Lost Coin: Principles and Practice. A Day of Study, Reflection and Renewal
Saturday, June 25 (note change of date) from 10:30 a.m. until 6:30 pm, Lost Coin Zen and Doen Sensei will gather in San Raphael, at the beautiful and peaceful private home of Scot and Diane, members of Lost Coin SF.
The day will be an exploration in some depth of Lost Coin’s integration of traditional Zen Buddhist studies and practices: koans and zazen(meditiation) and other related practices from Tibetan and 4th way sources. This unique combination gives Lost Coin its particular flavor and its modern approach.
The morning will focus on the traditional Zen Buddhist base with zazen, discussion, daisan(private interview with the teacher) and a traditional talk by Sensei.
Lunch will be pot luck and buffet style so bring a dish to share please.
The afternoon will hone in on the other practices that complete the Lost Coin path, including 4th way and Tibetan Buddhist (Vajrayana) that make us a unique and a particularly appropriate practice for modern times.
To conclude the day, we will participate in Fusatsu, a moving and intimate ceremony of renewal, traditionally practiced once a month around the full moon.
This workshop is geared toward current students but would also be great for anyone who is interested in knowing who we are and what we do. Friends who have had questions or expressed interest in Lost Coin, or those you wish to introduce to Lost Coin are especially invited.
Please bring zafus and zabutans and your rakasu, if you have them.
There is no set charge for the day, but a donation(dana) for the day’s teaching would be greatly appreciated.
photo credit: katmere
PRACTICING THE EDGE- the theme of this year’s gathering of the clan (sangha).
The retreat will be held at Asilomar Conference and Retreat Center in Pacific Grove, California, October 6-10th. Please see www.visitasilomar.com to get a sense of the beauty of the setting for our 5- day retreat. The great Pacific Ocean on the Monterrey Peninsula, rolling sand dunes, the neighboring San Lucia Mountains are all around us.
Since we are an international group: students in Florida, New York, Toronto, Dusseldorf, England and the Netherlands, as well as Salt Lake City and San Francisco, and rarely get to meet together at one time, this will be an opportunity to renew and remember our bond with each other and Lost Coin and invigorate our practice as a group. We have organized this retreat more than 6 months in advance and encourage all of you to make arrangements to attend. We are really looking forward to this retreat. Those of you who were in Mendocino last year know how powerful the gathering can be, and how instrumental in your lives.
We have reserved an entire Lodge at the Retreat Center with its own large living room with fireplace which we will use as a zendo to privately gather together for zazen, (meditation) talks, daisan,(private interview with the teacher, discussions and group activities.
The accommodations consist of a dozen double rooms, with additional space available at the next Lodge over. Asilomar has agreed to accept a fee of $780 for double occupancy lodging for us including three meals a day, snacks and beverages included with check -in the afternoon of October 5 and check out 11 am October 10 (5 nights, 4 and one half days). The teaching fee to Doen Sensei for the retreat is $475.
Register on the Meetup Lost Coin SF site please to reserve your spot and make your deposit. As the retreat time approaches, Sensei will have more information on the details of the schedule and ceremonies that will take place.
This retreat is open to current Lost Coin students and to the public. Any questions, firstname.lastname@example.org.
These events are also posted under EVENTS tab on the Lost Coin website: www.lostcoinzen.com
photo credit: ciccioetneo
Following is the article I just completed for Watkins Review, the magazine published by Watkins Books, London’s largest and oldest esoteric book shop. I gave a reading and signed books there in January. I believe the article explains some intuitions I have about Zen, and Buddhism which are foundational to Lost Coins practice.
Wonderland: The Zen of Alice
My book was first published in the U.S. by Parallax Press and titled Wonderland: The Zen of Alice. It was reprinted later by Random House in Germany and re-titled Wonderland: The Art of Falling Through a Hole. I am partial to the Random House title. It implies an endorsement of being upended, which is what I am writing about – the practice and value of slipping into the unknown – the unveiling of Wonderland.
Many of us first encounter “wonder” when we are very young. My early exposure to it was in The Bronx, New York. The Bronx was an intricate and dangerous place. But, exploration was just what I loved. The drafty streets led to the domain of the cool Cheshire cats that hung out in the poolroom and sometimes stole cars. The hookah- smoking caterpillars were in mystical and shattered brick walk- ups getting down with their hookahs.
I maintained this love of wonder and exploration and, in time, it led me to Zen training with all its attendant adventures – long meditation, short sleep, demanding, inspiring and sometimes baffling teachers, exotic rituals – all of it.
I began my study in upstate New York at Zen Mountain Monastery. It was the perfect setting, short of a prolonged stay in Japan, for the arduous adventure of seeking and wondering.
Twenty-five years went by. I studied with three teachers both in and out of a monastery. It lasted that long because I was particularly dense and stubborn and because I was exploring in other ways as well: art, science, psychology (I worked as a psychotherapist during this time). I felt these areas were an important part of my education as well and could be integrated into a well- rounded practice. I still happily explore these areas and I draw on them in the book.
