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True Zen Teachings

New Actions for a New Era

1982 Year Zero, the Year of No Fear: New Actions for a New Era

[In honor of the fifteenth aniversary of Taisen Deshimaru's death, the following article was translated. This statement of mission is no less relevant for his sangha today than it was when it was printed in Spring of 1982.]

The Winter Sesshin is over, but no one has forgotten the excitement which took hold of everyone when Master Deshimaru announced that 1982 would be the year for the "Return to Zero," the year for a new vision. First in the dojo (during kusen), and then during two meetings at the château, Master Deshimaru announced it clearly:

He came to France (fifteen years ago already) [thirty now], to bring to the West a wisdom so profound that it could re-establish balance to a world torn apart by its contradictions. Clearly the key to this wisdom is zazen, this unique method for knowledge of the self and control of the ego. This seed has been planted. And now his disciples are many, and their practice is strong. So because of this, and as the world is in need, and as this action is the vocation of true religion, that we should, from this point on, enlarge our practice and turn ourselves towards the world outside the Sangha.

 

Recalling briefly what Master Deshimaru told us: The conscious and the non-conscious, the left brain and the right brain, the hypothalamus and the cortex are in contradiction. From there flow all the ills from which our civilization suffers - just as much illness of the body-mind as social and economic conflict. Governments, philosophies, modern education, religions (ancient and modern) are mistaken. On the other hand, the most recent conclusions of science (on the close relationship between mind and matter, and the functioning of the brain) go in the same direction as true religion. Since in the past socioeconomic power and science were in league to oppress religion, it is fitting that science and religion now ally themselves together to correct the errors of the world leaders. True religion is meditation, and zazen is the highest expression of it. Zazen is the only method which allows the practical resolution of all contradiction, the harmonization of the left brain and the right brain, man and cosmos, God and each individual. Zazen is the source of religion, but also the main principle, the essence, of ecology. Zazen realizes the unity of microcosm and macrocosm.

This is why we who have access to this source, we who know Hishiryo, are the only ones who have the perspective and the wisdom necessary to see clearly the errors of our time and formulate the principles which will allow for transformation. "It is necessary to find a new principle for humanity. Our group can do it, because we truly have the ability to return to the normal condition."

 

Disciples' Reactions

Disciples have reacted strongly and in very diverse ways. We were all prepared to take this turn and were waiting for it more or less impatiently. But when Master Deshimaru announced to us that the moment had come, that we were going to do it, here and now, this shocked us as much as would the most masterly "Kwatz!"

One can roughly classify the reactions of his disciples into three basic attitudes: those who fear and lack confidence in themselves, those who refuse to leave the fortress of their zazen, and those who are too enthusiastic and want to dash off in all directions at once. To harmonize all these positions and determine the correct attitude the disciples met together at the château with Master Deshimaru.

To those who hesitated, Master Deshimaru answered with, "No fear!" "Those who want to fulfill a mission must have confidence in themselves to give, pass on the flame. If your flame is strong all the world will be influenced by it. Where the hearth is strong, this will shine. . . You must have confidence and have a strong conviction. I understand that zazen is difficult to spread. It is necessary to reflect on this: What is the authentic religion? What is true God? All the world today is seeking a true philosophy, a true religion. . . Everyone has their limited personality. And responsibility is linked to personality. So those who develop this and teach must create a new method (though without resorting to categorical thinking). You must use your own capacities, in a continuous effort, and observe your errors to correct them. You must create and at the same time follow my teaching. If you have confidence in yourself, this will be easy. If you hesitate, this will be difficult. But if you have a strong and authentic vocation, everything will be possible for you." So we should have confidence in ourselves; our strength is in our practice. From the wisdom it gives to us we must create, without fear.

