This blog contains announcements, insights and articles from the Insight Meditation Community of Washington


The Magic Mustard Seed

There is a well-known Buddhist story about a woman called Kisa Gotami. She was married at a young age, and after many years of trying, gave birth to a precious son, who was her pride and joy. For a few years she was very happy. But then just as her son was reaching the age where he was able to run about and play, he suddenly fell ill and died. Overcome by shock and grief, Kisa was not able to accept that her child was dead and insisted that he was just sleeping. She lifted him on her hip and wandered from door to door, asking for medicine. People were horrified and didn’t know what to say to her. Eventually, a wise person directed her to the Buddha....


“What is this?” my first meditation teacher asked me almost twenty years ago as she held out a small brass bell in her hand. “What is this?” This was my first introduction to the koan... a Zen teaching question that is asked in everyday language, but must be answered with a deeper truth. After reflecting, I reached out, took the bell and gave it a quick ring. We both sat wordlessly for a few moments, listening to the sound resonate and then fade away. This style of Zen didn’t become the mainstay of my budding Buddhist practice, but my encounter with the koan made an impression that has stayed with me....