Albuquerque Zen Center

A quiet place in a noisy, anxious world. Teaching meditation since 1989. The Albuquerque Zen Center offers daily practice and study opportunities to anyone interested in exploring Rinzai Zen Buddhism.

It is an urban practice center, with a diverse lay sangha (community) drawn from many walks of life.

Operating as usual 12/30/2020

AZC | Home

The new winter 2020 issue of Kai Han is now available to read/download on This is an extended edition with four essays that address some of the challenges we all faced in 2020 including how the pandemic effected our lives and our practice. Happy and Healthy New Year to all! Offering daily practice opportunities for anyone interested in exploring the peace of mind that is the promise of Zen Buddhism. It is the oldest continuous community urban practice center in Central New Mexico. 09/18/2020

So You Moved During the Pandemic. Now How Do You Vote? Whether you’re staying at a second home, a college dorm, your parents’ house or just moving around, here’s where and how you can vote.

[09/02/20]   The pure State of Enlightenment is our own mind, as well, not some sort of dazzling light coming from outside. If we recognize our primordial State of pure presence, pure from the beginning, albeit
temporarily obscured, and we stay present in this recognition without getting distracted, then all impurities dissolve: this is the essence of the path.
The Mirror: Advice on Presence and Awareness by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu 07/23/2020

Weekend Samu

Weekend Samu - Sincere thanks to Ben, Brian, Christian, Christopher, Edwin, Emily, Joseph, and Michele for the weeding, raking, bush trimming, and the other work they did this past weekend at AZC.  The Center looks so much better because of your efforts! 05/17/2020

How the Buddha Got His Face His image is so commonplace that you could believe it must always have existed — yet for six centuries after his death, he was never once depicted in human form. 05/09/2020

Teisho Transcripts – Mt Baldy Zen Center

Rinzai’s Challenge

The Master ascended the hall and said, "Here within this sphere of red flesh there is a True Person of no fixed position. Constantly it goes in and out the gateways of your senses. Those of you who have not yet confirmed this, look! Look!" At that time there was a monk who came forward and asked, "What about the True Person of no fixed position?" The Master got down from his chair, seized hold of the monk and said, "Speak! Speak!" The monk hesitated, whereupon the Master let go of him, shoved him away, and said, "This True Person of no fixed position—what a dried turd!" The Master then returned to his quarters.

