...Buddhism for Urban America
Urban Dharma Newsletter... July 29, 2003
A City's Police Turn to Buddhism to Fight Gangs
...By KATIE ZEZIMA
2. Life as a Benedictine Nun ...Sister Donald Corcoran
3. Taking the unknown path ...By Georgia Rowe ...TIMES CORRESPONDENT
4. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
The Rinzai-ji Zen Center
5. Book Review: Boomeritis: A Novel
That Will Set You Free ...by Ken Wilber
A City's Police Turn to Buddhism to Fight Gangs
...By KATIE ZEZIMA
Mass. — Ten young boys, each of whom is in a gang, yet
not old enough to shave or drive, fidgeted in their chairs and
taunted one other as a yellow-robed monk tried to teach them
how to be good students and exemplary Buddhists.
need to learn good seating, good talking and good association
with your friends," said the monk, the Venerable Monriath
Pinn, handing them a list of Buddhist characteristics of good
soon moved to the next lesson: meditation, done while walking
and holding a cup of water. Several of the boys eagerly followed
him across the room to try it out while others lagged behind.
of whether the students like it, learning self-discipline and
introspection are the core of this crime-fighting program where
the sacred meets the streets in this city of shuttered mills,
30 miles northwest of Boston.
a city of 105,000, has had a large influx of Southeast Asians
in the past five years, most of them Cambodians who have settled
in the Highlands neighborhood. The 2000 census shows that Asians
constitute about 17 percent of the population here, a figure
officials believe has since grown. The city has also seen a
sharp rise in Cambodian gangs, which were virtually unknown
here 10 years ago.
gang members are boys 12 to 16, Capt. Robert DeMoura of the
Lowell Police Department said. They join mostly for protection
on the streets, Captain DeMoura said, and a gang is a family
of sorts when it is not unusual for parents to work two or three
gang members do not carry guns, and the city's rate of violent
crime has remained relatively steady, Captain DeMoura said,
while there has been a steep rise in crimes like car theft,
robbery and, most recently, drug use.
police, the captain said, want to stop the gang members from
committing more serious crimes. Their first target, the police
decided, would be adolescent runaways, a growing problem amongin
outreach projects had failed, mainly because of the language
barrier, Captain DeMoura said, and the department was willing
to try anything. So this time, it decided to use religion, citing
the strong place it has in Cambodian life and culture.
police enlisted the help of Chanda Soth, a police project assistant
who lives in the gang members' neighborhood and has strong ties
to a Buddhist temple in neighboring town of North Chelmsford,
a five-minute drive from here. Ms. Soth also speaks Khmer, and
acts as the police translator. The seven monks who live at the
temple immediately agreed to a program intended to help the
troubled Cambodian youngsters.
the department recently plucked the names of five young runaways
from its records. Ms. Soth and Captain DeMoura met with their
parents, assuring them that their boys would be safe and together.
boys spend two nights each week, more if they want, at the temple.
The monks teach them how to improve themselves from the inside
out and become better citizens, students and Buddhists. The
first meetings were in early June. Five more boys have already
been added to the program, and officials hope to enroll as many
Venerable Khon Sao, the leader of the monks at the temple and
president of the Community of Khmer Buddhist Monks, an association
of 80 temples nationwide, believes the program is unprecedented
among Buddhists in the United States. He said he had received
inquiries about it from police departments and temples around
DeMoura said, "This program is definitely not going to
reduce the amount of gang violence on the streets today, but
our hope is that it will reduce the amount of gang violence
three boys intently tried to cross the room with glasses filled
with water, boys on the sidelines heckled them. The Venerable
Monriath Pinn gave a cup to the smallest boy, 11, who swatted
it away and swore under his breath. "Don't you want to
be a good boy?" the monk asked.
of the boys soon followed the monk across the room, where, silent
for the first time, they knelt in front of a shrine to Buddha
and clasped their hands in prayer. The monk sounded the gong
for three prayers to Buddha. On each chime the boys bowed.
the monk left, the boys reverted to their street-selves. Wearing
Dickies the color of their gangs, they bragged in salty language
about brushes with the law and getting jumped in gang initiations.
