The Sensei presently receives state grants to fund his programs for housing single mothers, infant day care, and now a residential AlDs facility for the homeless. Glassman has also founded the House of One People, an inner city community center where members of all religions can come to worship, meditate, and celebrate, both together and separately, in an atmosphere of social renewal and spiritual harmony. These and many other projects are all undertaken in the unitive spirit of Shakyamuni Buddha's enlightenment. Glassman's own resolution of some one thousand Zen koan prepared him to develop a social vision rooted in the Buddhist principle of nonduality.
Even his Zen teaching program, How to Raise an Ox , integrates the practical wisdom of the twelve-step movement, originally inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous, into the traditional Buddhist understanding of the path to enlightenment.
Twice a year, Sensei leads a seven-day Street Retreat, when he and a few Zen students wholeheartedly join the homeless population of New York City, living in shelters and eating at soup kitchens, to which they later give anonymous financial contributions. Bernard Glassman is hardly the romantic figure from another world, or worlds, that we encounter in the sorcerer Don Juan.
Yet when seated face to face with Sensei in silence, an ancient wisdom-being is clearly manifest — mysterious, belonging to all worlds and to no world, a great being inseparable from the fifty-three Awakened Ones we approach through the pages of Living Buddha Zen. This text purports to trace the transmission from master to successor of the enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha through one thousand seven hundred years to the world-teacher, Dogen Zenji, in thirteenth-century Japan. Master Dogen is considered the father of the Soto Zen Order, which has twenty-five thousand temples and ten million practitioners in contemporary Japan.
His seminal work, Shobogenzo: The Treasure House of the Eye of True Dharma , has profoundly inspired both Eastern and Western philosophers and spiritual practitioners during this century, after remaining in obscurity, even in its native land, for some seven hundred years. Master Keizan is considered the mother of Soto Zen, his Denkoroku being the reservoir or womb of the lineage. The Denkoroku is a fifty-three stroke ink and brush drawing of essential Buddhist history. Seen more broadly, this text presents in the direct Zen manner the essential nature of awareness, the single Light celebrated by all ancient wisdom traditions.
The Denkoroku is a work of art whose subject is sacred history. It is not historiography. Even more than a work of art, this text is a vehicle for mutual study between Zen masters and their successors, honing the insight of each and insuring the actual continuation, without diminution, of Dogen Zenjis radical spiritual teaching, perpetual plenitude — the perfect awakeness, here and now, of all beings and worlds. This transmission of Light remains continuous throughout the unpredictable developments of planetary history, such as the transplanting of Zen from Japan to America and, from America, to the strange global landscape called the postmodern world.
These are some reasons why Sensei Glassman chose the Denkoroku as the text for our mutual study, preparing me for the Dharma transmission in which I will be invested with responsibility for pouring Light into the next generation.
The formal ceremonies are scheduled to be celebrated in Japan and New York during The model of Dharma transmission presented by the Denkoroku , one living Buddha for each generation, is symbolic. In actual fact, all fully awakened men and women in each generation constitute the living Buddha of that generation. According to the reckoning of his Soto lineage, Maezumi Roshi in Los Angeles represented the eightieth Buddha generation to descend from the Shakyamuni Buddha of ancient India, enlightened two thousand five hundred years ago.
Glassman Sensei and other Western successors represent the eighty-first generation. Along with the next wave of successors, I represent the eighty-second Buddha generation. Members of these three contemporary Buddha generations — spiritual grandparents, spiritual parents, spiritual grandchildren — are scattered across the earth, some recognized by formal ceremony, others remaining hidden.
Some are teaching, some are writing, others are simply waiting. Also to be understood symbolically is the Denkoroku 's single-pointed focus on the Soto lineage of Dogen Zenji, which seems to ignore the rich complexity of Buddhist history. This focus is the simplification of nature by the Zen artist, a simplification which permits the participant-observer to enter a much fuller, more profound experience of the landscape.
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Soto Zen here represents all realized Buddhist lineages and all wisdom traditions on the planet whose initiatory transmission of Light remains unbroken, providing a direct spiritual experience at the highest level of authenticity, not just a cultural inheritance or a romantic aspiration. Glassman Sensei encouraged me at the beginning of our work together to experience direct encounter with Keizan Zenji, author of the Denkoroku. That is precisely what occurred. His presence shone vividly as the brown-robed presence of my contemporary Zen master.
I encountered with similar directness each of the fifty-two living Buddhas in the Denkoroku and the fountainhead of their lineage, Shakyamuni, whose enlightenment flows through and as them all. This enlightenment, or Light, suffers no diminution, and actually increases the breadth and profundity of its expression as Buddha generations pass.
