Tag Archives: Zen

Meeting Ming Hai, Abbot of Bai Lin Si, the temple of Zen Master Joshu

To my Zen and Chan brothers, sisters and friends,

As you may know, I spent about 6 months in China last year. I stayed at one particular temple for a two month stay in early spring and another 3 weeks in October. The monk is a Soto (Cao Dong) monk, and his favorite Zen text is the Blue Cliff Record. For one month, I did a pilgrimage through some of the temples and sites that we have all read and heard of through the years. There is a brief travelogue with some pictures on my website, http://www.bumbelbuddhist.wordpress.com.

I also have a much longer narrative that I will put online at some point.

However, I thought I would share the highlights of the conversation I had with Ming Hai, the abbot of Bailin Si, that is, Cypress Forest Temple, in September, 2013. You might find it useful or interesting.

First a little background. Minghai Da Hesheng (that means Big Monk, or Abbot in Chinese) is the disciple of Jing Hui Lao Hesheng (Jing Hui, the ‘old monk’–the equivalent of Roshi–an honorific title for a revered older teacher). Jing Hui, who died almost a year ago at about the age of 80, was very important in the recent history of Chinese Buddhism. He became a monk at the age of 13, and was the disciple and attendant of the legendary Chinese monk, Xu Yun “Empty Cloud”. Xu Yun lived from 1840 to 1959.

As I noted in my recent blogpost, Xu Yun lived through some of the most tumultuous and difficult times in Chinese history. Specifically, he lived through the 15 year long Taiping Rebellion of the 19th century, which resulted in at least 20 million deaths due to civil war and social chaos. Then again, with the collapse of Chinese society and the Qing Dynasty, in 1911, followed by the Japanese invasions and occupation of large areas of China between 1938-45, together with the civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists, China experienced the death of another 20 million people in WWII, as well as the terrible social disruptions that attended all that.

So Xu Yun, we might say, is a Holocaust Survivor of not one, but TWO Holocausts.

Following the Communist takeover in 1949, institutional Buddhism was suppressed, culminating in the Cultural Revolution between roughly 1966-75.He also was severely beaten by Red Guards, but somehow survived that.

Jing Hui was one of several important disciples of Xu Yun.
Hsuan ‘Hua, who founded City of 10,000 Buddhas, was another one you may have heard of.

During the Cultural Revolution, severe repression took place. Jing Hui had trained with Xu Yun, and I would imagine, it was his position within Chinese Buddhism as a notable monk, that resulted in his imprisonment for 15 years in a labor camp.

However, after the Cultural Revolution, and the rise of Deng Xiao Ping as the ideological successor to Mao, a major transformation began to occur, with religious freedom of expression allowed. One of Jing Hui’s first acts was to gather together overseas Buddhists from Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Korea, to rebuild Bailin Si. That is the temple of Joshu, in English it is Cypress Forest Temple.

Following Joshu’s (Chinese: Zhao Zhou) death, over a long period of decline, Bailin Si, along with many other Buddhist monasteries, fell apart. By the 1970’s all that was left of Bailin Si was a pagoda tower, that had been severely damaged in an earthquake. All the other buildings were gone, leaving just vacant land.

So Jing Hui, prevailing on the desire to rebuild the temple of one of the most important Zen Masters, raised the funds to rebuild Bailin Si. It is now a very active temple in a smallish city outside the provincial capital of Hebei province. It is about two hours on the 180 mile per hour high speed train from Beijing to the provincial capital Shijiazhuang, and another hour by car from the train station to the temple.

Because of my previous trips to China, I had heard of Ming Hai, who has succeeded as abbot to Bailin Si. He had been in a 3 year solitary retreat, however, with the unexpected death of Jing Hui, he was asked to give up his retreat, to step into Jing Hui’s shoes.

I had also had the great fortune to meet Jing Hui and have a dharma discussion with him in 2010, as noted at my website. Several people had urged me to meet Ming Hai as well. So, on my arrival at Bailin Si, I asked to see Ming Hai, but he was very busy. Finally, I got his phone number, and told him that several of our mutual friends had urged me to see him. However, he had left Bailin Si, to visit another temple, preparing for some special occasion, the dedication of a new temple. While Western news reports a lot about China’s economic rise, and building whole cities from scratch “Ghost cities”, what is not reported is a massive temple building program.

Incredibly, he arranged for a car to drive me the hour and a half ride to where he was staying. I was later to learn the good fortune of that trip too.

