My name is Bruce Lampson, and I am 70 years old and I live in Salt Lake City. I’m originally from Seattle. I grew up in Seattle, spent 50 years of my life there before I moved to Salt Lake and actually and I didn’t tell you this before, but my first encounter with, uh, with Buddhist practice was, uh, when I was about 14 years old, a Japanese family moved into our neighborhood and I became really good friends with their son, and his mother had a nature and shochu practice group and they chanted NAMI hollering a hill and had a go Hons and uh, and all that. And he invited me over and something about it just kind of really, I was like, Wow, okay, I’ll do this. And I did that for a year or so, um, and got my good hands and, and set it up at home. And my parents were always very kind to me about things I wanted to try. And so they said, you know, do whatever. We were raised Episcopalian and went to church.
Well, they say there’s $10,000 to the drama. And there, of course, when they say 10,000 and Buddhism, they mean infinite. And and I think each of us kind of finds our own door, you know, and and it has to do particularly when we’re starting out, you know, we’re coming to everything in life, but particularly are our spiritual leanings, you know, with a certain amount of preconceived notions, a certain amount of, you know, does this feel right? Does this fit right? You know, uh, you know, would I rather wear red and yellow robes or black and white robes? I mean, it’s funny, you know, uh, and, and these things aren’t necessarily on the top of our consciousness, but they’re inside, and we’re kind of like, feeling our way. Um, and, and also, you know, when you first raise that, the body mind, you know, of the seeking mind, you know, you’re very open. And, you know, Suzuki Roshi talks about beginner’s mind. You’re very, very open. And that’s actually Zen mind, right? Because that’s open and receptive and you’re willing to try everything and and it it doesn’t take very long. We’re trying things before all your sort of, you know, preferences come back in and it’s like, wow, I like this, I like that. I like this guy. I like that woman. As far as a teacher, I like these people in the Sangha, you know, I feel like I’m being seen or not being seen. You know, we’re very sensitive to these things. And I was, too, but I was very open and receptive and I and, uh, I think two things, two or three things attracted me to Zen over the Tibetan practice that have nothing to do with the, the Dharma. Okay? And one was I, you know, I do like the Japanese esthetic. Um, and, uh, and also there was seem to be, you know, when I go to the bookstores and I’d circle around the racks, you know, looking for things, um, there seem to be more Zen literature that, that I like to get into and so I just started reading more of that and it was, it was a little bit more understandable to me now. But interestingly, you know, after I did Zen practice for a number of years, I understood Tibetan practice better and I understood their method and their methodical way. And it’s beautiful. Um, but so I very much appreciate that, but I don’t, uh, but I, at this time I finally, you know, I got into one track and I’m going to say there, um, but in doing that comparison back and forth, as I did, uh, it was just that the literature was a little more accessible for me. And then Gimpel Roshi as a teacher, being an American guy, grew up in Long Beach and we just hit it off and he was very open and I was very open and and were very honest. And, and he would explain things because honestly, even though there was a lot of Zen literature to read, it’s not very easy to kind of give and English translations because there were still a lot of lingo, there were still a lot of concepts and principles and different things that, you know, just take a while to to get. And then, you know, I mean, I can read something by Dugan’s energy and it’s like a plum blossom on a bare branch and winter, you know. What the hell does that mean? You know, and and yet and so I read all the footnotes and everything. And after a while I got familiar with the imagery and what that meant. And it’s very beautiful. And I understood, uh, I finally understood what haiku was really about. And, and things like that. And this, this Zen imagery, which is very different than the Tibetan imagery and very different than the Indian imagery. And, you know, I it’s a lot to take on. So, you know, uh, snow in a silver bowl, you know, and all these different kinds of things. And so I just got more and more familiar and more comfortable as in. But at the same time there were several people, not just Temple Roshi, but other students of his and monks and some of his successor teachers that were also Westerners who would help me through this and were very much, you know, bring it back to you and bring it back to life. So that’s how that kind of occurred. And so, you know, I was in person.
That’s probably the one thing that Governor Bush has gotten the most pushback on from, you know, the traditional the white plum song and and people who say that’s not. Okay. So going back to this idea of every teacher trying to find a way to enlighten their students, you know, to awaken their students, this is a skillful means, a new power that Deborah, she came up with and it has its origins. I’ll give a little background on it. I think he first kind of started experimenting with this in the mid-nineties, maybe a little later or maybe just like late nineties. So there’s a couple, Hal and SIDERIS Stone, who are psychotherapists or psychologists who wrote a book called Voice Dialog. And Voice Dialog is a technique used by therapists to help people to kind of pull apart their issues. Right, and to sort them out. And, you know, they always say if something looks like a big problem, break it down into a bunch of little problems and then solve those one at a time. So Helen said Tristan became acquainted with Camp Hiroshima, Izumi Roshi, and the emperor went and did a lot of work with them. And, you know, on his own self and but also in a way to he was intrigued by this process and and he finally put it together that, wow, this is maybe something that I can use and apply it in a Zen way to Zen training. And Duggan’s energy as a famous statement to study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self or drop the self. To drop the self is to awaken to the 10,000 garments. Okay. And this is fundamental to the Soto school, particularly. So what does it mean to study the self? Let’s start with the first line. So, you know, in a psychological way, it’s like, okay, let’s get out. Let’s go back to your childhood and let’s figure out this. And then the other thing and of course, Helen said, are stoners. They’re using it first, psych psychology and things. And they would, you know, they were trying to identify problems, parts of a person’s self, which usually had to do with their traumas and convictions and ideas, notions about whatever and, you know, strategies. So Gimpel Roshi thought, well, gee, I wonder, you know, instead of speaking to all these relative voices, what we would call the voices that speak for them. So how it works basically is the facilitator will ask the group or the individual, Would you allow me to speak to the controller, for example? And so the and so that you, as the person, would then become the controller of their self and speak about their self in third person. So say. And then he would say, So tell me about you what your job is, controller. Well, my job is to control Bruce. And why is that? Well, if I wasn’t controlling and we’d be out of control, you know, and it’s kind of a it is kind of a game and it kind of simple that way. And yet there’s a huge array of these kind of aspects of the self. Okay. So instead of trying to figure out what the self is and drop the self, we’re going to going to go through each one and interview each of these facets and let them find their proper place in the mix. Right. Because people who are too controlling, it’s a problem for themselves and for others. We’ve talked to the Protector. We’ve talked to the skeptic. We talked to the fixer. You know, people think that, you know, it’s like their hammer and everything’s a nail, right? And we’ve got to fix, fix, fix everybody else or fix ourselves or, you know, or the victim or the vulnerable child or all these different voices. And I’ve got a whole list of them. If I want to look at them. And that’s not all that there are, but each one can provide some insight and it gives the person practice in going, thinking of the self as third person and speaking from this voice. It has a role, it has a proper role. Um, and so this can be done in a group really great or one on one. Um, we have done it in front of, with like a group of over 350 people with four of us running around and handing mikes to people while they answered, you know, from these different voices. And Roshi would say, Okay, yeah, that’s great. And there’s like no wrong answers because you’re speaking in truth about this aspect of yourself, however you see it, and everyone and well, not everyone somewhere quite often we all speak to a voice that will bring up something really for a person, you know, and they might even cry or like, you know, just like, oh, I’ve, I see this about myself, you know, or I see, I mean, I see this about him or he doesn’t he the self doesn’t appreciate me, the protector or me the fixer or me the, you know, the boaster or I mean all. So that’s basically how that how that works. And it can be fun and everybody in the crowd kind of learns from other people and they have time to think about it and they don’t have to speak. You know, just whoever volunteers will say, well, I’m I’m the one that keeps him from doing this or that or I’m the one that, you know, gets him that job. Or, you know, some of it’s is very kind of fundamental stuff. So that’s the study and the self kind of part. So what Roshi did though was and even Helen said, Ah, Stone didn’t use those kind of voices. He basically used their framework and just applied a whole bunch of different things to it. He could, he the big breakthrough on it was he realized that he could get people to speak not only from these sort of egoic voices, but also from non dual voices. And that was pretty easy and some of us sounded very real and sincere. And everyone. So it might sound a little funny, but people sometimes would speak from their concepts about things, but other times people would like really get there. And it’s kind of astounding. And so he thought instead of making somebody go through years of cons, I can just work with them and ask them to speak from this place. And then they experience it and wow. And it’s not enlightenment, but it’s a it’s a breakthrough. It’s an awakening. It’s a a glimpse, you know, and it’s pretty effective. Um, and it’s pretty much how he teaches now. He doesn’t talk about impermanence here, talk about interdependence or any of those kind of things. It’s this is the big learning process, okay? And it’s so funny that to have been seeking something and I, we had to do a stop seeking and there it is. And it’s in a way that’s this amazing little shift that is kind of easy to do. And you can feel I could see it in your face. I could see it when it just sank in, you know, you just let that all go and it’s like, Wow, here I am, present. This is fine. So, um, you, a person can do this with yourself and you’re feeling stressed or whatever