To resolve any particular koan, to pass through any of the gateless gates along the pathless path of Zen, is simply to become this koan. Through the motherly encouragement and guidance of my ancient Japanese guide, Keizan Zenji, and my contemporary American guide, Tetsugen Glassman, I was somehow pushed, pulled, and inspired to become in turn each of these fifty-three living Buddhas. Without a qualified Zen master — in my case, two masters, one ancient, one contemporary — such a process would be impossible, even unimaginable.
Living Buddha Zen is my personal presentation of each koan, each drama of Dharma succession, as well as my personal commentary on each. These presentations and commentaries represent a fusion of my own perspectives as a practitioner of several sacred traditions, including the Tantric Buddhism of Tibet, with the perspectives of Keizan Zenji from fourteenth-century Japan and Glassman Sensei from our century.
This fusion of insights cannot be analyzed into its component streams. As with any dish, some of the seasonings can be discerned, but we taste and enjoy it as a new experience, beyond any of its original ingredients. The ancient, the contemporary, and the timeless interact alchemically in these pages, which I would never claim as my own separate creation.
The same basic format followed by Keizan Zenji is followed here. First there is a condensed presentation of the ineluctable moment of transmitting Light, called koan, a presentation which I originally made orally to Tetsugen Glassman, opening our face-to-face meeting, or daisan. Then follows a free-flowing reflection on the transmission, called comment, composed from notes taken directly after my early morning Zen interviews-generous, loving conversations, not the staccato dialogues often associated with Zen.
These records were later expanded, as I continued to reread the Zen talks of Master Keizan. Finally, I conclude each chapter as our ancient Japanese guide does by expressing koan and comment in a single poetic flash, called closing poem. These poems took shape inwardly, during or immediately following the Zen sitting, the Zen interview, and the Buddhist morning service—chanting, bowing, and offering incense, accompanied by deep bell, high bell, and wooden drum.
Nor is it autobiography. This book is simply a reservoir of Zen, envisioned by Dogen Zenji and others as the full moon way: Total Awakeness, complete from the very beginning. What is this book? It is an invitation to the full moon way, the spontaneous awakeness which is total in every moment. It is an invitation to receive initiation and to pursue profound face-to-face study within any of the living wisdom traditions on the globe. My gratitude flows primarily to my Zen master, Bernard Tetsugen Glassman, and to my spiritual grandfather, Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi who, along with his contemporary, Suzuki Roshi, and others, has helped to open the full moon way of Soto for America.
I joyfully acknowledge deep connection with another contemporary Soto full moon, Shundo Aoyama Roshi. On the eve of the formal ceremony in New York City, , when I became a senior student of Tetsugen Glassman, she gave me the Dharma name, Jikai, oceanic compassion.
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I am also deeply grateful to Francis H. Cook, the scholar-practitioner whose accurate and sympathetic English translation, Denkoroku: The Record of Transmitting the Light , helped to make this entire experience possible. There are two other English translations of the Denkoroku by Western scholar-practitioners, indicating the immense importance and attraction of this text. The other translation is Transmission of Light by Thomas Cleary. These translations will provide inspiration to the interested reader. My version is not a translation but an assimilation. Yet Living Buddha Zen always aspires to remain loyal to the basic meaning of the Denkoroku and to the living spirit of its author, Keizan Zenji, fourth Buddha Ancestor of Japanese Soto, disciple of his own mother, profound devotee of the female Buddha, Kuan Yin, and initiate in the Japanese Tantric tradition.
Why not simply allow the accurate translations of the classical Japanese to stand alone? It continues to speak out, orally and in writing, through Buddha generation after Buddha generation. Sometimes the Dharma speech is completely authentic; other times, it remains veiled to various degrees by layers of personality and society. But the primordial urge to express truth continues to spring up spontaneously. Living Buddha Zen is a manifestation of this urgency — boiling, fermenting, fructifying.
At the very least, my study of Soto Zen teaching can inspire others to recognize that personal assimilation is possible — without knowing Japanese, without leaving aside social, family, and religious responsibility, without becoming someone who meditates for days or weeks on end, and without becoming so inflated as to deny personal limitations, to claim full enlightenment, or to claim any enlightenment whatsoever. Living Buddha Zen is conceptually transparent. It will not further clutter the complex ideological, intellectual and religious landscape of modem times.
It may even serve as antidote for this disease of complexity, as well as for the disease of over-simplification, two prominent modern maladies.
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Whether my book serves or does not serve, however, I had no choice but to write it. One successor served as attendant for forty years under two living Buddhas before awakening into Buddhahood. Another continued to serve as attendant after his awakening, after his beloved master finally passed away, and even after his own biological death, declaring that his own unmarked tomb should be placed near the tomb of his beloved guide in the position of attendant.