Recently Mt. Baldy Zen Center has made available several of Joshu Sasaki Roshi’s teishos on the Rinzai Roku. They are early efforts in what will eventually be a book of Roshi’s teachings. I look forward to reading the forthcoming collection, I remember the richness and incisiveness they often contained.
However, reading the first in this collection, the teisho from March 2, 1986, I was also reminded of how difficult of some of Roshi’s terminology can be.
The passage above from the Rinzai Roku serves as the starting point for the set of talks given at sesshin. Here Roshi outlines a breathing practice which serves as the basis for investigating the origin of our self. Building on this investigation, Roshi then uses this practice to investigate Rinzai’s True Person of no fixed position.
I recommend that you download at least the first teisho, March 2, 1986, from Mt. Baldy’s website at
Given the difficulty of this material and Roshi’s often enigmatic terminology, I am providing an outline of the key points. Carefully study and try to incorporate these teachings on breathing Zen into your own practice.
1. Essentially what is being discussed is Dharma activity, the activity that gives rise to the cosmos and everything in it.
2. Every person has kokoro (heart/mind). Kokoro gives rise to self with personality.
3. Rinzai says we exist as kokoro with personality, and this must lead to the manifestation of the True Person of No Fixed Position (TPNFP). Rinzai’s thought is that we manifest both kokoro with personality and TPNFP simultaneously.
4. TPNFP is also called the true follower of the way. Roshi suggests we consider TPNFP as the no-self follower, selfless follower, of the way.
5. Important Question: What activity must we manifest to realize this selfless follower? Starting from personal self how do we manifest no-self self?
6. Rinzai is calling our attention to the two activities being manifested: self with personality and self without personality.
7. Kokoro with personality is inhaling and exhaling. Exhaling is expansion and inhaling is contraction. The heart/mind with personality does manifest TPNFP as it expands and contracts.
8. Rinzai claims the TPNFP is going in and out through our six senses as we inhale and exhale.
9. It is through these six senses that we realize our relationship with everything and the cosmos as a whole.
10. Bodhidharma has no beard, no self, no heart/mind. Our practice must reach the point where we realize we also have no self, no heart/mind.
11. We make relationship with our world through our sense faculties. We must reach a point of direct relationship without relying on our sense faculties. In this situation we study the arising of self.
12. We must grasp this lump of red flesh as the heart/mind that is no-thing, the heart of Mu, nothingness.
13. If we don’t grasp where the self arises from, we cannot understand TPNFP.
14. Through our zazen we must study how self with personality arises from a source without personality.
15. Therefore, study breathing Zen in the act of breathing fully.
16. In particular, at the extremes of complete inhaling and complete exhaling, breathing Zen teaches the arising of space between inhaling and exhaling. This space arises without will or desire. “A situation in which there is no thought at all, this is the source, the base of the self.”
17. The arising space is the body/form from which everything arises. This space merges as the five skandhas. This self is inherently limited.
18. Why is it that the thinking self emerges here? The emerging self objectifies inhaling or exhaling. This is a grave mistake and cannot realize liberation.
19. We must attain fullness of breathing if we are to realize TPNFP.
20. In breathing Zen, we realize the emergence of thinking self and its disappearance, and then the emergence of a new thinking self.
21. Rinzai is teaching that the lump of red flesh is manifesting both the thinking self and the underlying TPNFP, selfless self.
22. Manifest the self that is liberated from personality.
The opening passage is a famous teaching from the Record of Rinzai. In Buddhism our human situation is often recognized as a source of pain and suffering. Rinzai claims that along with our human situation we are, unknowingly, also simultaneously transcending human experience. Rinzai’s term for this trans-human situation is True Person of No Fixed Position (TPNFP).
Roshi begins by pointing out that this dharma talk, as with all his dharma talks, is about Dharma activity. Dharma activity is a cornerstone of Roshi’s teaching. It is the interaction of two complimentary/contradictory activities which Roshi variously referred to as Expansion-Contraction, Plus-Minus, Male-Female, etc. In this teaching, there are four key situations to be aware of: expanding, contracting, maximum expansion, and maximum contraction.
Rinzai claims we manifest both kokoro with self and selfless kokoro. The question is: how can we realize this? Roshi points out that we are always breathing; we can study our self by studying our breathing. In Roshi’s presentation, exhaling is expanding activity and inhaling is contracting activity. By studying inhaling and exhaling we are also studying Dharma activity.
We make relationship with our world through our senses as we breathe. Roshi wants us to reach a point of direct relationship with our sensing, without relying on our sense faculties. We must stop looking and see; stop listening and hear.
In breathing Zen, our practice is to realize complete breathing. As our breathing becomes clearer, we particularly want to examine the extremes of complete exhaling and complete inhaling. Breathing Zen teaches that space arises spontaneously following upon realizing either maximum inhaling or maximum exhaling.
The arising of space is selfless, thoughtless; however, in this arising space self appears. How? Our investigation is to focus on this key area: The arising of space and the arising of personal self in this space.
This is an experiential investigation which can dissolve the illusion of our personal self. We unify with our breathing and realize the self that does not need to think. Roshi points us to a specific breathing practice we can use to deepen our understanding of our true situation. This is a practice we can use to investigate Rinzai’s teaching.
Both Roshi and Rinzai acknowledge our human situation, but they encourage us to go beyond our personality-based perspective. We investigate our self and our life from a “first-person perspective.” Sitting firmly in our hara, we realize every moment is a new moment, disappearing as it arises. Each moment arises selflessly, how does self appear? This is not something to explain; this is an activity we must manifest. Manifestation is understanding and liberation; thinking is off topic. Roshi directs us how to practice so as to realize our true situation. Rinzai demonstrates the mature insight: the true first-person perspective is selfless self. Teisho Transcripts From time to time we try to make transcripts of Joshu Sasaki Roshi’s teishos available. To kick things off, we have the teisho transcripts from: March 2, 1986 March 3, 1986March 4, 1986March 5, 1986March 6, 1986March 7, 1986March 8, 1986


The Beatles / Yellow Submarine (Buddhist monk cover) / Kossan

Have a great, sunny day today!


Bones Of The Buddha - Documentary

Here are a couple of programs on the sites where the Buddha walked and another on a probable entombment of the Buddha's relics. Enjoy.

Description. Do the jewels, bones and ashes found in an Indian tomb in 1898 mark the final resting place of the Buddha himself, or was it all an elaborate ho...


Many people have expressed their difficulty in practicing zazen during these difficult days. During zazen thoughts, memories, emotions and difficulties often come up. Some of these we simply recognize as passing by quickly and not "grabbing" us. Some however grab us to the point that we "block up" and cannot progress to a quite mental and physical state during zazen.

