Rochester Zen Center Teisho (Zen Talks)

Podcast and Audio Archives


October 19, 2020

CoronaCast: October 19

Roshi’s weekly podcast: “Pandemic Refuge”

September 20, 2020

Even If the World Is Ending, So What?

The situation in the U.S. and around the world may be more bleak than ever. But consider: as individuals we manage to carry on with the very bleakest of futures: our own certain death. Rather than dwelling on future catastrophes, practice calls for us always to be fully responsive to the present. That is the…

September 9, 2020

CoronaCast: September 9

Roshi’s weekly podcast: “Daniel Prude and Rochester: Going Beyond Black and Blue.”

August 30, 2020

The Happiness Trap

Dharma talk by John Pulleyn: Looking at ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) as presented by Russ Harris in his book, The Happiness Trap, and how it fits with Zen practice.

August 27, 2020

CoronaCast: August 27

Roshi’s weekly podcast: “Depression Compared and Contrasted with Boredom.”

August 23, 2020

Thrivers’ Guilt

In the midst of massive suffering from the pandemic, many people, due to their circumstances, are experiencing unexpected personal contentment (and sometimes guilt as a result). How do we come to terms with this paradox–and move through in service to our bodhisattva vows?

August 19, 2020

CoronaCast: August 19

Roshi’s weekly podcast: “Pandemic Ruin and Renaissance.”

August 16, 2020

Teisho by Roshi Philip Kapleau, October 1976 Sesshin, Day 4: Mumonkan #3 “Gutei’s Finger”

Teisho by Roshi Philip Kaleau, played on Founder’s Day – August 16, 2020.

August 12, 2020

CoronaCast: August 12

Roshi’s weekly podcast: “Grit, competence, and zazen.”

August 9, 2020

Considering White Privilege

Whatever adversities we white people have suffered in our lives, structural racism isn’t one, and in that sense, at least, we’ve been privileged. We might deny having that advantage, or distance from it, but we can use our opportunities to join with others to begin dismantling systemic racism.

August 5, 2020

CoronaCast: August 5

In Amala-sensei’s online sesshin last week, most participants had to negotiate some accommodation to the schedule of others they live with, and now have been negotiating the transition back to full-on household life. Roshi addresses both of these challenges in this week’s coronacast.

July 26, 2020

The Zen Teaching of Hui Hai

A treatise on enlightenment and practice by the Tang dynasty Chan master, a disciple of the great Ma Tsu.

July 23, 2020

CoronaCast: July 23

Roshi’s weekly podcast to the Sangha.

July 19, 2020

East-West Cultural Contrasts and the Pandemic

The U.S. is faring much worse with the coronavirus than the East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, where people also are much more agreeable to wearing face masks. These differences may be seen in the context of the broad historical contrasts drawn in Richard Nisbett’s The Geography of Thought, which presents cultural-psychological studies showing the…

July 15, 2020

CoronaCast: July 15

Roshi’s podcast to the Sangha.

July 12, 2020

Working with Impatience

Dharma Talk by John Pulleyn: Learning patience in the face of our unwillingness to be with things as they are.

June 28, 2020

The Life and Teaching of Peace Pilgrim

After dedicating herself to social service for five years, the woman who would later identify herself only as Peace Pilgrim had a spontaneous awakening while walking in the woods. Then she spent the next twenty-eight years walking across the country alone, sharing her commitment to inner and world peace.

June 25, 2020

CoronaCast: June 25

This week’s podcast from Roshi to the Sangha.

June 21, 2020

Is There More to All This Than Meets the Eye?

The pandemic and its massive economic consequences, when laid atop accelerating climate change, presents a perfect storm of suffering. But with the understanding that there is an Intelligence behind it all, we must be seeing corrective forces underway, a re-balancing at work. How might future generations look back and see these tumultuous times?

June 18, 2020

CoronaCast: June 18

This week’s podcast from Roshi to the Sangha.

June 4, 2020

CoronaCast: June 4

This week’s podcast from Roshi to the Sangha.

