Welcome to Ken Jones Zen
a collection of work embracing Ken's varied interests
in Buddhism and Zen-inspired poetry and prose
Pushing my reflection
full of rain
Following the loss of Ken in 2015, we are saddened to share with you the death of his wife Noragh Jones at the end of 2016. For the time being, we are continuing to manage this site as Ken last saw it, although we hope to add some audio talks soon.
The following haibun was read by Noragh at Ken's funeral.
Rambling through old age -
she looks behind
to see if I'm still there
As her flickering compass tacks and veers, I lag behind with the map to shout changes of direction. In the interludes of easy going, my poles clicking on the tarmac, we once again strike out together.
Facing obstacles once taken in our stride, like this crumbling drystone wall.
I decline her proffered hand
this life in the past tense
Sometimes, however, I do accept a little push-up over a sheep fence.
Barbed wire yoga
the lift of my boot
just one inch short
At a broad, fast flowing stream she honours me - by not looking back. Left alone to enjoy both fear and audacity. Launched creakingly in mid-air, that second of freedom beyond age and youth. And Splash!
Old age is also about falling over.
Black and blue
the colour scheme
of this old body
Happily, the elegance learnt in youth remains. I can still fall gracefully, softly and unnoticed. Moreover, I can still provide some entertainment.
His roly-poly fall
down a gentle slope
her helpless smile
And so mortality eternally renews our weekly rambles through crag and forest, pasture and bog.
Getting lost together
blithely we make our way
towards the final destination
Ken Jones Zen - an introduction
Here you will find practical help in writing (and appreciating) haiku, and an introduction to haibun - a fascinating new form which combines haiku with prose. Secondly the site offers you edited versions of eight of Ken’s Dharma talks, given on retreats. These provide a sound understanding of “Everyday Buddhism” and help in how to practice it. There is also here a brief introduction to socially engaged Buddhism of which Ken is a pioneer.
Interleaved between the haiku and the Buddhism pages is a rare introduction to haiku as a traditional Zen Buddhist practice. This is based on Ken’s experience of workshops on this theme, and it includes two illuminating essays on “existentially liberative haiku”. These are the haiku (and haibun) which, in however a modest way, can enable us to experience insights which can help make us more at ease with ourselves and with others. This can be the beginning of a wisdom ripened steadily over the years by a Buddhist practice which gives us clarity and liberation from the seemingly endless struggle to sustain a needy self. It can break the “mind-forged manacles” of which William Blake spoke so eloquently, and thereby ”cleanse the windows of perception”.
Finally there is a short page on Ken’s publications. The full content of the site can be viewed on the site map.
You may wish to start first with exploring the haiku (and haibun) pages and then the “Buddhism and haiku” hinge page, or else to approach the site from the other direction. Or you may prefer to stick to the haiku or Buddhism pages only. Either way the site should work for you satisfactorily. And, of course, some browsing and dipping here and there may be the best way for you to explore what is probably a unique website.
Ken Jones? Who?
On his well-worn medical records he is "Kenneth Henry Jones – d.o.b 18/05/1930". On the rocky summit of Pumlumon, the sacred mountain of Wales, just above the cave where he has spent years as a part-time hermit, his memorial is already chiselled as "Ken Jones 1930 – 201.." His friends (or those still able bodied enough) are sworn to hammering in that final digit.
Ken’s career has been mainly in higher education, with most of his spare time spent as a peace, ecology and social justice activist, as well as a period on the Samaritans’ telephone helpline. Beginning as an old fashioned anarchist, he has, over seventy years, worked his way through the Communist Party of Great Britain (expelled), the Labour Party (Victory for Socialism Group) (and very nearly expelled) and the UK Green Party (for which he retains an abiding affection). He is a founder of the UK Network of Socially Engaged Buddhists, and now its president, and a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. He intends to die (in the not so distant future) as an unrepentant phenomenological Marxist. Now well embedded in the Land of His Fathers, he was recently received into Plaid Cymru – as the only socialist party of any significance in the island of Britain. Like his fellow Welshman, David Lloyd George, he enjoys the gift of the gab, though now much tempered by years of sitting on his black Zen cushion. Nonetheless he holds playfulness to be one of the greatest spiritual virtues.
In middle age Ken decided the time had come to try to combine his work for social emancipation with practice for an inner liberation from himself, in order to be more useful in the world. After many years of Buddhist training, he is now a Zen and Ch’an practitioner and teacher of thirty years’ standing. He has facilitated numerous workshops and retreats on different aspects of Buddhism and has published widely. His best known book is The New Social Face of Buddhism (Wisdom Publications, 2003).
Ken Jones is a co-editor of the quarterly Contemporary Haibun Online. He contributes regularly to UK and US haiku magazines, as well as being represented in British and American anthologies. For his contribution to Pilgrim Foxes: Haiku and Haiku Prose, co-authored with Jim Norton and Sean O’Connor, Jones was awarded the Sasakawa Prize for Original Contributions in the Field of Haikai. His haibun “Travellers” won first place in the 2005 English Language Haibun Contest. And in 2011 he won joint first place in the British Haiku Society’s Haibun Contest. Other Collections: Arrow of Stones (British Haiku Society,2002); Stallion’s Crag (Iron Press, 2003); The Parsley Bed (Pilgrim Press, 2006); and Stone Leeks (Pilgrim Press 2009). A new collection of haiku and haibun is planned for 2012, with the provisional title of 'Bog Cotton'.
Ken now homesteads in his native Wales, with his Irish wife Noragh.
A reading of Ken’s published haiku and haibun collections will tell you a lot more, and more entertainingly. “Is this really true?" is a common response.
My thanks to Stuart McLeod for the design of the website, Simon Child for much needed technical support, Eddy Street for many of the photographs, and Eddy and Hilary Richards for their useful comments in improving the site's content and structure.
A grateful acknowledgement is also due to the many poets, editors and publishers quoted on this site. Unfortunately it has been impracticable to seek permission from each and every one, and we must rely on their good will, for which many thanks.