For those who don’t know, I spent time on staff at the Rochester Zen Center in Rochester, New York in the 80s.
I began Buddhist practice in 1983 in Denver, Colorado, then decided on Zen practice and was accepted as a Staff member at Rochester Zen Center in 1986. I left to pursue an individual path in 1988, although I continue to practice Buddhism.
My turn to Buddhism, and particularly Zen, worked for me, and continues to, after an attempt to end my life in 1982. It was no small matter that I decided to go on a spiritual quest and this led to almost ten months of going to different teachers and religious groups, from Christian groups to New Age to Hindu to Sufi and Native American. I found value in all, but at that time, Zen spoke to me the strongest. I attended Buddhist-Christian Conferences in Boulder, Colorado, amongst other events. My essential question was not about comfort or fitting in. I needed to find the meaning of life. I saw no point in life experience as it was, at this point.
My interest in the beginnings of a Buddhist Peace Fellowship organization while in Colorado, dovetailed my interests in social justice, anti-oppression, and my personal spiritual practice.
In retrospect, my Zen monastic period was a way to save my life and life itself. It was a genesis for all of my traumas that I had tried to ‘let go’ of and ‘move on.’ It came crashing. No pretty belief system would get me out. Zen spoke to me.
I also attended retreats with various Buddhist teachers including Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Thich Nhat Hanh, Tai Eido Shimano Roshi. I attended talks and short retreats by a myriad of teachers including Seung Sahn and John Kornfield. I read more philosophy including spiritual works by Meister Eckart, Thomas Merton, Arthur Schopenhauer, Nietzsche. I began reading James Baldwin and Frederick Douglass, something I had never done seriously before.
For the issue of ‘stealing,’ I was asked by their editor Kenji Chienshu Liu, if I wanted to contribute to a series at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship blog.
The below post is a short reflection in the spirit of Master Dogen’s ‘Mountains and Waters Sutra.’