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Lions Roar : March 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2008 63 on the phrases and spaces of Zen practice, including his favorite: “Who is sick?” below the level of our conceptual mind. Feeling them from the gut, letting them work on us, instead of us working on them. In Zen there are various traditions and methodologies for working with phrases, some more organized than others. In contemporary Zen, as practiced in the West, there are sev- eral koan traditions, all influenced by Rinzai Zen. These traditions are very well organized, with koan curricula and proscribed ways of responding to koans in a fairly regimented format. In the Soto Zen that I practice, working with phrases is practiced in a fuzzy and somewhat disorganized way. There is no curriculum and no particular format. This has always suited me, because I find I resist things that are too well organized; real life, it has always seemed to me, is fuzzy, and spiritual approaches that seem organized (they never really are organized; they just seem to be), and therefore suggest progress and development, strike me as less honest than disorganized approaches that admit progress is a problematic concept to begin with. Though I have always been fascinated with religious systems, organized or not, I have a hard time taking them literally. But I realize that for many people, maybe most people, organized approaches are good, because they provide a map and a way of checking yourself. I have said that the Zen practice of phrases involves actual phrases—word clusters— but also the silence that’s always inside and all around the words. Like the vast spaces MAR 62-67.indd 63 MAR 62-67.indd 63 12/20/07 1:53:16 PM 12/20/07 1:53:16 PM