Rohatsu at Mar de Jade

by Norman Fischer | December 10, 2004 at 7:49 PM

December 10, 2004

I am just back from Rohatsu at Mar de Jade. A refreshing sesshin. The mix of Mexican and American students makes it special, brings out a flavor of the Dharma that doesn't come up in the same way north of the border - possibly also the Dharma comes out differently because I am being translated, sentence by sentence, by Laura del Valle and so to save her stress I speak very simply and in short sentences. So the talks (of which there are twice as many as at home- we began in Mexico with Dharma talks at night as well as in the morning, because the Mexican students were inexperienced, and needed more instruction- but we have keep on with this tradition) seem very different. And too, the concerns the Mexican students bring are different, and are experienced differently: with more passion. There are family problems, money problems, lots of strong suffering, and I find myself more in touch with the simple message that is at the heart of Buddha's teaching: that suffering can be directly alleviated by the practice. I find the high beautiful religious abstractions of the Zen literature less meaningful in the Mexican setting. People need to hear very simply about peace, healing, and how meditation can help. This time in particular there were several Mexican students who'd really had it tough: problems of alcoholism and spousal abuse, marital infidelity, depression, despair and suicide, healing from brutal time spent in jail: some of the issues that arose. And it gave me a good deal of joy to realize (as those who work in prisons in the states, like Martha de Barros, and many others, realize) that the practice does on a very simple level reduce suffering and bring some relief. A lot of Kleenex was used in the dokusan room! Also, about eight or nine completely different kinds of butterflies, white ones, black and red ones, yellow ones, orange ones. And the constant sound of the sea.

Getting back home to Marin I was scooped up by Kathie from the airport off to a choral concert at her school, Mill Valley Middle School. The young woman who teaches the kids how to sing was cheerful and enthusiastic, the student singers brilliant and sincere, the music inspired (lots of African music about freedom and oppression). I sat there in the auditorium weeping, my old age coming out, at the beauty of the music, and the beauty of the effort everyone was making, all the hard work and rehearsals and the sheer sincerity and hopefulness you could hear in every note. 

Today at Muir Beach the sun is shining after a lot of rain and high winds. Checking emails, lots of disturbing stuff about the state of the world, and our national government, which seems truly out of touch with reality, or, to be operating on the basis of a different reality from the one that most ordinary sane people experience. What to do?

Lets sing more, keep on sitting, keep on talking to one another, sharing vision, information, and encouragement. Google Bill Mckibbon or get his books like "The End of Nature" to keep abreast of the environmental angle on all this. Met Bill last year in Seattle. He's a sound thinker, a great person, and a good writer. 


Norman Fischer