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Lions Roar : July 2006
To take another example, sesshin, the traditional period of in- tense zazen, means “to unify mind.” I work with people who are homeless. For me that means I need to unify my mind with those living in the streets. To do this, I have been doing street retreats. This is not the same as doing a homeless retreat. Many people call these “homeless retreats,” but to unify the mind with somebody homeless you have to be homeless. Everyone I have taken with me, including myself, knew that we were going back to our homes in a week. We were street people but not homeless people. So a street retreat is being at one with those living in the street. How do you do that? You live in the street. That’s what I did with everyone who came along—we lived in the street. Now, part of life is breathing, part of life is eating, and part of life is doing zazen. I don’t look at them as special. They are just what I do each day. I don’t breathe to live; because I’m alive, I breathe. I don’t do zazen to become something; because I’m alive, I do zazen. A street retreat has all those elements. It has eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom. It has all the aspects of your life, except you happen to be living in the street. So the rules change. There are no bathrooms, no showers, no zafus, zabutons. We sit on the floor to do our zazen. We have no beautiful drums or robes, so we use garbage cans or whatever we can find for our liturgy. But every day we have service. Every day we sit. I was amazed at what happened on the first street retreat. There were all kinds of people who joined me, including people who had done many sesshins. Some came for one day and some for five days, but every one of them told me it was the most pow- erful experience of their life. Something happened. I think it’s the immediacy. Sesshin also brings us to the immediacy of life, but the street does it very, very dramatically. Issues of eating, peeing, defecating—every aspect of our life—is raw and right there. And denial. One day on the street and people deny you. When you walk into a restaurant they won’t serve you. When you have to go to the bathroom desperately, you go into a restaurant or a store and ask if you can use the bathroom, and they say no. People walk away from you because they don’t like the way you smell or look, and if you truly experience this, you will never avoid those people again, those people who were you. That’s the power of the street and what it can teach—the immediacy of now. It teaches us to bear witness. So if you can just feel Bodhidharma’s beard and see all its problems, if you can see how to clean it, comb it, and become one with it, that’s a tremendous healing and learning. The beard teaches you and the things you deny will teach you. They will teach you, if you can listen, to bear witness and become at one with them. This is zazen. ♦ Bodhidharma’s Beard A teaching by Roshi Bernie Glassman on bearing witness to all of life, including the sufferings we usually close our eyes to. tough out of the zendo as he was in it, and his toughness—and stubbornness—took its toll on Holmes. A colleague of Glassman’s says, “He’s a mathematician and an engineer. You have to remember that. So when he’s able to solve something in his mind, the rest of it is just kind of imple- mentation work.” Meaning Glassman had the big ideas, but it was his students—including the student who was his wife— who had to do the very hard work. “That’s not entirely fair,” that same colleague adds, “because he’s extraordinarily energetic, and worked very, very hard.” Holmes herself said in her journals, quoted by Glassman in his unpublished book, that he was “like a blast furnace. You either get shaped like fine steel, or you melt.” Though the couple was clearly very much in love and devoted to their work together, equality was a problem. “Jishu was brilliant,” says Enkyo O’Hara, “but everyone would listen to Bernie. You’d be at a meeting, and all eyes would be on him. Jishu would have organized a whole aspect of the mandala, but there was no recognition. And so she called him ➢ page 91 SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2006 39 DARUMABYKYOSAI,KAWANABE(1801-1900)©INDIANAPOLISMUSEUMOFART,USA/MR&MRSRICHARDCRANEFUND/THEBRIDGEMANARTLIBRARY