So that is the background for our meeting.

I started off, by telling him about my background in Zen training, both as a student at the San Francisco Zen Center, and currently as a student of Nelson Foster, who is a lineage holder of Robert Aitken Roshi, who had trained in the Sanbo Kyodan school in Japan.

I had several concerns that I wanted to share with him.
First, I wanted to see if there is some way for Americans and Chinese to meet and share their experiences. Having spent quite a lot of time with Chinese in mainland China since my first trip in 2007, I have observed a tendency for Americans and Chinese to have perceptions of each other that are somewhat skewed.

Because of the history of the past 200 years in China, I think most Americans assume that Buddhism in China is pretty much dead, and that there is little freedom of thought or speech. In the past Communist party members were forbidden to practice Buddhism, but now it is quite acceptable to, and while China has human rights issues, I sense that many Chinese are quite open to discussing these issues, more so than Americans are willing to discuss American political issues.

Second, Chinese think that there is very little Buddhism in America, and often express envy for the democratic processes we are all familiar with.

In fact, Buddhism is now a strong component (though not dominant) in contemporary China. Both educated classes and working class people have large populations that visit and support temples and monks and nuns. In fact, as a pilgrim, I have generally stayed at temples to practice Chan (Zen) for free–I simply make a donation. In only two of perhaps 15 temples I have stayed at, was I asked to pay money. Most temples charge a very nominal $5-10 a day for supervised retreats, and even then, many people who don’t have money stay for free. That is, by donations. Many temples are being built or rebuilt, due to the generosity of donors wealthy and not wealthy. I have observed a really remarkable cultural trait of generosity, and that is what supports not just temples, but friendships as well.

So my question to Ming Hai, was how to overcome these misperceptions of China. I also think it is important for Chinese to understand the political, social and economic issues facing the people of the USA .

Most of all, I wish for a peaceful, harmonious world, or as my Chinese friend Lily Lee says, “A world culture of harmony”. How can we do this?

His answer was that he has met a number of Americans who have come to visit China, and stayed at Bailin Si. For example, Andy Ferguson, who runs South Mountain Tours has brought a number of groups to visit Bailin Si as well as other temples.

Ming Hai noted that when Americans come to see China for themselves, and talk with Chinese Buddhists, they come away with a better understanding and good feeling. We both agreed that it would be good to encourage more Americans to spend time in China. Two of my American friends who went on the tours told me they enjoyed them too. So how can we create the possibility for more exchanges?

Another issue we discussed is Visas. Most people who come to China to see what is happening with Buddhism, stay for a relatively short time. But what about someone like me, who is retired and has more time to stay, or others who simply want to stay in China for a longer time, to go on pilgrimage, stay in temples for longer stay, and so on?

At that point, Ming Hai took out a note book and wrote something down. I asked what was he writing about?

He replied, “I am an Assemblyman (the Chinese equivalent a member of the US Congress), and I want to bring up the subject, of making it easier for people to stay in China, based on religious grounds”.

I was quite surprised. I replied, “Do you know, that in America, you would have to make a $5000 campaign contribution, to get a direct one on one interview with your Congressperson?” “And here I am having an extended talk with you”. Not to mention that he had arranged a car to drive me to meet him. I am not some special person, like a teacher or famous author, just a humble student of the Way.
For him to go out of his way to see me and to see what he could do about making it more possible for students of Chan–Zen–to stay in China, was really heartwarming.

Visas are not easy these days, regulations are tightening pretty much everywhere, but at least Ming Hai was making an effort to promote mutual understanding, and I deeply appreciate him for that.

Ming Hai also wanted to share some concerns he has about American Zen, which I think are worth noting.

First was the issue of ethics. As we all know, there have been a lot of problems in various Buddhist communities over the years.
He may not know of the progress that has been made in these areas, in both the Diamond Sangha as well as the Zen Center. His point is still well taken that there is more work to do, in view of issues with other Buddhist teachers in both Zen, Tibetan and Theravada lineages.

The second issue is his concern about Chan Buddhism seeing itself as separate from Buddhism. In Japan, of course and then in the USA, we have seen differentiation of Zen, Jodo Shinshu, Nichiren, and so on. In China, from my observation, there seems to be less of that, although there are temples where Chan is practiced and others where it is not. I think if I understand him correctly he is concerned about a sort of sectarian elitism in Zen culture.

