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



Sunday, August 29, 2021

Honolulu Haircut



After the sesshin with Bob Aitken where I met Ken McDonald, one afternoon Ken and I found ourselves cruising around Honolulu doing a drop-in-the-local-Temple kind of tour.

At the Soto Shu main temple in Nuuanu Ave, the head priest was cheerfully spending the afternoon with his wife trimming the hedges that abutted the parking lot. He looked up and smiled, acknowledging us. Then he said: “Giving haircut.”

We asked if we could sit zazen in the hall, and, after what I took to be a strange look of puzzlement, he took a key out of his pocket and opened a door to what appeared to be a closet filled with racks of folding chairs where there were three or four zafu’s placed facing a concrete wall.

If we had dreamed of an Eiheiji styled zendo, it was not to be found. But we had just completed 7 days of intensive zazen so the bare room was welcoming. All there was was sitting. There was no need for liturgical trappings,

"The End of the Rainbow"

Over thirty years ago at the height of the AIDS epidemic, Steve Allen asked Issan, “The world is ending. Where is the great peace when we need it?” 

Steve tells us that the setting for his question was the formal ritual in which Issan took the high seat of a recognized Zen teacher, his mountain seat. Steve imagined that he was simply cementing his relationship with his root teacher.

Issan remained silent.

After a while Issan turned the question around and asked Steve what he thought. Steve answered, “We find it with each other.” Not just a good answer--but one that held real answers to questions that we didn’t even know we had.

A disciple’s question might bring forth the deep understanding of his or her teacher, but Steve also found a way to liberate himself. Our connections with each other are not limited. The ancient ritual might have required that Issan portray the immutable stone face of one mountain, but his follow-up question revealed a heart of gold. 

When the end of the world gets in your way, follow the way that brings us together. When the storm clears, it may lead to the end of the rainbow.


David Bullock, Del Carlson, Angelique Farrow, Steve Allen, Issan Dorsey

Sunday, August 22, 2021

True practice & authentic teachers

There is a lively on-going debate in an online Buddhist group about the nature of practice and enlightenment. Dosho Port published a piece on August 18th called “The Showa Dispute About True Faith.” He describes the efforts beginning in 1928 to make Soto Zen more compatible with “modernism,” including Christianity, by reframing its belief system. A dispute ensued. One side organized their material under the slogan, ‘Original Enlightenment, mysterious practice.’ The other side, the monk establishment, wanted actual practice verification.

I am vaguely familiar with this dispute about modernization in Japanese Soto Zen before the Second War, and the attempts to "translate" the doctrine, if I can use the word, to make it more understandable. There was an attempt to take a portion of Buddhist literature in Japanese, but also Chinese, and free it from its Medieval encapsulation. I went to Masao Abe's amazing classes when he was teaching in San Francisco at CIIS. He definitely comes from this school. I’m a former Jesuit so I also delved into Kitarō Nishida and the Kyoto School’s adoption of Western philosophical discourse. 40 years ago, we all immersed ourselves in the extensive writings of D. T. Suzuki, who, I have to say, comes across more like an apologist or evangelist.

This may be a bare minimum to butt into this conversation, but I will. These efforts to strip the vehicle down to its essential parts leave just enough to work with. To begin, let me take the debate one step further, and remove the parochial underpinnings.

My pared down augment runs like this: an experience of liberation is possible for humans. We don’t quite know what it is because of the current condition of our minds: our mental acuity, the quality of our perceptive apparatus, a balanced or afflicted emotional state, plus I think we have to throw a good dose of fancy, magical thinking, cultural mythology, plus translation difficulties and the vagaries of language into the mix. My list is not complete--there’s a lot to sort out, but I think we can establish, or posit, three hypotheses:

  • Such a state or quality of freedom exists and can transform our experience as humans.
  • It is possible, even desirable, to achieve it.
  • We recognize that it will take effort, education, what we commonly call meditation, and possibly recalibration to achieve this experience.

We believe that certain people have had this experience, most notably the Buddha, but others too, for example Eihei Dōgen, Linji Yixuan, Hakuin Ekaku, Je Tsongkhapa, Shinran, but perhaps we could stretch our imaginations to include the current Dalai Lama, and maybe that auntie whom Red Pine encountered sitting in a cave in China who never heard of Mao Tse Tung but, forget about her, she never wrote anything down. We’re stuck with the guys, they’re all guys, who wrote, had secretaries, or disciples who took extensive lecture notes.

What did they write: of course we have the Sutras, plus other stories of the Buddha and his disciples; the enlightened guys also wrote descriptions of their experiences, some of which seem to be in coded language; thankfully there’s lots of poetry, balanced with carefully reasoned philosophy of mind and analysis of perception and experience; we have to include the myths, and what we call practice manuals, “how to” lists; there are some riddles that purport to point to the experience; then extensive records of the mental and yogic disciplines that practitioners used to achieve this state of liberation plus prescriptive injunctions and admonitions that have even been codified. There is also a large body of instruction material that has not been written down that is generally reserved for advanced levels of practice.

But there are huge problems with all this literature. First is the language and translation. We're blessed to have an army of very well trained and literate translators, but cultural and archaic understandings of the texts remain. Then there is the sheer volume and diversity of the materials. Even if we could determine their authenticity, be sure we have an accurate translation, and be able to determine their precise meaning, we‘d still be stuck with the question of how to use it, actually lots of questions.

Our Western Zen practice stems to some degree from these efforts to modernize. Harada Sogaku Roshi, and after him, Hakuun Yasutani, Kuon Yamada and the Jesuit Roshis, Bob Aitken and the rest of my crowd come from another strain of that same impulse to modernize so that's what I was handed.

Schools of thought are schools of thought. What do we do with them? Again, for better or worse, they inform our practice.

First I think that there's a logical fallacy in the way we understand these efforts at modernization. Following (any) time-honored system of training that we’ve been handed, we believe that if we accurately recreate the logic of the thinking, the order of the steps, the lineage of the teachers, then we can access the authentic experience of liberation. If we fail, then we did something wrong. Perhaps it is a road map, but we want it to be Google Maps, with the blue dot moving across the dashboard screen. Good luck with that. I will set up a dharma combat: can algorithms become enlightened?

