When were you first exposed to dharma?
I didn’t know much about Buddhism prior to attending an Introductory Seminar held at the Denver Zen Center. My wife encouraged me to go, and as I had just been laid off from my job, I had “nothing better to do.” I resonated with Buddhism because of its emphasis on silent meditation. I was always attracted to silent meditation, remembering the quiet time after Communion and silent prayer in Christian traditions. The old saying, “Be quiet and you will know God.” Also, I had many unanswered questions in regard to Christian religions that no one could answer, and it seemed to me that a lot of people believed in Jesus / God, because they were more afraid of the alternative – life of eternal damnation if they didn’t. Zen offered its own unique path, with no one telling you what to believe. A path of self-discovery.
All right. My name is Dennis Sanco. And here in Denver, Colorado, I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So again, if you hear or detect a little accent, that’s where that’s coming from. I was raised in a Polish Catholic family and followed that tradition for about 18 years until I kind of got to college. And then I, you know, I had started questioning some part of Catholicism and wanted to expand my. And, yes, religious outlook. And so in college, I became a follow the Presbyterian religion and became a born again Christian. And I followed that faith. I mean, I looked at Southern Baptist. I look at some fundamental Christian religions. And I just felt, you know, the Presbyterian ism was good and appropriate. And so I was, you know, pretty much followed this Presbyterian religion for 15 years now. A little bit about me is that I am married and been married for 25 years. We just had our 25th anniversary in September. Have a 21 year old daughter. She’s gone to college at the University of San Diego. And when my wife and I were first dating some 25 years ago, we’re both here in Denver and I would have been working and was laid off, and so I had some free time and my wife, who had gone to the Zen Center, which I never heard of, she said, Well, you should come. She had been gone for like six months to a year. She said, You should come. There’s an internal seminar. It goes, you know, for a Saturday morning and a Sunday morning. So I said, Sure, why not? You know, I know up into something, you know, something. And so I went and I it’s hard to describe, but you know, I kind of resonated with it. And at the time, I think I was having I was troubled by some aspects of Christianity. And one of the aspects that troubled me was this concept of salvation and that only people that believe in Jesus would be saved and the rest of the people would just be damned forever to hell. And you know, when I gave it thought, I said, Well, you know, you’re excluding a lot of people. I mean, China, India. I mean, I know it’s half the world’s population, people in Russia, Africa, you know, sometimes they excluded Catholics, and now you’re talking all of South America, Mexico, you know, in. And I and I would question, I said, this doesn’t seem like a thing and just God would do. I mean, if I was God, I I mean, I’m not perfectly just, but I think I don’t think I would do that. So I had that issue and people would just say, No, that’s not, you know, that’s how it is. You know, God is just and true. And unless you believe in Jesus, you’re going to go to go to hell. So anyway, I started exploring Zen and again, my initial. Idea, because I didn’t know much at all about Buddhism, I never heard of it, except that my idea was that, you know, instead of Jesus and God being on a throne, you will now have Buddha on the throne. I was like, OK, so what’s what’s now Buddha going to, you know? You know, say that, you know, you’re going to go to hell unless you really believe in Buddha. But that’s not the case. I found that it was much more open, much more inclusive. It didn’t have the strict doctrine of good and evil and and everything was more fluid, and that just seemed to suit me. Now some people, I will tell you, I mean, some people because of how they were raised, because what they love black and white, this is good. This is evil. And for them, yes, I think certain religions fit, and that’s what’s important for anyone. I think when you, whenever you’re exploring any sort of religion is find what fits for you. Most people, I would venture to say the majority just follow the religion that their parents do without thought. I mean, it’s just like, Well, I was Catholic. I’m going to be Catholic. I don’t know if I believe all this stuff. I’m Presbyterian. I believe my parents are Presbyterian. I don’t know if I believe all this stuff, but so I guess it’s OK. But if you really want to follow your passion, your your desire, what resonates with you, you know, explore some other aspects and other religions. It’s it’s really not going to hurt. I was going to say that when I first also came to then the issue of God was paramount and that there were. People that would say, OK, well, again, going back to this idea, if you don’t believe in God, if you don’t believe in Jesus, you’re going to hell. And I said, Well, I’m going to take that chance. I’m going to take that chance. I’m going to take the chance. I’m going to go to hell. And people are like, Oh, well, you know, I’m like. And I would ask them, I say, Well, why do you believe in God? And it wasn’t so much that they had faith in Jesus or love for Jesus or for God, but just because they were more afraid of hell, because I don’t want to go to hell. That’s why I believe in Jesus. I like, well, again. So what you’re telling me is God needs the devil to drive people toward him. And without the devil, God would lose, what, 80% of his followers. I mean, it’s strange, but I mean, I would. I push people to really question why they believe in so heartedly in Jesus. And a lot of times the answer is because I’m afraid of going to hell. So if you can get past that, you can get past iron afraid of going to hell. And you know, then the world opens to religion, opens to you. You start seeing all religions as being very fundamentally alike. Now they differ, and it’s sometimes it can be described as a pyramid. They’re all different non here in a base, but they’re all striving for the same sort of oneness unity with God. Jesus would say a lot. You know, I am, you know, with God and God is with you and I am with you. So much, so much stuff about unity and oneness. And that’s what Zen is really about. It’s about opening yourself to everyone and to experience God within you. Now, you know, God is not in Zen. It isn’t some old man that judges people know. I mean, he’s there’s a very loving essence. In that essence is not only in people, but it’s in everything. It’s in bushes, it’s in trees. It’s a, you know, everything that that lives animals, plants. And I think intuitively, we kind of know that. I mean, so many ancient religions, you know, we’re very careful when they killed things, kill the animal. I mean, they would, you know, you say, you know, I’m sorry for having to kill you and you know, and but I need to eat and I need to do this. And that is a good fundamental religious belief to have. I mean, you know, you can’t be going around just slaughtering and killing. Just because you don’t care. I mean, it’s I know you’re connected. You’re connected to all those animals. You’re connected to all those trees. Yes, at times you may need to sacrifice and to eat something, but just be aware of that. And that’s what then I think differs. At least it, you know, it comes up more. And then in Buddhism, this whole unity comes up. I think in ancient religions, this Native Americans had a huge belief in unity and in how everything had a spirit to them. And I, yeah, I resonate with that. I mean, we as humans are not, you know, the ones that are just, you know, I don’t know. I mean, so separate because, you know, we weren’t we’re not. I mean, we’re we’re part of the whole universe and the universe is big. I was going to just mention that. You know how religion or works within people? When I was a teenager, I was raised Polish Catholic. Well, we had a tradition. When you’re 11 year old, you would you could just kind of start crawling or you could call pretty good, almost start walking. But they would put out when you were at birthday, they would put out a rosary, a shot glass and a and a gold coin. And you know, and then you were kind of let go on to see what you would crawl to. Well, I crawled to the rosary for whatever reason. No, you know, I mean, and it’s it’s so interesting because it was at some sort of reincarnation. I mean, my brother went for, you know, the I mean, he he went for the coin, which is kind of more like fame and wealth. And that’s and he. And that’s where he is. Some people go to a shot. Glass doesn’t mean that they’re going to be alcoholics, that they’re more social, they’re going to have a lot of friends that’s going to be their center. And it’s amazing to me. I haven’t done a lot of experiments, but how you know, you can’t even at the early age, find out what you resonate with. I would be home. I would be sick with a cold or something. When I was like six years old, my parents would go to church. They would come back and I would have some preacher on TV and they thought I was weird. I think, you know, instead of watching cartoons, I was listening to some strange preacher or something. But you find that I mean, whatever passions and desires you have from ages five to ten, whether it’s art, music, it’s that’s that’s that’s what you really want to do. That’s what you’re kind of born and you were you resonate with and you know, it gets covered up. I think as you go through school and there’s pressure, all the jobs are here in engineering. So I know you love, you know, be an art and free, but not be an engineer because that’s where the jobs are and you end up going there. But sometimes at 20 years later, you’re like, I don’t know, but doesn’t, you know, I don’t know if it really fits and had all that happy and kind of depressed and. But, you know, so anyway, when it all comes back, so some people, when I talk to them, to these people say, Yeah , you know, I was going to be a nun when I was in junior high or something, and they end up, you know, being the spiritual teacher or I always thought about joining a monastery, you know, I mean, it’s a gift. I think it’s a gift that you’re given when you when you came into this earth, into this life, it’s like you kind of, you know, I mean, fortune tellers, you know, they they look on your right hand and you’re in your left hand and they’re like, Well, the right hand is kind of where you’re going. The left hand is where you are meant to go. You want, you know, you kind of want that you find. I think that for your own well-being, that when you can align what your real internal goals or passions are with what your outward passions and goals are, your life just becomes better.
