Roshi Ken (ICS President Ken Byalin) says: "I’m not a typical Zen teacher. My Zen practice manifests as social action. Integration Charter Schools is a manifestation of the practice."

A Bernie Koan

In the Zen tradition, Koans are used as teaching cases, often commented on by many generations of teachers who use these cases in teaching students. The study of koans is an important component of Zen training, in some traditions, the most important. The Case Bernie told the story of the Maezumi Institute. Maezumi Roshi wanted […]

Turn the Other Cheek

Jesus said to turn the other cheek. “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5:40)                 There is a wonderful Zen story about the great Rinzai master, Hakuin who lived in Japan from the 1680s until the 1760s (the exact dates are unknown). It is told […]

Speak Truth to Power

I have been saying for a long time that when I first heard Roshi Bernie say that spirituality and social action were both aspects of Zen practice it was like I had come home. They were aspects of me and when I heard this, I was home. I was about 50 years old and my […]


In the days following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X said, “The chickens have come home to roost!” Much of America was shocked and offended. I had always liked Malcolm, but this seemed harsh. A half century later, I now think, Malcolm was teaching Karma. 1. Karma is Buddhism’s answer to the […]

No School

I read this morning in Dogen, There is no School of Zen.  Funny. I have been clinging to visions of a Zen Peacemaker Order for 15 years. Three bows to Roshi Eve Marko and the members of the Zen Peacemaker Order Steering Committee for preparing me to hear Dogen. It is all coming back to […]

Don’t Just Sit There

“Don’t just sit there, do something.” I think I had heard that all my life. It seems to be the opposite of Zen. My first instruction to beginning meditators is, “Sit still; shut up.” A Zen wit translated to, “Don’t just do something, sit there.” That was the perfect medicine for me, the lifelong social […]

Mother’s Day 2020

Mother’s Day, 2020 is also the twenty-fifth anniversary of Maezumi Roshi’s passing — my grandfather in the Dharma, in Japan to be with his mother. He had taken his mother’s name to ensure that it would live on, although he had received Dharma transmission, from his father Hakujun Kuroda Roshi, who achieved great prominence in […]

Zen Budgeting Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Business people say when they are stabbing a friend in the back, “It’s not personal. It’s just business.” It’s always personal. The COVID-19 pandemic just makes it that much more obvious. At ICS, we are always struggling to keep it personal, especially when we are dealing with ending a relationship with someone who has been […]

The Zen of Budgeting

I am too grandmotherly. The Gateless Gate is the first of four collections of koans (literally, public cases, typically records of conversations between Zen teachers and others) studied by students in the Soto tradition. That’s my lineage. Mumon, compiler of The Gateless Gate, reserved his harshest criticism for Zen teachers who are too grandmotherly. He […]

Oh, Richard.

At a Zen funeral, we talk directly to the person who has left us. Oh, Richard, thinking of you, I smile. We had so much more to do. So many memories. I knew Digna before I knew you. She was such an integral part of the Arts of Recovery and what we were trying to […]