Dharma discourses are talks given by Zen teachers on a particular aspect of the dharma. They are generally commentaries on Zen koans, seemingly paradoxical statements or questions that challenge our understanding of who we are and directly point to the nature of reality. In the Mountains and Rivers Order, most of these talks are based on the classical koan collections that originated in China and Japan, and were translated into English when Zen came to the west.
Daido Roshi, founder of the Mountains and Rivers Order, always liked to describe these discourses as "dark to the mind but radiant to the heart," which means that they're not lectures or intellectual expositions, but a live expression of the speaker's understanding of the Buddhist teachings.
At Zen Mountain Monastery and Fire Lotus Temple, dharma discourses take place within the context of zazen. Listeners sit in the formal zazen posture, with hands in the cosmic mudra (knuckles overlapping at waist level and thumbs lightly touching) and their full attention focused on the speaker. If you are listening to one of these talks at home, we recommend that you also take a posture that will allow you to give your undivided attention to the words you're hearing. Do not try to analyze or understand them. Let them flow freely through you, allowing the "wisdom that has no teacher" to illuminate the truth that has always been present in each and every one of us.