At Bailin Si, there is a large Dharma Hall and monks do a lot of chanting. Most temples are similar, with chanting and study being more prominent than sitting. I think it would be fair to say that Ming Hai thinks that Dharma study is important and should not be overlooked.

As for meditation, in some temples, monks have their own hall and laypeople sit in their own hall. That is the case at Bailin Si. However, at Yang Shan’s temple and Mazu’s temple, there is one meditation hall for everyone. Likewise, the temple where I have spent the most time, Tong Bo Yan Si, is headed by a Cao Dong monk, and monks and laypeople sit in the same hall. Likewise, at Nanputo, there is a large beautiful Chan Tang, or Meditation Hall, and both monastics and laypeople sit together.

I visited one nunnery, but didn’t stay there. I have heard that there are some nunneries where lay men can stay too. So there are no set rules, that I can see.

Both Yang Shan Xi Yin Si and Bao Feng Si where Mazu taught 1200 years ago, have been rebuilt and both hold meditation retreats. I have been invited to stay and do retreats at all these temples and certainly other Westerners are welcome to join in, too.

My sense is that in China, there seems to be a feeling of a need for preparation for sitting. In the West, and even in Thailand, meditation practice is fine for even rank beginners, like most of us were when we started. Many students practice by sutra chanting, and there are temples where students study the Vinaya assiduously. Or it may be that some Chinese themselves feel they are not ready to sit, and ask for preliminary practices.

One question that I did not ask was about the temple where I met Ming Hai. It had also been rebuilt by Jing Hui, and since I read only a smattering of Chinese, I didn’t know what some posters on the wall said. Later, I asked a monk about the temple. He explained that it was at this temple YuQuan Si, that Wansong, the great Soto Master, spent a lot of time writing the Shoyo Roku, that is, the Record of Ease, or Book of Serenity or Congrong Lu, the main koan collection of the Soto School. In fact that was one of the temples I had wanted to visit. I thought that I was going to miss it due to my travel schedule, and not really knowing how to get there.

So it was by accident, that Minghai happened to be there, and with his kind assistance, I was able to complete the pilgrimage of temples I had planned.

On the other hand, the Chinese say, there are no accidents.

That was how I got to meet Minghai, and see Wansong’s temple.

PS I am returning to China in two weeks and several of my Chinese friends have asked me, how can I help to open the doors to develop friendly relations with Americans. Especially American Buddhists. On possibility is to set up a website or maybe even a forum or organization. If any of you have any ideas, I would very much enjoy hearing from you.

Also, if you know of other people who would like to hear about this, please feel free to forward it.

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Buddhism for the new and curious

A talk given at the request of two Indian friends, to a group of psychotherapists, January 6th,2011.

When Dogen Zenji, the Japanese monk returned from China, he brought Zen Buddhism from China to Japan.

From a psychotherapeutic standpoint, you may be interested to know of his formulation of Buddhism-” To study Buddhism is to study the self to study the self is to forget the self, to forget the self is to be enlightened by all things”

You might say, that in spiritual or psychological terms, the world is either your adversary, or your therapist, depending on your point of view.

When the Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, having trained in meditation under the greatest teachers of his day, 2500 years ago, he realized that “All beings have Buddha nature, it is only their delusions and attachments that prevent them from seeing it.”

So, we can see that psychology and Buddhism have a lot in common, namely, liberation of ourselves from the hindrances and blockages that so many people experience. While we all know that there is a lot of emotional distress these days in our modern society, we shouldn’t think that it is only in these times that humans faced trouble.

A questioner once asked the Buddha:

Inner tangle, outer tangle, this whole generation in a tangle, who will succeed in untangling the tangle?

If the questioner thought things were tangled up then, he had not even considered Bank statements, business and professional licenses, investment schemes, and geopolitical politics! Or nuclear meltdowns.

The Buddha answered by saying, the person who, with determination and wisdom works on it, that person will untangle the tangle.

But the question then arises, “How do we go about this”?

And what is the thing we can Zen? Zen has become nowadays a term associated with trendy fashion statements. I saw a poster in the Taiwan Airport, saying “Find your Zen”, they were selling some fashion item.

But actually, Zen comes from the Chinese word Chan. And Chan comes from the Sanskrit word, Dhyana, which means “meditation”. Thus the Zen school of Buddhism emphasizes the practice of meditation to achieve the goal of spiritual and psychological freedom. Strictly speaking, as such, it uses, but does not depend on words, books, etc.

