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Showing posts from June, 2015

What Is This Practice?

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Recently I started a new Japanese language summer intensive, and since there's no college credit awarded for this shorter program, my Japanese language teacher suggested I just study the things I'm interested in and not worry about grades. Fantastic advice! So of course I dived in and tried to translate some impossible Buddhist text-- an essay written by the abbess of Nisodo-- because I don't know how to take things slow and review basic grammar like a practical person. Later, I showed my translation to my Japanese teacher who frowned, and warned me that the text was "too difficult." He said that even Japanese high schoolers probably can't understand it. But whatever! Here's the first paragraph, and maybe I can translate the rest in two or three years:







The Practice of Becoming an AdultBy Aoyama Shundo Roshi Leadership practice-- for example, the practice of becoming a parent who raises children, a master who trains disciples, a teacher who cultivates stud…

Shit's Impossible; Let's Keep Doing It!

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In my last post I wrote about endurance-- or, more accurately, about when to stop enduring. Interestingly, some people thought I was writing about the merits of endurance, but really I was trying to explore for myself how to know when things are too painful to stay still. When is it okay to move? If it's not already obvious, I'm a recovering endurer. I unfortunately think pain is noble, and it's only now that I'm beginning to see the difference (both in zazen and in life) between injury and discomfort. I'm pretty sure that enduring discomfort is worthwhile, whereas putting up with something that is causing permanent injury is not-- and the difference, but physically and psychologically, is crucial.

Moving is good sometimes. And yet, staying in one place is good too. Continuing is important. Recently, I was asked to give a speech about studying Japanese for the 40th anniversary of my Japanese language program. Since I often feel overwhelmed and discouraged (not onl…

Don't Move

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A few months ago in the monastery where I ordained I approached my dharma sister, a forty year old Australian nun who, like me, has lived in Japanese monasteries for several years. I forget what exactly we were doing-- I remember we were wearing robes--, and what prompted my question, but in any event I walked up to her and asked, “Would you say that 95 percent of your practice here is endurance?”

She looked at me, expressionless, and said with her stoic, deadpan Australian accent, “99 percent.” 
Endurance-- or patience, if I'm being optimistic-- has always been a big part of my practice in Japan. I think it is for people practicing Zen anywhere. We sit with the instruction not to move, and we do this with varying degrees of success through pain, stiffness, itchiness, boredom, restlessness, heat, cold, nihilism... oh, and the list goes on! We feel bored and keep sitting anyway. Our legs hurt and we keep sitting. Uchiyama Roshi wrote that if we cannot sit zazen, simply waiting is a g…