Tuesday, 6 September 2016

David Weinstein

                David Weinstein of the Pacific Zen Institute began koan study with Koun Yamada before later working with John Tarrant. I asked him about the difference in approach between them. “When I was in Japan,” he told me, “when I was with Yamada Roshi, I would bring stories to him of koans when they came alive in my life, and he would listen to my stories and would nod his head and say, ‘Yes. But what about the koan?’ And I came to understand that he just didn’t work that way. That the content of my life was not where he was hanging out with the koan. He was hanging out with a more classical or traditional sense of hanging out with the koan. So I stopped bringing those experiences to him, and that was okay with me, because I loved him and accepted him for who he was. And if he wasn’t that way, that was fine with me. I kinda filed that away. And then this experience happened again with John, and I thought, “What the hell I should bring it to him and let’s see what he does with it.” You know? And it was electric. I told him what happened and we looked at each other, and it was like: what would it be like if we explored koans with people in a way not only to find out the traditional Hakuin responses to the koan – which are in some way even trans-cultural – but that required people to find the koan in their life, to be able to present the koan from the material of their life? What would that be like? And we experimented with each other. For John and I that’s the founding myth of the way we’re working with koans. I’m kind of a plodding ox in following what’s going on, but he’s taking things up and usually for the better, and has certainly shaken up the way we work with koans beyond just trying to find living examples in our lives of being part of that. The integration of the koan practice into our life has to go along. In Japan, when people finish, quote unquote, the koan practice, finish the curriculum, there’s a ceremony. And I noticed a number of ceremonies, usually old Japanese farmers, Mandarin arch farmers, little Japanese nuns who have been practicing forever, and Yamada Roshi always said the same thing, ‘Now the real work begins. The integration of the practice into your life.’ And I always thought that was odd, but that’s the way it is. And that’s basically what we’re experimenting with. Trying to grow a culture that supports the integration of the practice in our life from the get-go.”

[See also: David Weinstein]

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