When you submit a question to this blog, where possible I will make an attempt to reply. I cannot guarantee that I will have time or leisure to reply to every single letter. In addition, please know that in this attempt to offer you some reply, you will have my full attention and distillation of 30 years of intensive meditation practice to bear on your question.
The only compensation that is asked for, is that this letter and reply be shared publicly on the blog, of course stripped of any identifying, personal information. This is the method that my own Teacher employed when he brought the Dharma to the West. To the thousands of letters that Dae Soen Sa Nim received, he was able to dictate his reply to a student, who wrote down his answer, and who then mailed it back to the questioner. These questions and answers were later published in book form, Only Don’t Know, which continues to guide our practice until today. The remainder of the letters are read aloud in Zen Centers throughout the world.
Hearing these letters read aloud every day at the conclusion of Morning Practice at the Cambridge Zen Center was so powerfully helpful for getting some grounding in the practice. Hearing the question (a question which you or I might also have), and being able to witness the Teacher (who I’d not yet ever met) applying “medicine“ to the question, has been so deeply formative for my practice, and also for how I am able to reply to you. Dae Soen Sa Nim encouraged people to ask questions in Dharma talks whose answer, from him, might be of benefit to others too shy or self-conscious to ask themselves. He called this kind of question “bodhisattva question” — the question (and answer) not only helps me, but may help others, as well. That is for-all-beings questioning.
It is hard to conceive of an attorney of 30 years’ intensive legal experience, or a surgeon with 30 years of hospital experience, easily giving out hours and hours of their day in their expertise without some form of compensation. We cannot imagine this, unless they have an organization which finances their daily needs and expenses. (Maybe they volunteer for Médecins Sans Frontières, for example, who guarantees a roof over their head, some food every day, and a clean toilet during the period of their services. And helpful staff!) I do not have such an organization or staff whatsoever, and being clean-shaven bald does not automatically guarantee that there is the liberty I wish to carry out this service to others. It breaks my heart to say so. But it must be said clearly.
The only pay you are asked for this exchange is that, by submitting a question for reply, you acknowledge you are allowing my efforts in this “epistolary Dharma” to benefit as great a number of people as possible. By submitting a question here, you are agreeing to these conditions for my reply.
You are welcome to submit deeply personal matters which do not permit a public reply. However, such truly important letters will necessarily need to be prioritized after letters which permit a public reply. Unfortunately, I do not have an assistant to dictate these replies to, and it can sometimes require several hours of putting aside other work to really give the fullest attention to your matter, to not only teach but edit and present helpfully to others.
Thank you very much for your understanding, and for your practice.