May 31, 2020

100,000 Deaths and Our Cities in Flames

The pandemic shoved the unsurpassable threat of climate change out of the news, and now the outbreak of demonstrations in cities all over the country has seized our attention. Today we memorialize 100,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths with the traditional Buddhist memorial prayer, but also acknowledge the deadly virus of systemic racism and oppression of African-Americans…

May 28, 2020

CoronaCast: May 28

Roshi’s latest podcast to the Sangha.

May 24, 2020

Pandemics: A High-Altitude View

An overview of history’s most devastating pandemics, and a look at the timelessness of Camus’ The Plague.

May 13, 2020

CoronaCast: May 13

Roshi’s latest podcast to the Sangha.

May 10, 2020

The Zero Point Turned Inside-Out

There is just this, here, now. That is our freedom. Yet we can live it while acknowledging our interdependence with others, being grateful to those before us and around us while also responsible for those after us.

May 3, 2020

Giving Up to Live Fully

How much might the fear of losing oneself–of not being–drive our longing to leave home even during a pandemic? The denial of death and the craving for life: two sides of one coin. (Contributions from Brother David Steindl-Rast and Steven Levine.)

May 2, 2020

Following a Schedule During Quarantine

Dharma talk by Trueman Taylor: Advice from an astronaut and others on maintaining a consistent schedule. Also: excerpts and comments from Roshi Robert Aitken’s book Encouraging Words.

April 30, 2020

CoronaCast: April 30

Roshi’s latest podcast to the Sangha.

April 26, 2020

Outrage and the Pandemic

Dharma Talk by John Pulleyn: Staying in touch with our shared humanity rather than indulging in outrage and separation.

April 23, 2020

CoronaCast: April 23

Roshi’s latest podcast to the Sangha.

April 19, 2020


After the U.S.’s decades of affluenza (“a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more”), to what extent might our experience of the coronavirus and isolation inoculate us from its resurgence?

April 15, 2020

CoronaCast: April 15

Roshi’s latest podcast to the Sangha.

April 12, 2020

Blue Cliff Record #87: “Medicine and Sickness Correspond to Each Other”

Instead of engaging the coronavirus simply on a “war” footing, can we see ways in which it is educating us–right now? A pandemic reveals the consequences of our misuses of the natural world and the dis-ease we incur through the illusion of separation.

April 9, 2020

CoronaCast from Roshi: April 9

As the pandemic and social isolation stretch on, Roshi speaks again to the Sangha from his kitchen table.

April 5, 2020

Blue Cliff Record #3: “Baso’s Sun-faced Buddha, Moon-faced Buddha,” Sensei Amala Wrightson

A teisho by Amala-sensei, recorded in Auckland on March 10 and played in the Rochester zendo on April 5.

March 29, 2020

Covid Solitude, Dislocation, and Dis-illusionment

In his 2010 book The Active Life, acclaimed educator Parker Palmer cites three opportunities for painful growth that any of us are likely to face during our life: disillusionment, dislocation, and unbidden solitude. Zen practice enhances our ability to navigate through these three portals and to adapt to the coronavirus aftershocks that will change our…

March 26, 2020

CoronaCast from Roshi: March 26

As the pandemic ramps up, with isolation in place, Roshi speaks to the Sangha from his kitchen table.

March 22, 2020

Impermanence and the Virus

The current crisis can help us develop a more immediate awareness of the Buddha’s fundamental teaching and encourage us to find our refuge in opening to life as it is.  – Dharma talk by John Pulleyn

March 15, 2020

Human Contradictions Exposed by the Pandemic

Covid-19 is highlighting human contradictions: the dilemma of social distancing vs. social solidarity, as well as the tension between our ignoble reactions (e.g., panic hoarding) and our noble responses (generous helpfulness). Our True Self is neither of these alone.

March 8, 2020

Preparing Ourselves for the Coronovirus for the Sake of Others

A Mahayana take: it’s not just about “me” and “my.” Also, some words about worry, stress, and anxiety.

February 23, 2020

Solitude Misused: So Near, Yet So Far Away

The amazing case of the 21st-century “Hermit of Maine (The Stranger in the Woods, by Michael Finkel),” whose 27 years of complete seclusion, in which he survived through burglaries, is not remotely like the solitary meditation of practitioners in Zen and other traditions.

