This 2-3 minute videoette makes it so very, very simple and clear. I hate to say this, but her “path” for finding your passion is so very, very, very Zen:
Today is the summer full moon — by tradition, the end of the 90-day summer Kyol Che retreat in China, Korea, and Japan.
Since its very inception, the United States of America has been a cult of death. The country has been at war for 226 of its 245 years.
Whether its birth through slavery, its insane worship of the gun fueling near-weekly massacres, its inability to let go of the death penalty, to the mass incarceration and structural inequality which feed an endless cycle of disease and degradation (especially being socially vulnerable populations), it is just a culture of aggression. It blows my mind to contemplate this.
This graphic recently caught my eye:
When you watch the debates between Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or Daniel Bennett, and some religious figure or scholar or zealot, the argument of the religious consistently emphasizes the point that humans “need“ religion in order to act ethically, to act for others, to extend “beyond” selfish desire into compassion. Without the precepts found in religious texts and traditions, they argue (without fail), “we are no better than animals”.
We don’t need religion to act compassionately, folks. Better yet, maybe living somewhat closer to the inarticulate compassion of “the brutes” would be a lot better philosophy for this world:
This recent tweet, by the eminent Sterling Professor of Natural Sciences at Yale, Nicholas Christakis, shows that these actions are not unique even to our cousin-primates:
There are really two strong paths to self-awareness:
Or looking in:
One of these paths to self-knowledge can be done without the other; but one of these paths should not be done without the other.
Some wisdom-jewel insights by Master So Sahn (1520–1604), from his classic, The Mirror of Zen. This is the first text from Korean Buddhism that my Teacher, Zen Master Seung Sahn, attempted to have published in the West, immediately after he first arrived in 1974. He wanted this text published even before publishing any of his own teachings. That project never happened, for various reasons. But The Mirror of Zen is the direct spiritual godfather of Zen Master Seung Sahn’s The Compass of Zen — in both texts, condensed seed-teachings from ancient texts, commented on and explained by the master.
It was a singular life-honor to have been able to bring both classic texts into English, and to guide them through publication in the West.
I share here these quotes from The Mirror of Zen because they are among my favorite teachings in this whole text. Hopefully, their pithy pointing, right-to-the-heart of-the-matter, might inspire something in your practice today:
Elsewhere in the text, he writes:
The sacred radiance of our original nature never darkens.
It has shined forth since beginningless time.
Do you wish to enter the gate that leads to this?
Simply do not give rise to conceptual thinking.
[ Full disclosure: I translated The Mirror of Zen into English — the first English translation of this text ever published in the West, though it has been revered in Zen halls from Korea to China and Japan for hundreds of years. I do not receive any financial compensation whatsoever for this work — it was offered up to a temple in Korea. ]
The real mirror in action:
Everything has gone online. Our daily practice at Zen Center Regensburg is also online, as a free twice-daily YouTube livestream.
But we’ve realized that the YouTube livestream-experience is not giving people clear training in the fundamentals that we would give in a normal retreat. One can’t just expect people to turn on YouTube and sit there along with us, right out of the blue, without having been instructed in the ways to use this mind-hack technology properly. You can give an experienced driver a wonderful car, and maybe there is a chance they will drive it well from the free gift alone; for beginners, you need to give them, along with the car, clear and meticulous instructions on driving and maintenance. There needs to be a more structured training in how to build an at-home practice, especially since public gatherings and retreats have become such a fraught affair.
So, an online course is appearing.
I will be introducing Zen practice from the ground up. Everything from the sitting posture, how to work with breath, and how to regard the “great question“. It will be structured, and topical, attempting to meet the common issues faced by people who attempt to build a practice, whether in Sangha or alone. And in these times, with pandemic social distancing and the lack of gatherings for retreat, now more than ever it seems necessary to provide the fullest possible curriculum for folks to use to build a practice, right where they are.
The course will be subscription based: It has required thousands of dollars to produce these videos and this curriculum. Equipment needed to be purchased — stuff I never thought I’d own before. And, on top of that, the viewers will be receiving the juice of a 30-years’ practice, distilled and organised to train them as if they took a weeks-long course from a breathing Zen master. Just because the teacher is a penniless monk doesn’t make that fact any less salient. The funds that are received, after covering the enormous (to me!) investments in equipment and professional assistance from a team of extremely skilled people (among them, two PhDs!), will all be used in support of Dharma work. Ain’t no one buying lux vacations out of this.
We expect the course to come online in around beginning to mid-October. It’s REALLY looking good. I have been calling this “my symphony” — it truly feels like such an airtight presentation of the three decades of practice and intensive training, the teaching and experience leading retreats the world over. I’m really happy to be offering it — soon — in full public view.