Yeah, well, again. All right. So let’s talk about this Zen and Christianity. A people that are raised Christian have. Misconceptions, I think, of what other religions are so like, people take yoga class and they would say a stay and bound, I go, Oh, you know, you’re you know, you’re you’re bound to some foreign God. And that is anti-Christian. And so don’t go to yoga class and like, really, you know, it’s like and don’t meditate because that’s going to that’s the devil. So it’s for some people again. I mean that that works for them. They they enjoy the black and white, the good and bad. But I think for the majority of people, the the they have trouble with such stark contrast, like abortion thoughts bring up abortion. All right. So many people are. Against abortion, because it’s killing, you know, the fetus. Yet these same people are for, you know, the death penalty. You know, I mean, and it’s like, you’re kind of, you know, I don’t know. I mean, I find that a lot of people have difficulty reconciling their personal lives with this belief is so then allows you a little bit more freedom. And what I found interesting, I say, start studying that. So what you have is you have the Buddha born 600 years before Jesus said many of the same things that Jesus said. This is 600 years before him. So did Jesus copy the Buddha? I mean, but I would say, you know, this is the way you know, follow me. I will show you, you know, the way some of the same stuff, Jesus said. Why did Jesus use those same words? You know? They would they would ask the Buddha questions like. You know, who who are you? Are you God, you know, and and and the Buddha, what an answer. He would just sit there and be quiet. Pontius Pilot goes in as Jesus. Who are you? You know, what is the truth? Jesus doesn’t say anything. When you get to a certain point, you understand that these religious teachers were expressing the same thing and were answering the question. They answer the question. Jesus raises another point. Well, you know, the Buddha also had his disciples, and he ended up teaching as disciples. Jesus had his disciples, taught his disciples and they had, you know, and they went through the world. And then they happen to go more east, they want India, you know, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, who knows, you know, maybe there was that touch and that they went to the Middle East and maybe Jesus was somewhere influenced by some of his teaching. But there’s there’s there’s like a part where as you get to know, Zen two and Buddhism that. Jesus says, OK, you have to believe in me. And they always recite it, goes to Nicodemus is one of the teachers and I think it’s John, 3:13 or John, 3:16 in that. Verses, those verses, I mean, Nicodemus comes to him, and Jesus says, yes, you must be born again. And Nicodemus said, How can I be born? How can I go back to my mother’s womb and be born again? He says, No, you must be born again. And then he throws out something which is very Zen ish. He says, You know, it’s like the wind. You hear it, but you don’t know where it’s coming from or where it is going. And that’s what he’s telling Nicodemus. And that is such that is like a zen koan. Where is that one coming from? Where is it going? You hear it. Where is it coming from? Where is it going? If you can resolve that, you will be born again. So. There’s that aspect to it. There’s that, and I can go through the whole the whole Bible. You know, Jesus ends up raising why Nazareth from the dead? Interesting that Lazarus never expounded upon what it was like to be dead, I mean, no one ever wanted to think that would be a big topic would have been recorded, but for whatever reason, he didn’t. So he didn’t talk about heaven in a palace. And, you know, wah wah wah, why did I get taken away from all that to come back to this life? But what’s interesting in that story when you read the Bible, I think the shortest verse in the New Testament is two words. It just says Jesus wept. And prior to that, Jesus talks to the father. And you could sense this great intimacy that is going on. Are. And when you become intimate with something, you know, tears flow. So it was the intimacy that caused Jesus to weep. Not that the people said, Oh, he loved Lazarus so much. And that’s why he’s crying. Take it from a Zen perspective, and you see that that intimacy being expressed. And then Lazarus comes forth. So. Yes. Can you reconcile being a Christian with Zen? You have to take a step out. I’m not going to deny that you have to, you can do it gradually, you can do it suddenly. Some people that come to Zen are easier. I come to it easier because they, you know, for whatever reason, they gave up on the old religion. And so it’s a lot easier for them to go to a new religion. That wasn’t the case for me. I had questions. I wasn’t getting the answers I wanted and never could. Which was, you know, extremely frustrating. People would just say, Well, we’ll just wait until you until you die, then all these questions are going to be answered. And at the same time, don’t ask those questions. You know, just believe, just bury those questions. Just believe and and it didn’t work for me. For others, maybe it works. But for me and others that have such questions now, don’t bury it. Come out. Try to explore, find out the answers to the question. Because as I used to tell the priest or the minister, as I said, I don’t want to wait till I die. I don’t want to wait. I have a burning. Desire to nail these answers now. And if you can’t provide them for me and no one can and the Bible can’t and in our Bible has all these different interpretations and people can pick and choose, I can like I can do it. I can pick and choose parts of the New Testament, the Old Testament. I can pick and choose and say, Yeah, look, that’s a complete book. Then, you know, in the beginning was it was the word and the word was was was God and people can go back to God. It’s kind of your way which comes of that form of mu. So beginning was mu, which is this huge, you know, opinion, eastern religion. Yes. I mean, I can pick and choose. I can. I can, you know? So yeah, there’s there’s a few more. They are similar. You just have to look and see for yourself what you want to kind to what you again. I keep coming back. It’s like what you resonate with again. Some people love black and white. I then one person told me I only believed the stuff written in red and that in the Bible. Very simple. Just believe what’s written and read. I mean, if there’s a contradiction in one part of the Bible, no one even knows how long Jesus lived. I mean, people, oh yeah, he lived three years. I go, Why? Where does it say that? Well, that’s what I was taught. What does it say that it doesn’t? I mean, it’s inferred. I mean, it’s inferred that somewhere they they think that there are three Passover meals, but that’s not written anywhere. I went to a church with my mom once in Catholic Church again when I’ve been back to visit her in Milwaukee and she goes, Oh, this is a strict Bible believing church. So we’re going here for Christmas, mass. So I wanted a Christmas mask and they had this pageantry. You know, they had, you know, Mary coming in on a donkey and Joseph and I said, Where’s her written in the Bible that Mary rode on a donkey? So it’s not written about this, a strict Bible believing church, Rosemary coming in and this is like fake donkey or something. Anyway, check it for yourself. Don’t just believe what’s told you, and that’s that’s what’s so great about Zen. Zen is about self-discovery. There’s no one telling you, Yes, this is what you must believe. And if you don’t believe it, get out. No use self discover. So if you think Jesus lived three years, if you think Mary rode on on a donkey who was who was Luke, I mean, he wasn’t a disciple. I mean, when was this Bible written? When what happened in 400 A.D., when the council met and they had a vote, whether Jesus was divine or not? And I think it was a 51 to 4049. I mean, barely the slimmest majority wanted this idea that he was divine, you know, check it out yourself. Do the research. I mean, people go to seminary schools and I think they don’t even understand this stuff. You know, Nero, who is the famous Roman emperor and the first one that became a Christian? I mean, it’s like he just became a Christian because this is on his deathbed and when to cover all his bases. He’s like, Yeah, quick, quick, quick, do something about the guy. But he lived his life as wild as ever. It didn’t, you know, change change him. So that’s all I would say. If you were so strict in your belief of Christianity, then really dig in and tell me who who the who wrote these gospels. And then you can start criticizing and saying about other religions and how they’re all not correct and how your belief is the only belief. But for everyone else that’s out there, that has questions, we open our move in and have the freedom in your own self to move and explore.