Another knot appears when we identify the criteria for validating the credentials of a teacher from within this arcane body of knowledge, whether it’s inka or transmission or tulku. The checklist resides in experience outside ourselves and muddies the teaching as well as opens the door to abuse and exploitation. Call the dharma police to testify before the High Court.

Is this even good practice? I remember working on the koan “Mu” for years with Bob Aitken. I kept complaining in my very Jesuit way that it was all just a self-referential exercise in a closed system. He'd say, yes, it appears that way, and then he’d encourage me to continue. I did. In 1996 I was living with Maylie Scott on Ashby in Berkeley and still doing sesshin with Aitken and John Tarrant. One Sunday morning I had to drive a rented truck back to Santa Rosa. As I was returning to where I’d parked it the night before, POW. All that self-referential mind swirling stopped and I got it. It didn't matter if it came via some well-intentioned modernization efforts in a Soto Shu University in the 20's. It hit me. There was no turning back.

Of course that experience faded soon enough which presented its own dilemma, but it was enough to set me on my own path. I remember saying to Phil Whalen once what a shame it was that the library at Nalanda was destroyed--all that knowledge lost. He smiled and said, “Don’t worry, kid. Enough remains. Just enough.” I feel the same about any attempts to update our practice and make it modern or palatable or whatever. Enough remains, Just enough. And, as thanks to Phil I’ll add: “With any luck if we’re lucky.”

I don't want to take a path based on pious dreams and hopes, magical thinking, myth or wild speculation. When coupled with a few token morsels of experience that we might be able to recognize in ourselves if we’ve spent any time on the cushion, we enter dangerous territory. I was lucky to be able to see something authentic in several teachers, among them Issan Dorsey, Phil Whalen, Maylie Scott, Bob Aitken. I trusted them, and was able to just stick with it until I began to catch a glimpse for myself that something else is possible.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Hands and Eyes of Great Compassion

Maha Shobogenzo Case 105

Book of Serenity Case 54




The Case

 

Yunyan asked Daowu, “How does the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion (Avalokiteshvara) use so many hands and eyes?”1

Daowu said, “It’s just like a person in the middle of the night reaching back in search of a pillow.”2

Yunyan said, “I understand.”3

Daowu said, “How do you understand it?”4

Yunyan said, “All over the body are hands and eyes.”5

Daowu said, “What you said is roughly all right. But it’s only eighty percent of it. “6

Yunyan said, “Senior brother, how do you understand it?”7

Daowu said, “Throughout the body are hands and eyes.”8


The Commentary

If your whole body were an eye, you still wouldn’t be able to see it. If your whole body were an ear, you still wouldn’t be able to hear it. If your whole body were a mouth, you still wouldn’t be able to speak of it. If your whole body were mind, you still wouldn’t be able to perceive it. Because the activity of Bodhisattva of Great Compassion is her whole body and mind itself, it is not limited to any notions or ideas of self or other. Bringing it up in the first place is a thousand miles from the truth. Answering the question only serves to compound the error. Don’t you see? Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva has never understood what compassion is.

The Capping Verse

All over the body, throughout the body.
It just can’t be rationalized.
Deaf, dumb and blind — virtuous arms, penetrating eyes
Have always been right here.


My Comments:

Taigen Dan Leighton in his book, This Is It, cites Wansong’s comment, 'When reaching for a pillow at night, there's an eye in the hand; when eating there's an eye on the tongue, when recognizing people on hearing them speak, there's an eye in the ears.'"

What is my understanding of this?

Poor old Wansong is just deluded. The hand doesn't need an extra eye to reach out to grab the pillow. If Wansong is waiting for an eye to appear on his tongue before he speaks, that’s our good luck, we won’t have to listen to his double talk. An eye in the ear won’t help him either. He’s already muddied Quan Yin’s Great Compassion song with too many notes. And about that painter guy who did the famous portrait--he had too much time on his hands and the paint in his pots must have been overflowing.

There are innumerable qualities in Great Compassion, but that doesn't mean that it’s complicated or something mere human beings shouldn't strive for, and is impossible to attain. Tonight when you’re deep in sleep, reach behind you and hold onto your pillow.

Keep it simple.



The Footnotes

1. Why does he ask? Is it out of curiosity or an imperative?
2. Miraculous activity; it’s not to be taken lightly.
3. That’s exactly the problem that you started with in the first place. Stop understanding.
4. It won’t do to let him get away with it.
5. Many Zen practitioners fall into this pit.
6. It’s because he understands it that he only got eighty percent of it.
7. Make it your own; don’t rely on another’s provisions to support your life.
8. No gaps! But say, did he really say it all? If you say he did — wrong! If you say he didn’t you have missed it. What do you say?

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Dokusan goes Kung-an

Talking publicly about sex


Zen students don’t talk about our private meetings with our teachers. “Dokusan” means "going alone to a respected one." These conversations have an aura. They take place in the context of meditation. We respect their privacy because they can be very intimate, shaking our world to its very foundations. 


I’m going to break that rule, and talk about just such an intimate conversation I had with Issan Dorsey Roshi. I’m going public and talk openly about a private conversation about sex. In Zen these kinds of conversations are called koans, a term which comes from the Chinese characters, 公案, Kung-an, which literally means “public notice.” 


Issan has been dead for almost 30 years. In the traditional koan collections, the teachers have been dead a lot longer, and, as most of these dialogues were between celibate members of the sangha, most talk about sex is, how shall I say it, in a different context. You’ll also have to take my word that the conversation was one that shook me to the core, and helped me, as a gay man, focus my meditation. Issan can’t verify his side of the conversation, but if I’ve hit the mark, and done my job as Issan’s student, you might be able to use his teaching to untie some personal knots about meditation.


I grew up in a traditional Irish Catholic family, or at least I had a very traditional Irish mother. Her word was law. She taught us to avoid talk about sex in polite conversation which meant that it was rarely, if ever, spoken about. Drunken conversations were of course another matter. There politeness was optional. As drunken conversations, they carried less weight, but they were at least a time when you could talk about sex. Good Jamison could be counted on as the Irish un-inhibitor.


Fitting quite nicely with my preconceived notions, in Zen settings most talk about sex focuses on the prohibitory precepts, or that has been my experience. 


