Training is endless

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For the last two years I have been sharing thoughts about “The Mountains and Rivers Sutra,” an essay written by 13th century Zen Master Eihei Dogen.   I have completed writing that series and plan to edit all 52 essays into a book so, for me. that series has come to an end.  In this column, I am interrupting the series to give my readers a personal message. The series will resume in my next column.

In another essay named, “Genjokoan,” Dogen says, “The bird does not know where the sky ends.”  This is his poetic way of saying that for a Zen priest, spiritual training is endless.  In the spirit of that teaching, in September of 2016 in a ceremony conducted by my Zen teacher, Unsui Zenku Smyers, I will take the next level of ordination as a Zen priest in the Silent Thunder Order. The Silent Thunder Order) derives its name from “Moku-rai,” a Japanese term often used by our founding teacher, Rev. Soyu Matsuoka-roshi. It means “silence is thunder.” This is a very important expression of Zen philosophy and represents the resolution of conceptual opposites into an integrated whole.

Three weeks following ordination I will spend two months in residence at Green Gulch Zen Centre in Muir Beach, California studying under Reb Anderson, a well recognized American Zen Master. All ordained priests in the Silent Thunder Order must complete a monastic training term as part of their training path. I will be resident in the monastery from October 13 to December 15. While there I will have no access to cell service or to the internet and other than for urgent practical matters, I will be in silence.  These two months will be a time of intensive formal Zen training emphasizing zazen, ceremonies, study and daily work.  The training is very condensed so I will be taking the year 2017 to fully integrate all that I will have learned during monastic training.  This means that there will be no column until 2018.

Senior students at Sakuraji, the Creston Zen Centre, will continue to offer meditation sittings while I am away. The schedule will be posted on Sakuraji’s website in the first week of September. I encourage all readers to put the intellectual learning that many of you tell me have benefited you into practice by establishing a consistent Zen meditation practice. As I’ve said many times and in many ways, reading about zen and not practicing it is like reading a menu and then eating the menu and not ordering  the food.

I want to thank the many readers who have contacted me to tell me how my column has helped them to sort out a troublesome attitude, to make a positive shift in the direction that you were heading, or to bring peace of mind to a situation of conflict. My soul purpose in writing the Zen’s Eye View column has been to share the wonderful teachings of Zen Buddhism with you.  See you in 2018.