you see, or when you sit down to meditate. Let’s go. I’m going to sit as the non seeking, non grasping, non reaching mind and just and just be there and you’re there and there’s no other place that you need to be. And you know, so this is what Roshi came up with. It’s just crazy little game. And but it’s very, very it’s very useful to get to that spot, but it’s also very useful to sort out these problems in the relative side because the non-speaking mind is, is an absolute space, okay? There’s nothing there. There’s just there’s no seeking. There’s no desire and urging urgency. And, you know, you can’t live your whole life that way. But we do need to dip back and forth. So this is what he’s gotten so much pushback for because people are going, oh, that’s you’re just tricking people. You’re just but I think you could see for yourself that’s real. That’s real space to be. None of these things is if fix all care. No, not by any means. And it’s never been claimed to be that. But because he he’s known for it and it’s a it’s a popular thing for people to debate about. I guess, you know, it’s another skill for me and it’s a way of, you know, it’s just like if I take you down kind of a logic trail that ends in that spot, this does the same thing, you know, Nagarjuna, you know, and the four propositions is exactly the same kind of thing where if you take this position and then take this position, which indicates so, and then you take this position where it is negates the two before, and then you finally you have no place to stand and you’re in the absolute. And so this is just another thing like that to give people a taste or a glimpse and even that momentary, you know, half a minute or so that you kind of dropped into that, you know, it that’s real. It’s not a trick. It’s actually you were able to drop the self there for a little while and see what you saw. And you were very clear about what is on it. Everybody almost says the exact same thing. Now, some of that is from the conceptual mind, but the fact of the experience is not from the conceptual mind. You’re sort of explanation of how it how it was comes from the conceptual side. But the actual sitting there in that space, yeah, it’s all it is. And for some people, sometimes it seems like sort of anticlimactic. But actually it you can mature this to you can work more with it. You can use it with your other practices. Like I oftentimes when I go to sit now, I just sit there and go, okay, now I’m taking mine. I mean, that’s all I’m going to do is say that and I can just go in it because if to me it’s just a trigger in a way to give myself permission to drop the self and just sit there for a while, you know, and just take it it take in whatever’s there. It’s not. I think oftentimes we’re expecting a little more fireworks, you know, and this kind of, you know, sort of thing. And and and to realize it really, it’s exactly just as simple as dropping or seeking and grasping and being in the moment. And it’s, I think, a little very climactic sometimes for people. But yeah, but that’s also only because they haven’t started to spend the time to expand and mature that experience and kind of like get fully there and fully back to the relative and you know, kind of plan Tarzan’s mountain. But it’s, it’s great for new people. Sometimes the more experienced practitioners, they either resist it because they’ve got in there, they’ve already got in their mind what they’re what they’re seeking for. And they’ve got it very clearly figured out, which is really wrong. Right. And that it’s going to be this thing that a stuck place but for new people, you know. And I took it fast. I went right from seeking, seeking the way, not seeking. Right. But there’s a you can go through it. It’s kind of good to go through a bunch of different voices, like some of the ones I rattled off just to get people familiar with being able to shift perspectives, you know, and get flexible in going, okay, let’s, you know, let’s speak to the let’s speak to pride, let’s speak to fear, let’s speak to anger. What’s your role? Are you appreciated by the self? What do you do for the self? Is are you disowned by the self? Um, so there’s a lot more aspects to it and people go way further with this impression on their own. But um, I think it’s a really valid, um, method in practice. And so I do it with my students not all the time, but.
Yeah. I don’t know if I can think of a specific incident exactly, but I guess an overall sense is I you know, I’m less of a victim of myself and and the practice, you know, and maybe the cons or maybe it’s just getting older sometimes you get a certain humility, you get a certain you know, you start to understand your limitations a little bit, but you also don’t really care as much about what anybody else is thinking. And there’s a sense of urgency about life that kind of comes up. And this just for me was directly related to my practice. I felt this huge sense of urgency prior to getting into Buddhist practice. You know, that this is not working. And people would look at me and say, What do you got? This beautiful house in Seattle, you can see the whole harbor and the downtown. And it’s you know, you have all these great, you know, brand new car and neighbors and friends and, you know, and it’s like, no, I’m not doing it for me, you know? And this kind of goes back to spiral dynamics and stuff to a little bit where you get to these stages. It’s like, I’ve done everything that I think I’m supposed to do and I’ve gotten, you know, I’ve got fame and fortune. You know, this happens to actors and rock stars and stuff all the time, right? It didn’t quite do it for me. Now what am I going to do? And it’s a depressing time. But the thing that Zen practice I don’t even want to say Zen practice, I want to say my personal Buddhist practice, whatever it’s called, has the insights of the basic insights of emptiness, cause and effect, interdependence. You know, these fundamental things really do loosen the ties to the self and my self as my pal. Now, my self is not something that’s driving me. My self is my is my own personal, skillful means. And I don’t mean in a in a kind of patronizing way of me trying to save the world or anything like that. It’s just I see it as a car or something that I or something that I can drive much more skillfully in life and and I know I have complete freedom. Right. What else can we have? I mean, moment to moment. I mean, I could do whatever I want right now. Okay? Whatever it is, you know. But so what is it I want to do? You know, that is the next question. And well, I don’t want to do anything harmful right? I don’t want to just indulge myself. And, you know, I just want to, like, appreciate where I am and take what comes and use my freedom to act in the moment, in the way that’s appropriate for the time and the place and the amount required now because I, uh, have partial data, uh, from the world, um, I don’t know, I’m not always going to be able to assess the situation to do the right thing, you know, but holding that intention is part of it. So it’s a just a given fact that we have complete freedom, right? The only thing is stopping us. This, uh, is whatever or preconceived notions or concepts we have about behavior and our understanding of karma and everything. Right? But there’s really nothing. I mean, Bodhidharma, one of his is and this is a Korean also, you know, his student came to him and said, I’m, you know, I’m going crazy. I need to be liberated. You know, my mind is a mess. And Bodedern I said, Well, show me your mind and and I we’ll do this in the guise, look, you know, he’s out there and he says, Well, I can’t find it. And he says, Well, now you’re liberated. You know, it’s like this realizing that your mind is this impermanent thing. And yet we have we have control, you know, so freedom and responsibility, you know, like Ronald Reagan always used to say, you go hand in hand. Right. And they do when we recognize our freedom, we don’t want to abuse it. You know, it comes with the responsibility. And then I think these two things arise at the same time in in practice, you know, you do you do get that like people come into practice and they don’t just all of a sudden go, Oh, I’m going to buy a one way ticket to Bangladesh, you know, and living my life in a hut, you know, I mean, I suppose some people do that, but, you know, it’s the responsibility. You feel it, too, and it’s part of the compassion. And that’s why this is one of the beautiful things about about this practice is you don’t have to have a full on opening awakening kind of experience to get that it can come bits and pieces slowly, you know, as you kind of like explore your self and explore the world and explore your concepts and start to be able to see yourself as a bit of an object, you know, even though there isn’t really two of us inside. So, so, you know, one of the other kinds is who’s looking at the soul? What is it that’s looking at the South? You know, what is it? Okay, that’s a kind. And how can there be two of us, you know, why do we have this constant conflict? You know, what is that all about? So so for me, it, it was more incremental that way. Um, and I can’t think of certain occasions, but I just, I just noticed slowly over time and I still do my ability to like Ken Wilber says, flex and flow. Okay, like my daughter comes home, she’s upset about something. I’m not going to freak out and go, you know, some kid said something to her at school, I’m not going to go attack his parents, you know, or she wants to do something. And it’s not time, you know, schoolwork first. Right. And she gets all mad at me and everything and it’s like I can just, like, stay. I can keep my equanimity and I can take once with you, let’s just go there and, you know, and not, like, punish or, you know, I can just, like, see there’s so many there’s so many different occasions, constant occasions where I can I cannot insert myself into the situation in a way that makes it worse because, you know, you’ll eat all your dinner or you’re not going to bed till you finish your dinner. Well, okay, I’m not going to do that, you know, but people do people have very, very harsh things they put on each other. And we know what we see in the newspaper all the time. And, you know, most of my friends, most of the people that I know I’ve ever met, they’re nice people. You know, they’re doing the best they can. And, you know, they’re not beating their children or something. But, you know, there are some that do, but so it’s hard for me to sometimes to talk about this practice because there we talked about this earlier and things are going kind of good. Why should I bother looking into anything, you know? Well, maybe the time is not right for that. You know, I think each person has a certain point in their life where maybe they realize that or not, and some never do. And this is part of what you see from the absolute is part of this compassion is that, oh, my gosh, you know, I don’t know if I, I do not know if reincarnation is real or not. I don’t I’ve seen I’ve seen the I’ve read a lot and, uh, people trying to build a logical case for it seems still circumstantial to me. So I’m not going to deny it or affirm it. But in this compassionate kind of you can kind of get real with it and go, you know, as far as I know, we had this one shot life and I’m really sorry. And I feel bad and I want to help people that to to awaken, you know, because that is really the only thing you can do.
