Kosho Uchiyama

‘I tell my disciples that should sit silently for ten years. There are several people here who have already been sitting for ten years, so I must say, “Sit silently for ten more years.” When they have sat for twenty years, I will say, “Sit another ten years.” If they sit for thirty years, people in their twenties will be in their fifties. If they sit immovably, without any bait, until they are fifty years old, I’m pretty sure that they will be very capable people who will be able to carry out great work.’ (The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kodo)

By this standard, I am a bit of a failure. I have sat for twenty years, but I was not able to stay still for all that time. And I started older, so perhaps had more karma to work through than someone who starts in their twenties.

Often I wonder whether we are capable of change as humans; I feel that I have, and am still painfully aware of the ways I have not. At Zen Center there were many wonderful, kind people who most likely refined these qualities through their years and decades of sitting; and there were others who had been in residence just as long who seemed quite stuck in karmic patterns. Perhaps the place to rest with that is with faith in Buddha’s proposal that each of us has the capacity for awakening within us. I still believe that zazen is a sure route towards that.


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