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Wednesday 6 July 2022

Toni Packer

In his book, Zen Master Who, James Ford described Toni Packer as a “Zen teacher minus the ‘Zen’ and minus the ‘teacher.’”

Philip Kapleau had identified her as his heir at the Rochester Zen Center, but in 1980 she broke with him, informing him that she could no longer teach as a Buddhist. She established what was originally called the Genesee Valley Zen Center and would later became the Springwater Center for Meditative Inquiry.

Toni was stubbornly nondirective. There was, she pointed out, no “technique” for what they were doing. Naturally, some people found the approach discouraging. They wanted direction, and she refused to define procedures. There were, she insisted, no “authorities” who could lead one to what she called “awareing” or the “work of the moment.” One needed only to attend simply and directly to what was happening moment to moment.

Cypress Trees in the Garden: 385-408

The Story of Zen: 313-17, 355, 370, 371, 430-31


Wednesday 22 June 2022

John Daido Loori

Andy Anderson – a former resident at Zen Mountain Monastery – told me that John Daido Loori “was the most interesting teacher I’ve ever met by far. And I’ve met a lot. He didn’t ever come across as, ‘I’m a Zen priest. I’m a Zen Master.’ Totally the opposite. You know, he could play that role. And when he did it, he did it. But I’m an ex-football coach. I like strong masculine energy. So I was attracted to his energy and the way he did things. Old Navy man. Straight to the point. No bullshit. I liked that. Tough as nails, yet incredibly compassionate.”

“If you were having a beer with friends and telling stories, what story would you tell about Daido?”

“I think one of the funniest ones was, I was taking the compost out. And there was about two and a half feet of snow. And the compost is full, so I have a big garbage can, and I’m struggling along. Daido pulls up in his jeep and just looks at me from a distance. He watches me struggle for fifteen minutes. Finally get it all done. I’m walking back towards him, and I’m thinking, he’s going to say, ‘Wow! Andy, that’s hard work, isn’t it?’ Or, ‘Good job.’ So I come up to the jeep, and he says, ‘Jesus Christ, Andy! Where the Hell did you learn to empty compost? You’re doin’ it all wrong!’ Classic Daido.

“And then the other one I’ll never forget is I had face-to-face with him once, and we were talking about some pretty intense stuff. And towards the end, he goes deep into thought, and I think he’s going to say something profound. Finally he goes, ‘Jesus, Andy! Can’t they get you a robe that fits?’”

Cypress Trees in the Garden: 65, 224-25, 228, 232, 239, 251-269, 274, 280, 418-19, 47

The Story of Zen: 271, 272, 307-08, 336, 353, 355, 356, 357, 358, 378, 379


Wednesday 8 June 2022

Thich Nhat Hanh

“Some waves on the ocean are high,” Thich Nhat Hanh told his students, “and some are low. Waves appear to be born and to die. But if we look more deeply, we see that the waves, although coming and going, are also water, which is always there. Notions like high and low, birth and death can be applied to waves, but water is free of such distinctions. Enlightenment for a wave is the moment the wave realizes that it is water. At that moment, all fear of death disappears.”

Cypress Trees in the Garden: 439-466

The Story of Zen: 427

Wednesday 25 May 2022

Pat Hawk

Pat Hawk was a Redemptorist priest and a Dharma heir of Robert Aitken. Hawk facilitated both Christian contemplative retreats and Zen retreats at the Mercy Center in Tucson, Arizona. He kept the two separate although Zen students were welcome to attend the Contemplative retreats and the Christian contemplatives were welcome at the Zen retreats. Both focused on meditation, but, as Hawk put it, “We change the idols on the altar.”

Pat Hawk – Catholicism and Zen: 121-34, 140, 143, 185, 196

Thursday 12 May 2022

Thomas Hand

Thomas Hand was an American Jesuit working in Japan who studied Zen with Koun Yamada. At the first formal meeting between student and teacher, the student is asked to present his aspiration in taking up Zen practice. When Yamada put that question to Hand, the Jesuit admitted he wasn’t entirely sure. He was, he explained, a Roman Catholic priest, and he had no intention of becoming Buddhist or to change his vocation. Yamada smiled and told him that was quite all right. There were two types of Zen practice, Yamada said. “The first is really strict Buddhist Zen. You have all the statues and everything else like that, you follow all the Buddhist teaching and everything, and then there is just pure Zen. You will follow that, and that will make you a better Catholic.”

Catholicism and Zen: 9, 55-62, 63, 65, 66, 142, 143, 144, 172, 193, 197

Wednesday 27 April 2022

Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle

Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle was both a Jesuit priest and an authorized Zen teacher. Maria Reis Habito told me several stories about her time with him: “When I first came to sesshin, and I asked Father Lassalle, I said, ‘You know, I’m Christian, but I met this Buddhist master, and now he wants me to meditate, and do you think Jesus would mind if I did Buddhist meditation?’ And he looked at me and he said, ‘You know what? I wouldn’t worry about that.’ So I said, ‘Fine.’

“On another occasion I came into his dokusan, into the interview, and – I don’t know – I said a lot, and I was in trouble, I don’t know what. And he looked at me and said, ‘I forgot to put in my hearing-aids. Would you say all of this again?’ And with a smile I dropped it all and said, ‘You know what? It’s not important.’”

Catholicism and Zen: 14, 32-36, 38-41, 43, 45, 46, 53, 55, 56, 59, 66, 68, 76, 89, 90, 91, 111, 112, 119

The Story of Zen: 256-58, 317, 435