spring: Practicing with Don't Know Mind
Using Zen Master Dogen’s fascicle #417, Plum Blossoms Don’t Know Spring, and #268, Sparrows and Crows in the Vast Universe, Sosan explores how we bring the experience of openness or don’t know mind back into our day-to-day life. She outlines the importance of daily sitting, weekly communal practice and regular sesshin practice.
May, 2017

The Legend of Buddha's Birth
Dharma Talk from Buddha's Birthday Ceremony, April 2017. Here I tell of the fantastic story of Buddha’s birth. These stories are a way of explaining the unexplainable such as “How is it that we are alive?” and “How is it that we keep breathing from birth to death?” This is a short dharma to make time for the ceremony that followed.
April, 2017

Beginning Anew
-->Right speech, kind speech, ethical speech are among Buddha's teachings. Sosan reflects on these teachings and encourages us to perform the Beginning Again Ceremony as a way to clear our mind and keep our practice fresh. Her husband and son perform a sample ceremony that includes Flower-Watering (telling someone how much they mean to you and emphasizing their positive traits). This ceremony can be performed by families or individuals in a group to resolve conflict. The ceremony also includes Sharing Regrets, Expressing a hurt, and Asking for Support.March, 2017

Parinirvana and the Buddha's Death
Stories from the Buddha's last days and how to face death with equanimity.
February, 2017

Cultivating Zazen in the Midst of Birth and Death

-->Discussion of politics and engagement in civil actions from the perspective of Zen. Encouragement to do what we can to overcome negative forces in our world and to keep in mind Zen teachings: everything is impermanent, do not grasp for outcomes of our actions -- just do them -- and the activity's result is not as important as the activity itself. Zen meditation is the way to understand these teachings and to open the heart. The story of Two Tigers, Two Mice, and a Strawberry weaves through this dharma talk.January, 2017

Buddha's Enlightenment: The Cause of Well-Being
What can we learn from the Buddha's enlightenment story?
December, 2016

Standing with our Deep Intentions: What we can learn from Standing Rock
Sharing insights from my trip to Standing Rock and how we can help and how we can develop our Bodhisattva vows. Includes history of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and information about the Pipeline.
November, 2016

The Hut that Includes the Entire World

-->Commentary on "Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage" by Shitou, and lessons from Ben Connelly's book, Inside the Grass Hut   Also includes insights from my personal experience with solo hermit practice in a modern-day "grass hut."August, 2016

The Sangha Jewel
Sangha, or community, is a precious jewel. Without this jewel, we cannot walk the spiritual path.
June, 2016

Mother's Day Teaching in Response to Gun Violence
Teaching include: Seeing all beings as our mothers; Cherishing each and every beings as if they were our only child; Seeing ourselves as not separate from all beings, as a mother is not separate from her child at the time of birth. Exploring how these teachings can help us respond to the culture of violence in which we live, and especially gun violence. And how these teachings can help us to be nurtured in the midst of difficult circumstances.
May 8, 2016

Practicing in Times of Intolerance
Explosing Case 87 from the Blue Cliff record: “Medicine and Disease Subdue Each Other.” How we can practice within the forms of Zen. How our practice can help us act from a place of openness and clarity when faced with intolerance.
March 6, 2016

The Practice of Loving-kindness
February 21, 2016

Receiving Everything with an Open Heart
Sosan discusses three things on the topic of receiving: 1) receiving the beauty and healing power of nature, 2) receiving the words and hearts of each other through council practice, and 3) the Ethics and Reconciliation committee, who receive feedback, concerns and grievances on behalf of the community.
January 10, 2016

The Beauty of a Zen Tea Ceremony
November, 2016

How to feed a Hungry Ghost
November, 2016

Hungry Ghosts and the Craving Mind
November, 2016

Practice Period Invitation
September, 2016

Lessons from Plum Village
Sosan spent 5 weeks at Plum Village, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh's community in France. In this talk, she and her family share some of the wisdom they learned there.
August 30, 2015

The Importance of Sangha
How sangha (community) is vital to our spiritual path.
June 14, 2015

A Fortunate Birth
On the occasion of Buddha's birthday ceremony, we reflect on how what is birth and death, and how we can realize our highest potential as a human being.
April 12, 2015

Where Am I Going?
You can have a plan for your life, but you also need to release your hold on it. Using the wisdom of Zen Master Dogen and A.A. Milne's poem, "Spring Wind," this talk explores how we might live this way.
March 15, 2015

Receiving Everything with an Open Heart
How the beauty of nature sustains us. How we can receive the sights and sounds of nature and also receive our family, friends and community members with open hearts.
January 10, 2016

Talk Preceding Tea Ceremony
A few days after the bombings in Paris, we did a tea ceremony with the children in our community. Prior to that ceremony, I talk about how we can practice peace through our everyday activities, such as receiving tea and cookies. 
November 15, 2015

How to Feed a Hungry Ghost
In Buddhism, we describe that state of mind that is never satisfied as the "hungry ghost." In this talk, I talk about what we can do when we are in this state of mind. You may want to listen to the talk from November 1 first, but this one will stand alone also.
November 8, 2015

Hungry Ghosts and the Craving Mind
In Buddhism, we describe that state of mind that is never satisfied as the "hungry ghost." In this talk, I discuss how the craving mind prevents us from being truly happy.
November 1, 2015

Practice Period Invitation
From time to time, we do a more focused spiritual practice for a couple of months. In this talk, I outline the fall, 2015 practice period at Clouds in Water Zen Center. 
September 20, 2015

Lessons from Plum Village
A short overview of a month spent in Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh's monastic community in southern France.
August 30, 2015

The Importance of Sangha
Sangha is community. When we listen to each other and support each other, we can really manifest the jewel that is sangha.
June 15, 2015

A Fortunate Birth
Short talk on the occasion of Buddha's Birthday
April 12, 2015

Where Am I Going?
Finding our true direction on the spiritual path.
March 15, 2015

The Buddha's Death
Dharma talk on the occasion of the memorial day of Buddha's death: The remembrance that we are going to die can help us be motivated to live our life mindfulness and with great joy.
February 15, 2015

Mountain Seat Ceremony Talk
Being married means giving each other space to climb his or her own mountain
January 31, 2015

The Hero's Journey
Each of us in our a spiritual journey, a hero's journey. How can we best go forward?
January 11, 2015

Series of talks on "Only a Buddha and a Buddha" essay by Zen Master Dogen. These talks may be listened to as a series, but they also each work as a stand-alone talk.

The Active Dharma Wheel: Buddhas turning sommersaults
March 2, 2014

The Bodhisattva's Four Embracing Actions: Giving, Kind Speech, Beneficial Action and Openness
January 12, 2014

Ringing the Bell
December 15, 2013

What Do You Stand For?
Talk given at Compassionate Ocean Dharma Center
September 20, 2013

To Live as All Beings
September 8, 2013

Take This Job - and Be Mindful! Mindfulness at work and in life.
June 23, 2013

March 17, 2013

Avalokitesvara and Winter Practice Period
February 10, 2013

Celebrating Enlightenment
December 9, 2013

A Condolence Call
November 18, 2012

Jizo Bodhisattva
September 16, 2012

Daowu Tends the Sick
February 26, 2012

Manifesting Stillness in Activity
December 18, 2011

The Amazing Ordinariness of Everyday Life
September 11, 2011

Wisdom in Action
February 13, 2011