But minutes later they were sneaking chocolates from the monks'
kitchen and rolling on the floor, giggling like children while
trying to make a boy shout "uncle."
said they would leave a gang any time soon. Were they to quit,
they said, not only would other gangs be after them, but also
the spurned gang. They get in trouble because there is nothing
else to do, they said. But the program has taught them about
the importance of education and respect. They know they are
here to improve themselves, and all said they would try to stay
out of trouble and do well in school, so as not to disappoint
Ms. Soth or the monks.
boys come because the temple is the only place they know where
they will be out of trouble.
use our anger outside," one boy said. "When we're
in here, we're peaceful. It's the only peaceful place we can
month two of the boys took Ms. Soth's silver BMW for a joy ride
and were stopped by the police. One of the boys, Jimmy, 15,
spent a week in a youth detention facility. Afterward, he came
back to the temple because, he said, he missed it. Jimmy said
he realized the value of the program while in detention, where
he he said he meditated when "bad thoughts" came into
said it was an honor to be taught by someone of the stature
of the Venerable Khon Sao. He is "the only person we're
actually afraid of," Jimmy said.
said he was determined to stay out of trouble, for Ms. Soth's
sake more than anyone else. She forgave him for stealing the
Soth, 30, has become a surrogate sibling to the boys. She takes
them to the movies and burger cafes and even sleeps at the temple
several nights a week, as the boys often choose to stay there
rather than go to their homes.
sacrifice all my time," said Ms. Soth, who says she intends
to remain single to better solve social problems. "If they
call at 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning, I answer. I say, `What
can I do to save you?'
it's amazing what happens once they build that trust. They're
great kids. They're troubled kids, but they're great kids."
Life as a Benedictine Nun ...Sister
Donald Corcoran, OSB, Cam., is a native of Minnesota, USA. She
has been a Benedictine nun for thirty-five years. From 1976
to 1979, Sister Donald was co-director of the Institute of Religious
Formation at St. Louis University where she also headed the
M.A. in spirituality program. She remains an adjunct professor
at St. Louis University where she returns every January to teach
a course on the history of Christian spirituality. She has a
Ph.D. in theology from Fordham University with a specialization
in spirituality. Her dissertation is entitled "The Spiritual
Guide: Midwife of the Higher Spiritual Self," a study of
the classic master/disciple relationship in the great spiritual
traditions. In 1979, she helped found the Transfiguration Monastery
in Windsor, New York, where she currently lives. Her present
interest is a comparative study of Benedictine and Confucian
spirituality. [June 1995]
have great fortune to be here together, to learn from each other
and to share with each other. This evening I would like to speak
about four topics: the monastic archetype, my particular tradition,
how I came to be a Benedictine nun, and spiritual formation.
is a worldwide phenomenon: we find Buddhist monks and nuns,
Hindu ascetics, the Taoist hermits of China, the Sufi brotherhoods,
and Christian monastic life. Thus, it's accurate to say that
monastic life existed prior to the Gospel. For whatever reasons,
there is an instinct in the human heart which some persons have
chosen to live out in a deliberate and continual way for their
entire life; they have chosen a life of total consecration to
spiritual practice. In a New York Times book review of Thomas
Merton's poems a number of years ago, the reviewer commented
that a remarkable thing about Merton was that he made an extreme
life option seem reasonable. That was a wonderful comment about
monastic life! It is an extreme life option: the normal way
is the life of the householder. The way of the monastic is the
exception, and yet I think that there is a monastic dimension
to every human heart--that sense of the absolute, that sense
of a preoccupation with the ultimate and what it means. This
has been lived out and concretized historically in several of
the major religious traditions of humankind. So, Chodron and
I are here this evening to speak to you and share with you about
our own experience in our traditions as women monastics and
what monastic life means.
am a Roman Catholic Benedictine and love my tradition very much.
In fact, I think any good Buddhist would tell me that I am far
too attached, but maybe a little ebullience like that creates
some success. Many years ago a sister from another order told
me, "Maybe we should just finish with having so many Orders
in the Church and have just one group called the American Sisters."