Looking back, it’s I guess I at this stage, I, I don’t really have regrets, which is a nice thing. I mean, I have regrets about the things, but about my practice or even my life. I feel like, well, that’s just what it took to get here, you know? And there’s definitely things that, you know, I wished I hadn’t done or, you know, people hadn’t done to me or whatever. But in the and I look at the totality of it, I just think things just unfold the way they unfold. And I’m not going to pat myself on the back about it or beat myself up about it. I just am really more present and forward thinking. Not that I don’t rely on my memories and experience. Of course I do. And I try not to let those things influence me in a way that wouldn’t, you know, doesn’t work. But it’s impossible to to really separate yourself from that. But I, I don’t know. A guy told me one time he goes, make the best out of a bad situation, make the best out of a good situation. And I thought, okay, yeah. And it just so I just kind of keep this sort of hopeful, kind of optimistic, you know, thing. And I don’t attach too much to goals like, I know I need a car, okay? So I need, I need to work because I’ve been driving this one. I just cracked 200,000 miles the other day. But, you know, but I have goals. I mean, for my daughter, of course, I like, gosh, I want only the best. I want no harm to ever happen to her. And I want her to be enlightened next week, you know? But but you just pick away at it. Life is just like it. You just have to pick away at it because it’s very rarely that you can make any major thing happen. You know, my karmic reach is very limited. Like, I can’t cure global global warming, but I recycle my stuff and I turn my car off and I’m in the bank line, you know, and I do what I can and I try to save the world from me right best I can. But, um, that’s, that’s kind of the outlook. And I think my Zen practice has allowed me to even have this kind of outlook and one that where I can, I can weather the storms and maintain some equanimity. And, you know, I’m 70, so, you know, I to 2015 more years, maybe 30 if I’m like super healthy and take care of myself, you know, what can I get done. Well I like I see not only is my karmic reach limited, my karmic interest is limited in a way like in one way, which is like my family and my neighbors and my community and, you know, you don’t tanglin. Right. Okay. So in tanglin you you breathe in the pain, you breathe out healing, and you start here and you go out wider and wider in the world. My wife and I both do. Tong went all the time in our meditation. This is one of the ways I blended Tibetan and Zen. Zen has no such thing and so, you know, I’m glad for my life. I’m appreciative of my life. I’m looking forward to you know, I like to be alive so that I can do things, you know, and and just feel and be with people and have these kind of conversations and and, you know, watch football, too, you know? I mean, I enjoy my life. Um, the things that have dropped away in my life have sort of like my bad habits and things like that, just sort of drop away naturally in a way. They just, I don’t have to force myself to, like, quit something or, you know, it, just like, I’m just not interested anymore, you know? And, and that’s also a slow process of just like a leaf falling off here and there. I’ve had my dramatic moments, definitely in Seattle, you know, my first kind of big opening experience, or I was meditating really hard. I think I was really into it, you know? And, you know, I was able to just like drop off mind and body the way they describe it, which is a weird description. But, um, you know, I had this huge outflow of enthusiasm and, you know, I guess now I’m really going to go gangbusters and cause, you know, you can’t push the water, you know, you just kind of so sometimes you have to work really hard at it. And if nothing happens and other times you work really hard and something does happen and it’s just unpredictable. So I would say, you know, to whoever is watching, just like be true to yourself and just keep at it and and let things happen and do your best. And I don’t know what else, you know, try these techniques, meditate, do some big mind. Talk to Jack. Um, and, uh, but it, you know, definitely I mean, I’m concerned about world problems. I follow politics. Um, I, you know, I follow the issues of the day. And one thing I can say is that if a lot more people felt like I did about that, I think some of these problems would get solved. I mean, not my opinions on the use of gas or electric cars or technical stuff like that, but just this to be able to get to this place of seeing the world as it is, for all its flaws and everything, and being able to muster up some compassion for it, I think is key. And then understanding the your karmic reach is also very important. So for people who have very big karmic reach, like the people that run Google and stuff like that, you know, I expect them to do more and I expect them to work on themselves even more because they have this power to do a lot. I’m not sure those people are always coming from the best place I wish they could. And what would. And I know a lot of them are. But, you know, around the world, it’s not just America that can solve all this stuff and not just Google, right? It’s everybody everywhere. And so the more we can bring that to pass, the better off everybody’s going to be when it starts here.
Okay. Well, common practice is a very interesting thing. Um, you know, the coins that we use are are derived from, you know, hundreds of little stories, um, quick little interactions between student and master that have been gathered together over hundreds of years into various collections. The woman can thank your Roku, the gun, Roku, anyway, and they are. Well, there’s a there’s a thing in Zen called the finger pointing at the moon. And the moon is represents enlightenment and the finger represents everything that everybody’s ever tried to tell you. All the literature, all the coins, all the everything, meditate, all the tools to point and coins are one of these. And what’s very interesting is, you know, if you’ve ever you know, if you have a cat or dog, you know, you can point at something. And they look at your finger. They don’t look at where you’re pointing unless your dog’s, like, super well-trained. And so this is this is what we do, right? Because we can’t we you can’t just snap your fingers or just hand somebody a a Kensho or satori, you know, enlightenment experience. They have to do it. They have to do it themselves. And it’s a beautiful thing. And and so there’s all of this literature, all the sutures, everything is designed to either walk you down, kind of a logic trail until you go off the cliff and or trick you somehow or just get you to open up, open up, open up to concepts. Uh, which then can sort of break down in a way because the, the, an encounter with the absolute is the absence of conceptual thought and very easy to say, not so easy to do so in, in the rinse a tradition coins are very much the main part of the practice and the Soto tradition and she contains or just sitting meditation is the main part of the practice. Interestingly, my Izumi Roshi and his father in Japan at their temple, I assume he or she was sent to serve the Japanese population in Los Angeles like a missionary after the war or in the fifties. They were they actually had transmission in both lineages and so that passed down through Masumi Roshi. So he emphasizes she can tell us and koans and so he did both the practices. This is what maybe sets them apart from San Francisco Zen Center in one way, not that it’s better or worse. It’s just so my zooming roshi made his monks do coins and so the first hundred and 50 coins or so are sort of beginner coins. And what they’re designed to do is put pressure on the student in a number of different ways because you’re presented with, well, the first coin is a little story. Josue, a famous Zen master, a monk comes to him and he points to the dog and he says, Does the dog have Buddha nature? And Josue just sort of shouts Moon back to the monk. So that’s the story. And so to answer the coin, the teacher says, Well, what is moon? And it’s like, What the hell? I don’t get any of this, you know? And, and so people will sit on that one for quite a long time. It’s a very important one. And so it’s the second one, which I’ll get to in a second, but but I’m not going to tell you the answer. And these coins do have very specific answers. And and you have to they’re not an explanation. You have to present it in a physical way. And this is an interesting thing because in is learned in the body and the mind. It’s one thing and you have to pay attention to both. And even meditation is very much the body helping the mind to settle. So but you go in there first, you know, uh, during, during the meditation periods in the morning and afternoons, the teacher will get up and go downstairs and sit in the like or either Dyson or DocuSign Room. And I won’t get into that. But the teacher is there and he’s like this, and he’s got a candle and a bell and the little room and there’s another cushion for the student and the bell rings and one student comes out and you’re in the line and you’re sitting there going, Oh, I got to answer me. I got to answer what is moving? What