Zen Master Hakuin promoted a deep relaxation exercise known variously as the "soft butter", or "soft butter egg" technique.

At one point during his meditation practice, Zen Master Hakuin became ill, almost to the point of dying. He heard of a mountain hermit Master Hakuyu who was reputed to be wise in the ways of healthy living.

The Soft-Butter Method

Hakuin said “You mentioned a method in which butter is used,”. “May I ask you about that?”

Master Hakuyu replied, “When a student finds that they are exhausted in body and mind because the four constituent elements of his body are in a state of disharmony, they should gird up their spirit and perform the following visualization:

“Imagine that a lump of soft butter, pure in color and fragrance and the size and shape of a duck egg, is suddenly placed on the top of your head. As it begins to slowly melt, it imparts an exquisite sensation, moistening and saturating your head within and without. It continues to ooze down, moistening your shoulders, elbows, and chest; permeating lungs, diaphragm, liver, stomach, and bowels; moving down the spine through the hips, pelvis, and buttocks.

As the butter melts and flows, follow its path thru your body with both your heart and mind. Feel it flow thru your head, then your neck, then your shoulders and on downward through all parts and organs of your body. As you follow the flow you can feel those parts of your body begin to loosen and relax.

“At that point, all the tension that has accumulated within your body, all the aches and pains in the abdomen and other affected parts, will follow the heart as it sinks downward into the lower body. It will move down through the lower body, suffusing the legs with beneficial warmth, until it reaches the soles of the feet, where it stops.

“The student should then repeat the contemplation. As your vital energy flows downward, it gradually fills the lower region of the body, suffusing it with penetrating warmth, making them feel as if they were sitting up to their navel in a hot bath filled with a mixture of rare and fragrant medicinal herbs that have been gathered and infused by a skilled physician.

Your body and mind will be in perfect peace and harmony.

You will feel better and enjoy greater health than you did as a youth of twenty or thirty. At this time, all the undesirable accumulations in your vital organs and viscera will melt away. Stomach and bowels will function perfectly. If you continue to practice the contemplation with diligence, there is no tension or anxiety that cannot be cured and removed from your body.

You might try this exercise at any time during the day, or right before your zazen. You might have to do it a couple of times in a row, but the exercise is effective.

There are several videos of this exercise on Youtube, listed variously as “Nanso no ho” or Hakuin Soft butter egg exercise.

In time, you might couple this exercise followed by any of the breathing exercises suggested by Shodo Harada, Roshi on these pages.


Guidance #2 from SHODO HARADA ROSHI.

Dear All! How are you all doing?

Are you working on deepening your breathing?

We see so many news changing daily. Of course, we cannot ignore them.
Yet there is no news about our breathing, that is why it is up to us to make efforts. If we get moved around by the information. If our breathing becomes shallow, the blood flow becomes stagnant as well.
That is why we need not to ignore the information we receive through our eyes and ears, but to lengthen our exhalation. 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds…. 20 seconds… the more we lengthen our breathing, the further it can be lengthened… The breathing does not happen by itself, but it is us who is creating the breathing. Looking at this carefully, we see how we use our consciousness towards outer matters, yet if our awareness which faces within becomes weak, our essence becomes empty and we easily get confused. Our consciousness becomes shallow and we get pulled around by outer information. With each breath, exhaling down to our lower abdomen and actually feeling that taughtness in our belly. That is how we should breathe.

From the olden days it is said that in our breath dirt accumulates. You may wonder how can dirt accumulate in the breath which cannot be seen? Greed, hate and delusion. Delusion is that darkness of mind, when our mind becomes small and has not width or depth to it. This is called: Dirt of the breath.

Our breathing needs to be wide and expansive. We bring our attention back to the breathing and stop looking for anything outside. Letting our breath become smooth and calm. Peaceful. Thus, it needs to be expansive, needs to be majestic so that it can reach the end of the universe. Practice to let your breath expand to the other side of the world. When our consciousness is facing outside, that is when we lose this essence in our breath. If we only follow along with outer information and do not deepen our breathing, then we are ruining our own life energy. That is a foolish thing to do.

That which supports our life is not information but our own breathing. We need this fresh breath that can reach all the cells in our body and refresh them. There is no need for a high philosophy but simply face within and align your essence.

Please do not stop your efforts, use your breathing to invigorate yourself. Then you can face with a calm mind the outer information.

For this I am praying.



"How not to be lost in our problems is our practice."

"Our way is to practice one step at a time, one breath at a time, with no gaining idea."

"Shikantaza, our zazen, is just to be ourselves. When we do not expect anything we can be ourselves. That is our way, to live fully in each moment of time."