February 9, 2020

Coming to the Path Talk by Dené Redding

A Sunday talk about coming to the Dharma and to the Center.

January 26, 2020

The Dharma of Driving

Everyday driving as a practice field for mindfulness and a test of non-reactivity and other Buddhist values.

January 19, 2020

Twenty-eight Benefits of Meditation

From a 1st-century Buddhist text.


December 29, 2019

Nuturing Self-control Through the Social Emotions

A presentation of studies suggesting that gratitude, compassion, and decent pride are features of morality that foster self-control and perseverance more than do will-power and grit.

December 15, 2019

Out With the Old, In With–What?

Stepping back to look at the massive national and global changes we’re living through. All bets are off, yet we have Zen practice to help us ride the process and transform crisis into opportunity.

November 30, 2019

Jukai and the Internet

An overview of today’s ceremony of Receiving the Precepts, with a look at how the Internet adds further challenges in upholding the Ten Cardinal Precepts.

November 17, 2019

The Buddhist Precepts in the Context of Environmentalism

With our annual ceremony of Receiving the Precepts (Jukai) coming up, here Roshi applies those precepts to the growing threat of climate change and how we might reduce the harm we are inevitably causing to the environment.

October 27, 2019

Dharma Talk by John Pulleyn: “Get Over Yourself”

Working to disarm the self.

October 20, 2019

Philip Kapleau: Planting Seeds While Trailing Vines

A report on the Duke University conference celebrating the installation of Roshi Kapleau’s archives. Roshi Bodhin focuses on the unique challenges Kapleau faced–and we continue to face–in adapting Zen to the West.

October 5, 2019

October 2019 Sesshin, Day 7, Amala-sensei: Ziyong’s Ship of Compassion

Teisho by Sensei Amala Wrightson

September 22, 2019

Zazen As Pure Science Experiment

The dichotomy of science and religion, empiricism and direct experience, falls apart in the practice of Zen. Curiosity, wonder, investigation–these are the essentials of both science and the mystical spiritual traditions such as Zen.

September 15, 2019

What If Global Warming Is Irreversible?

If it is, how would that change our behavior? Each one of us will die someday anyway, so how do we work with that? Jonathan Franzen presents the worst-case scenario, but then there are other points of view.

August 18, 2019

Teisho by Roshi Philip Kapleau, November 1976 Sesshin, Day 5: Mumonkan #8 “Keichu’s Cart”

Teisho by Roshi Philip Kaleau, played on Founder’s Day – August, 18, 2019.

August 11, 2019

Global Buddhism: A Display of Emptiness

Based on a 2017 Tricycle article by Kurt Spellmeyer: “Globalism 3.0: The Secret to World Harmony Isn’t Oneness. It’s multiplicity.”

August 2, 2019

July 2019 Sesshin, Day 6: Mumonkan #10, “Sozan and Poor Seizei”

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede

July 28, 2019

July 2019 Sesshin, Day 1: Chanting as Zen Practice

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede

July 21, 2019

Zendo Air Conditioning and Won Buddhism

First Half: Our recent efforts to cool the zendo in sweltering weather. Second Half: Won Buddhism, a Korean strain of the Dharma.

June 23, 2019

The Blindness of Other-ist Views

Conceptualizing people of conflicting political views or of different race, ethnicity, or gender as “other” leads us to more easily react with hostility to what they say, especially in the anonymous and reckless world of social media. Based on the age-old Buddhist warning about the harm arising from attachment to views and opinions, Zen practice,…

June 2, 2019

Practice and Faith Nourishing Each Other

In Zen, faith grows through practice experience, even as faith sustains practice. They co-evolve continuously, sustaining each other. This is Hakuin’s “oneness of cause and effect,” out of which awakening can emerge.

May 26, 2019

Coming to the Path Talk by Sudama Ngo

Sudama, an ordained priest at the Center,  gave this account of coming to the Dharma and coming to the Center. For more of her story, see these two Zen Bow articles:

May 12, 2019

Dharma talk by Eryl Kubicka, “Responding and Resilience in Parenting”

Based on a New York Times  article “Which is Better; Rewards or Punishments? Neither” by Heather Turgeon. It describes a middle way of engaging with children, essentially based on responding out of our true nature and intuition without getting stuck in preconceptions. Link to the NYT article. Link to video featuring Anna Breytenbach, “animal communicator.”

