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Lions Roar : July 2017
ANDREAROTH I have very little free time to meditate, so instead of taking the time to sit at home, is it okay if I take opportunities to meditate during the day, such as when I’m waiting in line or sitting on the bus? Ideally, spiritual practice is something we do all the time, because every moment is an opportunity for mindful- ness and compassion. But there’s no substitute for sitting and meditating in a dignified posture, just like the Bud- dha did. Formal practice is what lays the ground for what Chögyam Trungpa called “meditation in action” or “post- meditation practice.” That’s the real point of Buddhism—because how we live is what’s important—but it starts with a formal meditation practice. So if you can, set aside even a few minutes to sit every day. Then take the mindful- ness and loving-kindness you develop on the meditation cushion out into the rest of your day. You and everyone you encounter will benefit. I’m interested in Tibetan Buddhism, but I’m uncomfortable about the principle of guru devotion, which seems hierarchical and potentially exploitive. What should I know before accepting a guru? All schools of Buddhism celebrate the teacher, who helps us to awaken and eases our suffering. How could you not honor such a person? But the teacher– student relationship in Vajrayana Bud- dhism is particularly intense and per- sonal, maybe even slightly draconian. The guru is totally committed to your enlightenment, knows all your ego tricks, and is willing to call you on them. It’s risky to give someone that much power, which is why it’s said you have to find the perfect teacher. That doesn’t mean he or she is infallible. But it does mean they’re completely committed to others and are not using their position for status, money, or any other form of personal gain. If you find such a person, and are willing commit to them, it is said they will show you that your true nature and theirs are the same—enlightened. ♦ WHO? WHAT? WHERE? SAN FRANCISCO ZEN CENTER SAN FRANCISCO ZEN CENTER is one of the old- est and largest Buddhist communities in the United States. It is part of the Soto school of Zen and has produced many of America’s leading Buddhist teachers and writers, such as Sojun Mel Weitsman, Zoketsu Norman Fischer, the late Blanche Hartman, and Tenshin Reb Anderson. San Francisco Zen Center, often just called “Zen Cen- ter,” was founded in 1962 by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, author of the classic Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Ori- ginally it served the Japanese American community in San Francisco, but as Suzuki Roshi’s teachings attracted more and more 1960s spiritual seekers, it evolved into one of the first and most important “convert” Buddhist communities in the U.S. SFZC’s name is a bit of a misnomer: today it encom- passes three separate Buddhist centers in Northern California and affiliate groups around the country. The original practice center, Beginner’s Mind Temple, is located in the heart of San Francisco. In addition to daily zazen sittings, students can do two-to-six-week residencies, and those looking for longer-term Zen training can join the 45-65 full-time residents or enter the two-year work apprenticeship program. At Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, ten miles north of San Francisco, students can study, meditate, and apprentice in the famed gardens. Further south, in a remote part of the Ventana Wilderness, is the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, founded in 1969 as the first Zen training center in the West. It offers monastic training in the fall and winter, and in summer the former spa is open to guests. SFZC has more than seventy affiliate groups around the country and in Canada, Mexico, and Europe where one can practice Zen in the Suzuki Roshi tradition (branchingstreams.sfzc.org). Tell us what you’d like to know about Buddhism and meditation at