At one of my first sesshins, a long intense meditation period, hours upon hours with a few breaks to eat and get the blood flowing back into the legs, my mind began to play a nasty trick on me, or so I thought. I imagined myself in love with a very cute guy who was sitting about three seats to my left. Let’s call him “R.” R has been a Zen priest for many years. He also knew and practiced with Issan so I’m sure he would love being part of this koan, but I don’t know how useful it would be for the public to know the real name of R who was the object of my sexual fantasy.


My mind couldn’t do anything else but fantasize! When I got up after a period, I glanced in his direction to know that he was still there. Even if I managed to focus on my breath for a few seconds while I was sitting, It required enormous effort.


My obsession had totally hijacked my mind.  


I went to see Issan after the first period. His bedroom doubled as his interview room, a few candles, a bell, two cushions set close to one another. After I bowed, I blurted out the whole story.


He looked at me, entirely present, and then we both began to laugh, slowly at first, but then louder and louder.


Finally he took a breath and said, “Oh, I fell in love with someone every practice period at Tassajara. They were usually straight so you can imagine how that went.”


Then he told me a story. 


“When I was tenzo at Tassajara during one practice period, I fell head over heels in love with a very handsome young man. I suppose you could say I was obsessed. It was hard enough to escape all those fantasies in meditation, but it even got to the point where it was dangerous--when I was chopping, I had to consciously pull my mind back to the vegetable, the knife, and the board to avoid mindlessly chopping off a finger. 


"When you’re actually in deep concentration the strangest things can happen. It got to the point that it was even difficult to concentrate when I was cooking--and that was my responsibility--so I went into the Roshi and talked about it!


“And then I discovered that I could just stop it. I mean it really stopped. I think I might have just been more able to return to my breath. Probably nothing more.”


Then he asked, “Can you stop loving R? Would that even be a good thing? I just don’t want you to chop off your finger.”


Issan & James 






Saturday, July 24, 2021

The funeral of Ösel Tendzin. Deliver us from cults.

My friend Barbara O’Brian alerted me to an article by Steven Butterfield, When the Teacher Fails. It was published in 1989 while Ösel Tendzin was still alive, and just at the time when the extent of Tendzin’s reckless sexual conduct as a person with HIV/AIDS was coming to light. Butterfield’s article does not address this controversy that was ripping the fledgling Western Buddhist world apart.

In 1990 Ösel died in San Francisco where he’d come for treatment of advanced HIV disease. At the time I was living at Hartford Street Zen Center and working as the Director of Maitri AIDS Hospice; for some reason I felt it was important that Maitri, a Buddhist program set up for helping ease the pain of the AIDS epidemic, should be present for the funeral of an important Buddhist teacher who’d died from the disease. I didn’t realize how deeply I would wade into the murky waters of denial.

Shambala was going to conduct the elaborate funeral ritual at their center on 16th and Mission. We phoned, asked if we could attend, and were given a time; we put on our rakusus and climbed to the second floor above a Jack in the Box in a pretty marginal neighborhood.

I can’t adequately describe my shock.

It may have been the first Tibetan ritual that I’d attended, but after we’d entered the hall and made our prostrations, there was Ösel’s corpse trussed up in an awkward meditation posture, full regalia barely masking the ropes and poles required to hold it upright. I’d sat with many men who died of AIDS so it was not that the body itself showed the ravages of the disease. There was no attempt to hide them. It was not that the ritual seemed foreign or exotic. It was, but it was a Tibetan ritual, and I wasn’t expecting a low church Episcopalian service.

What totally overwhelmed me was the veneration of a man who had knowingly infected others with AIDS. Shambala tried to mitigate the damage with a mystical smokescreen. It was rumored that some had spread the lie that the guru’s Vajra powers bestowed by the lineage would prevent reinfection, or that it was even an opening for the great enlightenment. There was at least one teenage boy involved, a young man whose life would now be cut short. Everyone present, and there were several hundred, knew that their Regent had knowingly infected people with HIV and that their deaths would be soon upon them. It was all supposed to be OK in the great scheme of things. The drums beat, the chanting began. Steve Allen got up and motioned for us to leave. On the way down the stairs he said, “All that was missing was the bones in their noses.”

We returned to Hartford Street. I was shaken, but managed to get up the next morning and take care of Bernie, J.D, and the five other men in our care.

I have never picked up “Cutting through Spiritual Materialism” again, brilliant as it is. Nor have I recommended it to anyone, and I never will. I feel that it would be condoning the damage to the precious dharma caused by the actions of these men.




Some people have tried to defend Ösel. One wrote to me and said, “hindsight is easy.” I lived through that period, I took care of more than 100 men who died of AIDS. My own teacher died. It was a terrible time. Of course there were mistakes. Of course it was difficult. Of course it takes time to sort things out. It took me years.

Steven Butterfield writes about his personal interactions with Ösel, wondering why in an airport lounge he can’t muster the courage to ask him a question about his HIV disease. He chose to remain silent, and they go on pretending that their world of limousines, crazy wisdom practice and unprotected sex could just go on and on. In retrospect can Butterfield even question his belief in guru transmission? He says he can, but I get the distinct feeling that there are still far too many threads that tie him to the myth.

But there can be no passing the buck here. It was arrogance and grave harm. We have to name it. Hindsight may be easy, but murder is still murder. Sexual abuse is still abuse. People say, oh it was the 80's, things were different. I strongly disagree. We knew that HIV was sexually transmitted for certain by 1983 when the virus was isolated by the Pasteur Institute in France. Ösel knew that he was positive for the virus, and still had unprotected sex with at least one minor. Sorry. Call it what it was.

Searching Google for a picture of Mr. Thomas Rich, I found vajraregent.org. When I entered “AIDS” into the site’s search engine, nothing. But I did find these verses. I think that some people are still in deep denial.

This is offered with love, appreciation and gratitude to Vidyadhara, the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and his Vajra Regent and dharma heir Ösel Tendzin, for the benefit of their present and future disciples, and all beings.

Through hearing, seeing and contemplating these teachings of the Vidyadhara through his Vajra Regent,

May we realize the essence of transmission from teacher to student.

May we hold precious this seed planting of Vajrayana dharma and Shambhala vision in the West.

Through their gestures and words, may we wake up on the spot.

May we not become confused by spiritual materialism in any form.