April 28, 2019

Conspiracy Theories: Why Believe Them?

Recently we’ve seen conspiracy theories gaining wider currency in our country, which is just the latest surge in a long history of such theories. What spawns such ideas, and why do so many people believe in even the most far-fetched ones?

April 21, 2019

Where Christ and Bodhidharma Meet

An Easter Sunday look at apophatic theology, the Christian view of God as essentially unknowable or ineffable, which also insists that human language is inadequate to describe God. This insight overlaps with Zen and the famous words of its Founder: “I don’t know.”

April 3, 2019

April 2019 Sesshin, Day 4: Bankei Zen (trans. by Peter Haskel)

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede

April 2, 2019

April 2019 Sesshin, Day 3: Bankei Zen (trans. by Peter Haskel)

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede

April 1, 2019

April 2019 Sesshin, Day 2: Bankei Zen (trans. by Peter Haskel)

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede

March 31, 2019

April 2019 Sesshin, Day 1: Bankei Zen (trans. by Peter Haskel)

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede

March 17, 2019

Friendship: A Remedy for Cultural Disruption and Loneliness

Those who perpetrate mass shootings such as the one in New Zealand last week are often “loners.” But more people than ever in our country and elsewhere, while more “connected” than ever via social media, suffer from social isolation, which in turn can breed fear and distrust. Cultivating adult friends can help.

March 10, 2019

The Value of Getting Lost

Losing our bearings in the world, either literally or figuratively, can provoke anxiety, but it also opens us to new vistas. Zazen at its best draws us into this state of wonder-ing, where we have the promise of losing our self and finding true freedom.

March 3, 2019

March 2019 Sesshin, Day 2: Everyday Zen, by Charlotte Joko Beck

Dharma Talk by Trueman Taylor

March 2, 2019

March 2019 Sesshin, Day 1: Everyday Zen, by Charlotte Joko Beck

Dharma Talk by Trueman Taylor

February 10, 2019

Dharma Talk by John Pulleyn: “Why Buddhism Is True”

Commentary on the book, Why Buddhism Is True by Robert Wright – a look at Buddhism from the standpoint of evolutionary psychology.

January 27, 2019

Secular Creeds as Substitutes for Religion

In his article “America’s New Religions,” Andrew Sullivan argues that all of us–conservatives, liberals, and even atheists–have our “religions”: belief systems, ideologies, or tribal affiliations that we “worship” beyond reason because they give meaning to our lives. The deities of secular faith may be scientism, progress, self-improvement, social justice ideology, or reason itself. Other gods…

January 11, 2019

January 2019 Sesshin, Day 6: Mumonkan #5, “Kyogen’s Man Up a Tree”

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede


December 16, 2018

The Zen Poetry of Ryokan

Ryokan was an eccentric 18th-century enlightened Zen  hermit-monk who is still beloved in Japan for his poetry. In this collection of his verses, One Robe, One Bowl, he captures both the beauty and pathos of human life, and like his younger contemporary Thoreau, the wonders of nature.

December 2, 2018

Mumonkan #32, “A Non-Buddhist Questions the Buddha”

A non-Buddhist comes to awakening before the Buddha, sitting in silence, while his longtime disciple Ananda, standing in attendance, remains dumbfounded. How notions of identity can bind us. Who awakens? No one!

November 24, 2018

Jukai, Buddhist (Non-)Identity, and the Power of Vows

The ceremony of Jukai (Taking the Precepts) is basically an initiation into the Dharma. To be a Buddhist is to commit to aligning oneself with what is real–direct experience, not thoughts. It is to see things as they are in order to be with things as they are.

November 10, 2018

November 2018 Sesshin, Day 7: Mumonkan #48, “Kempo’s One Road”

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede

November 4, 2018

November 2018 Sesshin, Day 1: Zen Dawn: Early Zen Texts from Tun Huang (trans. J.C. Cleary)

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede.  Commentary on texts from the first Zen Masters.