I said, "That's fine. As long as everyone wants to be Benedictine,
in 529, the Benedictine order is the oldest monastic order of
the West. St. Benedict is the patron of Europe and is called
the father of Western monasticism. Two and one-half centuries
of monastic life and experience happened before him and he is,
to some extent, the conduit through which the earlier traditions--the
spirituality of the desert fathers, John Cassian, Evagrius,
and so on--was channeled through southern France, Gaul. The
source that Benedict primarily used, "The Rule of the Master,"
is a distillation of much of that two and one-half centuries
of monastic experience and tradition. Benedict added a pure
Gospel rendering and provided a form of monastic life that was
the via media, a way of moderation between extremes. It was
a livable form of monastic life that was created just at the
time the Roman Empire was crumbling. Thus Benedict's monastic
lifestyle and his monasteries became a backbone of Western civilization,
and the Benedictine monks saved much of classical culture--manuscripts
and so forth. The sixth to the twelfth centuries are called
by historians the Benedictine Centuries.
represents a kind of mainline monastic life. Both men and women
have existed in Benedictine monastic life from the beginning
because St. Benedict had a twin sister named St. Scholastica
who had a convent nearby his monastery. Even when the Benedictines
finally were sent to England by Pope St. Gregory the Great--St.
Augustine--Benedictine nuns were established very early on the
Isle of Thanet off of England. In that way the male and female
branches of the Order have existed right from the beginning
in the Benedictine tradition. In fact, this is true also of
the older religious Orders in the Catholic Church: the Franciscans
and Dominicans both have male and female branches, although
as far as I know, there are no female Jesuits--yet.
Benedictine way of life is a balanced life of prayer, work,
and study. Benedict had the genius to provide a balanced daily
rhythm of certain hours for prayer in common--the Divine Office
or Liturgical Prayer--times for private prayer, times for study--a
practice called lectio divina, a spiritual reading of the sacred
text--and time for work. The Benedictine motto is ora et labora--prayer
and work--although some people say it's prayer and work, work,
work! This balanced life is a key to the success of the Benedictine
tradition. It has lasted for fifteen centuries because of a
common sense, and because of an emphasis on Gospel values. Benedict
had a great sensitivity for the old and the young, the infirm,
the pilgrim. For example, an entire chapter of the Rule deals
with hospitality and the reception of guests. One way the Benedictine
motto has been described is that it is the love of learning
and the desire of God. The Benedictines have a wonderful sense
of culture and a great tradition of scholarship.
have been very important in the Benedictine tradition. Women
like St. Gertrude and Hildegarde of Bingen, who have been rediscovered
in the last five or ten years, have always been important in
the Benedictine tradition. Earlier today when Chodron and I
met, we discussed transmission and lineage, and although we
in the West don't have the master/disciple type of lineage that
Buddhism has, we do have a kind of subtle transmission in the
monasteries, a spirit that carries over from generation to generation.
For example, an abbey of Benedictine nuns in England has a unique
style of prayer which they trace back four centuries to Augustine
Baker, the great spiritual writer. The nuns in this monastery
pass this tradition on from one person to another. Monasteries
are great reservoirs of spiritual power and spiritual knowledge
in the tradition; they are a priceless resource.
early Buddhism, monastics wandered from place to place in groups
and were stable only during the monsoon season. Chodron told
me she is continuing this tradition of wandering, even if it
be by airplane! Meanwhile, the Benedictines are the only order
in the Roman Church that has a vow of stability. That doesn't
mean that we have a chain and ball and have to literally be
in one place. Rather, at the time Benedict wrote the rule in
the sixth century, there were a lot of free lance monks wandering
around. Some of them were not very reputable, and these were
called the gyrovagues, or those who traveled around. Benedict
tried to reform this by creating a stable monastic community.
However, throughout the history of the Benedictines, there have
been many who have wandered or who have been pilgrims. Even
I have been on the road a lot for someone who has a vow of stability!
The essential thing, of course, is stability in the community
and its way of life.
Vocation and Experience as a Nun
trace my vocation back to when I was in the eighth grade and
my maternal grandmother unexpectedly died of a heart attack.
I was suddenly confronted with the question, "What is the
purpose of human existence? What is it all about?" I remember
very clearly thinking, "Either God exists and everything
makes sense, or God does not exist and nothing makes sense."
I reflected that if God exists, then it makes sense to live
entirely in accordance with that fact. Although I was not going
to a Catholic school and did not know any nuns, in a sense that
was the beginning of my vocation because I concluded, "Yes,
God exists and I am going to live entirely in terms of that."
Although I was a normal child who went to Sunday Mass, but not
daily Mass, I really didn't have much of a spirituality before
this sudden confrontation with death brought me to question
the purpose of human existence.
few years later, in high school, I began to perceive a distinct
call toward religious life and Benedictine life in particular.