Now, practicing moment by moment until the end of this life and beyond, may we free all beings.


And I will add my own petition to this list:


May we work diligently to repair any damage to the transmission of the precious Dharma caused by our heedless actions.

And deliver us from cults.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

How does the past become the past? Therapy, Jesus and Zen

My Facebook Zen friend, James Kenney, asked a wonderfully provocative question: “Is forgiveness an act of will?”

Psychologists define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. 

Whether forgiveness is a will-act, whether it’s voluntary or conditional, and what happens to your state of mind, are also issues worth examining. The psychological definition says it's a choice that allows a person to forgive another for an offense or an act that was illegal or immoral. It is intentional.

When someone forgives someone, they let go of negative emotions. When a debt is forgiven, there is a release of any expectation or commitment for repayment or compensation.

Perhaps in terms of the law and psychotherapeutic practice these definitions are useful, but as a practitioner, I find they don’t go far enough. I’m going to posit forgiveness as being finished with the past in the sense that the trauma becomes a complete chapter of personal history without any holdovers in one’s present everyday life. This includes being able to handle any residual flashes of negative emotion as well as not suffering any real financial or physical consequences from the other person’s action. I’ve set the bar quite high. Forgiveness is like an act of God, but very possible for us humans too. We all make mistakes. We all need forgiveness.

In my response to James’s question on Facebook I mentioned that I was raped by Bob Hoffman within 6 months after I finished the Process of Psychic Therapy, and when a senior Hoffman teacher asked me why I hadn’t been able to “move on,” I said that I chose not to. It’s part of being compassionate.

Then a no-doubt well-intentioned person told me that I just had to forgive Hoffman. I found the injunction extremely annoying, but I could not pin down why. I felt that my respondent had both missed the point and misconstrued my intention. However there was something more. I was told I had to forgive to live fully, but not condone the act. That I had to dispel the darkness, or something. Of course when I went back to copy the response so that I could digest it, the writer had taken it down.

I hate being told what’s in my best interest. But now that I’ve owned up to my off-the-shelf response, perhaps I can examine why I resist this blanket injunction to forgive. I’ve actually written about this in some detail, “Forgive and Forget Hoffman?” where I examine one possible underlying motivations, playing the victim card, which is what I think the senior Hoffman teacher was snidely inferring with his admonition wrongly framed as a therapeutic question: isn’t it time to move on?

Thanks for advice I didn’t request, and, actually, I get to decide when, what and if to forgive. But instead of just firing off a “Fuck off,” I’ll take it the opportunity to spell out my reasons for rejecting the self-serving advicethe teacher does make money selling Hoffman’s Process, and my well-intentioned respondent reads New Age self-help books although I am unsure if he gets a percentage.

It’s not in the past because it’s not in the past. There are limits to being able to just declare something ancient history, to forgive and forget.

I was enjoined to dispel the darkness of past events that are blatantly evil and destructive. I’m going to posit that just dismissing them and their consequences under some command to “move on” is not particularly useful or helpful simply because it’s not honest.

My friend Susan Murphy, an insightful Australian Zen teacher, responding to my question as to whether or not I was playing the victim card, pointed to the story of Jesus at Capernaum when he healed a man whose friends had to lower him through the roof of a house where Jesus was with some friends--the crowd so dense that this was the only way to get Jesus’s attention. Some version of the story appears in all three synoptic gospels.

The writers of the story clearly separate two aspects of Jesus’s healing. First off Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven.” That’s the most important one: the man’s faith and that of his friends have caught the attention of Jesus, and he does what he was sent to do, forgive sins. But it is after all a teaching story, so there are objections: scribes and Pharisees, also present, at least rhetorically, ask, ‘How can you forgive? That power belongs only to God.’ And here are the words Jesus responded with in Mark’s gospel: "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? “ The man stands and picks up his mat, demonstrating Jesus’s power, but it also says, compared to forgiving sins, that was the easy part.

And, in the blink of an eye, the past becomes the past.

Why the deliberate separation of two events or perhaps two sides of the same event? Forgiveness is an act of grace and god, and then the disappearance of the physical impairment, the man’s disability becoming just part of his ancient history. The implication is that they may not always be a miracle as commonly understood, but, because Jesus is neither a charlatan nor soothsayer nor fake miracle worker, the act of forgiveness belongs to God alone. However depending on factors we cannot fully understand, there may or may not be the sought after physical, magical cure. But this nuance is left for the commentator or preacher at a later date.

And this is Susan’s observation: “When Jesus told the paralysed man who had been lowered through the roof for a miracle, ‘Pick up your bed and walk,’ effectively he was acting not in the name of supernatural power but in the name of the forgiveness he was asserting that [he] had a right to bestow, because ‘justice is mine’, (or was his, as the Lord). What I see here is that the true miracle, then, was not the performance of a nature-bending act, it was forgiveness. He veered away from performing miracles after that. They were cheapening his teaching. . . . Forgiveness is surely the actualising of love.”

I promised Zen! I quoted a Zen teacher’s reference to the Gospel of Jesus. Let me bring Zen to the Gospel.

A small band of Zen monks carry a paralized brother to meet Jesus in Capernaum, and get his blessing. Like many people here in India lining up for darshan, they’re seeking some relief for their sufferings, also a very Zen thing to do, but following their training, they don’t have too many expectations. They set the stage for a Buddhist encounter with Jesus. 

Their Zen training suddenly throws a lot of work into the scenario. They carry the man obviously a long way from a distant Eastern ashram. Then they find the materials and tools to fashion a ladder to get up to the roof. They certainly can’t steal one. After determining where Jesus was sitting, they carefully cut an opening in the ceiling, not hurting anyone in the room with falling debris. Each one of these actions is deliberate, requiring planning and effort. The work is performed as carefully and mindfully as possible. They’re monks after all. I didn’t mention that they might also have to learn Aramaic but there’s already enough to do without that so let’s throw in the magical appearance of a good interpreter.