is what is move, you know, and I got to this is terrible. I’m under pressure. You know, who likes tests, right? And and especially something you have no idea, really, in a way. So you go in, you make a full bell all the way down at this sit down, teacher is looking very stern. Um, and you say, my name is Hogan, my calling is mu. Teacher goes, I mean, you know, what is it? And you do it, you know, and I, honestly, I, I went in there at least 20 times over a six month period or maybe less maybe three or four months, because there’s a lot of people doing this. And so you don’t you don’t get in the line every time. And, you know, you do all this crazy stuff. You just go move. And they go and they pick up the bill and ring and you’re out, you know, or you say, well, it’s this. And then they pick up the bill. Now, you know, no, it’s not. You can’t explain it. Right? So finally, finally, you have a breakthrough with it, actually. And the point is, is that you’re to take this back up onto your cushion during the meditation periods and just become, become, become, just focus, concentrate. Okay. Early parts of of practice are very much about building your one pointed concentration and your willpower, because you have to have the will to do that, to do the concentration, you know, to like day after day. And it’s hard and you have to take the humiliation and embarrassment of getting wrung out, uh, and going back on your cushion and going, I fucking doing this, you know, and, and yet it’s a very much of a test of your seriousness. Finally, you breakthrough, you come in. My name is so again be present, move. The teachers is good and they might talk a little bit about it. You know, or you might ask some other questions to clarify that you got in, which is also tricky. They’ll come in with, well, okay, you know, tell me a little bit more. I don’t want to get too specific because it spoils it for people. Um, so then finally they say, okay, go to the next one and you know, and so here, here you go through this process. Now some of them, once you kind of get that first breakthrough, it really helps on the rest. But there is plenty of other breakthroughs because the first one is kind of so big that when you start getting into specific aspects of, I don’t know how to say this and there’s refining. And so those refinements require different presentations of your understanding. And it sounds so silly sometimes because, you know, one of the cons is, you know, be a pillar and I don’t mind showing this one. Okay? So yeah, I’m a pillar, you know, I mean, that’s kind of it. I mean, that’s the answer. I’ll give you that answer. And there’s others that are like that. It just you walk out going, What does this have to do with anything but what it’s doing is and because these are been getting it’s slowly working away and keeping you off balance and applying pressure and seeing how you respond and if you can maintain your cool and maintain their concentration. And and so that’s the refining. It’s almost a physical refining in that sense. Or and I don’t want to say self-control, but maintaining equanimity and caring and seeing and also pointing out to how your ego is, is working on you. So you need to keep doing them, doing and doing and they get in every once in a while. There’s, there’s one in there that’s just like coming out of left field in a way. And it’s always to sort of keep you off balance because fundamentally there’s no place to stand. Right? All we do in life are the whole egoic life, the life of the self, the relative world is all trying to solidify things that can’t be solidified. There is trying to lock down places that you can cling to. It’s all grabbing, holding, holding, holding, you know, or rejecting, rejecting, rejecting, protecting, you know. And so it’s showing you day to day in real time how you’re doing this. And also this sort of little bit of humiliation you go through every time we don’t pass a corn, you know, makes you more humble. And humility is a good thing very much, you know, part of the Zen Buddhist life, because who are we to think that we can rule the world? I mean, even the the raw data that I take in from the world is partial and flawed. I can’t see as good as an eagle. I can’t hear as good as a dog. I can’t taste as good as my daughter who’s eight years old and has likes to inform me that kids have 10,000 were taste buds than adults do. Right? Well, that’s true. That’s why she’s fussy about her food, I guess. But. And so how can we trust ourselves that much to think that we can rule, right? And yet we must live. We must make decisions. We must rule. Sometimes we must submit. Sometimes you know, how well can we submit to a situation or whatever? Right to life. So the common practice is all about that. And meditation practice is, you know, as you know about developing equanimity, developing concentration, not the kind of current concentration where you’re shutting out everything, concentration where you can concentrate to be completely open and forget yourself and just hear the sounds of the world and the smells and just take it in. So there’s there’s a meditation that’s opening and a meditation it’s focusing. And both of these skills need to be developed. And the both of them are very necessary in life. So people drop out a lot of times in common practice and you know I’ve been Remus Rosies one time scolded me, he goes, you know he said we just flew from Salt Lake to Paris, stop at Kennedy. How many, how many hours we’ve been on the plane? 10 hours, something like that. He goes, You haven’t asked me about you haven’t done one of your corns on me. I’m like, Oh, you’re right. You know, he goes, You know, you’re going to get through this thing or not. You know, it’s like, okay, yeah, yeah. So but he can also say, you know, I don’t care if you do cause I just want you to be live a good life, you know? So he’s very and he in the same way like Zen masters are known for I think is they just pull the rug out from underneath you all the time because that’s really what the world is doing all the time. Yeah, we want to have everything stay the same. One thing I forgot to mention about Cohen’s is Cohen’s are not only just a way to help people wake up to different principles or aspects of themselves, but they’re also and I forget to mention they’re also very much teaching how to teach. There’s a whole aspect of that, that in the later Cohen’s he started to get into that is because you put yourself in the more elaborate ones where there’s like a little bit of a conversation between student master. You put yourself in both positions, as you know, okay, I’m the master and I’m saying this to him. Why am I saying this? And why? Why did I answer this way when he answered this and this? And then you put yourself in the position of the student, I’m feeling this. I’m not at up about this issue. And why did the teacher say this to me and what am I supposed to get from it? So you have to look at this. Cohen’s from all these different directions and the purpose of it is to is to also teach teaching methods to people. So that’s why you have to do the Cohen’s become a sense in our thing. So the first third of it maybe is all about discovering your own thing and, you know, getting your inner developing humility and developing your ears. And I, you know, your Dharma, I, that kind of thing and seeing the nature of reality. But then after that, it’s all about how, how are you how to teach that. And so that’s why the Cohen’s get a lot more complex later on. So but by that point, you’re you’re already pretty thoroughly grounded in, you know, your own awakening and all this principles around it and refinement. And, you know, since since all all of it is skillful means. As a teacher, you want to know every skillful means you can find. And so the Cohen’s take on a different interest at that point is like, Oh, I see why, you know, so an example is Joshua’s out in the field and they’re cutting they’re cutting flax, you know, for harvest. And this monk comes along and he said to Joshua, you know, what is the what is the Buddha, Dharma or something? You know, some question like that and Joe, she goes, It’s £3 of flax. And they’re like, What? And but he’s pointing to several different things here. For one, he’s trying it. Joshua with that student is trying to say the actual reality before you is the only reality. And all of it is the Buddha Dharma. Okay, it’s all one thing. And so I’m showing you this flax as an example. He could have he could have held up his shovel. He could have pointed at the guy’s hat, you know, because it’s all one thing. So the what the monk was asking about is their separation in a way that’s like the same question with mood. Does the dog have Buddha nature? Well, the dog is Buddha nature. He didn’t dog didn’t have Buddha nature dog is Buddha nature and so are you. And you know, so, you know, get off this thing that they’re separation because they’re trying to get to the absolute where there is no separation. And same with the £3 of flax or the same question comes to him, you know, what is enlightenment? He says the oak tree in the garden. Well, that’s true, because there’s nothing other than this world. And even if there were millions of other worlds, forget about those because we’re in this one. Yeah, yeah. I get another day or two to practice.