It was at this time that I felt the rising of desire for prayer
and contact with that divine reality. In 1959, I entered an
active Benedictine Community in Minnesota that engaged in teaching,
nursing, and social work.
have been a Benedictine for more than thirty years now, and
I think it is a great grace and a wonderful experience. I have
no regrets at all; it's been a wonderful journey. At the beginning
of my monastic life in Minnesota, I taught as well as lived
a monastic life. As time went on I felt that I wanted to concentrate
on my spiritual practice; I felt a call to contemplative life
and didn't know how I would live this out. For six years I taught
high school, and then came to the east coast to study at Fordham.
Increasingly I began to sense that living a contemplative life
was the right thing to do, but before that was actualized I
taught at St. Louis University for three years. I knew two sisters
who were in Syracuse and intended to start the foundation from
scratch in the Diocese of Syracuse, and I asked my community
in Minnesota for permission to join them. But before doing that
I decided that I should visit first, and so in 1978 drove from
St. Louis to New York City, with a stop in Syracuse. On the
Feast of the Transfiguration, I drove from Syracuse to New York
City and on the way was almost out of gas. I pulled into the
little town of Windsor, and as I drove down the main street,
said to myself, "It would be nice to live in a small town
like this." The sisters had no idea where in the Diocese
of Syracuse they were going to locate. Six months later I got
a letter from Sister Jean-Marie saying that they had bought
property in the southern tier of New York about fifteen miles
east of Binghamton. I had a funny feeling that I remembered
what town that was, and sure enough, it was Windsor. I believe
the hand of God has been clearly guiding me along the way, specifically
teaching graduate school in St. Louis for three years, I moved
to Windsor to work with the other sisters to start a community
from scratch, which is quite a challenge. Our aim is to return
to a classical Benedictine lifestyle, very close to the earth,
with great solitude, simplicity, and silence. Hospitality is
a very important part of our life, so we have two guest houses.
We are five nuns, and we hope to grow, although not into a huge
community. We have a young sister now who is a very talented
privilege that I've had within the Order is that for eight years
I was on a committee of both Benedictines and Trappists--monks
and nuns--who were commissioned by the Vatican to begin dialogue
with Buddhist and Hindu monks and nuns. In the mid-seventies,
the Vatican Secretariat dialogued with the other major religions
of the world and said that monastics should take a leading role
in this because monasticism is a worldwide phenomenon. For eight
years I had the privilege of being on a committee that began
the dialogue with Hindu and Buddhist monks and nuns in the United
States, and we sponsored visits of some of the Tibetan monks
to American monasteries. In 1980, I was sent as a representative
to the Third Asian Monastic Conference in Kandy, Sri Lanka,
which was a meeting of Christian monastics in Asia. Our focus
for that meeting was on poverty and simplicity of life, and
also the question of dialogue with other traditions.
is spirituality all about? To me, spirituality or the spiritual
life comes down to one word-- transformation. The path is about
transformation, the passage from our old self to the new self,
the path from ignorance to enlightenment, the path from selfishness
to greater charity. There are many ways that this can be talked
about: Hinduism talks about the ahamkara, the superficial self,
and the atman, the deep self that one attains through spiritual
practice. Merton talked about the transition or the passage
from the false self to our true identity in God. The Sufi tradition
discusses the necessity of the disintegration of the old self,
fana, and ba'qa, the reintegration in a deeper, spiritual self.
I am not saying that all of these are identical, but they are
certainly analogous, even homologous. Tibetan Buddhism talks
about the vajra self, and it is interesting that Theresa of
Avila in The Interior Castle describes going inward to the center
of her soul through steps and phases of spiritual practice.
She said, "I came to the center of my soul, where I saw
my soul blazing up like a diamond." The symbol of the diamond,
the vajra, is a universal or archetypal symbol of spiritual
transformation. The diamond is luminous--light shines through
it--and yet it's indestructible. It is the result of transformation
through intense pressure and intense heat. All true spiritual
transformation, I believe, is a result of spiritually intense
pressure and intense heat. In the Book of Revelation, chapter
22, there's a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem which is the
consummation of the cosmos or the consummation of our individual
spiritual journey. The writer of the Book of Revelation describes
a mandala: "I saw the vision of the city, a twelve-gated
city and in the center was the throne with the Lamb on it, the
Father/Son, and a river of life flowing in four directions,
the Holy Spirit." This is the Christian trinitarian interpretation.
As the author of the Book of Revelations describes it, the waters
were crystal or diamond-like. That light of the grace of God,
the divine, the ultimate that transforms us is that crystal
light, that diamond-like luminosity that shines through us.
