Nyogen Senzaki

‘The monks of the Soto School of Zen used to meditate for long hours. They would say, “We meditate, not seeking enlightenment; this is enlightenment itself.” They needed sharp remarks every once in a while, like this koan – “Why doesn’t the enlightened man stand on his own two feet and explain himself?” Nowadays, many Soto Zen novice monks are promoted to the rank of priest after just a few years, before they truly learn how to meditate, and then they have to preach to earn their own living. I must remind each of them of this koan, and say, “It is not necessary for speech to come from the tongue.” They should become farm hands and work in the field, or else clean the parks and squares while other people are sleeping, in the midnight hour. But the saddest part now is that all priests have families to support and they cannot give up their job of priestcraft – easy work and fair pay.
I appreciate the fact that you are trying to learn Zen meditation. I will join you in studying it with pleasure. Every once in a while I must warn you with this koan, saying “Brace yourself and stand up,” as your purpose in coming here is not to become stone buddhas. I appreciate your enthusiasm in copying my lectures and keeping them, but remember that I speak them with shame and tears. I do such a dirty job (this talking on Zen) because nobody else has done it here before me. Please do not show my lectures to any outsiders and say that they are a part of my Zen. I have no such funny business as preaching Zen. Whatever I say passes away before you record it. You only catch my yawns and coughs’ – (Eloquent Silence)

I found this while preparing for my talk in San Rafael, and was reminded how the first generation of zen teachers in America were those who did not thrive in the formal Japanese system. Senzaki’s story is very compelling, and if you do not know it, I encourage you to research it for yourselves.

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