Other disciples think that zazen is enough in itself. Zazen erases all contradiction and the mind quiets, so why do anything else? This attitude is also mistaken, for it only sees a single side. Of course, true religion is the return to original unity. Through zazen, we do nothing more than become one with the universal order and all existence. The energy of the cosmos flows freely in us, and our zazen influences the entire universe. But Master Deshimaru reminds us that true religion always has two dimensions. Through the correct practice, man resorts in himself and accedes to the ocean of universal ki. But balance requires a counterpart, the descending dimension. The strength and the wisdom which we draw on in zazen does not belong to us. We must redistribute it around us, in helping humanity. Ku is the zero point to which it is necessary to constantly return, but from there we must create. "Helping others is an instinct, this is true religion. We must now, through zazen, create an effective action for the world. To seek satori for yourself, that's alright, but we are not alone and Mahayana must help the entire world. We must ask ourselves, how to use Zen? How to help the world? We must create a world of peace, a world without war. How to stop the flow of weapons? How to create a new civilization? How to redistribute the wealth? It is necessary to create a world without borders. This is the conclusion: A single world, a single family."

In fact, all disciples were waiting for this hour. Everyone understands that now is the time to enlarge the horizon of the Sangha and to direct our energies outward. The general reaction was enthusiastic. But with this as well, it is important not to make mistakes. Our strength is zazen. We should avoid dispersing ourselves too much and losing that source. Our language is that of true religion, we should not enlist ourselves in league with movements that often have too narrow a vision. It is not a question of lancing campaigns in all directions and putting ourselves in the train of the innumerable already existing movements for peace.

 

Creating a movement

As Master Deshimaru often says, discussions only serve to disperse energy. Rather than intervene in all the conferences, all the debates, all the meetings, it is necessary to reinforce our practice and to deepen the teaching. And from there, we will create a correct and effective movement which will attract a larger audience. We must act on the world, but not lose the view of our primary objective: to promote the consciousness of zazen. "Surely many will want to help us. We must continue zazen, this is the most important thing. Few do zazen, only holy people, the true elite. But if we succeed in promoting this movement, surely people will come."

In the course of discussions which have animated these meetings, several important points were also highlighted:

  • We must not diffuse recycled ideas. We need new, fresh ideas. So we must find a language designed for a larger public beyond the Sangha, and translate the deep concepts of Zen into a living, striking language, accessible to all.
  • The value of example plays an important role. Everyone should carry themselves as authentic disciples everywhere they go. It is also in this way that the influence of Zen can carry over to the family and the rest of society.
  • Master Deshimaru asks his disciples to shine over the world, to send out, throughout society, the teaching they have received from him. Each disciple should become a missionary. We must train ourselves to speak in public, give conferences, write. All the Sangha must participate, all disciples must become educators.

 

Where Are We Now?

Three weeks have passed since the Winter Sesshin, and the campaign has already progressed. More than fifty letters have been received from disciples in the provinces and in other countries. We have read them and a committee will meet to draw up a reference text from these. This will be widely distributed and will serve as a basis for conferences or more specialized articles destined towards particular socio-professional groups. After this reflection, we will draw up letters addressed to key leaders in society. We also plan on a media campaign. The committee has decided to enlarge the conferences and have the largest possible number of disciples participate. It has also decided on a transformation of the Zen bulletin so that all subjects which concern us can be better explored.

We find ourselves at a turning point in the history of humanity. "Throughout the tradition of Zen Masters, the key point, the common point, is the practice of zazen and the abandon of the ego. But the world changes, and the conditions of life are different today. It is necessary to reestablish the unique conception of the world that Zen offers."

The great strength of Zen is its vitality, its living spirit. This was transported from India to China and from China to Japan. Now it is in Europe. It is up to us to make it flourish. New actions for a new era. The Sangha exists and functions, but the larger organization that will allow us to spread our wisdom does not yet exist. It is up to us, all the disciples, to create and promote it.

 

From AZI Bulletin Zen n° 37. 1° Trimester 1982.
Translated by Jesse Haasch


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