When I showed up in 2003, in March, you know, I had basically cut all my ties and in some way, you know, they call it Leaving Home. And I did. And I was very much going to go 100%, but I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but I was going to find out. So when I got there, you know, I was I was a new person and a lay person, and I hadn’t taken any refuge or anything like that. And I just wanted to fit in and follow the schedule. And they had a very tight schedule. You know, get up early in the morning, meditate, have breakfast, clean the place, meditate some or have lunch, clean the place. You know, this this routine. And till 10:00 at night, you know, and in monastic setting, that’s pretty much all they do. They eat and meditate and clean. And and it was nice. And, you know, I liked the routine. And I fell into the routine and and I remember one. And so this was my first couple of years. Right. And and and even during, you know, they had a lot of retreats which were kind of even more of the same. Even between the retreats, the schedule was pretty tight. We had time to, you know, go do whatever. But I remember talking to there was a very influential person there, 10-K Roshi now who has got a Zen center in Holland, in the Netherlands, and he was just I don’t know, he kind of took me under his wing because Gamba Roshi at that time was, you know, only the monks got to really talk to him and they were all working on koans and it was very intense. And so TennCare Roshi was kind of the person that took in the new people and, you know, answer the questions and and he invited me up to his room and he poured a little glass of whiskey. And it one time when I was like, wow, he drink whiskey, you know? And I, I’ve never been much of a drinker, but, you know, I had some and he was very down to earth guy and but very accomplished practitioner and, you know, so that was really a great moment for me. And I and I just said, oh, I said, you know, my knees are killing me. You know, I played basketball for a long, long time and I never injured my knees, but kind of wore them down and, and I, I can’t sit in lotus position or I couldn’t. And so I sat in a scissor, which is this way on your knees like a geisha girl kind of. And, and he says, Well, you don’t have to do that. So sit in a chair and like sitting in a chair because you had just bring a chair and sit it on the cushion and, you know, meditate that way. And I’m like, Oh, okay. You know, and and so it was very accommodating. Well, of course, as soon as you set your chair down there and you realize you’re the only one in the chair in the zendo, or maybe there’s one other or some an older lady or something, you know, it’s like, oh, you know, this kind of peer pressure to like sit on the cushion and suffer, you know? But, you know, this kind of thing loosened up in it and actually says it turned out to be a really great position for me, really? Because I could sit very, very much upright and relax and be in alignment and immediately helped my meditation. I could settle very much, much more quickly. And so that was a big breakthrough for me. So after the first year or so, you know, I’m just kind of like trying to fit in and some people from the neighborhood sort of show up a little bit more. And I took a little bit more of a role. I started learning the forms, which is and they to everybody take turns. But you learn how to do the bells in the services and hit them a cougar, which is a wooden drum and the big bell and, you know, all the little forms and things. And so then I started once I learned that I didn’t feel so awkward and clumsy and curse among her on the ropes. And I would just I had like, black sweats on, you know, all the time. And and I kind of am I put my practice particularly since I started sitting says and I started all of a sudden I realized, oh, I’m going much deeper here than I ever did, sitting at home. And, you know, and it’s like, wow, this is really great. And then at then I, I really felt this, okay, I’m going to go further. So I asked to received your chi, which is like is refuge, uh, Tibetan tradition and actually took refuge in Tibetan tradition too. My name is Jimmy Lawson and uh, and which is very different from the Zen way, but also beautiful. Uh, so I asked to receive Duke Chi and to do that you have to. So a small thing called a Rock Sioux, which is a representation of the Buddhist robe and roshi signs it and writes a poem on the back and you get your name. And boy, did that boost my ego. Okay, this is interesting because these are the traps you fall into when you get into a practice like this, because there’s definitely you perceive a hierarchy. You want to climb that hierarchy, you feel like you’re going deeper, but you also want to climb higher and you want to have a more important position. You know, you want to okay, I want to be the you know, I want to be the one that does the drum. I want to do, you know, and everybody had these positions. There are people who took care of the altar and and one thing Roshi has always taught from my Izumi Roshi days that Roshi taught him, he said, swallow the whole fish and then spit out the bones later. And he would explain that. It’s like, if you’re going to come in here, you’re going to learn everything exactly the way my zero she taught me and you. And you should swallow this whole fish. And then if you don’t like it once you’re on your own and your sensei change it whenever you want. And this in this way, this forms in it. Listen, sorrows and are passed down as a as a container, as a framework for practice and a lot of people to kind of reject that. You know, Americans don’t like to conform that way. And I had a little bit of that myself, but I took it to heart and I thought, okay, I’m going to swallow the whole fish, you know, as long as I’m guaranteed dick and spit the bones out later. So, uh, so I learned it all. And so after another year, so, and by this time I started calling study. So I had a little more contact with Temple Roshi and you know, there’s 750 some colons we have to go through with the teacher to become a sensei. And, you know, so I started knocking them off and then it takes time and especially early on, you can be on a con for weeks, you know, and you come in and you present your card and they say, Sorry, come back next time. Now is there anything else you want to talk about which is great, which was not this is something that the Emperor Roshi would do, that the Japanese people would they would just ring the bell in your out. They wouldn’t want to ask you about anything, you know, as much as far as I know. But so so then I, I asked if I could become a monk and they said, you go first. He said, Yeah, I’d be really happy for you to be that. Which is very a nice thing to hear that the teacher would be happy for you to do something. You know, you want the teacher to love you, right? It’s a trap. But yeah. So, uh, now you have the sort of the big robe. Oh, my gosh. You know, this is. And around about this time there was a I sensei there also there were several Sensei, sir, and one was Daniel Silberberg doing sensei. We call him Darling Roshi. Now he’s in San Francisco, has a group out there. He was also a great guy. He had studied under Dita Roshi at Zen Mountain Center in New York for a long time. And but he also knew Emperor Roshi and Izumi Roshi and he came out to help. Well, he had been running the administration and he and I got along and he was a character, you know, would start generation guy musician also. So we we really hit it off. So he started, you know, he found out that he had some small business experience and he said, you know, I’d like to get a little more involved. And and I started I realized I didn’t even have a database of anybody here. So I said, well, let me start there. And so I built the FileMaker database and all this stuff. And anyway, I got more and more into that. And then he it was time for him to leave. And so then that was so I had been a monk for well, let’s say two times originally. So this is in mid 2005. And so I was a monk in 2005 and Gephardt Roshi asked me, he said, Will you take on these duties? Will you be our administrative monk? You know? And I said, Yeah, and I and so we worked it out and and I said, Gosh, you know, thanks for trusting me to do this. He goes, I trust you to be who you are. And I was like, The hell does that mean he says, I trust you to be you? That’s exactly what he said, not who you are. And I thought, Well, who am I? You know, and what does he mean? And this was a Cohen that he had given me. Right. So there’s lots of other cons besides the coins and the books. And these are what they call, again, Joe coins or life. Cause it’s like, yeah, who am I going to be here? And, you know, how much is my ego attached to this position now? Because I’ve been sort of climbing this little hierarchical ladder, you know, big fish in a very small part. And so it took me back a little. And but from that point forward, I mean, I was with them all the time. I traveled with them. I was kind of his assistant. And and that’s when my practice went up another level because I then saw him not in this formal role of monk and teacher doing koans, you know, doing the administrative stuff. But all of a sudden I was introduced to his normal American California guy side and his flaws and my flaws and our flaws and our relationship and just how it’s not so clear and tidy this life. And it was a monastery as well. And I realized how competitive everybody still was and competitive between San Francisco and L.A. and between, you know, died over Roshi and, you know, I mean and territorial it’s crazy, you know, but it’s real. And so you have to not ignore it. You have to, like, navigate it. So in a way, it was a little bit of a down period for me because not only because of my other duties, it took me out of the zendo a little more and into the office and traveling with Roshi as well, and setting these seminars and interviews and all these things that were going on. You know, it took me out of the monastery and back in the world a little bit and especially, you know, I but I took him down off his pedestal course that I had put him on. And and it was it was it is really interesting, but it very, very good because it made me get more real in a way, because, you know, your first two years as a new person or something and just about anything, a company, whatever, you’re just kind of like trying to take it all in and trying to suck up to people and trying to find a place to fit in and trying to show how worthy you are to be there. And these are all ego trips, you know? And so to be able to kind of look at that and see that and morph into something that wasn’t as comfortable, right, of having to deal with day to day problems and problems that we had with students and problems that we had, you know, just running a business trying to make ends meet took me back to familiar ground in a way, because I had been in business, but also took me out of this sort of comfort zone and this sort of bubble that I had built around myself of the practice and how cool it was to have my robes on and be a monk, you know? And so it was, you know, its ups and downs. So, so for a couple of years, you know, I just I mean, I worked really hard at it. I was still really very dedicated to everything I was doing. And I worked really hard at it, doing my best and, and talk to Rosemary about it all the time. Talked to the other teachers, kept my practice going and, and there was a maturing that happened and, and this maturing carried through until I finally realized that it was time for me to step aside and let the next person come and that I was taking up. I could see that I was taking up too much space in a way, you know, and not. And I think there’s an interesting thing, you know, when you become CEO, your next job is out right. And I and I remember that from, I don’t know, Tony Robbins or, you know, some business thing and a book I read and I thought, okay, you know, you have to do this gracefully. And you not only did gracefully, you have to you have to nurture the next. And it really gave me a lesson in this idea of Dharma succession and how that works everywhere in life and how you can’t you have to work hard and you have to you have to always be looking for a successor. You know, you always have to look for who’s the next person that’s going to carry this on for everyone. And I can go, you know, be a an elder statesman or something, you know, whatever. So I cherish my time there and it’s made my life really good.
