This is a book I’ve self-published on a great but little known Jewish theologian, Yehuda Lev Ashlag. He is known in some circles for his work on the mystical text the Zohar, and in others as the inspiration behind the teachings of some universalist “pop” Kabbalah movements (which is why Madonna visits his grave every year). His writings deserve more thorough study and serious attention, however, as he articulates a fascinating and radical perspective on many core Jewish themes which is rooted in classical thinkers like the Arizal, the Ramchal, Hasdai Crescas, and Chasidut, but goes beyond them in some respects to present a startling systematic theology of Judaism and Jewish spiritual practice.
This book is based on a lecture series that I taught in Vancouver.
It makes no sense to casually think,
“Today I will not die.”
There is no doubt the day will come
When you too will be gone.
(quoted in Jewels of Enlightenment, Erik Pema Kunsang)
As long as the heart is not humbled it cannot cease from wandering; for humility concentrates the heart.
– St Isaac of Syria (7th century)
Daily Readings with St Isaac of Syria
tr. Sebastian Brock, Templegate Press
The following is a poem written by the great 20th century teacher of Soto Zen, Kosho Uchiyama. Uchiyama Roshi was a great exponent and practitioner of Dogen Zen as taught by Kodo Sawaki, his teacher. Despite his grounding in Dogen and Soto Zen, Uchiyama Roshi also appreciated Shin Buddhism and Christianity and spoke on them in his dharma talks and poetry. The “Nembutsu” is the mantra Namu Amida Butsu, “Homage to Amitabha Buddha’, a Buddha Shin practitioners believe to have vowed to save all who chant his name. Uchiyama Sensei translated the Nembutsu as ” I practice (butsu) returning (namu) to the totality of heaven and earth (amida)”. Enjoy.
The Heart of Nembutsu
I eat food from the whole heaven and earth
I drink water from the whole heaven and earth
I live the life of the whole heaven and earth
Pulled by the gravity of the whole heaven and earth
I become pure and clear, one with the whole heaven and earth
The whole heaven and earth is where I return
– Zen Teachings of Homeless Kodo