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from R O U N D A B O U T Z E N

INTRODUCTION:

IN MYRIAD FORMS, A SINGLE BODY REVEALED

Tenryu Paul Rosenblum

How do we know our teacher and friend, Zentatsu Baker Roshi? How do we begin to express our appreciation for his life? Through our shared personal history? Through reviewing his accomplishments? Through an assessment of his influence on our culture and its institutions? Through the profound changes that he has effected in our lives. Through his penetrating teaching? Through the joys of his friendship and sense of connectedness? Through simply being together? Through all of these and more.

This book is a celebration of the life of Zentatsu Baker Roshi. It is an appreciation of his 70 years of sharing his life and practice with others. Each of the more than twenty voices represented herein express a particular knowing, a sincere affection, a kind regard, a deep respect; articulate and inspired as they may be, each is a starting point, an introductory word toward describing the breadth of his life and the profound effect that Baker Roshi has had on thousands of lives.

The Zen Teacher Fayan said,"…in myriad forms, a single body revealed. "Knowing Baker Roshi through his seemingly nonstop activity and extraordinary accomplishments is to know him anchored in time and place. Knowing Baker Roshi as a Zen teacher, the transmitted disciple and successor of his teacher, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi is to know his "practice body" which is included in and yet also beyond circumstances and outcomes, beyond here and there, beyond now and then, beyond sufficiency or lack. Though this is apart from conventional knowing, each attribute, each activity, each accomplishment, may provide access to it.

Baker Roshi has brought contemporary Western culture to Zen, in addition to his efforts to bring the best of Zen to the West. He has emphasized finding the possibilities of change in the everydayness of our Western lives. While both demonstrating his sense of art, architecture and design and immersing himself in traditional practices and forms, Roshi has been careful not to trade in Western ways and aesthetics for Oriental ones. He has created enduring institutions which provide opportunities to study Zen imbedded in and yet also quite independent of our contemporary society.

Roshi’s sense of place and attention to detail coupled with his keen organizational abilities are legend. His love of practice and desire for excellence are reflected in every detail, from finding Tassajara, the first Zen Monastery in the West, and raising the money to purchase it, to picking out the wall color at San Francisco Zen Center, to hanging a scroll at Johanneshof, each activity is an expression of his practice. The enduring success of the San Francisco Zen Center (and its financial bases of support like the landmark vegetarian restaurant, Greens), and the Dharma Sangha, in the US, and Europe, are testaments to his capacities and skills. And, it makes sense that the practice centers in California, Colorado and Germany which he helped establish continue to be among the most respected, and often imitated, in the West.

However, the significance of Roshi’s efforts also go beyond the creation of effectively-managed organizations and beautiful places to study. These centers are expressions of the practice that he passionately lives and teaches. There is a tradition in Zen that teachers are literally named after the temple where they practice – their "body," and where they "are," the seat of teaching, are not separate. So, we may say that these places are a direct expression of the mind of practice, of Zentatsu Baker Roshi’s mind.

To study with Baker Roshi is to study mind. All he has done has been focused on providing people with an opportunity to sit inside their own mind. His real gift to us is not simply the compassionate power of his presence, the clarity of his understanding, his extensive knowledge of Asian and Western cultures, or his great ability to articulate the teachings, but it is his generosity. Baker Roshi has given generously, tirelessly – regardless of circumstances or outcomes – to so many. He has dedicated his life to providing an opportunity to simply study mind, to sit and to see what is here and what unfolds. This is a chance for each of us to discover a mind which underlies our many minds - a mind which we can say is free of structure - no matter what culture we are in. This is a boundless and great thing, and it is worthy of countless expressions of appreciation: a single body revealed.  


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