Bowl Person: Augusto Alcalde Roshi on Zen

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Aki No Hashi Dojo: Autumn Bridge Dojo Beauty, youth, and allure fade even as they first appear. In the earliest mists of Spring, we see the Autumn Bridge “Bowl-Person” Ji Hatsu That’s the way Rinzai practitioners and warriors did call their ceremonial eating bowl: “Bowl-Person” a strong and inspiring metaphor an engaged for life. It is beautifully completed by the expression “O-Ryoki”
  Aki No Hashi Dojo: Autumn Bridge Dojo Beauty, youth, and allure fade even as they first appear. In theearliest mists of Spring, we see the Autumn Bridge   “Bowl-Person” Ji Hatsu That’s the way Rinzai practitioners and warriors did call their ceremonial eating bowl:“Bowl-Person” a strong and inspiring metaphor an engaged for life.It is beautifully completed by the expression “O-Ryoki”‘That which contains what is enough’the way our companions in the Soto tradition do call their bowls.Bowl Person, That which does contain what is enough…True Zen practice True Life practice and expression is a full body,is our community in ourselves and with all beings in all time and space. Many things are happening in the world since last breath.And I always come to the point in which I remember that the Buddha used to say: only one thingI Convey, how to understand the causes and stop suffering.Wu Shu, rendered as Martial Arts has the implication (in the ideograph WU ) to stop thesword . the sword that kills, the sword that gives life, says Mu Mon, No Gate . And whenBodhidharma said don't know he was also talking about the sword of Wisdom. Only the“mistery”, with mist . The source of all wonder and creation, says the Old Guy Lao.That is the vital question. Much more in this moment of the world and humanity and the manybeings: to understand the causes of suffering and how to stop it. This by no means I think is anindividual task. It is something that we can do, that we can be free completely from suffering if allour fellow beings don’t come with us, or we go with them, to that point. Community practice,community body, community understanding.That, as the Buddha was saying, will be also impermanent, so that this task that should berenewed moment by moment with our whole heart and engaging our whole body, heart andattention as well as our steps. After all, if there are no steps there is no horizon, and if thus, wherecan the Sun of Limitless Life, Amithaba, rise and shine?.Lets emphasise in this practice a different kind of practice that has tremendous value. It is a homeand everyday based Zen Intensive practice. So our Zen happens at this moment and place andalso when we go out of the dojo and go into our everyday life situation. it is thus then pointingand touching the practice of the oneness of our zazen, and our walking kinhin, and our privateinterviews about practice, and then walking outside and going to our daily work meeting our friends and family members, as heart-step-practice itself  .So I see that as the container of practice – that interaction we have with the world at everymoment when we are outside this place. So one of the things I would say is please let us payattention to that ground of practice that would happen in our everyday life and not only when weare sitting on our zafu.  Another element that I think is important for conceiving this is how, where and when to draw theline in practice between asceticism and self-indulgence. There is a subtle line there – each oneof us knows in his or her heart where the line is. What is for some people asceticism is nothingfor others. So please let’s draw that line, and let’s follow our heart and our body in drawing thatline and not our idea or concepts about how practice should be. It is a very subtle line. Each oneof us knows where is it and it has to be drawn at each moment, each moment, each moment.and we need utter sincerity with ourselves for this. Secret Practice. Another element of Zen practice I find fundamental is what I call secret practice. As opposed towhat some teachers in our lineage used to say: stinky Zen . Secret practice, unnoticed practice,a practice that happens in a very subtle way without necessarily shining with fire crackers. Secretpractice. So we go outside from here and we do our practice which of course will not be sitting ona zafu with crossed legs, especially if we are interacting with non-Zen people, so to speak. Thisis secret, but the basic elements of zazen – attention, breathing, posture should be there.There is one more step about this secret practice that I like to emphasise – that practice thathappens and it even secret to ourselves – we don’t notice that practice is happening .That is the subtlest way of that secret practice.And it comes only when that notion of practice as something special, separated from the rest of our ordinary life, dissolves completely. So please, together with the other elements, let us settle inthat secret practice in our daily life during the Intensive. Nothing Special We said nothing special and I think that is another element of practice. This is just another moment of practice and next breath, next heartbeat we will have just another One MomentSesshin, forever, beyond time and beyond realization. There is nothing special, here, It is justhappening. That quality of “nothing special,” just life itself as practice and realisation, is the heart of Zen practice.I like to quote Dogen when he says in his Shobogenzo: “to follow the buddha way completely means that you do not have your old views. To hit the mark completely means that youhave no new nest in which to settle.”  He is pointing to old views and no new nest in which tosettle. Sometimes we come to Zen & the Arts with a certain idea about how things should be, howpractice should be and what we are supposed to gain from that practice. But Dogen here issaying, you do not have your old views. All those old views, including the one we had a momentago after our great realisation and enlightenment experience , should fad away.We do not have our old views, so that heart and that mind can be renewed moment by moment.He also says, to hit the mark means that you do not have a new nest in which to settle   .What is he pointing at here? I think he is pointing to a kind of Zen that is the heart path of  inquiring itself. Not inquiring toward understanding, and not inquiring for some specialunderstanding, but just inquiring as our path, forever, being renewed moment by moment. This isI think what he hints when he says, you do not have your old views anymore.And he is also pointing to Zen as “walking.” We do not have a new nest, we do not practice andthen arrive at a safe place and stay there forever. News for you – there is no such a thing. Zenis walking. Zen is inquiring. Formless walking and inquiring .There are certain elements in our practice that do reflect those aspects. We have the breathing,we have the ground of this living moment, and we have the inquiring heart and step. Breathing is our companion in whatever approach we choose to come into the world of Zen. Breathing. Andbreathing implies relationship: we breathe, outside, inside implies that relationship in which theoutside and the inside really don’t have a sharp line that divide them, so that is an inter-relationship. And that relationship, inter-relationship, happens moment by moment in a flow.  