So interesting. It’s interesting that what I found again, I talked about how you resonate with a particular practice being Catholic. What I like best was you would have communion and after communion, I noticed so many people would leave because they got their sacrament in. But it was the best part about being quiet and communion or communion with God. And it was that silence that I so much enjoyed. I enjoyed the whole mass that was like my favorite part to sit there for five minutes and commune with God. And I always thought everyone else is running out because the, you know, the strict part of the law, they got the sacrament and now they have to get out of the parking lot, go home for the football game, do their chores and get on with their life. I thought they were missing the best part of the whole mass. I was in a Presbyterian religion and everyone would always, Oh I, we have to pray and we got to pray and some people very elegant and how they prayed out loud. But I always found just being quiet and silent and praying was what resonated with me. So when I came to Zen, Pat’s with his hand was it was about sitting quietly like, Oh, thank you, and I get to sit here for 25 minutes, you know, at a time and just be quiet and everyone’s quiet. No one’s talking, no one’s preaching. No one’s telling me what to believe. It’s just be quiet. For 25 minutes to walk quietly. Sit down again, be quiet. Walk quietly, sit down one more time for 25 minutes, walk quietly. And I like that. I cannot do it. I mean, mentally, I loved it physically. Oh, my pains in my knees, my legs, my ankles. I mean, I would get up and, you know, I mean, I would be numb. And at first I can only sit for like ten minutes at a at a time. But I dove into it. I would go and talk to the teacher right right away. I would go twice, three, three times a week. I mean, it’s what I really wanted. And so, yeah, physically, it was challenging, but my mind was settled. I mean, even at the beginning, I remember at the beginning, seminary took 25 years ago, this woman came in and, you know, she was talking to me. She goes, Oh yeah, you know your mind it. It’s like, it’s like this radio with all these channels and all this stuff blaring and everything going on. And I like not really. I mean, I didn’t say that, but I was like, Wow, that’s odd. So naturally, my mind was was already somewhat quiet, very quiet and in a sense, and I remember going to some of the initial interviews with the teacher and, you know, expressing what I knew as you know, this beginner’s mind. And I think, you know, I look back and I think they were, you know, 11 teacher said something like, you got really good karma. And I think what my answer is and my questions and where I was, you know, at this beginner’s mind, it was. It was, it was. It was, it was a beginner’s mind. It was there. It understood. I didn’t know how to express it, but it understood. And so again, physically, oh, pain challenging I can. I envied so much people that took yoga and could sit for, you know, such time without discomfort. I couldn’t. I still within 15 years, I mean, I still had trouble after extended sittings. I mean, I was still sore. I was tired, but my mind was always clear. And at a certain point on this journey, probably just maybe five, seven years ago. I mean, you well, all along the while you have to, you have to make the choice. You have to make the choice like I’m going to. Tough this out to a certain extent. And then I remember, like seven years ago, you know? I was actually I was I was to me, I was I was I was in while I was in India for a two week retreat and it was two weeks of silence. And it was good for me because some people have been there for weeks and we have made friends and Al knew each other and talking. I mean, I got this thing. I said, No, I don’t know anyone. I know you’re all from around the world. I’m just going to be quiet in two weeks. The silence is tremendous now and then we do one week of silent meditation, and there’s a reason for it because it forces you inward. You have no one to talk to. If I have trouble, I have to, you know, I can talk to a teacher, but I have to do. I don’t have a friend, but I can express and we can gab and gab and talk. So that was helpful. And then also, I really wanted something, and that’s a big. Any religion, you must really want something in down deep and you never. But it’s it’s something that’s given to you as as as a as a gift. So in your spiritual journey, my spiritual journey? I really felt like I’m sitting there and I’m just putting out this flares like, I’m here, universe. Here I am, here I am, and other people are, you know, they get tired and. I want to express this correctly, but it’s like there’s like brief times, and I just wanted to stay in this sacred space in this area. But other people needed, like every break time, you know, to get a drink of water, to go to the bathroom to get out. And I’m like, You can’t send out this flare to the universe and saying, I’m here, I’m here, I really desire this. But yeah, I think I’m going to. You know, a glass of water instead. So. For me that. That desire was there. That’s how deep the desire was. And that and it came to me. And I understood and and everything just opened up and it changed, you know? The pain went away of sitting because I desired it. I mean, just everything. She could use the words melted away. It’s so funny because, you know, you’re supposed to go into this area of, you know, eating, you don’t take your shoes off and had done this, you know, for like two weeks straight and and that more or less walked in with my shoes on. Was I was just somewhere else. I mean, you know, and the food and everything, everything was different. The bird, the Leaf and I, everything was one in the sunset and everything and and you come to that point, you have those experiences and and then it just and it’s and it’s something that comes to you, so you can’t go to it. It’s like this blossoming and it’s just everything breaks open. So. Then, you know, we have these Cohens and Zahn, and they had been difficult. Now I just understood them all. Like, boom, next, Cohen next. It was not that it was easy. I struggled at times, but because you can to understand certain things still and you just keep drawing in this religion. And that’s what it’s about. So how does it affect your life? When I first came to then 25 years ago? Yeah, I used to be a huge meat eater. I mean, I grew up on sausages and bacon and and at a certain point, I read about slaughterhouses like pretty soon, like six months into into Zen and how cruel this was an animal suffering. And and I, you know, I was like, Do I really need this? You know, do I need this? And I had to have my appendix removed like a year before, and they said, Oh, you know, sometimes you know, it’s what you’re eating, you know, and it’s like, they do need to change my diet. And I did. I just switched over and just became a vegetarian. I’ve been a vegetarian for 25 years. And you know, my doctor, you know? You know, not my doctor, but other people say, where do you get your protein? And, you know, after a while, I just gave up and just tell people like, I don’t get protein. I no longer get any protein because I go to my doctor and my blood pressure is great. My heart rate’s great. My cholesterol is great. I mean, it tells me I got, you know, the body or she tells me, I got the body of a 30 year old. Where does it come from internally? You know, I don’t know. But. Yeah. So do what’s good for you. So that’s how I live my life now. I live my life more open, I live more free. The truth will set you free phrase and it’s like, yes, it will set you free goodies that I’ll end suffering, he never said. Or I’ll set you free from suffering. Never said that you weren’t going to die, but you aren’t going to get ill, that you’re not going to have family members die. It is sad. You know, you’ll be free from that suffering of worrying about death of, you know, saying, What can I do now that you know, my son , daughter or parent has died? You know, accept it. See it. As for what it is?
