Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Single Bow

A single bow can change a life.

The story goes that our teachers, Tony and Darlene, forty years ago, entered San Francisco Zen Center. On a staircase, they passed a Japanese monk. He stopped, and bowed to them. There was a presence, a fullness, an embodiment in the movement, a "now." In that simple gesture, all of Zen tradition, all of the dharma was carried. Tony and Darlene knew this is what they wanted to learn, and to pass on.

The Japanese monk was Suzuki-roshi, and the bow is what began the path leading to the eventual establishment of my own lineage at Russian River Zendo.

Now, in this time of loss, priest Cynthia Kear reminds us we must trust our own Buddha-nature, our own bodhichitta, knowing our practice will continue. She said, "We are the recipients of Darlene's dharma transmission; but now we are also the transmitters."

Everyone has been living up to that expectation. It is not just newly dharma-transmitted priests Cynthia and Sarita Tamayo Moraga who have taken on the duties of our several sanghas. To give Tony time and space to grieve, senior students have stepped in, giving dharma talks and leading services for the past two months. People have been reaching out to each other with special zazen sessions, offerings of dokusan (private interviews), and plans of one-day sits.

Mostly, though, we have simply been available to each other. There have been many warm, heartfelt hugs, kind words, expressions of care. I have never once felt alone in this.

Darlene herself, the last time I saw her, said to those of us gathered there, that we could all be dharma transmitted. I have thought of that often. How do I, in my everyday life, in my words and my movements, carry the message of Zen? How do I pass on kindness?

If I were to bow, what would someone see?

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