Monday, 24 October 2016

Wayne Coger

                Toni Packer was in her final illness when I first visited the Springwater Center, and I was unable to interview her. I did, however, interview two of the retreat facilitators who carried on her work. The first was Wayne Coger, who had been a student at the Rochester Center before Toni left. I asked him what caused the break between Toni Packer and Philip Kapleau, and he answered cautiously:

                “I’ll give you my interpretation, but I must stress that this is only my interpretation. While she was at the Center, Toni was asked to be available to meet with students who were having emotional or relationship difficulties. This would free Roshi Kapleau to focus his energies specifically on Zen practice. So everything outside of practice was delegated to Toni. My sense is that she began to see that there was a disconnect. People were going to sesshin, having fantastic experiences, building up incredible energy, battling through koans or being frustrated by koans, and at the same time experiencing difficulties with their emotions, their partner, their roommates, and their ordinary life. There was sorrow and suffering evidenced around life situations, illnesses, break-ups, our everyday concerns. Toni began to question whether this division between life situations and practice was really necessary or actual, whether there really was a separation. So the question became (these are my words) ‘Could there be a way of working that doesn’t make that distinction? Could we take the everyday situation, the thing that’s bugging us right now, and let that be the koan?’ In this way we could question, meditatively look into our reactions, our fears and our everyday concerns.”

[Wayne Coger – Cypress Trees in the Garden: 385-408]
[See also: Springwater Center]

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