The Zen Process
Well, with with Zen, it’s it’s a process. And when you sit and you meditate and I think that meditation itself, I don’t think it’s ever can be explained. I think somehow it stuff happens that changes you. I think again, it maybe it lowers this vibrational energy you have because you’re just quiet and still in that stillness brings openness. And from that comes, yes, comes compassion now. How does it happen like that? Does it? You know, I don’t, I don’t know. I don’t. It just happens how I don’t know in my spiritual, you know, I think I’ve always been, you know, more compassionate, you know, to begin with. So zen and gave me the freedom to to express this openly and say, there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with, you know, being compassionate to someone, you know, in the Bible and that says, Love thy neighbor. You know, like, wow, you know, I mean, with Zen, it gives you that because it tells you, Yeah, your neighbor is yourself, you know, love your neighbor because your neighbor is yourself. That’s why you love your neighbor. It’s not, you know, I’m going to do a good deed and this deed, I’m going to collect some points that when I go to heaven or somewhere, they’re going to look at the list and say, Oh, yeah, well, you know, here’s your good deeds and here you’re not so good the other way. That’s how you know and decide whether you’re in this gate or not. Oh, it’s just not how you live your life. You just want to do good deeds because that makes you feel better. And then I think has changed. Turn that perspective. It’s like, I want to do good things because it makes me feel good. I mean, a lot of people do bad things because it makes them feel good. You talk to people that are bullies. Yes, I like, you know, if you really talk to and say, I like being a I like bullying people because I am afraid for one. And number two, it makes me feel better. Everyone does things to make themselves feel better, and then through meditation opens you in and then you begin to say, OK, I’m I’m going to do what you know, it allows me to feel good about things I want to do. I again, it happens over time, but it also should resonate with you, and I think it’s true of everyone’s history, everyone has the spark inside of them, the spark. Everyone knows what’s good. Intuitively, everyone knows what’s good. But you know, people have good and evil. They want. They want this separation. They want things that is evil. You know, Hitler, and that was all evil and good is, I don’t quite know, but I good is good. Yeah, good is good. And and you know, I mean, you know, I talked to high school kids or junior high school kids. I said, you know that when you do cyber bullying or make fun of people, you know, that’s, you know, that’s not right. No one has to, you know, send you to jail or punish you. I mean, you inside, you know, it’s wrong. Maybe it makes you feel good, and that’s why you do it. But you know what’s wrong, you know? So I think Zen and just allows you just to see why you’re doing things. And through that, you know, everything kind of just flows. It’s hard to describe. It’s hard to. You know, say, oh, it was some event of some teaching, it was some chanting, it was some mantra that that did this for for me. I think it’s just you just start meditating and meditating and and there must be some inward process that just starts flowing out. It allows the shell this wall you’ve built up, usually out of fear. People do so many things out of fear that that wall of fear crumbles. So when you approach someone you know, like again, of some drunken on a mall, is he going to punch me? I don’t know. Maybe he will, but I’m not as afraid of him, you know? I mean, what happens happens. And so I don’t have to lash out at something out of fear. And that’s where a lot of people do. I mean, then I think quells that desire of fear, meditation. So people react, you know, you know, something happened and out of fear is how they react to it and then teaches you to lessen that fear. And now some different sort of reactions come in, come into play. You’re you’re given more options. You can still do. I mean, you can still run. You can still do this, but you’re given other options. So that’s the only thing I would say is that meditation reduces the fear, your fear of death, your fear of your neighbor, your fear of someone of a different skin color, your fear of someone of a different economic background. It’s just that fear goes, goes away. You know, you see someone walking down the street and there have long hair, and I know they look menacing. So you fear. Instead of just say no, just the person with long hair and all and a long jacket, whatever it is.
I used to go to a lot of I used to go when I first started, then I would go like in a week in the in the summer, in a week in winter, and I went like that for maybe ten years. Always a week long retreat, silent retreat at the Zen Center, meditating. And, you know, doing this stuff. And again, physical pain was hard, man by, you know, day to day three. You know, I was in, you know, really a lot of agony just begging for the rounds that, you know, really end. But I stuck with it, and I and I and I and I did that. And then there is, you know, really for a while then I remember at 1.1 of the teachers said, Well, if you’re not coming in frustration, I guess, he said. If you’re not coming here for at least four weeks, you know, I only had like three weeks vacation at work. So I was like, OK, here’s 12, and then I got to, you know, the other week, as you know, wherever, try to take a, you know, trip somewhere with family. And then he said, if you’re not coming here at least four times a week, you know, four weeks out of the year, you know, you’re not going to get anywhere. All right. Well, then screw this up. Can’t imagine going anywhere. And then as I kind of went less at that point, so had this initial time where I was really into it as into it for like maybe ten years. And then it dipped. And then I used to go, There is this Buddhist temple here, and our daughter was of age that I wanted her to experience that. And so I said, you know, I need to leave this aside for a while and raise my daughter in Buddhism because I didn’t want her into some, you know, Christian school. And I wanted her to learn to be more open and to meet other other people of similar religious beliefs. And so, you know, we did that for like five years or so. And then I remember I came back to Zen. She was old enough. She was like fifth grade or wherever she was that she was old enough. She could be on her on her own and understood the basics of Buddhism. And then I came back to Zen and got into it again. You know, I never left it, but I didn’t go as often as intensive as I did the first ten years. I took a little dip and then I came back and then I just got got into it again. And then at a certain point, I did go to up to me this. My wife, you know, told me about a two week retreat in India, which wasn’t just zen, it was about just Buddhism in general, and that somehow that there was a switch there that hit. And I think part of it had to do with two weeks of silence. Part of it had to do with Zen because then taught me how to be and say tough is the word. But sitting through stuff. I mean, because what really happened was that one of the teachers said, OK, now for the final, whatever meditation here, you know, we’re going to, you know, we’re going to sit, we’re going to do this practice. And it was drums. It was music. It was totally different than quietness. I was getting you out of your head and and everyone was like, Well, you know, there are, you know, 100 people and they’re all like, Yeah, well, you know, questioning what happens when you say all night? I mean, what do you mean by all night in on you? Like, Wow, you know, I mean, we’re just going to do this, you know, and we’re going to stop at a certain go. And I’m like, Well, you know, I don’t know, you know, I mean, you know, my elbow hurts, you know, can I really go all night? I mean, I know I’m in a chair, but all night and you want me to just be, you know, I got a bad earache, you know, and I was shocked. I was listening to all these people that you came here for four weeks to do this. And, you know, it’s like I have a hangnail. You know, I can’t, I’m tired, I got to go to bed, you know, like, why are you here? You know, and the teacher, I think in frustration, you know, just said something like, we’re going to do this from nine until six in the morning, you know, and and we got there at nine and it lasted one hour. And that was it, because Don and his people and he said it came in the next morning. And as these people said, well, I wasn’t paying so well, I guess I didn’t come for the first hour because I figure, you know, I’m going to get a nap in before they missed the entire thing. Other people said I was in the bathroom and decided to go to the bathroom for half hour and another piece. I decided I didn’t want to come all night and thought, that’s what Zen taught me. Zen gave me a little bit of toughness. And I was and in, It’s yourself. It’s who you are. I mean, are you? Do you really want this? That’s what it really comes down to. What kind of burning desire do you have inside you? No one can force you to do any sort of practice. Oh, no one can put that desire in your heart. No one can teach you this. Either you want it or you really don’t want it. And it’s to the degree and I know people have it to a certain degree, and that’s why they continue to put up with some of this hardship and pain. And then it and it’s a matter of, you know, opening even more and more and allowing the universe because the universe is a place of love and acceptance and a lot of people have difficulty even accepting themselves. It’s like we I can love my neighbor as yourself, but love yourself, you know, and and when you love yourself, then you can love others. So all that. That is very. Something that people, I think, have the greatest difficulty when they come to them. For me, it was, you know, the physical issues. Other people, I feel sorry for him because I mean, not only is their mind active, you know, with thousands of thousands of thoughts that I never had, so I can’t relate that much to it. But a lot of people have been abused. They have dark corners of their mind that they that they can’t go to. You know, I didn’t have any of that. I was very fortunate. Other other people just, you know. Want it, but you know, on a, you know, kind of spuriously or they have very bad image of themselves, that’s a huge barrier for four people to overcome. Like I not I don’t deserve this. You know, I was cruel when I was a teenager. I stole money. I was a drug user. I was this. I was that. And how can I ever come to a spiritual understanding? It’s like, yeah, just let all that go. I mean, don’t dwell on your past. And I didn’t have that again. I was very fortunate. I wasn’t a drug user. I didn’t have a bad upbringing. I wasn’t abused. Maybe that’s why my mind was, you know, really calm when I when I first came to Zen and Karma. I don’t know. Fortunate? Yes. But that’s those are some of the barriers. You know, people struggle with, you know, you know, physically, yeah, I had no, I had no hip flex. My hips weren’t flexible, my hamstrings weren’t my quads, my back. You know, do it back then, you know, I can barely do a cat cow or something. It’s all. Yeah.
