Sally in the Zen

Confessions of a Befuddled Zen Buddhist

Open Letter to Guan Yin

Open Letter to Guan Yin:

History is unfolding before our very eyes, and I’m dumbfounded.

When I think of world history, world events, I think of books and the History Channel.

Julius Caesar of Ancient Rome.

The building of the Great Wall of China.

The World Wars.

All available for perusal at the nearest Barnes & Noble bookstore.

But the events in the last decade of my life has been staggering.

Because I’ve never thought I would be an eyewitness to such unprecedented events.

Because these things just don’t happen.

But they do.

And they have.

And it’s surreal.

Zen Master, Zen Mum and I watched the past week’s events play and replay on TV until the images are so seared into our memories that we don’t need the TV to replay anything for us.

I see them with my eyes closed.

The before and after images of Japan.

An 8.9 earthquake and its resulting tsunami.

nuclear crisis.

How do I reconcile such things when the sun is shining so brightly through my window?

When the birds are tweeting so sweetly outside my window?

Please help me to understand.

Guan Yin, I confess that sometimes I am staggered and do fall to my knees with weakness and lack of understanding of why such tragedies happen.  Why they need to happen.

Despite this, I always find myself rising to my feet with the determination of always wanting to help.

But how can I, a mere person, on the other side of the world, help?

What can I do?

Beyond donations, what can I do with my two bare hands to make a difference right now, Guan Yin?

When I posed this question to Zen Master, he gently took my hands into his and said “Simple acts of kindnessBelieve that you can make a difference because it starts with you.”

Thank you, Guan Yin, for my Zen Master.

Through him, I hear your words and your wisdom. 

Through my faith in you, I feel your strength and courage in my heart.

I remember and understand that while we are living on this earth, we have a purpose to discover and fulfill.

To discover what it truly means to be a human being.

And to live that word consistently each and every day.

I thank you for your patience with me.  Sometimes I need to be reminded as I will falter on my path towards enlightenment. 

To see such devastation and destruction just took my breath away.

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Something Fishy Going On

So I walked into the kitchen one day recently, and was almost bowled over by the stench in there.

“Damn, Zen Master, that stinks!”  I said as I pinched my nose closed with my fingers and approached him.  He was standing by the sink, washing something God-awful.  “What are you doing?”

“It is smelly, isn’t it?”  Zen Master grinned at me.  “I’m going to pan-fry some fresh sardines.”

“Why?”  I asked as I peeked over his shoulder into the kitchen sink.  “What are you making?”

“Soup base.”  He replied simply. 

Turns out that Zen Master was going to pan-fry these sardines and then dry them out.  When we make soup, these morsels will be added to the soup base, enriching its flavor.

We usually just buy the dried sardines from the store, but Zen Master wanted homemade instead.

So after he cleaned out the innards from these foul-smelling things, he threw them onto the dutch oven and slowly cooked them.

And after awhile, the putrid, fishy smell gave way to something really tantalizing that had me mmmming.

Which prompted Zen Master to tell me about a story about Guan Yin.

According to folklore, raw fish was quite putrid smelling and very quick to spoil once caught.  Because the fish spoiled faster than the villagers could cook it, the people starved to death. 

So Guan Yin graced the fish.

The Chinese translation of what She said in gracing the fish is completely paraphrased here, since I’m no scholar:  the foul-smelling stench will become aromatic and fragrant when the fish is cooked. 

And the people didn’t starve as they now had food to eat.

“Is that really true?”  I asked Zen Master as I sniffed the yummy yummy cooked fish.

He only gave me a dry look.  “It’s called a folklore for a reason, you know.”


Methinks something fishy is going on here.

Get it?

Something fishy?


Anyone out there?

Sally in the Zen, I am; therefore, I must pun.

Thank you very much.

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Sometimes I get in a funk.

Sometimes with myself, sometimes with life.

But there are some days which are tougher than others and besides turning to Guan Yin, I turn to my Zen Master.

And he would say take a deep breath and just let it go.

And when I heard this song from Linkin Park, his words echoed in my head and my heart.



Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes.

What can I say?

I’m quite open-minded for a Zen Buddhist.

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Thank You

Thank you God, Guan Yin

…for life

…for health

…for family

…for house

…for home

…and most of all, for Zen Master and Zen Mum for being my two best friends in the world, who never judge and love me as I am.

Thank you.

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Life Lessons

When people find out that I am Buddhist, their first question to me is inevitably the same.

“Aren’t you suppose to be bald?”

And my answer is usually the same.

“I need to make a living, so I need my hair.”

(Here’s a tip.  Not all Zen Buddhists are bald.)

I need to point out again that although I am Buddhist, I have had no formal training whatsoever in this religion/philosophy.  But with my Zen Master — my father — who is a lifelong Zen Buddhist himself, I am in very good hands.

It was almost eight years ago when I consciously began walking this path, this way of life and living.  According to Wikipedia, Zen Buddhism is “a form of Buddhism that lays special emphasis on meditation.” 

For Zen Master and myself, it also centers around Guan Yin.

Zen Master teaches by example and by wisdom, always emphasizing that life is precious. 

But I’ll be the first to admit that being a Zen Buddhist is hard.  It’s not just a religion or philosophy. 

It’s a state of being, and living.

It means that each and every day is a beginning as well as a progression to a better person than what I was yesterday.  It means that I face each day pondering cryptic Buddhist wisdom imparted by Zen Master, trying my best to make heads or tails of what he means. 

So begin my Introspections on Sally in the Zen.  These are my stories of life lessons with Zen Master.

Photo taken by my cousin's husband, HP

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