About the lineage and not just the Zen lineage, but, you know, the Tibetan lineage, you know, Theravada lineages. All these lineages is such a critical part of the whole thing because we’re trying to pass along something that is not a book learning kind of thing. As I say, it’s a transmission outside the scriptures, outside words and letters. It’s a mind to mind thing. Now, it’s not like the teacher has laser eyes and, you know, zaps you with this, you know, Dharma understanding. It’s more that the teacher has worked with you and brought you along to the point where you do see this basic principle of of that we talked about, you know, emptiness and karma, you know, and all these basic principles that you both see them the same way you understand the fundamental Buddha dharma in the same way. So the teacher, because of that and because of the importance of that and because each teacher has been through that, their prime directive, you might say, in Star Trek terms, is to find successors. Okay, fine successor. Who’s going to step up? Who’s going to you know, who can I get to? Who can I who can I pass this along to? You know, I’ve got, like this burning thing in my hand here, you know, because it has to carry on. You just feel that so strongly. It’s like I share that sense of urgency. And particularly as the teachers get older, they’re like, if they haven’t produced a couple of good successors, you know, they feel they failed. So how that translates is, here’s my Jimmy Roshi and in Los Angeles in center. And he first came there to work with the the local abbot for the Japanese population that was there. And then all these hippies started showing up, you know, in the seventies and the Japanese sangha was like, We don’t want these people here. This, you know, this is our practice, you know, and and so they finally split it off the Sotos and people said, okay, and I don’t know if they appointed him or assigned him or he volunteered or whatever. But it turned out Jimi Roshi was to take the hippies and the other priests were going to take the Japanese population. Okay. So, Deborah, she shows up here and my zoom hero, she’s like in his mind, he’s probably thinking this is a demotion, right? I’ve been put in charge of this kind of temple, be for these scruffy looking people who are on drugs and who are have all these airy fairy notions and new agey is for new age, right? They have all these notions about everything who just think it’s cruel to come here and, you know, Eastern religion. Right. And so he having been trained in a strict sort of style that well, I get to rely on that. I’m going to make him swallow the whole I’m going to make them do that. If they’re going to be here, they’re going to learn all this. They’re going to learn how to light the incense and the candles and, you know, organize and clean and, you know, everything. And at least I have some kind of thing. And then I’ll start to see who is really in the Zen and who isn’t. Because if he if in his mind, if you can’t conform to the form, then you’re not going to make it anyway because you’re not, you know, have enough humility or you don’t have the drive. So he enforced that. And, you know, they had like 150 people. I mean, they had an apartment building next door and two or three houses. They own that whole block there. And in Los Angeles still there. And it was crazy. So people started stepping up. Bernie Glassman was for his first successor, Temple Roshi, and then died or Roshi. And there were others, you know, who were young monks and almost all of them now, John Chozen Bays up in Oregon, they’re all overseas. And where, you know, while and you know, these were the ones who would swallow the whole fish and did have a drive to awaken. So he brought them along. So he instilled that in temporary work and process the same way. But now he’s faced with a homeless situation. It’s not the seventies, it’s now. All of a sudden it’s you know, he’s a sensei and it’s the eighties and and my zero, she basically kicks him out and really kicks him out. But he said, you know, you need to spread this, you know, to the rest of the America and to Europe. And so they made a couple of trips together, just put together kind of a little speaking tour around the US and into Europe. And you know, there were some Zen here and there and they would advertise and people would show up and they slowly developed the Sangha and Hiroshi would go every once in a while, but mostly Temple Russian, because it was young and fuller would go around and do this. And he developed quite a following because he is he did not only know the forms which gave him credibility, he had the title, you know, the credentials. Um, he was also very good. He had a, you know, he had an education degree from USC and, you know, that could teach some people who are very weak and really don’t know how to teach either. So he’s on this mission and he starts getting a following and one thing leads to another. But his quest, the whole time, he got to a point where he felt like and I know this from him, it’s like, you know, the forms are getting in the way a little bit. And I feel the need to not teach in the exact same way that my Zuma Roshi taught that I want to be a little warmer. My Zuni Roshi was very rigid in a way. Interesting guy. So he, you know, so he formed a monastery in Bar Harbor, Michigan, in Ann Arbor. Bar Harbor, Maine. And they got all these monks together and stuff. And then they got offered this houses here and Salt Lake for a donor or two houses side by side. You know, nice part of town downtown on the same street as the Mormon Temple, South Temple Street. We always say we’re the other temple on the street. So a lot of these people came there and they started building it there. And he said, you know, after a while, I just because, you know, underneath it all, I’m like, who’s going to step up? Who’s going to take over? Who’s going to be my successors, you know? And he had a few promising students and there were some cultural differences because some were Europeans language differences. And and then he had all these Americans that he wanted to reach. And, you know, he’s a California guy, so he talks like that. You know, and so this sort of pipeline of the transmission puts this urge in every teacher to who’s the next one, the hook on the pipe, you know, and in a very much, you know, altruistic, I mean, in a very dedicated, wonderful way. And so, like I say, when I got there, when I first started going there in 96, it was still the monastery. But Kemper Roshi himself had shifted a little and was more casual. And and I remember I showed up there one time and yeah, the thing about temples is, you know, when a newcomer shows up, one of the people around takes you straight to the master. Right? That’s just like protocol. So this woman says, oh, are you a second person? Or go, Well, I just want to check out the Zen Center will come and meet him. You know, I’m like, okay. So I come into this house and all the Victorian house and here he comes down the stairs with a pair of sweat pants on a no shirt and he’s pretty buff, you know, he was like a, you know, champion swimmer at USC and and water polo player and stuff. And I’m like and I was in good shape at the time, too, because I was I play a lot of basketball and ran and rode bikes. And so so I was like, Oh, there’s this guy, you know? And he’s like, so he comes up and he goes, So what’s up? I go, Well, I just wanted to check out what you’re doing here, you know? Yes. Oh, come on. Because he shows me around the house, takes me up anyway, because he has a story set and, you know, this is this. And, you know, and as I go through some of these rooms, there’s altars kind of set up here in there. And I started seeing the pictures of my Zunyi Roshi and and Emperor Roshi and his robes and stuff. And I’m going, okay, threw me off again a little bit, but so when I got there in 2003, he had become much more comfortable just being a regular guy and not being formal all the time. And he was resistance from the monks that he had so strictly put in the forms that they started dropping off and going back to Europe or finding another teacher. Because and this was a big split in the the White Plum Sangha, which is the white plum is the lineage from the Los Angeles Center, big organization, now very Victorian and many of them are just like, if you’re not doing it the way my Roshi, if you’re not doing it the way the fish that useful was, it’s not Zen and she’s like, No, I’ve had my way. I know I have to, you know, I’m going to do it my way and all through the lineage. That’s all they did was do it their own way, you know, I mean, from Bodhidharma on down, you know, or even the Buddha on down, it changed tremendously because it’s not a thing, because it’s all skillful means. And so each teacher with this drive to find a successor is going to try everything they possibly can. And so one teacher just slaps the students, one teacher pours water on them. One of them is just very gentle and vows to the student all the time. You know, one of them makes them do corns. One of them sit all the time. You know, one of them writes this search, one of them writes it, and this one’s full of flowers and gods, and this one’s not, you know, uh, and so it’s, it’s been completely different. The finger pointing at the moon has zillion iterations. And so, again, she was like, I’m an American. I did swallow whole fish. I’m going to keep the forms, but I’m also going to open it up to the community. And so he started doing this Tuesday night, introduction to Zen classes and he get up there and he’s got jeans and a black T-shirt on and he’s sitting in the teacher’s seat and people start showing up from kids from the university and people the neighborhood. And these Tuesday night introduction is in class. He just sat there and talk like I’m talking, you know, you get a question, you know, this or that or tell a story, whatever. And all of a sudden we’re like packing 180 people into a place and fire reading was like 130. Right? And we even set up a TV downstairs, we put a camera in so we could use another room with a TV in it so people could come in there. And he was just a regular guy up there talking like, kind of like I am. But, um, so we’re like, whoa, this is interesting, you know? And he’s like, Yeah, dude, should I. Should I be here with 30 monks or should I be? We’re here with 180 people that are seekers, you know, screw the monks. The ones that want to stay can stay and help out or some can go do whatever they want. So it really shifted 2000. It really started shifting, I think probably 1998 or 99. But it but from the time I was there, it it really flipped to the point where we were thinking, okay, we wish we should willing to buy another building, you know, to fit all these people. And, you know, is there another room and one of the houses we can put another TV in and run a cable over to so we can fill that room for. And then all of a sudden, the saga took on a life of its own in a way like people were saying, Hey, can we organize a youth group? And what about a kids class? And a bunch of ladies got together and go, Hey, we want to have a a group that makes peanut butter sandwiches and takes it down to the to the homeless, you know, and all these things that are just flowering. And in the meantime, we’re like installing cameras and we’re recording everything. And I’ve got a room in the basement where I’ve got guys on Final Cut, you know, and all these the best Mac computers I could find at the time. And it took, you know, to two days to render an hour long. Right. You know, this. But we were recording everything and we were putting out DVDs and I got a website up and the audio and and now there’s all of a sudden there’s demand. The word’s getting around, you know, so it’s like, okay, is that Zen doesn’t look like Zen. It looks like maybe Plato sitting sitting around a bunch of people, you know, discussing well. And but a lot of those people said, gee, I, you know, I am interested in learning this side of it or the forums or whatever. Some of them would say, I just want to be in a community. Some of them I just want to settle down, you know, uh, want to find out about myself. So we just took it on is like, this is all Zen, and we’re going to do it over again. And, and for Roshi, it was like some of these students turned out to be really promising students and some are now teachers. And as far as my own situation, I haven’t finished the current system because I’m lazy as I don’t know what it is. I just, you know, I’ve done 100 or so more, more than that actually. But and I asked Roshi, you know, like four or five years ago, I get my wife’s and and they they belong to a women’s charitable organization that that raises money to help other women go to college, young women go to college, scholarship funds and things. It’s a nationwide organization. And my wife’s a part of it. And, you know, we got to know I got to know some of those ladies and they were kind of interested in Buddhism. And so I said, Well, why don’t we get together? And her aunt, who lives over in Draper said, Yeah, come and sit around on my porch or in my living room. And so I started this class with like these five or six women that were all like 70, right? And I thought, well, whatever I’m going to if someone asks me to teach, I will teach. And, uh, so it went really well and it’s still going to this day. And now I have a, I do every Monday night on Zoom because I do switch, uh, and I will get 20 or 25 people, you know, and so you ask for Roshi, you know, after I was in it for about a year, I call them up and I said, I said, Hey, I got this sitting group, kind of a teaching group going. I said, Are you okay with me doing this? Because, yeah, I can do it. Go, go for it. You know, I said, okay, you guys remember you got to finish your course. I’m like, Yeah, yeah. Okay. And he says, But go teach, go teach. I want you to teach. You’re going to be a really good teacher. Okay, great. Thanks. So I thought, okay, I’ll keep it going. And then, you know, one person led to another where five people drop out and come in. But yeah, so, you know, I don’t have I’m a monk and I’ve got stamps and papers to prove it and everything. So that’s I have that credential anyway and I’m working on my coins. But, but I found that I am looking for a successor now. I actually there’s a couple people, one woman and one guy, and I’m like, Yeah, they got potential, you know, cause so I’m just like, don’t get it at all. They really don’t. And it’s fine. And I do what I can, you know, only I don’t push them too hard. But the couple of these people they like come with it with questions that I know they’ve been working on themselves. That’s kind of the key. It’s like they have the body mind. So, so, you know, maybe one day I’ll be a sensei, but in the meantime, I’ll do what I’m doing. And, and and then last March, University called me and he said, we said, I need some help in there. You know, my organization, which is not a big organization anymore, I mean, there’s a lot of people, but there’s not we don’t have a building. We have like a little office and I work from home, he says. But I need help getting that together. And and, uh, can you come back and do some of the same things? And I said, Yeah, part time, you know, and I want X amount per hour. And he’s like, Fine, okay. And so I’ve been doing that for about a year, and so I’ve been back just bringing our administrative staff up to speed in their database and they’re updating, streamlining some systems and updating website and stuff like that and email system, stuff like that. So I enjoy that role and but I really enjoy the teaching too.