Function of Sangha
Then again, I’ve been there 25 years, I can’t speak to much prior to that, so from 19, 1995, I’m going to say going forward, when I first came to then it really was a lot more rigorous. We follow, I think more they would consider it the Renzi path where it’s, you know, you had a few soccer, you know you, you tap people on the shoulder for encouragement. But I always thought it, you know, wasn’t that encouraging? And you know, and you would sit and you know, and if you had real pain in your legs, people just tell you, you know, well, sit, sit more and be with that pain myself. My personal, you know, I think I think Zen in general has gotten a little bit more soto like, which is a little bit little bit easier and flowing. And I hate it when people say they have, you know, pain in their and their knees, I said, Well, you know, it’s going to be, you know, harsh pain, you know, and then feel free to to move. But at the same time, you know, I’m still rather strict traditional. I mean, I I don’t, you know, I want people to bring water in into the zendo and meditation area and every ten minutes take a sip of water. I mean, no, I mean, again, that’s when I go back to. I said, You’re here, you’re sending up a flare to the universe saying, I really want enlightenment, I really want freedom. I want to know the truth. You really want it. Then he got to. You got to really want it, you know, if you just want it. But I don’t know, you know, I I’d rather go see a movie, then that’s where you’re at. So that spark has to be lit and and then I think we’re what helps that we have a community aslongas we call it. And you know, we get 15, 20, sometimes 40 people together in a zendo and we meditate together. And you can’t do that on your own. I mean, we sit for a week at a time, you know, we have meals prepared. We sleep in our, you know, in in the zendo building. And you can’t do that. You can’t do a week by yourself. You can’t just say, I’m just going to be in my house and just do this by myself. So you need that longer, even just to sit three rounds. I don’t know many people at all that go and say, I’m just going to go down and meditate by myself for the next two hours. No, it’s like, Oh, I got laundry to do. I got to cook, I got to watch. There’s a show I really want to watch as a book, I wanted to read too many distractions. So that’s how the community helps you go and you drive there and you for a purpose, and that purpose is to meditate. And it’s all you. And you do. So you know, you can read a book, you can kind of get understanding, but the knowledge of Zen doesn’t come through books. You know, it comes through some magic process of sitting quietly. And so we help people and they come, we’ll say, OK, here are some forms. You know, they’re basic, but get you in the right mood mindframe. You don’t care what religion you follow. You know you got the incense. You got the can go. You got the altar. You got the sacred space because that’s what they’re doing now. The Buddha didn’t have that, but it came. You walked around, Jesus walked around. They didn’t have a sacred space. But it helps, I think, and it’s like a container. And some people need a good container. Others, you know, it’s a little more relaxed container, but we try to create some sort of container, you know where you walk in and everyone does the same thing. We bow as we enter. We bow to our seat and everyone sit in return and we bow to everyone else that’s in the zendo we set. We adjust ourselves and then we don’t move for 25 minutes. Yes, you sneeze, you cough. You know what’s going bothering people by coughing on you, really bothering yourself, cause you ask the person next hour and he realize you were coughing. But so we help people through all this stuff and we help them walk quietly. And just for a lot of people being quiet for 15 minutes, not reading the book, not watching TV, not staring out a window, but just sitting in a chair or sitting, you know, no Burmese posture. They’ve never done it. And it’s unique, and that’s how you do, and so we provide that container, and then as an assistant teacher, I help with the introductory seminars. We have some virtual online where we teach people the basics of just sitting quietly and we don’t have music. Now, some places not zen, but other religious religions, you know, they play soft music in the background. Some people give you a guided meditation. They talk you through things and relax your arm, relax your hand. And that’s fine. I’ve done that. It’s fine. You know, sometimes I just want to be quiet. I don’t want someone telling me constantly in my head. I want to, you know, just want to be quiet. But that’s again, that’s what sends about. So that’s what we provide. We provide instructions. Assistant teacher myself, Dyson, so people come to me and they want to know, you know, maybe some forms why we do certain things. They have certain questions on a breath practice just count from one to ten. And there’s a lot of aspects to that, even in a breath practice that we help people with. It isn’t like count from one to ten, but your mind can count. I can count from one to ten. You met him and now practically as I’m talking to you. So you say no really count one. Just just just as best you can and two as best you can. And that’s it. And that’s how we how we we try to help people, you know, because your mind just wants to wander. But there always is a point. And it happens any time type in your practice, you say no. I’m not going to daydream. I am just I don’t care if it goes for three seconds. I’m just going to. Just do three seconds worth of breath. And, you know, and then, yeah, then let your mind go back to wherever it wants to wander to your grocery list, your trouble you had at work or whatever else is bothering you, but make the choice at some point because that’s what Zen does. I mean, there’s a break between this thought mind that keeps producing thoughts and you actually, to me, you make a conscious choice and you just decide. I’m not going to. No, I’m going to count nothing wrong with whatever going on, but I’m not going to ignore it. one someone told me a story of someone that described the stranger that came into the real clean house they had in the stranger, you know, sat down in their living room, you know, and this person’s like, you know, you don’t belong here. You know, you get out, get out. You know, this person, I’m going to sit here. I’m just going to tell you, you know, this story of my life? And then, you know, after a while, you know, I say, Oh, OK, well, tell me this whole story and first tell you the story and then say, OK, well, do you want some food? You want something to eat once? Or, you know, Yeah, yeah, yeah, I have. Please feed me and let me tell you the story. I tell you that story again. Well, let me let me rehash this again for you, and after a while, you become accustomed to it and you and you just, oh, OK . Yeah, that’s so interesting. Yeah, wow. Oh wow, I can relate to it. But at some point you got to say no. Out of the house with you. And I just want to back to the peace and quiet that that I had at the very beginning. And um, and the way you can do that in the way we tell people just, you know, just say, OK, I heard this story before and I don’t need to hear it again now. I I’ve heard that version before, too. And I heard that and you know that that’s your life. That’s your past. I just want to be. I just want to be by myself and calm and quiet, and the person pretty much by themselves gets up and just walks out of the house. And then you have your nice, clean, quiet house again. That’s how we try to help, we help people and to a certain extent, but no one can enlighten another, no one can teach another. You know, and and whatever people enlightenment, whatever experiences they have, are their own and it’s unique to everyone.
