SOYEN SHAKU SESSHIN 2013
Deep Zazen at "Hidden Zendo"
November 8th to 14th, 2013
By Zensho Martin Hara
Late Autumn, deep in the wooded region of New York, Sangha members gathered together from distant lands to honor the memory of Soyen Shaku Roshi with a five day Sesshin at the lovely “hidden” Zendo. It was the second Sesshin this year organized by the Rinzai Zen Sangha with the guidance of its honored teacher and guest, Eido Shimano Roshi, to preside over this traditional Sesshin.
The Sangha attending was a wide variety of advanced students who have honored their Zen practice with Eido Roshi as their teacher for many years. Nothing could be better for them than to do Zazen in Sesshin with their beloved teacher Eido Roshi in a peaceful country setting in the middle of no where.
We all came together with the sense of peace and harmony that only Dharma could provide. Seizan arrived from Switzerland to be the Tenzo as well as the Ino. Yugen arrived from Holland to lead the Sangha as Jikijitsu. Ekyo who was our Shika and Jisha, drove in with Daikyu from Rochester. Yushin, who was our Jokei, and Genryu both drove in separately from Washington DC. Zenrin traveled several days by car with Manny to bring the ceremonial instruments from his Florida Zendo. The rest of us converged from our homes in the Tri-state area, bringing all the needed food, supplies, cushions and instruments for Sesshin. The Rinzai Zen Sangha worked as a coordinated team so that everyone could arrive safely on time, ready to start.
As Sesshin began, all of the Sangha became quickly aligned with the True Dharma that brought them all together. The Zazen was deep and the Sangha became ever more mindful of their presence to the Dharma as each day passed.
On the first day, Zenrin Robert Lewis was given Dharma Transmission, through a special ceremony conducted by Eido Roshi. Zenrin was bestowed the title of Roshi and was given the name Sōryū-Kutsu which translates as “Blue Dragon Cave”. The name was taken from the Blue Cliff Records “For over 20 years, I have had fierce struggles, descending into the blue dragon’s cave for you!”
Each day, everyone had the rare opportunity to have their Dokusan with Eido Roshi a couple of time each day. It was a significant and powerful experience for everyone to bring out the true nature of peace and compassion inside us all. On the last day, everyone cleaned up every corner of the “hidden “Zendo without a trace and took with them their own personal experience of a lifetime to share with their friends and families at home, forever.____________________________________________
OK, I have taken three deep breaths. I have tried to remain calm and understanding. I have tried to shape into some coherent form whatever it is I have to say about the blog post above. Honestly, I have tried.
But the fact is that I have failed. So many buzzers are pressed simultaneously that I hardly know where to begin. But I am posting the blog post because ... because ... because it simply astounds me... astounds me in the same way, only worse, that I was astounded when a philosophy-teacher friend showed me one of the answers she received on a quiz she gave. The answer began, "In the 16th century, the Christian philosopher Socrates...."
I suppose I wouldn't be astounded if I didn't think Zen Buddhism, as a practice, was capable of bringing something good to the people who practice it. That is my bias and I concede it. That said, I also think that there is no good thing that cannot be corrupted in subtle or gross ways and turned into self-serving and often cruel pablum ... Osama bin Laden or Jim Jones come to mind.
1. "Transmission" in Zen Buddhism is not something I care for much. Others do, but I don't. As observers like Stuart Lachs have amply pointed out, the links from one Buddhist teacher to the next are, at the very least, suspect. Teachers will include on their curriculum vitae that they have studied with one accredited teacher or another and thus proclaim -- either by implication or bald statement -- their own bona fides. OK, knock yourself out. Some people credit this system.
But the lineage linkage rests on the notion that the one approving transmission has likewise been imbued with the credible capacity to create the next link in the chain. And if that capacity is missing or damaged or corrupted, then the quality ascribed to lineage falters. If anyone could anoint anyone else, well, we'd all be generals.
Eido Tai Shimano is a man whose lineage is not attested to in the annals of the Japanese Zen Buddhism that spawned him. Yes, there was a ceremony ... but his capacity is not attested to in the monastic record that attests to his teacher or others in the Zen Buddhist flock. Organizationally, then, Eido Shimano's bestowing of transmission on Zenrin Robert Lewis is a bit like your child telling you that you are "the best mom/dad in the world." It may sound nice, but, as I say, if anyone can anoint anyone else, we'd all be generals.
2. Eido Shimano's credibility as anything resembling a Zen "master" or "teacher" has been severely taxed by, among other things, the compilation known as the Shimano Archive. He was effectively fired as abbot of the centers -- Shobo Ji and Kongo Ji -- he once oversaw. His sociopathic ways have been put on display in ways that make it difficult for anyone outside the most pathologically indentured to credit, let alone elevate, his status and capacity. During his time of ascendancy, he created five "Dharma heirs," some of whom continue to teach under (gently camouflaged) color of his transmission. And now, with the spotlight dimmed and the power all but extinguished, he creates another Dharma heir, a man who has stuck with his teacher through thick and increasingly toxic thin. "You see," he seems to say, "I've still got what it takes. I'm still in the catbird seat."
3. And Shimano's brand of teaching fairly leaps off the page of the blog post. It is a brand that is hardly limited to his self-serving encouragements, but it does boggle the mind of anyone who may be serious about Zen practice. Fawning, lick-spittle wonder; oozing references to some corrupting "compassion;" reliance on some other, more clear-eyed visionary who can see into the "profound" and is generous enough to share his vision; pretending to care but in reality demanding a blind and blinded obedience ... Osama bin Laden and Jim Jones come to mind.
4. I have faith that Zen will always right its own foundering ship. I have faith that water can purify water. But that doesn't mean I will go quietly where mud is needlessly flung into the mix. I detest it. Sometimes I wonder if the Japanese Buddhist establishment didn't send its bad apples to America as a punishment for their own losing of World War II. It's a silly thought ... but I've had it.
And sounding off puts me in the unenviable position of being thought a know-it-all. Who died and left you king of the hill, Adam? It's a reasonable question and one I can't adequately parry. But I can claim the right to my opinion -- my own, fiery, throw-up-on-the-floor reaction to matters that astound me and make me sick. What a deep, deep mistake!
And, when it comes to the blog post above, what a bunch of sorrowing, sorrowful .... well, take a look.