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Japan 2015 Journal - 1

dreamliner-fuji-window-croppedThis is the first in a series of travel-log style journal entries Sensei will provide during the trip to Japan:

Waiting at LAX Japan Airlines gate for our plane to arrive. Nat, Chase and I flew from Atlanta this morning on the same plane; Jerry and Jim arrived separately and met with us here. Stewart will meet us in Osaka at the airport, we think; and Peter will arrive in Osaka later “tonight”  (whatever that means - time zone disorientation is setting in).

I am watching over ten bags or so, while the others wander the concourse looking for lunch and a bit of exercise before going aboard for a long flight.

Traveling abroad offers a wonderful opportunity to suspend our usual grasp on time, as something to which we are accustomed, and take for granted. That is, measured time. When what time it is depends upon where we are, Einstein’s famous conflation of space-time gets personal. If we stay in one place it seems that time is dependable. If we do not, but instead move great spaces in a relatively brief time, time becomes fluid, conditional upon where we happen to be at the moment. In other words, our concept of time is not connected to the space we occupy in any dependent sense. Its arbitrary nature becomes clear when we shift through time zones. It becomes clear that there is only one time. only one space. And, of course, mine is different from yours.

Last Updated (Thursday, 08 October 2015 20:05)


October 2015 Dharma Byte


In the early days of my practice, whenever someone would discover my involvement or interest in Zen, which I was not eager to make known to any and all, they would commonly ask, "Have you been to Japan?" or a similar question. At first, I felt it a natural reaction, and a reasonable question to pose. But after giving it some thought, as we say (as if thought were some precious commodity not to be wasted on trivial matters), and in the light of the intervening emergence of the organization of Zen in the USA, with its complement of training centers, priests, and even a professional organization, the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, it seems curiouser and curiouser, with apologies to Lewis Carroll.

The question begs the question, that if you have not gone to Japan, then your practice of Zen may itself be questionable. Or if you have gone to Japan, the follow-on question would be regarding where and when, and whether you were exposed to Zen there. Or if you were merely a tourist, your claiming to be "into Zen" would be subject to dismissal, as not being the real thing. It is as if Japan and Zen are joined at the hip.

Last Updated (Wednesday, 23 September 2015 10:08)


September 2015 DharmaByte-Giving


In Buddhism, giving, or generosity, is called dana, a Sanskrit term that probably has many more connotations than we have space to deal with. Here, I would like to discuss that category of giving that has sometimes been called "repaying our debt to Buddha."

Now, Buddha was an ordinary human being. Okay, perhaps not so ordinary as you or I. My point is, in Zen, we do not worship the historical figure as a deity, or imagine that he is somehow watching to see if we appreciate the teachings he codified and handed down to us through successive generations of followers. Much less do we fantasize that if we do not do something tangible to reflect our gratitude for buddha-dharma, that we should feel guilty, or fear retribution.

No, Zen is not a religion of paranoia, or prosperity, for that matter. We neither expect to profit from our practice, nor are we attempting to avoid suffering in Zen.

But Zen practice exists, when and where it exists at all, in the real world. It is as subject to economic realities as is any other entity that exists, whether as a natural object, sentient or insentient; or a corporate entity, such as a 501c3.

To understand this is to embrace Matsuoka Roshi's strange aphorism that "The Zen person has no problem following the sidewalks." This means, I think, that if you are following the way of Zen, you do not stop short at the apparent barriers thrown up by the machinations of humankind, such as corporate organization, or the sidewalks in your neighborhood. Sidewalks provide dependable, durable footing, and relative safety alongside streets and thoroughfares of a city. But of course, they are also usually impermeable, and contribute to runoff and resultant flooding during rainy weather. So each such invention represents a compromise.
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