THE ZEN MASTER
Continued from THE WAIT posted 12-20-01
The sesshins ran from four in the morning to eight at
night. About thirty people attended and we sat in two rows
of fifteen facing one another across the room with our
backs toward the wall.
In the morning the master spoke to all of us in assembly
and three times a day we met with him in private
consultation. The rest of the time we sat in the most
ungodly, uncomfortable position anyone could think up. The
master was a small little man they said was in his late
seventies, although he looked much younger. He spoke no
english and everything he said had to be translated. What
he talked about was similar to what the man next door
talked about, only in a context that wasn't as easily cross
transferable to my experiences. The master had the same
calm serenity as the man next door, but in one of the
private sessions when I asked him through the interpreter
if his mind had exploded, he turned from the translator's
eyes to mine with a flash of rage and his body stiffened,
quickly retreating to a relaxed manner with a slight
sparkle in his eye. After that, for some reason, the man
that walked around the room cracking our backs with a stick
to keep us at full concentration, spent more time producing
extra welts on my shoulders.
Near noon on the next to the last day I was surprised to
see the man next door come into the sesshin. He was quickly
ushered in to see the master and they were together in the
master's room for a long time. When he left the master
walked with him. They seemed as one. There was no
interpreter. By the final day our numbers had diminished
greatly and though the master spoke in private with the
others, he refused to have private consutation with me.
When the last day finally ended and we were leaving,
thanking heavens we even survived, the interpreter came to
me and said the master wished to speak with me. The master
told me three of the our group had realized Kensho and
berated me for not being among them. He said I had vast
opportunities in my daily existence far beyond most and had
not fulfilled the expectations of either him or my mentor.
I thanked him, bowed, and left.
Going home my mind was in a whirl. I was sore, I ached, I
had welts all over my back and some shrimpie little jerk
was telling me to realize my growth. Three people had
Kensho. Big deal! Nobody's mind exploded. It wasn't India.
For seven agonizing pain filled days I had sat inhumanly
contorted under the aegis of a certified Bodhidharma
successor, beat with a stick like a dog, nearly starved to
death on nothing but turtle food, and probed ceaselessly
day after day to practice into the wee hours of the
morning...and nothing! I quit my job to practice full time.
The summer quietly slipped by. The man next door, as he
said he would, moved, seeking more solitude from the
multitudes. I received a draft notice and by the end of
October I was in the army. It wasn't until after I was
discharged that I met up with my mentor again. Before he
moved, however, he did come to me and recount his meeting
with the Zen master and how the discussion involved me. He
said the master had told him I was close, very, very close,
and any little thing could break the bottom out. The master
had said it wouldn't be little Kensho either. Some at the
sesshin were like dog bowls being tipped over, but I was
like a dam ready to burst. Water is held by both, but the
results are quite different. Pondering for awhile, thinking
of my draft notice, the man next door said it was probably
good that nothing happened, although he was curious how a
person with such an experience would handle a military
To be continued...
NOTE: For those who may have an interest, further writings
and offerings by the Wanderling regarding Zen and
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