It is dangerous to walk this Zen walk without a flesh and blood teacher and companions, much as one would be foolish to set off on a long hike in the wild mountains and deeps woods without some experienced guide and supplies (even though there is "no where" to get to on this trip ... do not think that there are not many traps and pitfalls along the way). One is more likely to wind up wandering in circles, or falling in a ravine, than getting where one wishes to be ... if one sets out like a fool in the woods.
What is more, the woods are perilous and ever changing, and no single book or map can capture it all.
Thus, merely reading some books, watching some videos and listening to tapes is not sufficient. One needs constant back-&-forth feedback and support, coupled with a willingness to be open minded to advice that one is lost.
Now, the best ... the only way ... to be assured of that is through regular interaction with a "flesh and blood" teacher and fellow members of a Sangha walking the same woods.
If at all possible, one should seek out a "flesh and blood
" group of people, meeting near one's geographical location ... in a building made of bricks or wood ... and sit with them, talk with them, see them and touch them. Learn from them.
However, for folks who do not have that option ... or for people who wish to supplement attendance in a building because they are limited in the times that they can attend (due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or childcare and family needs) ... I will put up what we have at our Treeleaf Sangha, "online" as it is, head and shoulders with any Sangha in the world.
Even a brief visit to our Forum, with its dignified and self-discovering heart-to-heart communication and interaction on the matter of this Practice and Life (not two, by the way) ...
... reveals a "flesh and blood" family of people, fellow seekers ... sitting together, talking together, learning together, supporting one another, TRULY seeing and touching each other. As but one example, please follow some of our recent discussions on Zen practice and the members of our Sangha who are survivors of cancer and other life challenging medical conditions ...
Please remember that all of life is virtual
, all of our experience of life is virtual
as explained by Buddhist philosophy ... Yogacara, Madhyamika, Abidharma
the earliest Buddhist teachings all in accord on this ... a model of reality created in the Mind (as mediated through the senses, and re-assembled in a very complicated process). Sure, at Treeleaf, we have a couple of limitations on which senses we use at any one time ... but in Buddhism, that is not necessarily a bad thing.
We are taught to thus rely, to see as never before seen, through the senses that remain ... learning from the blind Zen masters who communicate in other, creative ways!
And what of the supposed "distance" that separates us?
Where are you at the instant all thoughts of "here" and "there" are dropped from mind?
In Zazen, those words, those concepts, can be dropped quick away. The mind thinks the thoughts "here" and "there," and thus the mind can be let to stop doing so too. We need not experience some "here" where we are, as opposed to all "theres" where we're not.
So then, where are you?
I completely agree. If someone can, one should go sit with folks under the same roof
Of course, one can still be as separate and isolated from other people even if sitting an inch apart or skin to skin. Barriers and dividers can still pull us apart, even when living as friends and family in the same house! It is all up to the mind, emotions and attitudes we all bring into it.
And as our Treeleaf Sangha proves daily, we can build connections and make true contact with each other in ways which compensate for the limitations of distance and sense. I would not say that we are playing at Zen here ... not the Zazen equivalent of "virtual sex" to true love making ... but instead, we are building friendships, compassionate relationships, intimacy and supporting each other without thought of distance or physical separation. It is, again, all up to the mind you bring into this.
(By the way, I think that many of us at Treeleaf, with time and honest communication, have come to know each other better than in many a Sangha I have attended where folks meet for a few hours, once or twice a week, mostly for silent sitting. We talk to each other more, and on a daily basis. I would insist that our level of intimacy surpasses many a non-residential "Sangha meeting inside walls" where folks show up once or twice a week at best, chat for a bit, listen to a talk then sit without a word ... all before getting in the car and driving home. Maybe a Sunday potluck dinner or sometime outing is their only real chance to really find out about each other. Well, our folks truly meet and open up to each other day after day. There is constant teaching, there is constant learning.)
When we drop all thought of "here" and "there", where is Zazen not to be sat? Where is Zazen not, right in the moment we are sitting Zazen?
Anyway, enough on this.