Then we have this living moment . We talk about shinkantaza practice as pure attention, pureopen attention to this living moment so that actuality will come forth and actualise our heart. Thisliving moment: openness to the unknown, openness to the unexpected, the pregnancy of eachmoment. Dropping off our old views, we are completely open to that. That comes together withtrusting that unknown. Trusting that dark warmth as Lao Tsu points, trusting that pregnancy, thatmystery that is our life, moment by moment.The third element inspires our practice is what we said about inquiring itself, as the heart andstep of Zen. For that to happen with the “don’t know” mind, the mind that is intimate with thatmystery, we need to drop certainties; we need to drop attachment to fixed conceptions or ideasabout practice. Then what Dogen calls the 10,000 beings as actuality itself advance, confirmingthe self, actualising the self, making the self, our life, completely actual. Actuality is another keyelement.So what can we say about that process, that movement that we call awakening? The Koreanteacher Chinul comes to my mind when he says, sudden realisation, gradual personalisation.That is a great phrase and embraces the two aspects of practice. We realise and then we have to give body to that realisation, we have to walk that realisation. Of course that gradualpersonalisation happens step by step. But then Dogen has something to say too. He says, youmay practice Zen forward, but be aware each step is equal in substance .So sudden realisation and gradual personalisation which is that realisation itself taking each oneof the steps as an endless, mysterious process. So it is not that we awake through the koan as ameans to an end that we call awakening. It is a matter of embodying the koan .Then the koan exists and unfolds in the midst of awakening, never solved but enriching andinspiring every one of our steps .It’s a matter of giving body, as in realising the body that is already there, the true body, being onewith that body. The body of this very living moment, the body of our nature, the body of our unique life.We are just as we are, that very heart of practice. Our life as it is, is that very heart.We are that walking, that inquiring that has the potent capacity of re-creating life at each livingmoment.There zazen finds us, embodies us, as the mystery as the unknown, as the dharma gate of easeand joy.Cheers!!! Augusto Al Q’adi Alcalde (Roshi) Marginal Zen Augusto Alcalde (b. 1950) is an Argentinean Zen teacher in the Harada-Yasutanilineage, and the Chin Lien Chia (of Ch’an) one of the first Dharma Successors of the late Robert Aitken . He also was fully authorized as a zen teacher by his first teacher theMonk Yuan Chueh in the year 1974.An social change activist for much of his life till the present time, Alcalde-Roshi grew upin the small jungle town of San Pedro de Colaláo. He was a militant member of the  anarchist scene from 1965 to 1976, a form of political activism which eventually put hislife in jeopardy because of the military dictatorship ruling the country then. During thistime, from 1967 to 1978, he was a student of the late Shih Fu Yuan Chueh, of the PoYuan Temple, an exiled Chinese monk who was living in Brazil, from whom he learnedTraditional Chinese Medicine, the Chinese Internal Arts of Movement and Martial Arts,and Ch’an (Zen) practice, according to the Chin Lien (Golden Lotus) School of ChineseBuddha and the Tao ways, according to the Huang Pei family tradition. Authorized toteach by Shih Fu Yuan Chueh, Alcalde founded a Zendo and taught at the Chinese Yogaand Martial Arts school in 1974.In 1978 he began studying with Robert Aitken-Roshi of Diamond Sangha and in 1984 hemoved to Hawaii to study more intensively. He was made an apprentice teacher that year  by Aitken-Roshi and became his attendant when traveling to other areas of the USA andother foreign countries. In 1986 he returned to Argentina and founded the Shobo AnZendo in Cordoba hills, as a continuation of the old Vimalakirti Sangha, now fullyaffiliated with the Hawaii Diamond Sangha. In 1989 Aitken-Roshi traveled to the Zendoand led a training period and Sesshin, giving Dharma transmission to Augusto Alcalde inconclusion.He lives at the Autumn Bridge Dojo, and directs the “Cultural Corner Inn”, a house for Zen practice, rest and health and a center of Traditional Chinese Therapies. This place isopen for residence around the year, and a Zen practice schedule is followed during theyear, including Sesshin retreats, and instruction is available in both English and Spanish,and visitors are very much welcome.He teaches Learning the Tao with the Body (“Shingaku Do”-Dogen Zenji) which is the practice of the Chinese Internal Arts of Movement of the Nei Ch’ia Chuan Shu, in thecontext and ground of traditional Zen and the Tao practice. It is an expression of theteachings of the late Shifu Yuan Chueh of Po Yun Temple, Canton, and the Chin LienChia, the “Golden Lotus” Ch’an (Zen) school (of the Complete Realization Lineage) andthe Shifu Augusto Al Q’adi Alcalde (Roshi) who is fully authorized as a guide andsuccessor in the lineage by Yuan Chueh in 1974.Augusto, responding to the suggestions of his former teacher in the Oahu Island of theHawaii Nation, reincorporated the Internal Arts of Movement to his own teachings intothe Soto-Rinzai Zen lineage, in which he is a Dharma successor himself. He taught andguided retreats, intensives, meetings and practices in the Zendos and Dojos of the Oahuisland over the years. He teaches in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Hawaii and Australia aswell as in other places on this wounded Mother Earth.
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