I think the first thing we have to remember is that particularly when we first come into practice, we come in with so many preconceived notions about the practice and about everything, about how everybody should be and how everybody should see me and and that’s been built up over, you know, I mean, a lot of people don’t start this practice, myself included, until they’re 35, 40 years old. And later. And so, you know, you there’s a huge long history of deeply rooted patterns and are conditioned and are the strategies and tactics that we’ve developed over the years to make it. And these things are not easy to dislodge and not necessarily all of them need to be dislodged, but they need to be seen for what they are and then make that judgment. GAMBHIR Or she would say from time to time he goes, You know, when you’re a baby or a baby and you’ve got a lot to learn. And he says, when you enter this practice, you’re a baby in the practice. And when you become a monk, you’re a baby monk and you have to mature. And when you become a sensei, you’re a baby sensei and you have to mature and we become a roshi. And he said, All through your life it’s baby, baby, baby, baby. And you need to understand that something that feels like an accomplishment is actually a death in a birth. And of your self, your understanding, your awakening. Okay? And maintain that humility and that beginner’s mind. Um, easier said than done. We all have pride. And pride is not, you know, none of these things that we have or pride or egos are the purpose of Zen or Buddhism, in my mind, is not to get rid of those things, but is to see them for what they are. And and you can only kind of do that from the absolute perspective. And so this is why the emphasis early on is always, you know, get to the absolute, you know, have this glimpse or this, you know, whatever you can be in that space where you can look back and see like overlook it as far you hear the cries of the world and you see that your suffering is due to all these things that you developed in the relative world to make it. It doesn’t mean that they should be gone forever. It just means that you need to see them, that they’re constructed, that they’re impermanent, that they’re not necessarily having good karmic consequences. And you see it in yourself and you see it in the entire world of sentient beings. Life and death is it’s a it’s tough. And we can make it worse. We can amplify things out of proportion. So the idea is not to escape from that, but to see it from this other perspective. And then take it back on with this new perspective and this new knowledge, understanding that there’s you you do have complete freedom. You have utter and complete freedom. You just don’t feel like it, you know, because you’ve walled yourself in in so many ways in order to compete and to survive. And so it’s tricky. So there’s this back and forth aspect of maturing in practice. So when you start to do that and when you have these glimpses and you start to see yourself and you see others, you suddenly see the teacher differently too, because you all of a sudden have taken the teacher from this pedestal that you might have put them on, and you see that they’re human and that they have their flaws, and then they have their conditioning and their strategies and tactics and for better or worse, that make life better for them. And the people around them are not, and that it’s not black and white. And you have compassion for that. And compassion is a very important, maybe the most important part of this practice and not the kind of compassion where I just want to donate for this or that, you know, and be proud of my donation. But this compassion that comes from seeing that they are you and you are them, it’s a one year. We are one in a very real way, not just in a mystical kind of way or in a conceptual way, but in actual truth and when you put yourself aside, it doesn’t disappear. It’s just that it kind of the self becomes a bit of an object that you can you can see and you see that we all share the same things and that’s all we’re all creating this world of Duke, you know, and samsara. And so only then can you actually even start to see how can I how can I make this better? You know, how can my compassion, how can I express an act in the world in a way that’s better knowing that I’m like a I’m like a bird who’s who’s trying to put out a forest fire by getting a bag full of water and. Right. It’s an old story. The bird flies back and forth, back and forth, one drop at a time, and the fire is burning and the bird finally dies. Doing it right. And and yet what else can we do? What else is there to do? So this is the body of our. But in relationship to your teacher, this is a very personal relationship. Sometimes more more intimate than any other relationship you’ll have. Not intimate in a sexual way, but. But intimate just like this honesty. And ultimately it’s so intimate that there’s a transmission of mind to mind where you both see the same things the same way. Not that you both have the same opinions about everything, but you both understand the world the same way that it’s connected, that it’s all karma, that it’s all one, that it’s empty of meaning, which is a tough one for people to get. That meaning is what we ascribe to the world. We anthropomorphize whatever is hard won for people. Sometimes they resist even going there, but it’s essential to understanding your freedom. So with Roshi, you know, by now, after a few years of me being with them all the time, doing commands with him, him tearing me a new one once in a while, me lighting into him once in a while, having disagreements over what’s our direction? Should we change our logo on the website? You know, should this person be allowed to come or not just, you know, all these different things, you know, and and you quickly find that your your old patterning, you know, pops up right away. Even though he and I have a very clear understanding of the nature of the world together, that it still comes back to living in the world. And, you know, you start to go, well, I think this would be a better way to go. And I think that would be a better way. Oh, and we make mistakes. You know, we’re not I mean, we just flat out make mistakes. And mistakes can be forgivable, but sometimes it can be devastating for the parties involved. We try to resist doing things on purpose that, you know, we cheat or we lie or we do things like that. But, you know, we’re also subject to these powerful drives of ambition and sexuality and status and, you know, all the things that were subject to and I think only only when you so all the teachers in the world, you know, are they through these five stage of the chosen five ranks is very important doctrine in this way of from the relative to the absolute to the relative, the absolute, the relative, the, you know, until it’s so thoroughly blended that I think only a teacher at that level can you maybe expect to actually behave in a, I don’t know, perfect way. I don’t know if you can even say perfect, right. And so, you know, 90% of the teachers even that receive transmission or maybe here, here, here, you know, and are going to still be subject to this kind of thing. And it’s not bad. There’s still can be brilliant teachers, but they’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to they’re going to fall victim to their own drives once in a while, particularly. I mean, the great story of this is the Buddha himself. He sees the morning star. You know, but and then Mothra shows up, you know, he brings all these women to embrace all this fortune and fame and tempts him with all these things, just like Jesus, you know, in the desert with the devil, you know, temptation, temptation, temptation. Stroking the ego, you know, can I knock you off of this? This spot of equanimity the Buddha is able to do it is the Earth is my witness. So. So can we do this and can we can we continue to work? Can we not can’t somebody you know, can we not throw out the baby with the bathwater? Can we forgive? Can we have mercy? Can we continue to build tough else? Should we do so? We’re very you know, we’re very quick to condemn people who don’t measure up to our standards. You know, Jesus said the same thing. You know, it is very difficult. Very difficult. And yet, you know, there sometimes are benefits. I think, like I say, when the Zen Center here kind of blew up, you know, and scattered, you know, explosion scatters fragments of some of those fragments started to grow. And I think the same thing about when the Chinese rolled into Tibet, what we know, what we know about Tibetan culture and about the Buddha dharma, had that not happened and it spread it all over the world in one huge blast away.