We chose to name the monastery at Windsor Monastery of the Transfiguration,
because we believe that monastics are called to be transformed
themselves in order to transform the cosmos; to transform not
only ourselves, but the entire world; to let that light, that
luminosity, radiate out from us to all of creation.
way that the Tibetan Buddhists talk about enlightenment is the
intermarriage of wisdom and compassion. I've thought about this,
and may be stretching your meaning of it a little bit, but I
think that in each human being there is a tendency towards love
and a tendency towards knowledge. Those basic virtues, those
instincts in us, must be transformed in order to complete love
and knowledge. Our love is like the anima that must become animus,
and our knowledge is the animus which must become anima. That
is, our knowledge must become wisdom by becoming loving, and
our loving must become wise in order to be transformed. I believe
that we can identify that process leading to the intermarriage
of wisdom and compassion in all the great paths of holiness.
haven't said much about women and women's experience, but we'll
get to that in the discussion after our presentations. Chodron
and I certainly had some interesting discussions about it today
at the monastery! I believe scholars have found that perhaps
the first evidence of any sort of monastic life was with the
women who were Jains in India. Perhaps the first monastic life
in history that we know of was a women's form of monastic life.
Taking the unknown path ...By
Georgia Rowe ...TIMES CORRESPONDENT
Gates' diagnosis of breast cancer prompted her to take health-promoting
neighborhood walks, which in turn led to some unexpected discoveries.
Home: A Topography of Spirit ...by Barbara Gates
years ago, Barbara Gates embarked on a remarkable journey. Unlike
many explorers before her, though, she didn't have to brave
uncharted wilderness to get to her destination. In fact, she
seldom left the Berkeley neighborhood she calls home.
travels began with a crisis. Diagnosed with breast cancer and
prompted by the sudden realization of her own mortality, Gates
did what many women in the same position have done: She began
taking walks. But what started as a quest for wellness evolved
into a profound exploration of the environment and her place
in it, as well as a deeper sense of what it means to be "home."
The results of her journey are recorded in "Already
Home," a poignant and inspiring memoir that interweaves
themes of family and friendship, ecology and Zen Buddhism, health
and home with one woman's search for connection with the world
a free-lance writer and editor who, along with Wes "Scoop"
Nisker, co-founded Inquiring Mind -- a Buddhist journal with
30,000 international subscribers -- is the picture of fiftysomething
health. Petite and vivacious, with sparkling blue eyes and a
ready smile, the former high school teacher radiates the calm
of one who regularly meditates. And she has the trim figure
of a woman who spends a lot of time walking.
during a recent interview at the comfortable Victorian home
she shares with her family -- husband Patrick, a lawyer with
the State Judicial Council; teenage daughter Katy; and their
dog, Cleo -- Gates says she was in bad shape when the events
described in the book began.
was in a panic," says Gates. "I'd been diagnosed with
breast cancer, and I was dealing with a lot of fear -- fear
that I would die young, that I would leave my daughter without
a mom. I started walking in the hills, for my health and for
though she was walking often -- mostly in and around Tilden
Park -- and enjoying it, Gates says her fears kept her from
fully seeing her surroundings. A visit to an acupuncturist --
one of the many traditional and nontraditional healers she worked
with to overcome the cancer -- provided a wake-up call.
prescription for me was 'take more risks,'" she recalls.
"At first I was a little angry: 'What do you mean? Do you
say this to everybody?' And he said, 'No, I'm saying it to you.'"
few days later, Gates was walking in Tilden Park. It was a familiar
trail -- worried about getting lost or being attacked, she always
stayed on paved areas -- but a sudden impulse drove her off
went straight into the park, irrespective of my fears of rapists,
coyotes and whatever else might be in there," she says.
"I just let that go."
realized that she wanted to take the same kind of departure
in her own neighborhood -- a place she'd inhabited for six years
but seldom explored. Over the next few years, she walked the
streets, trails and back alleys of the west Berkeley area known
as Ocean View, which encompasses industrial plants, residential
housing, older commercial zones and newer, upscale shopping
districts. Gates explored them all, and she writes of her concern
over issues from toxic emissions -- which she suspects contributed
to her cancer -- to the equally toxic problems of violence,
homelessness and drug use.
the way, she befriended neighbors. She started a meditation
group and a series of informal dinners. She made connections
with local activists. She reached out to a homeless woman named
Dee, a former neighbor who frequently slept in the back seat
of the author's car.