Somehow they climb down into the presence of Jesus with the brother they’ve just lowered in a sling, and hear, “Your sins are forgiven.” They also hear the Pharisees' question: “Doesn’t forgiveness of sins belong to God?” "Good question," they say, and the dharma combat begins. The Pharisees are often the fall guys in the Gospel stories, but not our Zen monks: What is forgiveness of sins exactly? What is there to forgive? Are a misstep or an evil act the same? These monks live by the Law of dependent origination, Paticca-samuppada. Something in their brother’s past resulted in his paralysis. At least in that regard, on the surface, although Jesus does not talk about any cause for the man’s affliction, there seems to be a tacit acknowledgement that it was the result of something in his past, his sins. In Zen they were taught to chant: “All my ancient twisted karma from beginningless greed, hate, and delusion, born through body, speech, and mind. I now fully avow.” 

I promised therapy. Here is an examination of the mental results of past events.

I will try to frame the conclusion of this conversation with some tested therapeutic hypotheses. I remained in negative transference for years to a man, a trusted therapist, whom I turned to for counsel at a time of personal crisis when I was very vulnerable, and he abused me sexually and emotionally.

I recognize my personal event in this Jesus story, and thank Susan for providing the match up for me to work with. Of course Hoffman’s rape paralized meI am the paralytic lowered through the roof. Hoffman’s abuse surely cut off opportunities that might have been open to me were I not in transference for so long; there were always blocks working with teachers because on some very deep level I couldn’t trust them; there was sexual dysfunction and frustration; there was alcohol and substance abuse; there were the silly issues with partners that popped upwhen I managed to find someone willing to put up with my defensiveness. I certainly would have preferred to exit the dead-ended process earlier. I can imagine the possibility of having time and energy to explore other avenues, but those daydreams didn’t happen.

And yes, I regret those lost opportunities although I’ve managed to find compassion for Bob Hoffman who was himself a closeted gay man racked by self-doubt, psychosis, and loneliness. It is not difficult to be truly forgiving and compassionate when you really comprehend the pain of another person’s life. It seems to actually spring up naturally without effort or responding to a command to move on. And, in my case it happened in its own course after I was willing to do the work of unraveling the complex story of my abuse.

But I am not ready to forgive Hoffman's actiions. They had real consequences. My greatest loss doing the process of psychic therapy was the destruction of an admittedly tenuous relationship with my father. I was in crisis when I undertook work with Hoffman, but my father did not abuse me. Hoffman didhe really abused me, but managed through his psychic therapy to blame my dad (and then forgive in his again fictional way). As a result I had almost zero relationship with my father, a wonderfully kind and good man, for most of my adult life. Hoffman even fed me a wildly speculative made-up story about my father being gay. My father lived to be almost 101 years old, and I was lucky that we shared a few very rich years of real friendship at the end of his life. I missed out on 40, but I am still very grateful. Yes, that past is fully past, but some gifts remain and can be nurtured.

Why do intelligent people believe nonsense? Because when we’re vulnerable and in pain, we need to experience compassion. Instead I had the bad luck to be an object to fulfill a charlatan’s need for sexual gratification. The real answer to the question about "moving on" is that the compassion and forgiveness had to be for myself, not Hoffman. And because I’ve opted for the Zen route, it was not like just falling through a hole in the roof or being lowered into a Blessed Presence. I traveled from afar with the help of companions. That was my good luck, and I remained angry enough at Hoffman’s abuse to get to the heart of the matter. At least for me that route could not be short circuited.

The hip coffee house New Age sage will tell you that not forgiving only hurts you. There’s no one to hurt but yourself so why not “Move On”? By contrast, in legendary Zen a deceptively ordinary lady at the tea stand doesn’t order you around but rather asks a simple, innocent sounding, straight forward question: “hey Mr. Paralytic, is that ‘not-walking-mind’ past, present or future?” A good answer might allow you to step into the radical present. The past is past because it’s past; the future might exist in hopes and dreams, perhaps sadly colored with regret; the only place to walk into is this moment.

If there was a tea stand in Capernaum, you can bet that there were no crowds like the ones surrounding Jesus. Zen is oftimes a lonely practice, but maybe a few stragglers found their way there after Jesus had performed enough miracles for one day. They would be lucky if they came armed with some good questions. But that might take some work, work that’s still to be done, like finding a real path to forgiveness.

In Zen forgiveness is an act of will if you choose the right path and refuse to settle for an easy way out. Then the Blessed Presence thing just happens. That cannot be willed.

And to the Hoffman teacher who told me to “Move on.” Thanks for the free advice, but “Fuck Off.”


P.S. When the Hoffman teacher asked why I waited until now to write a hit piece, I listed all the writing that I've been doing over almost two decades: My Hoffman Process Writings.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

"Finding God in All Things"

June 2, 2021


Bonnie Johnson Shurman
Jan. 20, 1944-June 2, 2011

Today is the 10th anniversary of Bonnie's death. I am among the many people who loved her and miss her kind and warm presence. She was an extremely generous woman and expressed her love as wife and mother,  daughter, grandmother and friend, in a way you could count on. 

More than a decade ago, when she was first diagnosed with leukemia, her husband Daniel Shurman told me that she was interested in doing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, and asked if I could suggest a book that she could use. She did the Exercises and I was blessed to be her guide. But it was her enormous spiritual gift that allowed her truly embody the Teaching of Jesus, and then to share it with others, just as the Lord asks us.

During the years that her cancer remained in remission, she continued to explore the path that her Lord, through Ignatius, opened. She continued to live her life in prayer, exploring and digging further, following her own inspiration and gifts. This mystical bent was always balanced by the consummate professional, a scholar with common sense. 

She found a link between Ignatius and Julian of Norwich via an informal association of seekers who called themselves “the Friends of God.” She wrote about Julian, Ignatius and the Friends of God when she was studying at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is dated March 8, 2005. 

Thank you, Daniel for being the kind of husband who inspires, and for introducing me to Bonnie, To thank Bonnie for the gift of friendship, I am going to post the paper, “Finding God in All Things,” here.

We miss you, Bonnie. and your gentle presence. We are enormously grateful for the gifts you gave us. May you sing with the angels.

I have given this paper the same title as William Barry’s book: Finding God In All Things, A Companion To The Spiritual Exercises Of St. Ignatius (Barry 1991). I was reading the book when Julian of Norwich was assigned in class. The similarities between Julian’s writings and Ignatius’s were striking to me. Both Julian and Ignatius write of multiple sensory experiences with God occasioned by life-threatening illness. Before I understood that Julian was born 150 years before Ignatius, I considered that her visions, like mine[1], might have been delirious manifestations engendered by Ignatian-style guided meditations. When I realized that she lived long before Ignatius, I abandoned the paper I was writing on the general topic of asceticism to delve deeper into parallels, coincidences, and possible connections between these two late medieval mystics.