One time, the Buddha was in front of the assembly of monks, nuns, and laypeople. He held up a flower. No one understood his meaning, but then his Disciple, Mahakasyapa came forward and bowed. The Buddha affirmed that their wordless exchange showed a meeting of awakened mind with awakened mind, and so Mahakasyapa became the 2nd Zen Ancestor after the Buddha Shakyamuni, so the story goes.

It is fair to say that much of this is legendary, some historically true, some made up to fill in the blanks, but nevertheless, meditation has been central to the work of spiritual freedom throughout the centuries.

Whether in the case of the many Indian saints, such as Ramana Maharshi, or the zen masters, Tibetan lamas, Daoist sages of China, and even Native American shamans, sitting crosslegged shows a common thread in those who wish to develop themselves.

Of course, crosslegged sitting is not totally necessary, as there are other practices such as the various schools of yoga, chi gong, tai chi, etc. And one of the principle common threads is that of Mindfulness, or recollection.

Why is this? because our minds are essentially out of control.  Let’s try an experiment. We’ll sit quietly for a few minutes, and starting with each breath, breath in, and on the out breath, breathe “one…then on the next out breath…two, up to ten, and then start over at “one”

———OK, so how many of you, after a short time, either lost count of your breath, or noticed other thoughts irrelevant to the exercise, creep in?

If you did, guess what………..You are normal!

Just as it is the heart’s job to pump blood, the mind’s job is to think. However, if we can learn to train our minds to think in a certain way, we will no longer be at the mercy of our thinking, feeling, and psychological and cultural conditioning.

That is why mantras are a popular form of practice in many religions. The mind is said to be like a young calf, jumping around all the time, but if we tie it to a post, it will gradually settle down and become calm.

The mindfulness exercise or recollection we practice, is the rope we use to tie it, and with patience and persistence, the many thoughts and feelings we experience, we can catalog and understand, and eventually tame our minds.

However, if you try holding a mantra or your breath in mind as you are walking down the street, driving your car, or doing other common activities, you may find that it is quite difficult to do so. While sitting with no other  activity, though, it is easier.

After about 1000 years in India, there was a certain Prince in Southern India, who, like the Buddha, also gave up his throne, and became the Indian who brought Zen Meditation practice from India to China. Up until then, Buddhism in China had been mainly scholasticism, the study of Buddhist doctrine, or the description in words of the Buddhist experience of reality, or the practice of devotional recitation of various names of Buddhist luminaries.

Bodhidharma, so he was called, used one scripture as doctrine, but also emphasized that ultimately, it is up to each of us to cultivate ourself and realize our true nature. He is spoken of as the First Patriarch, or first Ancestor of Zen in China.

The Sixth Ancestor, named Hui Neng was a good example of the concept of nonadherence to words, letters and doctrine. An illiterate woodcutter, he supported his poor mother, his father having died while he was young.

One day, he heard a monk reciting from the Diamond Sutra, a short but key text in Chinese Buddhism (incidentally, printed on woodblocks about 800 CE, and thus the first printed book) and his mind was enlightened. He inquired where the monk came from, and learned that he was a student of the 5th Ancestor. ” Due to my good karma in past lives, I heard of this teaching, and I was given ten Tael (coins) to maintain my mother, who advised him to see the 5th Ancestor.

I once asked my teacher, “Hui Neng lost his father at a young age, his mother was miserable, and he was an illiterate woodcutter, yet, on hearing the Diamond Sutra, he realized his Essence of Mind”.

I also lost my father at a young age, my mother was also miserable, but at least I had a good education. And yet, Hui Neng heard the Diamond Sutra and was immediately enlightened. While I have been beating my head against the wall these many years, trying in vain to to be enlightened. So what is the difference between Hui Neng and me?”

My teacher said, “Hui Neng heard the Diamond Sutra and was enlightened, and you have been beating your head against the wall.”

So now I think maybe for starters, I should stop beating my head against the wall, trying to attain something!

Well, anyway, I am not alone, for Hui Neng soon found that he faced serious envy from the other practitioners at the monastery, many of whom had, no doubt also studied Buddhism for years. His teacher advised him to lay low for 16 years, and he left the monastery and lived in the forest for years. However, at one point, he was being pursued by a tough soldier, General Ming,  who was seeking the return of the 5th Ancestor’s robe, which he felt was not rightfully Hui Neng’s.

