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Lions Roar : September 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2012 41 Given this, given Zen’s wide dissemination, is he worried about dilution? “Dilution is actually wonderful. People get a little taste of Zen and it means something to them. At the same time, we need rigorous, deep, challenging practice, training that takes years, a lifetime. Zen Center has a role in maintaining that, but also in making the dharma available in a variety of forms. I don’t think the two are opposed. The Diamond Sutra says that if you take just one phrase and study it, the value of it is incalculable.” FILLING A WELL WITH SNOW Toward the end of the fall practice period at Tassajara, eighty- three-year-old Mel Weitsman—former abbot of San Francisco Zen Center, Stücky’s teacher and my own—spoke about having an “affinity” for practice. Weitsman and Stücky co-led that prac- tice period, showing us directly how sometimes the teacher is the student and sometimes the student is the teacher. During the question-and-answer portion of the lecture, the discussion veered toward having faith in the dharma, or faith in practice, even as events and forces in the world challenge that faith. Weitsman suggested that even when you feel overwhelmed with the problems in the world, you do what you can to solve the problems. “You just work for peace because that’s what you believe in,” he said cheerfully. “You do it knowing that it will never happen.” Weitsman began to tell the story of Hakuin’s koan about fool- ish wise men filling a well with snow. Mid-sentence, his voice faltered. He paused, brought a fist to his chest. The room stilled completely. Was it a heart attack? A stroke? Should someone do something? As soon as Weitsman spoke again, though, it became clear that this was not chest pain but the sudden upwelling of a life’s love for and commitment to the pure effort of practice. It was an exquisitely intimate moment. An invisible cord stretched between Weitsman and each person in the room. I don’t mean this metaphorically—I actually felt a tug in my gut. This wasn’t just warm hand to warm hand transmission—it was hara-to-hara. Asked by a student a moment later to describe his unexpected emotional response, Weitsman said, “It’s just beauti- ful. That’s the feeling. It’s beautiful.” As San Francisco Zen Center turns fifty and Zen flourishes in the zendo, on the farm, in the kitchen, in the workplace, and in the human heart, there’s much to celebrate. A lot of effort has gone into making Zen Center what it is today. But the greatest treasure, the gift beneath it all, expressed in a teacher’s tears, is the quiet but tre- mendous power of the practice Zen Center has nurtured all along. ♦ Above: Eighty-three-year-old Mel Weitsman sits in zazen with students at the Berkeley Zen Center, where he is abbot. Opposite: The weekly Saturday sitting at the Berkeley Zen Center. The dharma talk follows. PHOTOSBYANDREAROTH