Yeah. A teacher is just a guide. And in some people, I mean, they really want to find, you know, some teacher, they wrote some great books. They did this, you know, they’re well, renowned. If only I could study with this teacher. I mean, I would be sad. No, it’s you. I mean, you can run from one teacher to another teacher, but it’s you that has to come to this understanding. So as a teacher, you serve as a guide. I think there’s a famous Zen saying that goes there is and but there’s no zen teachers. And what that says, yes, there is a practice, there is a process. There’s no one that’s going to teach you how to be enlightened. I mean, you have to decide yourself to be enlightened. You have to put in the effort. No one can put in the effort for you as a zen teacher. I have experiences. I was raised in certain religions. I understand the Catholic religion. I understand the, you know, Presbyterian religion. I don’t know much about Islam. I don’t know much about Judaism, you know, but I understand religions. I’ve been through, you know, these various, you know, aspects of stuff and. I tried to, if I can, if it helps relate my own experiences. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. It helps that some, you know, I went through some of the pain. I can’t say you’re not going to have pain. I can’t teach pain away. It is going to be what it’s going to be. I’m not a counselor or a psychiatrist. I guess that would if you had emotional trauma, you know, growing up or emotional trauma. Now I. You know, maybe professional help is what’s needed as a teacher, I can. You know, I can’t force you to do anything. Sometimes if there’s something hidden, I may say, you know, maybe each teacher is different. I could say, you know, just take a peek at it and shut up. Shut the door on it again. You know, maybe take a little longer peek, but some stuff is, you know, is requires, you know, professional, you know, psychological help. And so as a teacher and then I can just relate to my own experiences. Each teacher, I think, is different. I don’t think we all. There’s no mold. There’s no like. This is what you prescribed to follow, and this is what you need to to tell people. Everyone’s everyone is is different in how they encourage, I think that is the biggest role, maybe actually as a teacher and I’ve been head of zendo and head of leadership roles, and it’s encouragement because I understand where you know you’re a lot of people have pain and and and I can hopefully encourage through a talk like encourage you to sit longer. And sometimes, you know, when people are tired, I’ll say, Well, let’s let’s do a little bit more walking, you know, instead of sitting to let yourself rest and some encouragement. And yeah, so that’s when I see the biggest role for a teacher is just encourage people. The path is can be difficult. They may not see a goal out there, they may not get what you wanted, but just stay and just sit. You know, that’s all I can say, and I encourage that. It helped me. It’s helped others. So encouragement will probably be the, you know, the biggest role, I think of any teacher.
I always, you know, when my daughter, you know, she’s gone to college and she asks, Well, what you know, what do I do for work or whatever? And I just say, Well, just tell your friends that your dad’s a high powered middle manager at a Fortune 100 company. So I said, you know, bracketed by that high-powered fortune, but it’s just this, you know, middle manager works in a cubicle somewhere, you know, but you know, make sure you bring up the high powered part, you know, because a lot of this stuff is, you know, is ego driven. Yeah. You know, you wish you were, yeah, well, at the corner office. You know, I wish I had this. And yeah, and so I think then you yeah, it is what it what it is. You know, you make certain career choices. You do say I had a great career. I did a lot of fun, fun things and very, very happy with how my career path it turned out. It was then, I think, allowed me to release a lot of stuff about, Oh, you know, shouldn’t I be, you know, you know, some big corporate executives, shouldn’t I, you know , have, you know, you know, more and more stuff? Shouldn’t I have, you know, the big house, the the boat, you know, the big camper. I don’t. Shouldn’t I know? Don’t I don’t care. You know, it doesn’t bother me. I think when you when you work in a corporate world like I try to give as best I can. I credit to other people. If someone helps me on some project, I do, and I said, Well, you know someone. So, you know, you know, she did a lot of of a lot of work on this. I’m not afraid to like, Oh no, if I say that, they’re going to think less of me. And you know, I need to build up my ego. I need to build up myself. I, you know, I. You know, I don’t care about that anymore. You know, someone else gets promoted. They get promoted, you know, at times, yeah, I mean, things get upsetting. I mean, there’s there’s no doubt about it. Sometimes you, you know, you want to you want to get an equal shot at things. And and when you know, when you’re not, you get upset. Yeah, but you eventually, you know, you let things go. I think Zen allows you to do that easier. It allows you, I think, always to give more credit to people to acknowledge stuff, to put footnotes, not to say, Oh, this is mine. This is my idea. No, I I read this from somewhere else and no one cares. You find out that people don’t care like, Oh great. I’m glad you’re able to modify that or find that, or I’m glad so-and-so helped you with with that. And you’re much more inclusive of new ideas. And sometimes that’s great for work. I’m like, Wow, you know, I didn’t think of that. I think it’s a good idea. I mean, just acknowledge that not like, Oh, I didn’t think of it. So it’s got to be a bad idea because I did not think of that. Or I need to I steal that idea, all that disappears because everyone’s in this boat together, everyone’s trying to do the best they can. Everyone wants to have a good life. Everything in life when it comes down to wants to live. I mean, the smallest and just it is once the live, you know, the tree. The bush. I mean, everything just wants to live. It just wants to be there. You know it. And it’s it’s a desire for all humans. We just want to live. We everyone wants to be happy. We all want the same stuff. We, you know, we end up when we don’t realize we end up stomping on each other, you know, it’s like you don’t really need to once you start seeing again the spark, the humanity, the light within everything. Well, there’s nothing there’s nothing wrong with achieving, there’s nothing wrong with it, you know, really ambition, but it’s, you know, it’s acknowledging maybe how you got there. You know, yes, you know, because I had a great partner. You know, I, you know, because I was inspired by by this great book that someone someone else wrote. It’s not so good when it’s like, Yeah, because I, you know, I stole this contract. I illegally bribed someone, you know, I did, you know? You know, I I don’t know whatever people do sometimes to move ahead. You know, I, you know, I really made sure that that person, you know, was given a bad reputation, you know , because they were competing against me. You know, it was undeserved. But you know, it helped me. So there’s nothing wrong with, you know, moving up, being ambitious. You know, I relate back. And I thought someone that you know again, this passion people have, you know, and that zen is going to make you on passionate like I was , you know, I got into this business. You know, this one man was telling me a solar energy and I was so passionate about it. And now that I’ve done, then I’m not as passionate and is that bad. You know what I said, I said what I think is happening and what has happened is we’re more open again . I mean, if you look at all forms of energy we have, we have oil and gas, you know, oh, that’s a bad thing. Well, there’s good to it, too. I mean, oh, we have solar. You know, there’s some problems with solar energy. As much as there’s good wind energy, you know, wind windmills, kill, kill, kill birds. And so yes, you can be passionate about things and work and do that, but also be open. The things understand different viewpoints. Again, you know, when it comes to energy, you know, I mean, nuclear power has good things, but hey, what do you do with all the ways that it creates, you know? I mean, so stop. You know what? Your oil’s great. But what if he has an oil spill? You know, natural gas is great. What if you know, you know what, if things leak and you’ve got to drill and all this stuff that you know? So it’s just an understanding, I think. So whenever you’re in the business world or corporate world, there’s just an understanding that they’re not all things are are all good and all other things are all bad. And I see some people that I find to be passionate are beginning to be zealots and tend not to hear the other side and just cut it off. So some people are very passionate that the Earth is flat, you know, and they’ll show you articles and they’ll prove it to you. Other people are passionate and you know, there is no global warming and they’ll show you articles and they’re very passionate about it. I just say, you know, can you be a little bit less passionate, maybe less zealot and just be more open? And that’s why hopefully what zen and meditation, how you can apply it into your into your own life that you’re just more open to or, you know, all Republicans are are bad, you know, I don’t even want to hear anything anymore. All Democrats. Bad, bad, bad. You know, I don’t want them to hear it anymore. You don’t. Can we all just be more open? Can we all can? That’s what makes the world really. Move forward, not when we’re fighting and always in conflict, whether in business. Did a study in a business class once and they prove that cooperation between businesses is what really helps move all the boats up. It isn’t this dog eat dog. Yeah, it can work in a short term, you know, but you end up just fighting your way down usually do that to the bottom of something. So, you know, again, hopefully zen is something they’re any. Meditation or religious practice will lead you to be more, more compassionate, more understanding, more more open to things, just ideas to other points of view to. To see people for where they’re coming from, you know, people have different and different viewpoints based on how, you know, they were brought up based on their past experiences. They say, you know, you got to live in someone’s, you know, shoes for, you know, six months to understand it. Yeah, I mean, that’s part of that. It’s part of it like seeing where people are coming from, you know, some people like, Oh, I don’t I don’t trust trust the police . Are you kidding me? And other people are like, You’re kidding me, you don’t trust the police cause, you know, you know, the police are fantastic. You know, they don’t do any wrong, you know, have you lived in it? Have you have you lived differently? And it’s like, No, I’ve always, you know, so anyway, go on and on about all that stuff. So it’s just the the idea of just being open understanding.