He was about to overtake Hui Neng, who was hiding behind a large boulder. Hui Neng said, “the robe is only a symbol, and not worth fighting over, so if you want it, take it, and left it on a rock. But Ming, the soldier had enough presence of mind, to say, “I came for the truth.”

Hui Neng, replied that he should just sit quietly and calm his mind. And then after a time, Hui Neng said, “Now show me your Original Face, before your parents were born”.

It is sometimes used as a meditation subject “What is your original face, before your parents were born.” It is said that at that point, Ming had a breakthrough.

To do this, to break through, we must be in the here and now.  A friend and I were talking about another story the other day, about some one who was reborn for 500 lives. The story is reminiscent of the movie Ground Hog Day, where the hero of the story wakes up and has to go through the same day every day, until he finally sees why he is stuck.

Interestingly, Zen uses stories to stimulate our mind to look at things in new ways, and free ourselves from the preconceived notions that bind us.

A zen master used to give lectures periodically, a common practice, and an old man used to show up to listen. One day, the old man stayed behind. “I used to be the abbot of this temple, but because of a mistake I made, I have been reborn as a fox for 500 lives, only appearing here as human for your talks.”

So what was the problem the abbot asked? “When someone asked me about Karma, [ the law of cause and effect, as represented by “as you sow so shall you reap”], I said enlightened people are not subject to karma”. “Ok, now ask me the question, the abbot said.

“Is an enlightened man subject to karma or not?” 

“An enlightened man does not disregard Karma” retorted the abbot.

At that point, the old man was enlightened, and said that he was now released from the body of a fox.

The abbot then called the monks together and told them to prepare for a monk’s funeral. They were all puzzled since no one was even sick. So the abbot took them on a walk around the mountain and poking under a rock, found the body of a dead fox. He then told them the whole story, gave the fox a monk’s funeral.

So from a therapeutic point of view, we can look at this story and consider its meaning. Maybe it is “why do I do the same behavior over and over again?”

Why do I feel stuck in my life?

However, from a Zen point of view, if a Zen teacher gives you this story, also called a Koan, or “Public case”, and you keep this story in mind, you will probably start to see your own life story in a different way, a way that frees you from your conditioned response to it.

In other words, what we think is neurotic behavior, suddenly becomes an understandable response to perhaps some situation that we could not handle earlier in life. We can forgive ourselves for our state of mind, and more important, accept the behavior of others such as parents or spouses we didn’t get along with, but not take it personally. Likewise, if we have done things that have hurt others, through our own arrogance, greed, anger, fear or ignorance, those issues will come up so we can deal with them and (hopefully) not repeat our own mistakes.

The key point, is to not get caught up in doctrine or dogma.

As Bob Marley said,

Free yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds….

or Bob Dylan:

It’s all right Ma, it’s life and life only.

We study the self in order to forget the self, and are liberated by all things.

Suddenly, everything becomes “OK”, or “things just as they are”.

This practice, which involves becoming more intimate and gentle with ourselves, through mindful awareness and employing sitting meditation as the cutting edge of developing awareness has been used for at least 2500 years in Buddhism and certainly in many other spiritual and psychological disciplines.

Constellation therapy, gestalt therapy, Jungian therapy all have similar aspects to them.

The key is learning to see our life, just as it is, without denial or feelings of victimhood, or superiority, but in a different way, where we take responsibility for ourselves.

One useful step to take is to own our own body and mind, by taking stock, through meditation, the Zen stories, and the various sutras–Buddhist scriptures–are all useful tools, but the real work is really up to us, to untangle our own tangle.

Indeed, teachings of any kind, from Aesop’s fables, to the Bible, can serve as metaphors or lenses to gain some insight into ourselves.

It is said that the Buddha’s last words were

All concocted things disintegrate

Work out your own salvation with diligence.

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Report from China


16-10-09 –


Hi to my Zen Friends

I just wanted to fill you in on some of my latest thoughts and experiences here in China. I have been here in Xiamen, across the strait from Taiwan, but on the Mainland of China, for about 9 months now.

On Fridays, I usually go and hang out with my good friend, Meioguangfashi, the monk whom I met while traveling in South China in 2007, the monk who encouraged and invited me to come to China, to “share my practice”. Meioguangfashi is a highly regarded artist in China, as well as an authority on Chinese antiques, art and culture.