During those intensive years of Zen study I spent some time questioning whether I had strayed from what brought me to practice. What I’d come for had morphed into something else. Knowing had taken the well-worn comfortable seat right in the middle of the room. The wonder I was seeking through Zen practice had left me. I needed to get my mojo back – I wrote this book.
In Alice and Wonderland, Alice is lost and asks the Caterpillar where to go. The Caterpillar replies that it depends entirely on where she wants to wind up.
Monasteries and practice centers around the world chant the Heart Sutra. Shin translated as heart is also the word for mind so it is the mind/heart sutra. It ends with the Sanskrit phrase Gate, Gate Parasam Gate Bodhi Svaha after describing the state of emptiness (Shunyata) in Sanskrit. This is the ground of being, which is devoid of characteristics and yet not empty at all, because at the same time it gives rise to everything and thus, is full. It is the empty and fertile hole – the place of not knowing.
This Sanskrit phrase “Gate, Gate….. means gone, gone – gone to the other shore. My favorite rendering of the final word – Svaha is “Yippee” You might say “What is there to shout Svaha about – as I did. The thrill is gone, the other shore is far away and I am never going to be able to get a boat because my credit totally sucks. But hey, as we used to say in the Bronx, “it don’t make no nevermind.” Because the stunning truth the lineage has delivered to us is that there is no boat and no other shore. This shore is the other shore. This life is the before and afterlife and this place – this hole – is Wonderland. That’s what this book is about.
Wonderland, like my mojo – is easily lost and not easily found. The entrance is sealed by what we already think we know. As the great Zen teacher Dogen said, the ten thousand things (wonderland) are perceived when we forget the self, which requires a leap or fall – more than a map. Once we are really lost, ironically, our direction is clear. As the revered baseball sage, Yogi Berra said “When you get to the fork in the road take it.”
photo credit: movito
I began my formal training in Zen in 1980 in upstate New York at Zen Mountain Monastery. It had just opened and although there were only a very small number of participants, a regular schedule had been initiated that consisted of daily sitting (zazen) practice, Buddhist services, work practice and talks.
I began to attend on Sunday mornings. The program was open to and intended for the general public and it too consisted of sitting, Buddhist services, work practice and a talk. Variety wasn’t held in high regard: there wasn’t any. There was a schedule and it was to be adhered to … religiously.
And so I did or at least I began. I didn’t go on Sundays, I went every Sunday – as in no matter what. The monastery was about five miles away from where I lived, in the mountains of upstate New York, so I drove. That winter it was savagely cold and the snow, which never had a chance to melt, bred large impassable walls of white and gray around my house. I had of necessity dug out the front door and walkway but on one Sunday with all the good intention in the world it seemed I couldn’t go. My car wouldn’t start and as I tried to start it, my hair turned to ice. I didn’t even have the warm clothes on I needed but I wanted to go. I had to go. I refused all obstacles and would not allow the idea of limitation or for that matter any thought that would stop me from attending that Sunday.
I believed that kind of one pointed determination was what I needed. I knew that because I had read some very romantic books about Zen practice and like the fool I was and still am, I believed it. So I made it there that Sunday and for good measure I continued for another twenty-five years at which time I was rewarded for my stubbornness and lack of imagination by receiving transmission – becoming a teacher.
After attending every Sunday and then some other mornings and evenings for a short while, I moved to the Monastery where I practiced and did koan study with the acting teacher John Daido Loori and the abbot Maezumi Roshi. We were still a small group but growing and most everyone was hell bent on enlightenment which loomed before us in the form of a koan : Mu. After that there were about six hundred other koans in case everything wasn’t clear yet. After some time of struggle, many of us passed Mu and a number of other koans as well. Passing Mu is referred to as Kensho – seeing the true nature and it was an incredible experience and revelation but it certainly did not solve everything as we had all desperately hoped.
A certain question began to arise with increasing frequency. There were a number of iterations but they all evolved from a basic formulation and some disappointment. The question was “what good is all this?” or “How do I apply this to my daily life?” The question also had more discrete forms: “How do I apply this koan to my life?” “What good is all this sitting doing me?”
Later on other questions arose. An important one was “if these people have been training for so long why are they so unkind, self-centered while at the same time spouting phrases about unlimited compassion or unexcelled enlightenment.
Yet I knew the practice was true and good so I wrestled with these questions and realized what was there all along. I have decided that what the practice requires from me and perhaps all of us is a certain kind of intelligence and a certain kind of stupidity. With all the openings, realizations and koans, you still have to be smart enough to understand that no person or system can ever create integrity for you. You also have to be dumb enough to ignore the admonitions of mothers all over the world and go to the monastery or wherever your heart calls no matter how cold it is and how improperly you are dressed for it.
photo credit: Photo Extremist