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Home Newsletters So-Wide Space - July 2011 - Shinzan

So-Wide Space - July 2011 - Shinzan

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The Visit of Shinzan Miyamae Roshi to Oxford

a report by Steven Egan

Shinzan Roshi spoke at the Wadham Old Refectory on 26th May as part of his visit to Oxford.  The visit was co-hosted by ourselves, the Oxford Zen Society and the Oxford Buddhist Society.  The title of the talk was “A Zen Model of Human Development” and Shinzan Roshi chose to focus on the life of Nishida Kitaro – a philosopher who had also engaged in serious Zen training (more details on his life can be found at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nishida-kitaro/ ).   Shinzan Roshi chose this as having particular relevance to the academic work happening at Oxford University.

He spoke about Kitaro’s early days and then his entering into Zen training.  He spoke at some length on the use of the koan known as “Joshu’s Mu” which is often used at the start of Zen training.  He then went on to elaborate on a particular teaching known as nari-kiru which was translated as becoming/to cut off.  An everyday example was given by Daizen Roshi as – when you wash the dishes, you are 100% engaged in this situation.

Questions were then invited from the floor.  There followed a very interesting and lively discussion on whether academic study and the Zen maxim of no-thought were compatible.  What arose from this discussion was that no-thought didn’t mean the cessation of all thinking but the cessation of all extraneous thinking.  Thus, Shinzan Roshi pointed out; when you are thinking then you think with your whole being.  When you are listening you are receiving with your whole being.

I found this a very lively and extremely relevant discussion within the context of academic work and helped to dismiss certain misapprehensions that Zen teachings require the cessation of all thinking whatsoever.  Indeed, what came through from the talk and discussion was that Zen training can actually help to augment and develop academic and intellectual work.

The other part of the talk that I found of particular interest was the detailed explanation of the koan “Joshu’s Mu” within a Zen Training.  The importance of this koan in assisting the realization of nothingness was expressed very clearly.

Shinzan Roshi himself impressed with a lively and dynamic manner, portraying a mix of warmth, rigour and humour.  He also exhibited a powerful state of being present which enhanced and demonstrated the themes of his talk.

 



 

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