We arose early today, it was planned to be a full day in the city. For the record ” The City” is what we locals call San Francisco. It is never called Frisco or San Fran, Yuk!
So off to the city we went for our day adventure. The First stop was at the S.F. Zen center. We were going to the orientation class then to a lecture by a visiting priest. One of my main reasons for going today was to hear this priest and hopefully get a chance to speak with him. He was from Osaka, which is where the Lady Zen is from. I was hopeful he could answer a few question in Japanese she was wondering about. He could explain it to her well.
We arrived in plenty of time, so I get to look around abit. Nice place, big, nicer than Berkeley as the feel and of a zen center.
A wonderful little court yard in the center of the building.
I was impressed with the memorial display they had set up for Dr.Martin Luther King Jr.
The center was even going to be closed on Monday to the general public on Monday other than a memorial service for him.
I grab a few pictures while we waited. After a while a monk comes out and gathers us for the lesson.
Interesting to find the star of David in the fence. I wonder what this place was before…
We start the class by going down stairs to the Zendo ( meditation room) he gives us a few rules of conduct for the room. Then we head back up stair. Half way up we stop at a bell and drum. He explains the use and reason behind certain number of gongs strikes. Since there was no PA system it signaled what was starting and how much time you had to get there. It was interesting.
From there we head back upstairs to the Buddha hall. Which is the main gathering room. This is where the lecture will be held. We had our basic class in there. It was a much clearer explanation in somethings than at the Berkeley center and a much nicer vibe in the room. It felt much more zen’ish with the mat floors, statues, alter and gongs.
After a bit of chatting we did a short meditation. Usually a bell or gong is rang to start the meditation as a treat for us the priest rall a 700 yr old gong. WOW Amazing sound Full rich & deep!! that lingered… wonderful!!!
After a short meditation , was a question and answer session. Then break for the lecture from Okumura sensei. He is the founder of a Zen center in Illinous. He studied under some high up Master. Okumura Sama is the one from Osaka. I asked at the info counter would there be a chance we could speak with him afterward. I was told because it was the first day of his “session” here on the West Coast there was no way to speak with him. Perhaps later in the week. I should leave a message it would be given to him, and if possible someone would contact us. Hmmmm ok, Lady Z left a message in Japanese with a few questions
she had. Then we joined the crowd forming in the Buddha Hall for the lecture.
Okumura sensei entered a while later. It was very formal after a bit of ritual he started his talk. He spoke of two realites. They sultra spoke of two realities one the everday people see and one buddhas see ( enlightened ones) which is the real one. He spoke of having attachments, and the casues of suffering. The meaning of this in Zanzen. It was interesting. He also said. He was told by his sensei that to lecture in English was hell. He said he had to give 3 hours letures a day over the next two weeks so he would be living in hell. Everyone laughed. Lady Z and I would how manyof the group understood all that he was saying. His accent was heavy at times, we had trouble understanding somethings. we we figure others had even a harder time.
I asked Lady Zen, we’ve been to three places now for Zen study which did she like best. I liked the feel of SF Zen center. It felt more formal, hmmm maybe formal is not the right word more temple like. The environment would be a better word. Perhaps it was my sense of Chinese formality with Kung Fu that felt comfortable with it. She preferred the small group we visited at the church. She said it felt more quiet and peaceful. I agreed with that. Another thing I noticed with the church the people even just the couple that we came in contact with were more welcoming, well except for the Paster I guess he was. There was one older gentleman that came up to us and said thank you for coming. Were as both Zen groups were helpful but more detached, more into thier own space. Perhaps the natural of the disicplines.
I did agree with the peacefulness of the church. The quiet there was also nice and the sense of spirituality, I noticed that as we sat. In the Buddha hall in SF it was right next to the street so you could hear everything. Although the meditation room was downstairs and in the rear off the street away from the noise, it did not have a light feel to it. It felt like it was in a basement and it was. The Berkeley enter was a building in a yard and quiet but it did not have the spirituality of the Church which I noticed when I was there. We will be going back at least once again the smaller group was nice. Perhaps oce more to Berkeley. Also planned is a trip to the Marin Co. center in March after we return from Hawaii.
Lady Z’s comments to all of this, the condensed version were, this is not new thoughts to Japanese. We learn all this from youth, all of this in someways is strange to her because this is normal life in Japan. This is how we live, not someplace one goes to. This formality, this way of thinking, this environment. This is our culture we do not go somewhere to learn it like these people.
We had a discussion on the way to Japantown about meditation, the reasons for it, the approach of it. She did not argree with the thought that you should not have attachments, how could youlive in this world without them. Also the idea of just letting things go and doing nothing an living a life in meditation was not practical. After some comparison with Christian ideas of God will supply everything, we do not have do anything but pray and live. She felt the idea of meditation to release problems and just let them solve themselves was not practical. She said solved her problems in life by facing them, not ignoring them, so they would go away with meditation. We reach a understanding of ideas. She thought my view was to meditate to resolve problems and issues. No I explained. Mediation is a tool to relax the mind to see clearly the path to finding a solution. You need to work on ones barriers that come in life, but one needs to do it with a clear calm mind. As in one can not see the forest for the trees. or being too close to the problem to see it clearly. My example was, if you hand is a problem and it is one inch from your face, you can not see it clearly. Meditation is like moving the hand back from your face so you can see the whole hand clearly, the palm, the ridges, the lines. Carrying the state of meditation with you daily is in effect not panicking when something does not go your way or a event comes up that is out of your control. Eg: there is a fire, the door is jammed, instead of banging and kicking the door go hytrical. Take a breath and seek another way out. Doing forms of Kung Fu And Tai Chi is another “method of Zen. As is doing Zazen. Both seek to clam the mind and detach from radom thoughts. In Zazen you focus without focusing on breath, posture, no-mind. In the Physical Zen of Kung Fu it is the same but with movements instead of stillness. Both seek to give you calmness and peace in the face of chaos.
Our next stop was at out favorite Japantown restaurant for some real Japanese food. I got noodles, she got tempura. We had a glass of OSHII SAKE ( delicious)! It was something new flavored with Lyee juice. Great Taste!! The only downside to the meal was this American girl with a loud irritating voice who did not feel the need to lower her tone while eating in a place with others. happliy she and her friend left shortly after we got there.
Next stop was our favorite Incense shop. I have been going tere ro a few years. Lady Zen has just recently developed a taste for incense fragrance. Before she said in Japan incense and those round paper lanterns we use here reminded her of funerals. In Japan that is the only time they are used. Here it is different. Her favorite incense is a new one out called green tea. She finds it very relaxing. We were told it is new and different. Many American do not like it too much but Japanese love it. We found it on our last trip over to J-town and just tried a small bit to sample. We have almost used it up, so I wanted to get a box this time.
After a few more stops at local shop for food stuff, we headed back to the car. I wanted to stop by a Zen Archerysession near J-town. we drove around looking for it, but had no luck. I had mistakenly wrote the wrong address I found out later. Oh well.
One more stop then home. This time in Berkeley to see a lady I had met with the Tokyo Delegation ( see the old zensekai) She makes saps and bath salts. I had her make up a few bars for me. Lady Z was unfamiliar with her and her products. She tried a sample when we got home and was most impressed. She said the scent was soft like what they use on high quality Japanese hand fans.
So end the day over a light dinner before, our Sat. night Japan Dramas.
We’ll it maybe quiet here for a week or so. Nothing is really planned for the next week.
However the Universe has a way of presenting new things.