The theological proposition of this paper is that the writings of Julian in circa 1400 and the writings of Ignatius circa 1525 are representative of a distinct spirituality: God as Friend. God as Friend is a paradigm shift from the dominant spirituality from the 4th century: Deity of Christ; it is distinct though related to two paradigms which were soon to emerge in the reformation: Salvation by Faith Alone and Incarnational Participation. At the end of this paper I will argue that the paradigm of God as Friend is finding new relevance in our time, hence bringing a renewed interest in both Julian and Ignatius.

In my search for a “social network” connecting Julian and Ignatius, I learned about an informal group called “Friends of God” from one of the many websites devoted to Julian. The name for this “association of pious persons, both ecclesiastical and lay [also men and women], alludes no doubt to John 15:14-15[2] … Friends of God appears to have had its origin in Basle between the years 1339 and 1343, and to have thence extended down the Rhine even as far as the Netherlands” (Walsh 1909). I am skeptical that Julian herself had any direct connection with the informal network of German mystics, but there is indirect evidence at least that many of them had access to her writing. One version of Julian’s Short Text (the so-called “Amherst Manuscript”) also contains writings of Friends’ mystics Marguerite Poerete, Henry Suso, and Jan van Ruusbroec (Holloway 1997). The manuscript had been in the Brigittine Syon Abbey; it was owned by the Lowe family and through them found its way to the Low Countries and Rouen (Holloway 1996). While there is no direct evidence of who might have read it and when, there is enough indirect evidence to conclude that Julian’s ideas were circulating among German mystics following her death circa 1425. The German mystics influenced Ignatius through the Carhusian and former Dominican monk, Ludolf of Saxony (Gieraths 1986). Ignatius is known to have read and re-read a four volume Spanish translation of Ludolf’s Life of Christ and to have been profoundly influenced, even converted, by what he read there (Ignatius 2000, p. xiv; Loyola 2000, p. xiv).

The references to Julian’s writing in this paper come from a “Long Text” version translated from the manuscript found in the British Museum. As I read Revelations of Divine Love (Julian 2002), I noted about sixty passages expressing ideas similar to those found the Spiritual Exercises, far too many passages to discuss here.[3] I am concentrating on five concepts that point parallel notions of God as friend; in particular, I am limiting myself to the best examples that reveal similarities in their views of how people carry on friendship with God various media/modes. I use quotations from the work of each to document my argument that friendship with God is created and maintained through intimate communications which take at least five different forms: imagery, senses, colloquy, consolation/ desolation, and prayer. In the conclusion of the paper, I also point similarities in how they describe the nature of this friendship in their discussions of sin, love, goodness, choice, and the indwelling of God in our nature.

Communication is the sine qua non of any friendship. To have a concept of friendship with God, therefore requires that there be some form of media which constitutes that communication. For both Julian and Ignatius, imagery is the most important media and the Passion is the most important topic of that imagery. In examining Julian and Ignatius’s imagery of Jesus’ Passion, such in the illustrative passages below, it is easy to dismiss their perspective on friendship. After all “Body of Christ” imagery was a common theme of medieval piety yet friendship with God was not. I have little knowledge of other writers in the “Body of Christ” genre, so I cannot say that the friendship imagery of Julian and Ignatius is unique. What I observe in their imagery, however, is its intimacy. Both show intimacy with Jesus’ body; this use of imagery signals closeness, friendship.

… All the precious blood was bled out of the sweet body that might pass therefore, yet there dwelled a moisture in the sweet flesh of Christ as it was shewed (Julian 2002, p.). 

… Blood of Christ, inebriate me. Water from the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me. O good Jesus hear me. Within Thy wounds hid me (Ignatius 2000, p. xlv).

Simply imagining another in a prayerful way can also create a close relationship with the one imagined with the need for conversation as we typically understand that term. A few months ago my husband and I were contacted by a friend to provide direction to on-line medical information for a friend of his with a rare bone marrow disease. We started to email with both Jim and his wife about Jim’s illness and potential resources in Palo Alto. Mostly we prayed intensely for Jim and also for his wife; we never spoke with them even by phone. When Jim died unexpectedly from a heart attack, both Daniel and I were devastated; we still cry at the thought of Jim. We had lost a dear friend, one whom we knew only through imagery, email, and prayer. It was a dramatic Julian-Ignatian lesson for me: I felt so close to this person and that closeness was entirely the product of my imagining his circumstances and my daily prayers for him. Knowing Jim in this way helped me to experience God in a fresh way; I learned how I can know God without human encounters just as I had known Jim without these encounters.

Imagery in Julian and Ignatius is not only visual, it is also multi-sensory.

I HAD, in part, touching, sight, and feeling in three properties of God, in which the strength and effect of all the Revelation standeth (Julian 2002, p. 197). And then shall we, with His sweet grace, in our own meek continuant prayer come unto Him now in this life by many privy touchings of sweet spiritual sights and feeling, measured to us as our simpleness may bear it (Julian 2002, p. 90). 

The Fifth contemplation will consist in applying the five senses to the matter. … seeing in imagination the persons, in contemplating and mediating in detail the circumstances in which they are… hear what they are saying… smell the infinite fragrance and taste the infinite sweetness of the divinity … touch, for example by embracing and kissing the place where the persons stand (Ignatius 2000, p. 45).

Communicating with one’s Godfriend goes beyond merely experiencing God through ones imagination and senses; both Julian and Ignatius converse directly with God. Throughout the Julian text, she is posing questions to God, and God is answering her, for example: “AND thus our good Lord answered to all the questions and doubts that I might make, saying full comfortably: I may make all thing well, I can make all thing well, I will make all thing well…”(Julian 2002, p. 61); the result of this is conversational. Ignatius uses the term “colloquy” to refer to conversations with God (and also with Jesus, Mary, and the Holy Spirit on occasions): “The colloquy is made by speaking exactly as one friend speaks to another” (Ignatius 2000, p. 24). These two examples exemplify a pattern of “shewing” vs “exercise” that I find over and over as a distinction between these two books: Julian shows her communication with God; Ignatius instructs the maker of the exercises to perform these same kinds of communications. Thus, “revelation” in Julian becomes “exercise” in Ignatius.

