I sat a five-day retreat last week, my first as Taigen sensei’s student. I thought I didn’t have much to say about it but a bit of Aitken roshi’s Encouraging Words, quoted below, got me thinking.
I discovered Zen through the Beats, and while I quickly figured out that beat Zen wasn’t Zen, it was Zen and not Buddhism that I discovered. I spent a while reading about Zen and barely practicing zazen before getting frustrated and over the years my reading moved from Zen to Buddhism generally.
And while contemplating the Four Noble Truths and the precepts and the paramitas has been useful, at some point I forgot about Zen, about sitting zazen in faith and doubt, about the special transmission outside the scriptures.
So this retreat more than anything reminded me of the things that brought me to Zen in the first place at just the right time.
That Aitken passage:
Our basic practice is zazen. Avalokitesvara, practicing deep Prajñā Pāramitā, clearly saw that the way to transform anguish s to realize that forms and our perception of them are empty. This teaching reveals the fallacy of relying entirely upon personal thoughts and feelings for guidance. In messy circumstances, full of betrayals and malice, please remember the true self, the empty mind of the universe, so full of possibilities.
Deep gassho to Sensei, Roshi, Aitken roshi, and the Buddhas and bodhisattvas who have followed this path such that we might follow it too.