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Thread: My Cancer Ango - 8 - What's A "Real" Zen Retreat?

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    My Cancer Ango - 8 - What's A "Real" Zen Retreat?

    Hi All,

    Thank you again for all the continued good feelings and wisdom. Doctors seem to think that I have a few more years around this whirl of Samsara. I need some months to get back to full energy, and some parts are gone for good. Alas, such is precisely Samsara.

    Here is my latest talk from the hospital bed. Recently, several Zen Organizations such as the American Zen Teachers Association and the Soto Zen Buddhist Association have been cracking down on the road to Priesthood as recognized and approved by those Organizations, imposing requirements for a certain flavor of "formal" residential retreat lasting many weeks or months at a stretch, in order to qualify for those organizations. In general, I support it. The only problem, however, is the kind of community I serve. I know excellent priests and priest candidates who could never get away for weeks and months because, well, for example, some are severely disabled and it is just a physical hardship or impossibility. There are the poor, including minority candidates (not all minority candidates are poor, of course, but many are), the struggling parent of a special needs kid who could (and would love to) get away but cannot abandon her kid's need for daily contact, the medical practitioner who can't leave his cancer patients (I am glad that my own doctor did not go off on some Retreat)!

    I was told to go shout up a tree. (Without breaching any confidences, so I can only speak in very general terms), I was told that a "real" retreat has to look like this, where one learns how to tie fancy knots and do fancy dance moves reciting fancy foreign or antique words rarely fully understood ...

    ... or this ...

    ... or this, where people drive up in their BMW's, sit Zazen and do some Yoga, eat some Tofu and "get away" ...

    I support ALL those kinds of Retreats if they ring someone's bell. Further, people should experience all that if they can. Don't think I am saying that one size fits all.

    But (and here is the Koan): What of those folks who cannot "get away" from the Truth right here, there and everywhere, and just "What" is there to get away from? How about the victims of illness who face the questions of Life and Death and Impermanence while actually facing death, the Kannon who explores self-sacrifice and giving in service to the sick child, the victim of violence who overcame violence? (I will tell you more about these people in the coming days). Of course, just having such experiences in life is not enough, but should be combined with Zen Training, our Teachings (Zazen and Dogen for Soto folks), facing Birth and Death, Impermanence, Suffering (in contrast to the mere pain I presently well know), Aging and Sickness and Emptiness as all such. One can study Dogen at the child's bedside or in the mountains, learn the true meaning of "greed anger ignorance" as the source of one's past abuse or by being in the aggressive kind of environment that books like "Eat Sleep Sit" describe ....

    One can recite the Heart Sutra while in front of an Altar made of Gold, or while digging through earthquake rubble with one's hands looking for signs of one's missing daughter.

    Then, one is Training to be an excellent Zen Priest, and one is walking the Real Road. Each Sits their own "Real" Retreat.

    How about if we made a little tiny room for ALL such wonderful priests and teachers, both the traditional, the mainstream Western and the "hands on the world" types. All can be excellent, caring, ethical Zen Priests.

    Anyway, it is Visiting Hours here in the Cancer Ward, so please pull up a chair for a few minutes and let's chat ... I hope I make you smile too ...

    Gassho, Jundo

    Last edited by Jundo; 12-22-2017 at 11:24 AM.

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