October 28, 2018

Miaozong’s Dharma Encounter, Amala-sensei

Throughout much of history women’s bodies have been viewed as impure and dangerous by prevailing androcentric cultures, west and east, and unfortunately there still are many examples of this attitude in Buddhism today. In this story from the Song Dynasty, Miaozong, a Dharma heir of Dahui, courageously gives a lively demonstration of the true nature…

October 14, 2018

Caring, Engaging, Voting

The minimal response we can offer our descendants, who are under more threats than ever, is to vote. This is a contemporary way to “enter the marketplace with helping hands,” the ultimate stage of Dharma practice.

October 6, 2018

October 2018 Sesshin, Day 7, Amala-sensei: Satsujo Overcomes Hakuin

”Before the tongue has moved the teaching has finished” — but take care — short of full awakening there is still work to do.

October 5, 2018

October 2018 Sesshin, Day 6, Amala-sensei: Chiyono’s No Water No Moon

Being willing to let things fall apart

September 23, 2018

Blue Cliff Record #55, “Dogo’s ‘I Won’t Say'”

The relative nature of the terms “living” and “dead,” and how one monk’s struggle with them led him to enlightenment.

September 9, 2018

Integrating Life and Practice: Women’s Voices – Eryl Kubicka

A Dharma talk by Eryl Kubicka on the second day of the September 2018 two-day sesshin.

August 19, 2018

Teisho by Roshi Philip Kapleau, June 1975 Sesshin, Day 7: Mumonkan #36 “Goso’s ‘No Words or Silence'”

Recording of a teisho given by Roshi Philip Kapleau on the last day of the June 1975 sesshin and played on Founder’s Day, August 19, 2018.

August 12, 2018

Our Marvelous Microbiome: A Web of Mutual Causation

How our concepts of individual self-identity and linear causality are being dissolved by the wondrous workings of our gut microbes. Readings from I Contain Multitudes, by Ed Yong.

August 4, 2018

July/August 2018 Sesshin, Day 7: Shoyoroku #13, “Linji’s ‘Blind Donkey'”

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede from the July/August 2018 sesshin. Commentary on a koan from The Book of Serenity.

August 3, 2018

July/August 2018 Sesshin, Day 6: Blue Cliff Record #18, “The National Teacher’s Seamless Monument”

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede from the July/August 2018 sesshin. Commentary on a koan from the Blue Cliff Record.

August 2, 2018

July/August 2018 Sesshin, Day 5: Zen Essence (trans. T. Cleary)

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede

July 22, 2018

The Latest Scandal in American Buddhism

A look at the sexual misconduct, widely disclosed this month, of the head of Shambhala International, one of the major Tibetan Buddhist lineages, and the fallout in that Sangha.

June 14, 2018

June 2018 Sesshin, Day 5: Zen Essence (trans. T. Cleary)

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede

June 13, 2018

June 2018 Sesshin, Day 4: Zen Essence (trans. T. Cleary)

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede

June 3, 2018

Teisho by Sunya Kjolhede Roshi: Reclaiming Our Resilient Spirit

Teisho by Sunya Kjolhede Roshi: Reclaiming Our Resilient Spirit

May 13, 2018

Dharma Talk by John Pulleyn: “Working with Habits”

Dharma Talk by John Pulleyn: “Working with Habits”

May 6, 2018

Fear and Avoidance As the Engines of Risk-Taking Behavior

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede

April 29, 2018

The Tyranny of Convenience, the Allure of What’s Easiest

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede

April 22, 2018

Dharma Talk by Tom Kowal, “Dharma and Depression”

Dharma Talk by Tom Kowal, “Dharma and Depression”

April 12, 2018

April 2018 Sesshin, Day 5: The Practice of Zen (trans. C.C. Chang)

Teisho by Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede


Jul 23, 2017

Empathy and Power


Jan 24, 2016

Secular Buddhism



Apr 13, 2014

Breath Practice


Oct 13, 2013

Pain v. Suffering





Sep 27, 2009

Working With Anger



Dec 30, 2007

Mindless Eating