One of the reasons I believe in jazz is that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your heart. It’s the same any place in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born — or before you’re born — and it’s the last thing you hear. — Dave Brubeck



Wednesday, March 2, 2022

An Invitation

[This is a part of the Introduction to *The Record of Issan]


Please come and sit with me. I invite us both to sit quietly as we can. Issan will also join us. Oh how he loved a good conversation, especially the jokes. Together we can explore what holds us together. The story of his life and Zen teaching are the glue.


I started to say “binds us together'' but that is not the correct word. It makes me think of prison or captivity. The purpose of this exploration is to be more free and spontaneous. Issan would prefer something far more gentle and affectionate, more like the caress of love or the hug of friendship. 


Perhaps this conversation will help both of us see more clearly what we are about. This is not the ordinary course of a conversation. Sometimes we just want to go over old times and have a good laugh. That’s probably just fine for certain times and places, but most times it’s a waste of time. Issan loved to quote Suzuki Roshi, “Don’t invite your thoughts to tea.” Disappointment and regret are sure to follow. Regret has its place, but not in this conversation. There are thousands of things that all of us should not have done, but tears or dreams of what might have been cloud our eyes and obscure what is right in front of us.


And Issan would probably suggest that we be on our best behavior, at least try to pay attention to what is being said. This requires an alertness of body and mind. We can listen to glean information, to satisfy our curiosity, or actually to try to find some answers to the questions that matter. How we listen determines what kind of answer we find.


Issan died on September 6th 1990. He continues to speak to us when we hear the words as if he were speaking to us. I have heard many students tell stories about him, some of them are recorded in this book, and they all have the very clear signs of words that were said to an individual person in a particular time at a definite place. If they have one consistent thread, it is Issan’s encouragement: Do the best you can. Listen and respond with every bone in your body. Don’t think too much of yourself, but certainly be yourself. No apologies are necessary. 


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