Yesterday, I showed him a printout of the homepage of the Honolulu Diamond Sangha, with a picture of several students in the Zendo, sitting with teacher Michael Kieran.

It was Michael who gave excellent talks in Rohatsu sesshin in 2003, I think, about the controversy between Hongzhi and Da Hui, basically, as I understand it between Silent Illumination or Soto Practice, and Koan, or Rinzai practice. Hats off to Taigen Leighton for his research on this, which Michael cited in his teisho.

So Meioguangfashi commented, “Oh they are practicing Japanese way”

Eric: No
Meioguangfashi: Yes
Eric: No
Meioguangfashi Yes
Eric: No, they are practicing Song Dynasty Chinese Buddhism, most likely practicing Dahui style as taught in Japan.

He is probably the best learned Chinese buddhist I know, and he was aware of the controversy I mentioned above.

I then brought up the issue of the Wumen Kuan. We had spent time with a monk I had met at Xuefeng temple (Seppo). He practices a form of breathing meditation, rather than the highly prevalent chanting of Amitofo–Amitabha Buddha of the Pure Land School.

But in talking about Joshu’s “Does a dog have Buddha nature?” His definitive answer was that Joshu’s meaning is, that it does indeed have Buddha Nature (“Fo shin”). My admittedly limited understanding from the point of view of  the Wumen Kuan, is that it is very different.

So Meioguangfashi told me that in fact, the WumenKuan had been destroyed during the Qing Dynasty 300 years ago, due to the ascendancy of the Dalai Lama with the imperial government of China at that time. Very few monks study it, and study isn’t encouraged.

Thus, two of the most important texts in what we know as Zen Buddhism, were destroyed.
The Blue Cliff Record in I guess the Song Dynasty, and the Wumenkuan, in the Qing.

That explains a lot to me about why I have encountered so little practice that looks like what I have come to think of as “Zen” or “Chan”.

It also raises issues with me as to “why” this happened, and why chanting Amitofo is clearly prominent. I’d say that zazen has a lot more in common with Theravada practice than with many of the Mahayana practices which are far more devotional (though certainly Theravada has a lot of chanting especially in popular Buddhism).

I guess, people really don’t like sitting around accomplishing nothing.

It also makes me appreciate Suzuki Roshi’s description of Zen Center’s practice as “Hinayana Practice Mahayana Mind.”

I also feel I have to speculate, that the ascendancy of devotional practice,, with its emphasis on chanting and ceremonies, has an element of social control as well as a diminishing of the intense questioning characteristic of Zen.
Indeed, Chinese I talk with tell me that in school, they were taught that Buddhism was used to control the people before the Peoples Republic was established,

Not that events since then have resulted in social control, of course. (As an aside, Communism is considered a religion here, and that when you register with the government, you cannot be both Buddhist and a member of the Party)

Sometimes a Chinese will tell me that Buddha is his god, and they are astonished when I say that Buddhism has nothing to do with belief, much less a belief in god, but is a method  of deep inquiry into ourselves and the world, as science is in the physical world.

I have read enough Pure Land Buddhism to see that it certainly does put a lot of emphasis on ethical training, which is excellent. And it is also true I think that intense Pure land practice as seen by eminent monks like Hsuan Hua leads to far greater spiritual development than laggards like me.

Nonetheless, the deep inquiry used in trying to understand koans points to the deconstruction of all views, which the Buddha said is the fundamental cause of suffering, attachment to views. Not the replacement of views with another view, that chanting the name of Amitabha will result in liberation.

There is a strong view in China, that despite the past 200 years of great turmoil and trauma, that the dharma is strongest here in China, whereas, in my observation over these past few years, Thailand Burma and even our benighted USA have more access to meditation instruction, certainly available to foreigners. [As of 2011, I may have to change my views on this, and will be returning to stay at several temples from May to October, 2011.]

In the end, nowadays, the Chinese are mainly interested in creating a better material life for themselves, and one of my monk friends here noted regretfully that modern Chinese culture is being overwhelmed by seeking material comfort–money–rather than asking questions about the meaning of life.

On the other hand, I have not met some of the monks that Red Pine has told me about, and I hope that I will be able to meet them in the next couple of months, before I go back to  Thailand and on to India, where there is a branch school of the Sanbo Kyodan School, the parent organization of the Diamond Sangha, which Aitken Roshi founded, and of which I consider myself a student.

As for my future here in China, that is its own Genjo Koan.

Palms together,

Eric Arnow

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