Mitra Bishop’s Mountain Gate is located in Ojo Sarco, New Mexico, a community so small that it isn’t noted on state road maps – although my GPS manages to find it.
“For people willing to pick up the ball,” she told me, “Zen can lead to nothing short of total freedom, total liberation. And by total liberation, what I mean is liberation from your hang-ups, your conditioning, liberation from places where you’re stuck. In other words, if you take it far enough, you’re able to freely move in concert with life in effective, positive ways. We have the sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts in Japanese Zen. What ‘total liberation’ means is that your behavior naturally accords with those precepts. And there is an incredible sense of freedom and joy that runs akin to a quiet river within. That is your potential. But it’s not anything instantaneous. It takes a lot of hard work.”
When I asked why, then, this doesn’t seem to have been the case with certain American teachers, she told me she had asked Shodo Harada the same question and he’d said that those people essentially failed to complete their training.
“People—pretty much everywhere—assume that there is a finish point in Zen practice,” Mitra said. “That they do their ten years, fifteen years, twenty years, and they’re home free. This may or may not be the case. It’s usually not the case. I think we need to take Joshu Jushin as a practice model; he trained for long decades before he ever began teaching and is known to have said, ‘If a child of three can teach me, I will learn from that child.’
“Having a kensho experience allows one to see a bit more clearly. At the same time, it can take the lid off inhibitions. And unless we integrate what we experience through that kensho into our daily life we’re quite liable to act in inappropriate ways; that’s part of what’s happened in these cases of abuse. Essentially, these people that we’re seeing now receiving some karmic come-uppance haven’t really trained sufficiently.”
[Mitra Bishop - Cypress Trees in the Garden: 54-55, 117, 146, 369-83, 389, 470]
[See also: Mitra Bishop]