acknowledges that people might not see these things as particularly
risky -- "they're not like bungee jumping," she says
wryly -- but for her, each step represented a "risk of
the imagination" supported by her longtime Buddhist practice.
of the book's most engaging recollections are of the author
overcoming small fears -- raccoons in the back yard, a rat in
her refrigerator, a confrontation between a skunk and Gates'
beloved Cleo. As she walked, Gates says that the dog -- a 14-year-old
Australian shepherd and border collie mix -- often led her into
places she didn't even know existed.
one sense, I was exploring the world through the nose of my
dog," she says with a laugh. "Cleo will follow scents
that I probably wouldn't."
day they discovered a tiny alleyway between 5th and 6th streets.
Gates says it was like stepping back into another century. "There
was a building that was part of a former farm," she says.
"The trail was unpaved, and it gave the sense of a trail
created by wagon wheels. This was just a few blocks down from
the Burger Kings and gas stations of San Pablo Avenue."
began to study the history of the area, talking to local historians,
geologists, archaeologists and scholars about the people who
had lived there in generations past. She started combing libraries,
historical societies and government offices for official records.
She learned about the family of German immigrants who built
her house and others on her block, and the American Indians
who created the 5,000-year-old shellmound villages along the
nearby shoreline -- areas that are now entirely covered by landfill,
she notes. She researched the creeks that formerly flowed through
her neighborhood, now channeled into culverts.
says she began to feel deeply connected to her predecessors,
and the knowledge of their history dramatically changed her
perceptions. "As I walked through the streets, I began
to peel back the pavement in my mind and imagine what it was
like when the creeks ran free," she says. "This was
a wet neighborhood. There were little bridges built across University
and San Pablo Avenue in the rainy season because the creeks
overflowed. It was extraordinary to imagine these dry paved
streets wet and filled with life."
Gates, that knowledge also gave her a keener sense of how the
world interacts. "This neighborhood is very instructive
of what we're all experiencing on the planet right now, because
everything here is in close proximity," she says. "You
have factories and residences right next to one another, so
it's more apparent that the fumes, the runoff to the creeks,
is going to impact the people who live nearby."
more importantly, she began to see her own place in her neighborhood
with a clearer perspective. "I don't think of home so much
as a place anymore," she says. "I see it as more of
a relationship, a way of seeing one's place between the outer
terrain of the streets and the inner terrain of the mind. ...
As I became intimate with my neighborhood, there was an opening
to my own place in the world, my own personal history. I began
to feel more at home, and then there was a recognition that
actually I'd been home all along. I just hadn't seen that before.
Learning about my place and the evolution of the place allowed
me to relax, to become more comfortable with my life as it was
and to have more moments of feeling at home than I'd ever had
eventually opted for a lumpectomy followed by radiation treatment.
Today she's cancer-free and feeling healthier than when she
started. Reaction to the book has been overwhelmingly positive,
she says -- in fact, Gates is starting a series of "Already
Home" workshops and developing a curriculum based on the
book for teachers. "I hope that when people read this book,
it will inspire them to explore the terrain of their own lives,"
she says. "To learn the names of their neighbors, to learn
the history of their block, to find out what creeks might run
under their streets. To find out about toxic emissions in their
neighborhoods. To find out who lived in their house, and maybe
who built their house. To learn from what they find out, and
in the process, to find more ease and openness to their own
experience of their lives in the places where they live."
The Rinzai-ji Zen Center
Los Angeles, Ca 90018
United States of America
Telephone: (323) 732-2263
Zen Center was first known as Cimarron Zen Center of Rinzai-ji.
The Center, at the corner of 25th and Cimarron Streets in the
Adams District of Los Angeles was opened officially April 21,
1968 as part of Roshi’s 61st birthday celebration. The
building that houses Rinzai-ji was constructed in the 1920’s
by a California Senator as a gift for a friend. The house was
comprised of a court yard, dining area, private quarters and
a spacious main hall. The main hall was converted to the Zendo,
the heart of Rinzai-ji. The cathedral ceilings and tile floor
have created a unique combination of open space above in contrast
to the compressed space of the heart of a major city. This theme
is carried further into the flagstone court yard and Buddha
bath surrounded by plants and trees to provide a unique haven
from the busy confusion of the city.
Zen Center was not always such a pleasant place. One must remember
the state of Los Angeles and the nation in 1968. The country
was at war without in Vietnam and within in the states, city,
and towns. It was the time of race riots and assassinations.
