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Lions Roar : September 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2012 40 thirteenth-century Japanese Zen master Eihei Dogen’s writings. If not directly through Suzuki Roshi then through the prac- tice he helped establish in America, Zen has touched the lives and work of numerous artists and innovators. You can hear it in Leonard Cohen’s lyrics and Laurie Anderson’s performances, feel it in the simple but elegant design of Steve Jobs’ technological inventions. Well-read books by Zen practitioners such as Natalie Goldberg, Peter Matthiessen, Norman Fischer, Brad Warner, and the late Charlotte Joko Beck have brought the dharma to read- ers in different voices. Every summer, Tassajara offers retreats in creative expression, inviting participants to discover their own voices through writing, visual arts, and improvisation. Zen and the art of fill-in-the-blank—that popular phrase from Robert M. Pirsig’s best-selling novel that wasn’t really about motorcycles or Zen—points to something real: American Zen’s spirit of creativity and adaptability. That spirit has its roots in the early days of Zen Center, when Shunryu Suzuki offered a way of practicing that included both men and women and didn’t require them to enter a monastery. “Zen Center seems to have found a middle ground between tradition and adaptation, by al- lowing both of those instincts to flourish,” Professor Seager told me. These days, Zen Center is embracing yet another branch- ing stream—in pixels. Through live-streamed events and other online offerings, it hopes to create a “fourth practice place,” an online community with boundless reach. As those who directly knew Suzuki Roshi enter their seventies and eighties, the question of transmission and succession is on people’s minds. There are practical concerns, which Zen Center has addressed with financial vesting for residents and plans for a senior living facility with a dharma flavor. But there’s also the more intangible concern about how to pass on the teachings the further that Zen Center gets from its founder. Says Stücky: “We still are largely a one-generation institution. All of the abbots, including myself, started when Zen Center started. For people to feel confidence in their training and authentic understanding in successive generations is a big challenge.” It’s said that Zen is transmitted “warm hand to warm hand.” But this wasn’t just hand-to-hand transmission—it was hara-to-hara. I actually felt a tug in my gut.