"There are, strictly speaking, no enlightened people, there is only enlightened activity."

[03/20/20]   Practical Guidance from SHODO HARADA ROSHI:

How to stay settled as the corona virus is affecting every one’s lives.

Now countries especially in Europe, do not allow people to move around freely anymore. People are staying at home, not meeting others. These political decisions must create quite some uncertainty. I believe this worry and uncertainty weaken our health. The energy gets stuck within and this accelerates the number of people becoming sick.

... Everyone needs to make efforts to stay healthy until this situation calms down. Thus I am sending my advice to everyone.

... Returning home, wash your hands. Take your hygiene as being of great importance. Fortunately this year it has not been so cold compared to last year. The colder it is, the more likely people can become sick, staying in rooms with closed windows and bad air flow. It is important to air out your room regularly and care for yourself.

Everyone has been doing zazen yet now with the isolation and uncertainty, everyone becomes more insecure. That again brings forth a weakened system. The breath becomes short and tense and humans lose their vigor. From there especially older people become even weaker. And the corona virus infection is more likely to happen. An early resolution has not been found, that is the problem.

--- Thus I would advise you to return to the source, return to the basics. You may sit on a chair or in the zazen posture, which is even better. Exhale and let your upper body drop forward. When inhaling sit up again. Please do the same bending to the right and left side and find your center.
Then adding energy from your tail bone in the direction of your belly button, rise up straight with your spine from there all the way to the top of your head, tucking in your chin slightly. This is how you can check the posture.

Now do not add on any tension to your diaphragm, chest and stomach area, rather feel like an empty pipe where the air is passing through. Do not breathe with your lungs but with the movement of the belly. Liberating your chest, please exhale. Using your abs, exhale. If you are not in a hurry, you can exhale 10 - 20 seconds, even 30 seconds. The important point is not to use the chest but to breathe with the belly and lower abdomen. Exhale until you are completely empty. The slower you exhale, the more the abdominal pressure rises. The body above the diaphragm, the shoulders, neck, are free from tension. Before the tension gets too much, we slowly let go and let the inhalation enter. When we let go, naturally the belly moves forward and fills up with air. Entrusting the body´s inhalation.
For whom this is difficult to sense, you can move your upper body forward when exhaling. And inhaling when sitting up again. Here also the important point is to keep the upper body free from tension.

Someone who is bedridden, can also do this in bed, getting some help, you can move your body forward and backward with your breathing. In this way your breath becomes longer again.
Whenever we feel tense, for sure the breathing has become short. And then for sure the inner flow of energy becomes stagnant. What is important for us is that all cells of the body receive the oxygen which they need which we can do by making our breath become longer. The hugeness of our breath is what is needed. A long exhalation followed by a natural inhalation. If possible, take a walk, matching your breathing to each step. At this time you can use shorter breaths, matching the pace of your walk. If that gets too intense, then match your breath to two steps, making the exhalation last two steps as well as the inhalation. This is how we can practice our breathing when we walk, the breath is rather short, yet the abdominal tension is strong, and the inner organs become invigorated.

Whenever we have a moment and practice the breathing in this way, slowly, slowly the worry and fear will disappear. What is most difficult for us is when our mind is unsettled. When our mind is strong and settled, no suspicion and doubts arise. Otherwise our interpersonal relationships become difficult. By using the breathing we can free ourselves from all anxiety.
With the hope for a resolution to the corona situation to be found soon, it is my hope that each person takes responsibility for their own worry to not increase.

We do not receive any guidance about this from politicians, thus I would like to send out regular messages to everyone. So that we can protect our health together. Please each person depend on your own inner energy and let that rise even further.

A Quiet Place in a Noisy World

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2019, the Albuquerque Zen Center was founded in 1989 and offers daily practice and study opportunities to anyone interested in exploring Zen Buddhism. It is an urban practice center, with a diverse lay sangha (community) drawn from many walks of life. In addition to a robust daily sitting schedule, AZC activities and events include weekly dharma discussions, monthly beginner’s instruction, community work practice (samu), family zendo, full moon sits, guest teacher visits, Forest Bathing wilderness excursions, and jodo training.






2300 Garfield Ave SE
Albuquerque, NM

Opening Hours

Monday 5:30am - 7:30am
Tuesday 5:30am - 7:30am
5:30pm - 7pm
Wednesday 5:30am - 8:30am
5:30pm - 7pm
Thursday 5:30am - 7:30am
5:30pm - 7pm
Friday 5:30am - 7:30am
Saturday 5:30am - 2pm
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