Interesting questions. I have thoughts come to mind. one of the thoughts I remember this goes back to the Bible and it says something like Jesus at one point, you know, Mary Magdalene, I believe, was pouring perfume on his feet to wash his feet. And Judas says, Oh, such a waste of money. I mean, this could go to feed the poor. And Jesus says, Yes, the poor always be with you. But I will not, you know, in terms of, you know, do what’s here in the in the moment. Yeah, you’re always going to have poor people. You’re always maybe that’s always a part of it. Maybe that’s the universe’s grand plan that we’re always going to have some sort of suffering going on because that’s the only way we’re going to change, the only way we’re going to continue to it, to it, to expand. And so how do you how do you going into life and in understand without it? You know, I think a spiritual practice ground you. I remember being at a peace rally has been me ten, 15 years ago. And you know, we’re at this position on this guy next to me. I mean, was screaming at the top of his lungs. I remember seeing the veins pop out of his neck like, I want peace now, peace now. I mean, to me, it was so full of anger, you know, and just screaming, Peace, peace, I like, gosh. I don’t think that’s the way to achieve peace in the world is the scream and yell, Just say you want this piece in and just anger just kind of coming through you. So. I think there’s a certain gentleness that comes out of spiritual practice that things things that. To me, the universe has a grand plan. I mean, this universe vast and big, it has a plan. I mean, you’re just this small little grain of sand. Yes, you can. You influence things? I tend to. I ride a bike as much as I as I as I can. Yes, I still use a car, you know? Yeah, I have a I have a I have a car, do I? I tend to be like, I say, you don’t eat meat, you know, being a vegetarian. He that, you know, people say, Oh, I wish I could do something for the rainforest. I don’t understand why those people in Brazil are cutting down the rainforest. Well, the reason they’re cutting it down because they want to grow cattle and they want the cattle wants to be purchased by McDonald’s so you can have the Big Mac like, huh? Really, when I eat, you know, so it kind of if you can understand that maybe even not having the Big Mac, I mean, you know, the Arby’s, whatever beef, you know, everything would be beef, beef. If you really want to help to help the world, maybe try eating less meat. You don’t have to be a vegetarian, but maybe try to eat less meat. Be more aware of what consequences things have every time you are than to drive the car. Just someone I knew drove a car, you know, to their mailbox, which was like, you know, just to mail something back when, you know, half a block like , get out and walk. Yeah, so spiritual practice, yeah, I mean, you may think, oh, yeah, we’re just going to achieve this, peace in the world is going to be wonderful and and we’re going to get rid of poverty and we’re going to just have this great society. You know, we’re always going to have some, I think, conflicts and issues and stuff. People back when they first came to America, the Puritans, they were getting away from, you know, religious intolerance, you know, in England. And they came and they settled. And I think within 30 years they already had infighting. It’s like, No, I can’t believe that. And some someone ran off from Massachusetts and created Rhode Island, you know, because they couldn’t stand the religion. And so, yeah, I mean, people think, Oh, I’ll be enlightened, then the world will be enlightened. And, you know, we’ll have this great golden age. And yes, you know, I’m not saying I don’t know the future, and that may certainly happen. But in the meantime, we just do what you can do. I mean, you don’t have to say, I’m going to solve, you know, the Middle East peace, you know, area I ain’t going to, you know, I’m going to be some great person and I’m going to do all, you know, just try to be nice to people that come from a different, you know, religious background or Jewish or, you know, an all Islamic religion to try to treat them both the same. You can achieve that sort of peace in your own neighborhood. You don’t have to like, figure out how you’re going to, you know, disarm nuclear weapons, you know, maybe just. I went one time, you know, to a nuclear protest and we just lit a some, some some incense. You know, I mean, when you have to go in there and say, we’re going to figure out how to, you know, destroy these weapons or anything like that, we just made our presence known. And sometimes that’s enough just to allow other people to see there’s other points of view.
Family and Relationships
So then and your own personal relationships, I mean, it’s it’s it’s never perfect. I mean, no one can ever say, Oh yeah, I know a Zen practitioner. So now everything is wonderful. It just doesn’t. But I mean my life. I’m fortunate that she’s also a zen practice or a practitioner in Zen or Buddhism oneness, and we share the same thing with. You know, like, we’re both vegetarians. I mean, she may eat, you know, her chicken once every other week or or something, you know? I mean, which is fine, but we’re both very accepting. We raised our daughter, I hope, in a very loving atmosphere. We included her in everything we would go on trips. We would always take her in and do things. And and when she was young, we wanted to introduce her again to the Dharma so she would understand I would take her. We would go to the Zen Center for we would have this, which is a celebration of the Buddha’s birth and bring flowers. And she would have fun. You know, I ever run around the temple with someone else and other kids and just just have fun, didn’t want to raise her, you know, like strict like, spare the rod, spoil the child. Never, never touched her. I mean, you know, she was raised. But you know, yes, we are spare in Iran and we are spoiling the child, you know, and and people say, get those helicopter parent that are out there hovering over their kids. I said, Yeah, I had the here.We why not? I mean, if y say, no, you know, you can’t, I mean, you know, you can’t do this, you teach them the love aspect first and the rest follows. And yeah, so when it comes to raising kids, I mean, it’s just like if you want to try something, we are not going to hold you back and say, No, you can’t do that because girls don’t do that or, you know, only boys do that. I mean, do whatever you want to do. I mean, let’s get rid of all these boundaries. Let’s be more open. Be more inclusive. And you’re. And I and she is. I think I think she’s very inclusive. You know, she has friends that are different religions, different ethnic origin. She’s just very inclusive. She doesn’t have stereotypes. She doesn’t have boundaries or she’s not strict. Good and evil. And so, you know, I feel good that, you know, that’s how she’s, you know, bent and raise how she turns out. You know, that’s that’s her journey. But hopefully give her a starting point. Yeah, my wife and I, 20, 25 years of marriage. And now, you know, we get in fights and argue, but not not. Not that often. You know, I mean, it’s just we understand each other, you know, we’re both different. You know, you’re always going to have, you know, she has her upbringing. I have my upbringing, but we’re both healthy. We both, for whatever reason, you know, our health is good. We enjoy the same stuff. We enjoy traveling. We enjoy so many of the same things. You know, the way we view money, you know, the how our gender, you know, how we’re, you know, we can be generous with, with things, with time and money. It all comes from Buddhism, I think, and being open and and understanding of people. When I when I go go to work, you know, people have told me, I mean, one of the things I always, you know, get on my reviews, at least, you know, is like, you know, very easy to get along with, accepts work without, you know, complaints. And and I think, you know, Buddhism helps you focus because people say, Oh, you don’t seem to get all the stress, you get all these deadlines. Why aren’t you stressed? Oh, I’m going to do what I’m going to do. And if I get to the deadline, I get to the deadline and what I get done, I get done. I can’t worry about. You know, all this stuff that could happen. I have to just focus on what’s in front of me and that so much help me and my work and with people, you know, people get mad , they get upset and it’s like, you know, just listen and just everyone, almost there’s a certain vibe vibrational energy out in the world. And then, I think, helps you lower that vibration as well as meld with people. There is a woman, a story, a woman that she was coming out of one of the grocery stores and she had all these bills and she was in a wheelchair. And for whatever reason, you know, I came up, you know, she had dropped all over money like maybe $300 and it was all sitting out there on the ground and she had this cane and she was trying to keep people away from, you know, this was, you know , her her money. And I, I just walked up to her, you know, and just started collecting the money and put it back in the envelope and then yelling at her a little bit like, hang onto you. You know, I’m going to call up like, get away because but you have to approach people calmly and see and see people and just and just do that for people, you know, don’t be aggressive. I mean, people like to respond with aggression with more aggression. No, I say no. People say, well, if you how does that phrase go if you don’t believe in something, you’re going to fall for everything. I go, Yes, precisely fall for everything. Be open. Fall for everything. I relate the story of how this drunk guy come in, you know, walking down the street and I was walking my friend and my friend, Mike saw the guy and he just like, took off because the guy was screaming and yelling and cussing and. And it came out to me is that it is screaming and yelling and cousin, you know, at me and I just like, had a hard day. And it just calm the whole level down because I didn’t start screaming and cousin back at them and saying, OK, let’s fight it out, let’s duke it out. Let’s fight violence with violence. No effort in him and I just talked for like five minutes. He told me his whole story about stuff got stolen and how he had too much to drink. And I told him, Yeah, you probably drank too much. And that’s why your stuff gets, you know, people are inhuman. I think the thing with Zen when it comes to relationships is you begin to see the humanity in everyone. I don’t care who they are. Everyone has humanity within. They have a touch. Animals have the same thing. Plants everything. Treat them with care. Treat in what respect? And if you can do that to the best of your ability? I think it makes the world a better place.