And I’d always been interested in sort of religious things or the bigger questions, I guess. So, you know, it wasn’t that was probably let me think that was probably around 1964. And, you know, a lot of things were happening in that time and I got swept up in all that. And you know, started smoking pot and and going to concerts and, you know, wanted to be a hippie. And my dad was a Navy officer, so I couldn’t grow my hair long. But but at that point, I, you know, after I graduated from high school in 1969, I basically dove into my job and getting ahead and, you know, all those kind of things. I skipped college. I worked since I was a young and every job I could find. And I thought like, I’m fine, you know? And so I went along like that for a long time, had a good career actually, a professional musician during my twenties. And then I the you know, and I was on the road for six years, one time, basically all the time playing nightclubs, rock and roll. And I got back from a lot of that and I had the exact same amount of money as when I left, had a lot of good experiences and crazy experiences. But, you know, I thought, well, I got to get serious. And so I got a job working in industry, in the paint industry actually, and just dove into that and did well and bought a house. And I never got married, but I fell in to a crowd kind of in my neighborhood that was also very much motivated for, uh, accomplishment and money and, and status and that kind of thing. And after and it was fun for a long time, but after a number of years, it was just like, I just, this isn’t doing it for me. And I started thinking probably in the late eighties about, you know, what are these? Bigger questions started coming back to me and I kind of remembered and I, you know, I still have the go hands. And to this day that I got, you know, when I was 14. So I, I would pull that out once in a while and look at it. And then I started thinking, okay, so I started looking into different things and there wasn’t a lot available in Washington or in Seattle at that time. I would go to bookstores and actually the first book a guy recommended to me was, um, Sex, Spirituality and Ecology by Ken Wilber.
And it’s a thick, rough going read, right? But I dove into it and it just kind of really opened me up and I thought, okay, I’m going to go further. And I started reading other stuff of his and of course he talks about Buddhism and the relative and the absolute and, you know, these kind of things in there. And one thing led to another. I picked up a book by showing him Trungpa, uh, spiritual materialism, I think it was. And I read two or three of his others, uh, and then I found a book by Sylvia and became the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and which is written in even more plain English than Trump was even. And uh, in the back of the book, you know, you can contact and find out where there are groups to study this. And so I did, and I, I joined one group, a Tibetan group, and then there was a Tibetan temple in town. And I started going there and you know, this and that. Well, at the time, you know, I still have my job. And I was traveling around the West Coast a lot. And everywhere I went, I visited Tibetan Center, Zen Center, you know, you know, Hindu centers, whatever, and just looking and looking. And then finally in 1996, I happened to be in Salt Lake City and I ran across the and Zen Center here, and which was led by General Roshi. And I. I walked in the door and it was full on monastery at the time. There was about 30 monks there, a good portion were from Europe because he had traveled a lot in Europe teaching the Dharma and people came to him here and they’re all in their robes and everything was very sort of severe Zen style and you know, they had their own kind of lingo. But I thought, wow, this is kind of the real deal. And I decided to come start coming for retreats, which I did kind of every year on my vacation and sometimes twice and in in right after 911, actually, which is kind of a traumatic experience for all of us. I really started questioning at the time. Then I own my own business with a partner, uh, industrial machinery, conveyors and the like. And I just was like sitting there watching CNN for six months after that, uh, 2001 thing. I just thought, you know, I got to change everything. And so I rented out my house and I paid off, you know, the debt that I had, which wasn’t much. I sold my company. I was set for a while. I thought, I’m going to go down to Salt Lake City and I’m going to live there in the monastery for a year. I thought, I’m going to do it for a year and see what I think and see if I really like it or not. Well, I ended up being there for seven years and I really dove into Zen. And it was interesting for me too, because I was always kind of comparing my Tibetan teachings and things back and forth, and I was starting to see the parallels and also see the differences. And one thing that that came apparent to me too, during that sort of comparison, because I had done Tibetan practice for three or four years and was that the outward appearance was I was just on top of it all, on top of the teachings, on top of the fundamentals. And and as I was there at the Zen Center, GAPPER Roshi two, who had come from Los Angeles and Center, was the second successor of my Izumi Roshi. There was also in this mode of bringing it more into L.A. practices, really, because it was all monks there at the time. And the the Zen Center was located in a very much a neighborhood. And like all churches, they sort of served the neighborhood. And a lot of people from the neighborhood were kind of wanting to come and see. And so it kind of morphed during that time from a monastery to kind of monastery, community center, lay practice, monk practice. And it was very interesting time and I was very much supportive of that and helped to make that happen in every way I could. I became executive director there for the last five years that I was there, and then I left in 2010 because at that point I had, you know, I mean, we meditated for 5 hours a day and studied and traveled and taught. And I was with Gabor Rossi all the time traveling and teaching and watching him teach. And, you know, and there were others who were coming up, you know, through the organization. And I thought, well, it’s time for me to step aside and carry on. And and of course, part of the motivation was I met a woman and we got married and we’re in my house now. And I have an eight year old daughter, uh, and my mother, 96, lives with us. And so then I, I suddenly had to apply this sort of monastic training, this intensive training that I had to what am I going to do now? And that is, you know, was I living a dream in a way, then? Because I was very much attuned to how easily I could delude myself that I was doing the right thing all the time and, you know, and I dropped my Seattle connection and my business aspirations and all that. And then but then it was funny because as executive director, I felt like I’m just doing the same business stuff that I was doing before, and I’m feeling pretty good about it and excited that things are growing and I felt really good about the mission, of course, and it was not so self centered, but still, you know, I thought I need to kind of just take a break and it was about a year later actually that the the Zen Center basically dissolved because, again, Petrucci had had this sexual affair and the sangha went nuts and canceled them. And but, you know, he was very, very strong teacher and, you know, I know that we all have flaws and and that karma can catch up to us and we can get puffed up, you know, no matter where we’re at. But he’s also a very, very strong and good teacher. And he carried on. And many of his students, including myself, stayed in touch. And he went through a terrible grief period. And, you know, self, uh, introspective period and trying to think, well, you know, what did I just do? And it was really, really hard for him as well as everybody else. Probably harder on him, actually, than anybody. And in a way, when this thing blew up, uh, you know, all of us who lived here in Salt Lake, so were friends, you know, and people had different opinions about him or whatever, but we all had the same opinion that Zen was a good thing. And so little groups formed an eye for my group and some of the other people formed their groups. And we’re all friends and we all get together. Sometimes. And I’m talking, you know, probably 150 people or so here in Salt Lake. And then there were we had many, many people from Europe and around the country that used to come. And so Roshi eventually started picking up the teaching again. And and so people would still work with him and talk to him. And he was very honest and open and apologetic and all these kind of things. Um, and, you know, after a while people got over it and got back to our practice and uh, so now I’m living, you know, in L.A. situation, but I’m still involved in that organization and I still believe in the Dharma and I still believe in practice. And I and I realize clearly that it’s not a smooth path and that there are setbacks. And I’ve had mine too. And, you know, we all just keep kind of moving forward and, you know, this is where, you know, Jack, when we talked about the the three treasures, you know, the Buddha, Dharma and sangha, you know, this is where the sangha really comes into play, because if the sangha holds together and is strong, they can carry this thing until other teachers arise. And the Dharma is always there. And of course, the teachers represent the Buddha. And as are our example of a role model, you might say, uh, and, and in a way it made it even more clear that here in the West, you know, I, I mean, the statue of Buddha that I see is not my role model, you know, it’s what he discovered and what he taught. And how does that affect me? Because, uh, you know, I’m an American person and I have, uh, American sensibilities and things like that and, uh, and so what is the Dharma here? And I don’t, I have my robes, and I know how to do all the services, and I know how to light the intention, fold my rock suit and all these things. Um, and those things are still very important to me as a container for, for this practice of Zen. Um, but really it’s, it comes down to life, you know, and how am I operating in the world and what are my intentions, what are my motivations? And can I stay sort of brutally honest with myself about who I am in the world and how I show up and how I show up for my wife and my relatives, my daughter, my neighbors. Of course, we live in a very Mormon community and, um, but I don’t have any kind of, uh, you know, I’m not anti-Mormon or anti-Christian or anything like that. And, you know, but how do I contribute? Uh, and how do I deep in my practice, how do I use my, uh, awakenings in on the absolute side and see oneness and see my own oneness and emptiness and interdependence and dependance arising and all these, you know, how does this really manifest day to day? And I still have to work. We still have to make money, we still have to deal with the sickness and the family and, and conflicts that arise. Um, so that’s my practice now. It’s very much real life, and I think that’s really what the Buddha intended at the very beginning. He didn’t intend, I think, for us to all go sit on a cliff somewhere, you know, like this or climb a mountaintop, you know. Of course, climbing that mountaintop is the practice. But coming down from the mountaintop is also the practice. And coming back into the world and being being a fully functioning human being.
© 2021 Jack Huynh | Orange Photography
Annual update on progress of project.