Monday, November 8, 2010

A Big Do with Dogen

Zen Center's Dogen Translation Forum was a pretty big deal this weekend, and by all accounts it was a great success. We had the biggest crowd I can remember in the Buddha Hall for Peter Levitt's very rich talk, with apparently a full dining room of overflows as well; certainly the zendo and the gaitan were packed full for the period of zazen beforehand. Where I sit for lectures always gives me a good view of the assembly, and scanning the crowd I could see that there were a number of zen luminaries in attendance, including some teachers who have helped me greatly on the path - Gaelyn Godwin, Houston Zen Center's resident teacher who gave me my dharma name at my jukai in 2004, and Hogen and Chozen Bays from Great Vow Monastery, which I visited in 2006 at the end of a year away from Zen Center, a visit I fondly remember as very grounding and rewarding.
As ino, there was not really anything special for me to do - most of my work involved me wearing my sound engineer hat. Our web maestro Laura had set up a Livestream channel, and between us we managed to connect our somewhat primitive Buddha Hall PA system onto the web. As technical accomplishments go, it did not have the same scope as some of my adventures at the BBC (like say, using an early generation satellite phone the size of a large suitcase, powered, via a power inverter, by a car battery, for a live link-up between a small town in Central Nigeria and the World Service in London at five in the morning) but it was actually very gratifying on Saturday morning to connect everything up, go upstairs to my office - as the front office computer did not have any speakers - and to go online to hear Blanche, who had graciously agreed to be miked up during zazen instruction, though I don't think she had expected to be beamed to the listening masses (actually I hope I was the only person listening at that stage). During the question and answer session afterwards, we even had Laura asking a question that had been submitted from Belfast via the chat stream; while again this may not be the pinnacle of technological wizardry, it was nice to know that we were spreading the dharma far and wide in real time.
And since we are speaking of the wonderful world of online connections, I don't know if Brad would like to be referred to as one of the zen luminaries, but I suspect he probably has less problem being one of the "ROCK STARS of the American Zen community"- and my thanks to him for that link.
Now I shall be waiting for the comment that goes "Enough with the Dogen...we are not all as enthralled as you are".


kevin said...

Thank you for your role in making this possible for us out here to witness.

I couldn't watch it live because I was participating in my first extended sitting "retreat." I'm looking forward to making my way through the recordings over the coming week.

Harry said...

Yes, well done to you and all involved.

Nice to know there was someone asking questions all the way from my home town (Belfast). I was just hanging out from my crib here in southern Ireland listening to the talks and enjoying the video (the quality was much better than I expected really), but I added a few comments on the live feed which was an interesting thing to be able to do.



Shundo said...

Harry, glad you could join in.
Kevin, how was your retreat?

kevin said...

Thank you for asking! I relearned the lesson about accepting the pain in my legs that I wrote about long ago here with a corollary that sometimes you have to suck it up and accept that your pain tolerance has a limit and moving is unavoidable.

Since all of you were enjoying my teacher, Gaelyn's presence so much over there, they let Dave "Wild Mountain" Johnson out of his cage for the Dharma talk which I enjoyed very much.

Technically, it was a Dharma Punx retreat, but I went to use it as an opportunity to get a taste of what the Rohatsu Sesshin will be like. I'm glad I'll be helping the tenzo, to continue practice but break up the sitting a bit, because just that half day sitting was pretty intense.

Right now I'm excited to be preparing for Arlene Lueck, Sensei's visit. We seem to bringing the San Fransisco area here one person at a time.

Shundo said...

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for recounting your experience. Sitting can be a lot like running, or any other physical activity - you need to put in some base miles before you can start feeling comfortable over longer stretches. I sit two hours a day more or less, and I still find one-day sittings challenging sometimes...
Trevor wrote a nice post about this a while back:

Enjoy Arlene - she's a blast

kevin said...

thanks for the encouragement and the link. "macho" was an adjective that had popped into my mind.

I'm used to sitting 40 minutes at a time, but for some reason I just couldn't get comfortable.

I have been told that about her...

Mike said...

More Dogen, please! I enjoy getting my "daily dose of Dogen" from your blog!

Anonymous said...

As someone who has just begun to sit at SFZC, I'd like to extend my gratitude to you for maintaining both this blog and the functioning of the zendo. This blog has often helped to answer questions, served as a touchstone for further exploration of zen on the internet, and reminded me of the beauty of rooftop vistas. And to the extent that morning zazen is well orchestrated day in and day out as a result of your doings as ino - thank you for making it possible for a complete novice to learn how to sit in a dependably functioning environment.

Shundo said...

Thank you Mike and anonymous for your comments; don't worry, there will be more for "dependably functioning", we do the best we can. Feel free to come and introduce yourself some time