Only a year before Newark and Detroit had been engulfed by riots,
closing down those cities completely for a time. January 1968
marked the peak of the Vietnam War with the Tet offensive. Following
John F. Kennedy in 1963 and Malcom X in 1965, Martin Luther
King was assassinated in Memphis TN, April 4th 1968 and Robert
F. Kennedy in Los Angeles, June 5th 1968.
house at the corner of 25th and Cimarron Streets has been unoccupied
for more than a year serving as a hangout. The City of Los Angeles
had condemned the residence as unsafe for occupancy. A group
led by Dan Sunada helped Roshi purchase and renovate the derelict
structure with the help of students.
a Dai-sesshin in Vancouver in April 1968, Roshi returned to
Los Angeles where more than 200 students helped Roshi celebrate
his birthday and the official opening of Cimarron Zen Center
April 21st. After six years of work, Roshi had established the
first permanent Rinzai Zen Center in the United States. For
the next two years Roshi Sasaki set the tone for the traditional
strict practice he brought to America. Sanzen was given morning
and evening. Roshi patrolled the Zendo correcting postures and
applying the Keisaku as required. Those who stayed grew stronger
under his rigorous discipline. Following the purchase of Cimarron,
two other neighborhood houses, Gentei-an and Genro-an were donated
by senior students to the center. The additional spaces allow
students to live and practice at the center.
role of Cimarron has changed through the years. Mt Baldy Zen
Center and Jemez Bodhi Manda were founded in 1971 and 1974 to
host formal monastic training. Cimarron Zen Center became the
ceremonial center for Roshi’s Sangha. An example of this
role was the visit of the Kansho of Myoshin-ji, Kajiura Roshi,
to Cimarron in 1977. Myoshin-ji is the source temple for Roshi’s
lineage and Rinzai-ji. Cimarron, now Rinzai-ji Zen Center, continues
to be the location for the annual celebrations of Hanamatsuri
(Buddha’s Birthday), Buddha’s death day, Rinzai’s
Memorial day, Bodhidharma’s Memorial day, Roshi’s
birthday, and Roshi’s arrival in America day on July 21st.
the early 1990s Cimarron Zen Center of Rinzai-ji became Rinzai-ji
Zen Center to be more in accord with the role of this Zen Center
in Roshi Sasaki’s Sangha. Most recently Roshi celebrated
his 95th Birthday, his 40th Anniversary in America, and Bodhidharma
Zen Center is an urban meditation center that offers daily Zen
practice and the opportunity for residential Zen practice. Rinzai-ji
also serves as the main temple of Rinzai-ji, Inc., an organization
of temples founded by Joshu Sasaki Roshi. Several times during
the year Buddhist ceremonies are performed at Rinzai-ji and
Dai-sesshin with the Abbott, Joshu Roshi, is held.
mission of Rinzai-ji is to serve the local and regional community
as a place for Zen studies, a place for reflection and insight.
spacious Zendo invites everyone to participate in the formal
Zazen practice, to join their voices in the daily recitation
and chanting practice.
are many ways in which one can engage at Rinzai-ji and everyone
is welcome to join our community.
Boomeritis: A Novel That Will Set You Free
...by Ken Wilber
thought of each of you after reading "Boomeritis - A Novel
Set You Free," by Ken Wilber. Perhaps some of you have
followed this man‚s
career or have read some of his books. I made time for reading
the story of the death of his first wife by cancer - "Grace
Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam
Wilber" - a
book that was almost too heartbreaking to finish, and just recently,
"Boomeritis." His great tomes of psychology, consciousness
integral theory I have conveniently managed to ignore due to
preoccupation with pursuing one of those college degree thingies,
general dismissal of anything beyond the realm of verifiability
just finished "Boomeritis," I now feel prepared to
limitations and welcome once again into my mental universe Wilber‚s
compelling ideas governing consciousness studies. The novel
was a treat; a
joyful revisitation through the Flatland of Baby-boomer narcissism
darker side of post-modernism. Wilber pulls no punches; those
who may most
enjoy the work will regard the story as an extraordinarily readable
experience in cognitive housekeeping. Those who don‚t
themselves as classic liberals, but who plot their ideas on
along the political and cultural spectrum, will also find much
about as they witness a language that escapes the confines of
left/right discourse. Wilber uses the "Spiral Dynamics"
model of the
evolution of consciousness developed by Don Beck, the individual
responsible for engineering the dissolution of apartheid in
South Africa, to
explain with profound breadth the seemingly intractable problems
world. All in all, the story is Wilber‚s attempt at boiling
thirty prolific years into a rollicking fun read, one that can
the most disillusioned Bush - era souls amongst us with a renewed
and hope for the future. What‚s more, after reading it,
able to go to cocktail parties and proclaim with confidence,
"Why yes, I
familiar with the work of Ken Wilber." ...Cheers!