God has special kinds of communication with Julian that I would call, following Ignatius, “consolations” and “desolations.” In Ignatian spirituality, consolidations and desolations are the movements of the spirit—“internal movements” by which we can discern God’s will in our lives. Those making the exercises are taught how to listen or feel for these movements and thereby to guide their lives in accord with God’s will. Again, we see that Julian experiences these interior movements but makes no methodical use of them. Ignatius’s biography describes how he initially experienced them much as Julian did and then learned to put them to use in his own communications with God.

AND after this He shewed a sovereign ghostly pleasance in my soul. I was fulfilled with the everlasting sureness, mightily sustained without any painful dread. This feeling was so glad and so ghostly that I was in all peace and in rest, that there was nothing in earth that should have grieved me. …This lasted but a while, and I was turned and left to myself in heaviness, and weariness of my life that scarcely I could have patience to live. This Vision was shewed me, according to mine understanding, sometime to be in comfort, and sometime to fail and to be left to themselves. God willeth that we know that He keepeth us even alike secure in woe and in weal. And for profit of man’s soul, a man is sometime left to himself (Julian 2002). 

God alone can give consolation to the soul without any previous cause. It belongs solely to the Creator to come into a soul, to leave it, to act upon it, to draw it wholly to the love of His Divine Majesty (Ignatius 2000, p. 119 section 330). ...When one is in desolation, he should be mindful that God has left him to his natural powers to resist the different agitations and temptations of the enemy in order to try him. For though God has taken from him the abundance of fervor and overflowing love and the intensity of His favors, nevertheless, he has sufficient grace for eternal salvation (Ignatius 2000, p. 116, section 320).

On the topic of prayer, Julian and Ignatius could not be more similar. Yet, it is not as simple to point to parallel passages as with the preceding topics. For them, prayer is not just a “doing” – not just a message we send to God, in the form of a petition, for example. Rather, prayer is a way of being in which ones very foundation, ones “ground” is God and therefore prayer is fitting ourselves to that Ground of our being. Julian puts it this way:

OUR Lord God willeth that we have true understanding, and specially in three things that belong to our prayer. The first is: by whom and how that our prayer springeth. By whom, He sheweth when He saith: I am [the] Ground; and how, by His Goodness: for He saith first: It is my will. The second is: in what manner and how we should use our prayer; and that is that our will be turned unto the will of our Lord, enjoying: and so meaneth He when He saith: I make thee to will it. The third is that we should know the fruit and the end of our prayers: that is, that we be oned and like to our Lord in all things; and to this intent and for this end was all this lovely lesson shewed. And He will help us, and we shall make it so as He saith Himself; Blessed may He be! For this is our Lord’s will, that our prayer and our trust be both alike large. For if we trust not as much as we pray, we do not full worship to our Lord in our prayer, and also we tarry and pain our self (Julian 2002).

“Grounded in God” has several implications. First, that prayer is about the will of God and our place in that will. From this the next implication, only implicit in the statement above, that God is eternally present and has already “answered” our prayers in our very existence, our salvation, and in all that we enjoy: “The first is our noble and excellent making; the second, our precious and dearworthy again-buying; the third, all-thing that He hath made beneath us, [He hath made] to serve us, and for our love keepeth it. Then signifieth He thus, as if He said: Behold and see that I have done all this before thy prayers; and now thou art, and prayest me” (Julian 2002). Julian cautions us not to go looking for this or that way that God might have answered our small petitions, but to understand that God is answering even the prayers we have not yet asked. So how then should we pray? We should pray that “our will be turned unto the will of our Lord.” The true end of our petitions is that we become like God, indeed that we are at one with God.

William Barry describes the same understanding in Ignatius in his chapter entitled, “Grounded in God: The Principle and Foundation” (Ignatius 2000, pp. 33ff.). God is up to one action; we can experience the creative action of God which is always at work (Barry 1991, p. 39); Ignatius draws out the implications of our place in God’s one action in the Principle and Foundation: “We must make ourselves indifferent to all created things… Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a short life. … Our one desire and choice should be what is conductive to the end for which we are created (Ignatius 2000, p. 12, section 23). In other words, it is about God’s will; our prayer is our participation in that will. We are engaged in the world of God’s creating and God is already answering the prayers we have not yet made.

We have seen in both of these late medieval mystics a central concern with our relationship with God and how that relationship is continuously created through various media. The relationship is one of love. While both mystics write extensively on sin, theirs is not the sin of the medieval church or of Jonathan Edwards. Indeed, Julian comes as close as one might in her day to saying that her Church is misguided in its notion of sin and salvation (Julian 2002, p. 104). Ignatius’ first week of the Exercises is devoted to examining one’s sin, but the point is not to berate or belittle the maker of the Exercises. Rather, the grace of the first week is the experience of love. “Ignatius expects that God will reveal our sins in such a way that we will actually be consoled. We are to have an increase of faith, hope, and love, be moved to tears of sorrow for our sin, but also to tears of love for a God who has been so good to us” (Barry 1991, p. 51). The heart of the message from both Julian and Ignatius is the goodness of God, the love of God, and the freedom which God gives us in the hope that we will choose to put God at the center of our lives, and participate in God’s mission.

Both mystics are saying that we must look in the world and in ourselves to find God. Their piety is finding God in all things, starting with finding ourselves IN God. “For our Soul is so deep-grounded in God, and so endlessly treasured, that we may not come to the knowing thereof till we have first knowing of God, which is the Maker, to whom it is oned” (Julian 2002, p. 133). This is such a contemporary message; it is not surprising that both mystics are being read more in our time than in any time of the past, including their own.

I have argued here that both Julian and Ignatius provide us with kataphatic paths to relationship with God as friend, one in which we are constantly called to God’s mission, but never coerced or threatened. We are called to examine our own sins, not the sins of others; we communicate with God who already God loves us and forgives us already. This is a contemporary theme. These are mystics for our time.


Notes:

1 Since this is not a “personal reflection paper,” I will not discuss further my own experiences. Suffice to say that the parallels I find in Julian’s writings to my own experiences were the motivation for my choosing this topic.

