Welcome to Ken Jones Zen - a collection of work embracing Ken's varied interests in Buddhism and Zen-inspired poetry and prose. Most of this website's content continues to be presented as Ken last saw it before his death in 2015. 

Pushing my reflection

this wheelbarrow

full of rain

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 a brief introduction to socially engaged Buddhism of which Ken was 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”. As Ken wrote "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'." 

We begin with a short biography of Ken and finally, there is a short page on Ken’s publications with pdf links.

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's Biography - Ken Jones? Who? 

Ken, as his well-worn medical records stated was born "Kenneth Henry Jones” on 18th May 1930. When he was 71, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and understanding the impermanence of life and the certainty of his own death, he began to carve his own memorial just above the cave where he spent years as a part-time hermit. This is to be found on the stoney summit of Pumlumon, the sacred mountain of Wales, where in the rock, he carved "Ken Jones 1930 – 20..." He left instruction to his friends to hammer in the final digits which they did with a ‘15’ following his death on 2nd August 2015.

Ken Jones' rock carving with his date of birth and incomplete date of death.

Ken’s life was an interplay between social/political activism, Zen Buddhism and writing both factual and poetic works. His professional career was mainly in teaching in higher education, with most of his spare time spent as a peace, ecology and social justice activist. He also had a period on the Samaritans’ telephone helpline. Politically he started out as an old-fashioned anarchist, and then through the 70 years of his adult life dedicated to radical social change he worked his way through the Communist Party of Great Britain (expelled), the Labour Party (Victory for Socialism Group) (and very nearly expelled), the UK Green Party and after his return to his ancestral home of Wales he joined Plaid Cymru. He embraced Plaid Cymru as a socialist party and was instrumental in establishing a ‘green’ agenda in this party during his early years of membership. He died as he intended as “an unrepentant phenomenological Marxist”.


In middle age, after suffering something of a crisis of political faith, Ken decided the time had come to combine his work for social emancipation with a practice for an inner liberation from himself. He saw this as being necessary to be more useful in the world. He had become disappointed with the progress made in the struggle for social justice with its many defeats and betrayals. He became aware that something – the self – was absent from radical social theory, and he commenced a meditative examination of his own self. In due course he adopted a Zen Buddhist path whilst remaining a social activist.  


Ken’s first Buddhist teacher was Irmgard Schloegl (later the Ven Myokyo-ni), of the Buddhist Society from whom he received an early introduction to the practice of emotional awareness.  As his practice developed however, Ken found himself wrestling with the crucial question of how existential and social liberation could be combined into a single practice of inner and outer work founded on a unified body of theoretical understanding. He saw very clearly that there was no separation between the transformation of self and the transformation of society. Disagreement over this question of socially engaged Buddhism led to a break with the Buddhist Society and out of this struggle came his most important work, the pioneering "Social Face of Buddhism" (1989).


Ken then joined the Kanzeon Sangha as a student of Genpo roshi. However, following several years of training Ken grew disenchanted with highly institutionalised Buddhism with its centrality of monasticism and his move from this led to him finding a congenial home in the lay organisation of the Western Chan Fellowship where its Teacher, Dr John Crook, became his mentor and friend.


After many years of Buddhist training as a Zen and Chan practitioner and with his teaching background Ken automatically found himself teaching in different Buddhist contexts and he facilitated numerous workshops and retreats on different aspects of Buddhism. He maintained a Kanzeon connection in annually co-leading a retreat with his friend Dave Scott (Keizan sensei), leader of Liverpool’s Stonewater Zen Sangha and he was a regular leader for the WCF on their retreat programme. Although he remained a staunch member and contributor of the WCF over the last fifteen years of his life, Ken developed his own philosophy and teaching style and he was sought after as a roving independent teacher. His approach was founded on an “Everyday Buddhism” as established by Joko Beck and other American Zen teachers characterised by a practice of emotional awareness in the body. Underlying his contemporary approach there always lay a strong commitment to the Soto Zen tradition and particularly to the teachings of the great Japanese thirteenth century philosopher-monk Eihei Dogen.

Ken always maintained his social engagement approach within the political organisations that he was associated with. It was through his innovative foresight and drive that the UK Network of Socially Engaged Buddhists was founded and for three decades this organisation provided a focal point for Buddhist practitioners who wish to be active in this way. When, in 2014, with Ken as President, this organisation decided to disband it was principally because socially engaged Buddhism had become considerably more noticeable and mainstream than when Ken with his vision had helped create the organisation. Ken was also a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Ken’s thinking on this aspect of his Buddhist practice is found in the republishing of his best-known book The New Social Face of Buddhism (Wisdom Publications, 2003) (originally The Social Face of Buddhism).

Within the development of his clear ideas on Buddhist practice, Ken, as a writer also developed an interest in haiku and he played an important part in pioneering the Western development to the haibun - an ancient Japanese prose poetry genre. He contributed regularly to UK and US haiku magazines, as well as being represented in British and American anthologies.  He was co-editor of the print journal, Contemporary Haibun, and the online journal Contemporary Haibun Online. His work was regularly published and for his contribution to Pilgrim Foxes: Haiku and Haiku Prose, co-authored with Jim Norton and Sean O’Connor, he was awarded the Sasakawa Prize for Original Contributions in the Field of Haiku. His haibun “Travellers” won first place in the 2005 English Language Haibun Contest. In 2011 he won joint first place in the British Haiku Society’s Haibun Contest. Other published collections of Ken’s are Arrow of Stones (British Haiku Society, 2002); Stallion’s Crag (Iron Press, 2003); The Parsley Bed (Pilgrim Press, 2006); Stone Leeks (Pilgrim Press, 2009); and Bog Cotton (Alba Publishing, 2012)'.

In 2001 Ken was diagnosed with prostate cancer and in typical fashion he recorded his journey dealing with this and the ageing process through his creative work. Gone Away (Alba Publishing, 2015) was published posthumously at Ken's request and contains 24 haibun which trace this personal journey in a very open, honest and often ironically humorous manner.

Ken was a very likeable, thoughtful, empathetic and erudite person, he was very good company and he enjoyed the gift of the gab. He was exceptionally well read in many matters and was able to discuss current affairs, complex philosophical ideas and the simple processes of living at one and the same time. He held playfulness to be one of the greatest spiritual virtues and in this he enjoyed life fully. He was a pioneer in many aspects of his activity in which he always presented as a happy engaging pleasant rebel. Even though he has passed away and is missed by many it is easy to get to know Ken by reading his haiku and haibun.

The following haibun was read by Ken's wife, Noragh Jones (who also sadly passed away in 2017) at Ken's funeral.

Octogenarian Ramble

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.

Dignity dictates
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's acknowledgements (2015)

My thanks to Stuart McLeod for the design of the website, Simon Child for much needed technical support, Eddy Street and Kim Richardson 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.