Zen Judaism

“Only don’t know” was the name of a Jewish contemplative exercise that I once enjoyed. If you google “Only don’t know” you’ll find how very Zen is the expression. Finding it in a Jewish tradition was a surprise, an intrigue–what is this doing here?

What permanently impressed me was the idea of relinquishing any idea that you think you know anything about God, in particular …

… but if you know nothing about God, do you have any foundation in the world at all?

This kind of humor from a 2007 email is more typical of what I think I know about the Jewish outlook. I do adore its pragmatism :

“Zen Judaism”


Leonard Cohen

  • Accept misfortune as a blessing.
  • Do not wish for perfect health or a life without problems.
  • What would you talk about?
  • The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single “oy.”
  • If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?
  • Be here now.
  • Be someplace else later.
  • Is that so complicated?
  • Drink tea and nourish life.
  • With the first sip … joy
  • With the second … satisfaction.
  • With the third … peace.
  • With the fourth … a Danish.
  • Rabbi Isaac Luria

    Wherever you go, there you are.

  • Your luggage is another story.
  • There is no escaping karma.
  • In a previous life, you never called,
  • You never wrote, you never visited.
  • And whose fault was that?
  • The Tao does not speak.
  • The Tao does not blame.
  • The Tao has no expectations.
  • The Tao demands nothing of others. The Tao is not Jewish.
  • Breathe in. Breathe out.
  • Breathe in Breathe out.
  • Forget this and attaining enlightenment
  • Will be the least of your problems.
  • Let your mind be as a floating cloud.
  • Let your stillness be as the wooded glen.
  • And sit up straight.
  • You’ll never meet the Buddha with such rounded shoulders.

Recently Marshall Vian Summers said*, “Instead of asking people what they believe, ask them what they practice.”

* Requires registration in the Free School of the New Message. You are invited to join the Worldwide Community of the New Message as an inquirer, critic or devotee–all are welcome.