2 “You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my father.”

3 References to “Pages” in Julian are to the original manuscript pages; references to Ignatius are to pages in the Vintage-Random House version with section numbers referring to Ignatius original sections.


References

Barry, W. A. (1991). Finding God In All Things A Companion To The Spiritual Exercises Of St. Ignatius. Notre Dame, IL, Ave Maria Press.

Gieraths, G. M. (1986). "Life in Abundance: Meister Eckhart and the German Dominican Mystics of the 14th Century." Spirituality Today 38 (August): Supplementary Book.

Holloway, J. B. (1996) The Westminster Cathedral/Abbey Manuscript of Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love. http://www.umilta.net/westmins.html.

Holloway, J. B. (1997) Godfriends: The Continental Medieval Mystics. http://www.umilta.net/godfrien.html.

Ignatius (2000). The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. New York, Random House.

Julian (2002). Revelations of Divine Love. Grand Rapids, MI, Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Walsh, R. (1909). Friends of God. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Online Edition, K. Knight. 6.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Issan’s Jesus Koan


Sacred memories hidden in a shoe box
Originally posted 23 April 2010


This is a story about my friend and teacher Issan Dorsey Roshi, but it's also about the moment I realized what I always knew—that even my own meditation experience doesn't belong to me.

The line from the dedication in the Soto Zen service at a temple founder’s altar, “May the Teaching of this school go on forever,” is almost a cliché. Are there even answers to the obvious questions, “What is the Teaching of this school?” “How, or even, why should they go on forever?” The founder’s teaching is treated like an assumption. I knew Issan as a friend, a man dying of AIDS, an hilarious prankster even when he was in great pain, and a teacher who opened up a vast, new exploration for me. Of course I harbor assumptions, and if I were to examine his life as if he were the token gay Buddhist saint in drag, that might be more of a blinder than an opening.

A student from New York Zen Center’s Contemplative Care Program contacted me about unearthing some of Issan’s legacy. He had been referred by Rev. Rusty Smith, the Executive Director of Maitri Hospice, or as it’s now called, “Maitri Compassionate Care.” Since the separation of Hartford Street Zen Center and the Hospice, I feared that a lot of material had been lost. Adding to the predicament, Issan loved the phone but the written word not so much: there were no notes from dharma talks. There were a few snapshots from Del Carlson, a close friend, one dharma talk that had been transcribed, and of course David Schneider’s wonderful “Street Zen.” As for the rest, the kind of stuff that you don’t really know what to do with, the sentimental gifts stored in an old shoe box, personal memories of the way that he interacted with each of one us as his students, his jokes, the outrageous stories that you might not want to share with your mother—and there were plenty of those, where could we begin to look?

In early Spring of 2010, I ran into Bruce Boone, a longtime student of Issan, outside the Café Flore which is only a short walk from the Hartford Street Zen Center. After the usual “bring me up to date” conversation which, sadly, included news of his longtime partner’s death, we began to talk about our friend.

I try to be on the lookout for any expression of his teaching that feels genuine, and not anecdotal gay-feel-good Buddhism. I turned the conversation to gathering Issan’s old students together and beginning to record our memories of how our friend really did teach us. I cannot remember if Bruce thought the gathering was a good idea, but he shared a story that moved me.

One morning in North Beach, he’d walked into a quiet church, the shrine of Francis d'Assisi, with his teacher, a man who had HIV and knew that he faced a certain painful death. Bruce might have been trying to offer Issan a place to rest, or maybe peace and comfort, or he might have just been acting as a kind tour guide to the hidden shrines of San Francisco.

When Issan saw the image of Jesus crucified, he turned to Bruce and said, “Oh, that’s me.” Bruce, a former seminarian, said the words brought tears to his eyes, but, as he told the story, Issan spoke in almost an off-handed way. His tone was flat, and Bruce knew that the remark was entirely serious. He called it “Issan’s Jesus koan.”

I knew that Issan had been raised as a Roman Catholic in the traditional Irish-American way, and as a young adult he’d left the rank and file of practicing Catholics. I think that “reject” would be too strong a word. “Neglect” might be better, as in “hardly enough time” for the more pressing things in his life, running a commune, cleaning house, finding the perfect dress with the right hairstyle and make-up, and eventually drugs. But I really had no idea how he held his inherited beliefs. Now facing pain and suffering, he was confronted with a familiar image from his impressionable years in a suburban catholic parish in Santa Barbara, and there it was—just recognition. It sounded almost matter of fact.

Bruce’s words kicked something loose in me—the cross as a koan? It had been almost 20 years since Issan died, and Bruce still held this story about Issan, one for which he had no ready answers or explanations, in a loving way. Then he said, “Even those brief moments while I sat facing the wall, when everything seemed clear as a bell, those few deep experiences have only begun to open up what he might have meant.”

Then I got it: Bruce has been sitting right next to me and meditating for me. He’d handed over the fruits of his zazen without a second thought. They were mine. How generous. Generosity is of course a necessary condition for sharing my meditation with the person sitting next to me, but I don't want my thinking too much to get in the way. It just happens. It is the path that the Zen ancestors have always used to transmit their experience to us. If it's a mystery or even a slippery slope, so what?

Hakuin Zenji’s hymn in praise of meditation contains the verse: “From dark path to dark path,” and indeed that seems an inescapable part of our human experience. But we can also sing “From bright path to bright path!” I’ve had moments when I saw very clearly that meditation experience is not a solipsistic self-generated enlightenment. I would be more than willing to congratulate myself for all the good effort that I'd been making over many years in practice, but what if it weren’t necessarily so? What if the work has already been done or is always being done? Bruce had been working on Issan’s koan for more than 20 years, and all I did was to stand next to him on the street for a few minutes. The Teaching of Issan's school has lived on for almost 30 years. Wrapping my mind around “forever” seems just a step away.

My friend Ken MacDonald added more lyricism to the Soto dedication at the closing of the founder's service:


"These teachings go on forever;
on and on they flow,
without beginning or end."



To read more reflections about the life of Issan, see some photographs, read a dharma talk, go to my page The Record* of Issan.

Buddhism doesn’t need saints

And by the way, don’t cry too much over Thích Nhất Hạnh. Dorothy Day said: "Don't call me a saint, I don't want to be dismissed...