Well, I think people come to Zen because they hear of enlightenment, and I want this thing. I want this enlightenment. And there is no thing to want. I when I first came out, luckily, I guess to me, I didn’t know much about enlightenment and anything. So I was like, I care more carefree, which is the attitude beginner’s mind that you should have. Because as I’ve come through zen and studied and sat and meditated Gonzales zen sitting meditation, I come to realize that there is no goal. There is no enlightenment goal. Enlightenment is just an opening. It’s an opening that just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. There’s no end to it. Someone said, you know, the Buddha himself is one 10th of the way there. You know, you can kind of see that after a while. I mean, there’s a universe we live in. I mean, they say of the vast and wide and it’s ancient and old. And and and yeah, for me, I mean, I scratch the surface of this, but I I open to more. And it’s like the more you open, the more is given to you. I think there’s some phrase, you know, the hue has will be given more and you doesn’t, you know, with taken away because as you desire stuff, more and more comes to you. And I don’t know how how it happens. It just so enlightenment. No, there’s no gold. There’s no like, Oh, I’m going to pass like in Zen, you know, 400 Cohens, and then I’ll be enlightened and I’m going to live this life and I can just walk away and and I don’t know what I’m going to do, what I don’t walk away and what I do not live on cloud nine or, I don’t know, be a guru in a mountain top. You know, maybe I don’t know, but don’t have don’t even, you know, if there is no, it’s not a race, it’s not a goal. You can be enlightened. You know, day one, you know, you may practice for 40 years and never be enlightened. You know, that’s life. It’s where you are now. I mean, you can, you know, so don’t set up goals on enlightenment. That it’s some something to achieve. And once it’s achieved, everything becomes rosy. It doesn’t. Well, I could say the Buddha said, you know, the ease of suffering, you suffer less and not worry so much. Oh, you know, I’m going to die. And. I’m going to go to hell and be forever, you know, fire and brimstone tortured for the rest of eternity. You don’t fear that anymore. You don’t fear. You know, I think people want to control life after their death. Like, Oh, I want my money to go a certain way. I want these things to happen, you know, for whatever our country and it’s like, No, I don’t, I don’t fear that I don’t care to cling to any of that. You get rid of a lot of clinging. And that is kind of what enlightenment is. I think enlightenment is less clingy. This stuff about the truth, you know, setting you free, more free, more options. So and it just gets more and more more and more options, more and more freedom. I mean, and it’s it’s almost endless. Like I say, you know how you can expand out into the world, the world itself, the universe, they would say, you know, the universe, scientists say, is expanding. And that’s what enlightenment is this this huge expansion that’s going on people that are creative, you know, can be, to me, enlightened. You know, they’re creating, they’re doing stuff, you know, they’re just coming from somewhere you as artists, musicians. Where does that come from? I don’t know. It just comes. It flows from inside me. I can’t stop it. They’re tapping into something they’re tapping into. You know, I mean, you could call it enlightenment, they’re tapping into this energy, this flow that’s coming through you and out and you just want to express it. And it can never and it’s on it. The source doesn’t dry up. I mean, it’s, you know, just it’s there. And so. Yeah, there’s there isn’t a goal, there isn’t there isn’t something magical about. Some people have it and some some people don’t know, we all have it. You just have to tap, find it and tap into it. And the more you do, the more enlightened you become. And more and more, you know, maybe life is better. Maybe not. Maybe you turn out to be some, I don’t know, mass murderer or some, some sometimes they do. They have these issues, they have them and teachers that, you know, continue to be alcoholics, you know, have abusive relations with their students. You know, I thought this guy was a great zen master. Hmm. I mean, because you had a concept of what a Zen master should be. You know, and maybe that concept was, you know, not correct. People are who who they are. People do what, what they you know, what they do, what they do, they have, you know, and so enlightenment is just being there and trying to understand things as they are.
How has the path manifest in your daily experience?
One of the first things Zen influenced me on was becoming a vegetarian. I began to “feel” the harm of slaughterhouses and that it was so unnecessary. We eat far too much meat in our country. I haven’t hardly eaten any meat in 25 years, which is reflected in high energy and excellent blood cholesterol levels. My doctor continually marvels as to how my body physically appears that of a 30-year-old. In terms of work, people say I don’t get upset and overwhelmed by projects and take things one step at a time in a very calm manner. I have let go of constant complaining about job assignments. I don’t waste mental energy thinking about how I wish things would be different. I am more accepting of the way things are, which allows me more freedom.
If you explore other lineages within buddhism, how did you come to decide on which lineage was right for you?
I didn’t explore many other lineages. I did attend a two week “Oneness” seminar in India, which was parallel to Buddhism and helped to break open my practice. It was very transformative. Like the Buddha, I was no longer on a treadmill, which can occur in any spiritual practice when followed for many years. I leveraged what I learned in Zen (silence and acceptance) and was able to open to the world. I now continue in Zen, going deeper in my practice with silence. With my teacher I am able to convey aspects of my understanding, but she is a guide, and my practice is my own journey.
It’s an opening that just gets bigger
and bigger and bigger.
What are some of your practices/rituals that you do to support your spiritual development (meditation/prayers and etc)
Silent meditation is key for me. I love sitting on summer evenings beneath a large maple tree during the summer evening and listening to all the evening sounds and just letting go.
Which sangha do you normally attend?
I belong to the Zen Center of Denver, where I am an assistant teacher and Head of Zendo. It is great to belong to a community of fellow practitioners to help motivative and inspire you in your practice. It is difficult to do silent meditation by oneself, as there is always other stuff you would rather be doing, but sitting with a group motivates a person to sit quietly for longer periods of time.
What is your primarily profession?
I work in the Corporate Strategy department for a large telecommunications company. I am calm and able to flow with the daily demands of the job, without becoming bogged down in mental games. I try to be respectful to others and treat them without judgments. I am open to new ideas or ways of doing things. I don’t cling to any of the old patterns or ways of doing things.
without judging them to be bad or good
What teachings/practices have had the greatest impact on your life?
I have far less fear than before. I can see people without judging them to be bad or good. I see the humanity in all people, from people on the Street to Wall Street executives. I greet people calmly and am not upset by the daily flow of “good, but mainly bad news” presented on TV and the Internet.
I see the world in continual expansion. Everything is evolving and expanding, since the Universe was created. I believe in destiny, that your path was chosen before you were born. Not the exact path, but a circuitous path that leads you in the general direction. I believe when you die, you merge with this Universe and quite possibly the goal of our life is to contribute to expanding this Universe. Death comes when you stop expanding. You must continually create and be open. You must take care of your physical body as it is a gift as well as your questioning spiritual nature. Everyone and everything has the spiritual light inside them.