Reviewer: Nicq MacDonald from Sioux Falls, SD United
States... What will realize god-consciousness first- Carbon
Boomeritis, Ken Wilber's first novel, and probably his most
avant-garde project yet (which is saying quite a bit), the philosopher-sage
from Colorado jumps into the pop spirituality marketplace with
a book that pokes fun at the New Age movement, takes a flamethrower
to the sacred cows of what Spiral Dynamics refers to as the
"mean green meme", and has enough raunchy sex fantasies
to make Robert Anton Wilson blush. This ain't James Redfield
or Deepak Chopra, not by a long shot.
is the "Great Postmodern Novel". It's about nothing
but theory, filled with two-dimensional characters and silly,
cruel dialogue, constantly self-references, interrupts all meaningful
thoughts with lewdness, reduces all meaning to surface features
and irony- and this is precisely what makes this novel so brilliant.
In writing such a novel, Wilber shows his reader precisely what
is wrong with "flatland" by subtly [pulling] the reader
into his worldview, and then bludgeoning the reader with the
realization that he's been had- that the shallowness of the
novel and the endless gags are nothing but a ploy and a put
on by a literary zen master in an attempt to beat the reader
into awakening. It's a turnabout that will catch the reader
unprepared, even if he thinks he's prepared for it. Wilber's
deviousness and tongue-in-cheek humor, though evident in his
scholarly works as well, are out in full force here.
"Boomeritis" is more than just an extremely long koan.
It's a musing on consiciousness, artificial intelligence, and
meaning. It has a wonderful segment in which Wilber relates
true stories from his friend, the musician Stuart Davis, who
is featured as a prominent character in the story. Best of all,
the ending is an absolute blast.
up Boomeritis, for Wilber tells the truth, if in a somewhat
roundabout way- this novel will set you free.
Reviewer: Sid Mehta from Canada... Wilber truly has
written the great postmodern novel here - a novel of ideas that
implicitly rejects and undercuts its own premises! This piece
of work places a world-historical view of America's current
spiritual/social development in terms of Wilber's own "theory
of everything." The ultimate conclusion: all America's
current cultural problems are caused by -liberalism! Except
Wilber calls it the "green meme". This whole conclusion
is brilliantly laid out step by step throughout the narrative.
is absolutely fascinating to see a genius like Wilber wittily
describe point after damning point rejecting liberalism, his
own current ideology, then agree with those facts - and yet
never quite realize that he is refuting his own belief system
in his own novel! Truly contradictory enough to be postmodern,
and a psychological death knell for American liberals. If the
smartest one of them has begun to doubt and reject these beliefs
- how long before the rest follow? This novel is truly a portent
of things to come in the American psyche.
Reviewer: Paul b Burns from Vancouver, BC Canada...
Some Very important literary things to remember:
In post modern novels the characters are often flat.
Post modern novels have a strange twist of self-reflexivity.
I kept asking, Are these professors a bunch of boomers with
another brilliant idea to save the world? The novel creates
space for this question and many more hard-liner self criticisms.
A post modern novel cannot be poorly written. This book is almost
all dialogs. Descriptions, colors and environments are assumption
of the reader - this could be considered interactivity. Does
the reader create the reality of the book? Does the reader have
legitimate interpretations of the diced up choppy dialog. Sometimes
the novel is talking at you and sometimes it invites you only
as a witness; in any case it seems to stress a spectrum of legitimacy
the reader can have of the novel or any observable objective
information- this protects the novel against interpretations
by deconstructionist (or boomers themselves). The novel means
what is means and is written in a style that best communicates
Mythical themes are always interlaced in post modern works.
Wilber seems to be suggesting that Harvard and MIT are contemporary
mythical ideas - the panicle of academia.
This novel will hopefully bring non-gag-factor hope to Xs, Ys,
and Boomers. And it suggests Xers are standing on the shoulders
of boomers reaching for the yellow sun.
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