Above is Zen teacher Bomun (a.k.a., George Bowman, successor of Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim and long-time student of Sasaki Roshi).
My 14-year-old son just got up for breakfast (at 12:24pm), saw me working on this post and said, “Wow, that’s one bad-ass looking dude.”
Don’t minimize this point. It is a comment from someone who spends a good part of his day in various cyber battles with horrific creatures. Let me emphasize – don’t take his comment lightly!
It should also be said that the person to his right is his one and only successor. Make what you will out of that.
Seriously, I knew Bomun for a while in the 90’s and now am delighted to have reconnected with him. He’s really a great guy and, thank buddha, he also has a bad-ass side to him.
That’s a great virtue for a Zen practitioner.
Yet he pours out his heart in a seemingly uncensored flow of pain and truth both in his dharma talks and in conversation. I find that both touching and admirable.
Recently, in the heart of an extended retreat, a student of Bomun’s asked him in dokusan, “Is this really all there is to it?”
Bomun said, “No.”
Great dharma presentation!
If there were an applause machine in the dokusan room, it would have kicked in here at 150 decibels.
Now every Zennie knows that “Yes,” is also correct, of course. It is always just this. And yet “Yes” can close down the mind, harden the concepts, calcify the heart.
In my view, American Soto Zen is almost choking to death on the efficaciousless idea of “Just this.”
But I might be wrong.
In this case, “No” brought about a very pregnant pause, according to Bomun.
For me, “No” is so much more interesting than “Yes.” It sets a limit, vivifies a boundary, offers a shut-the-fuck up point and leads to inquiry.
“Yes,” can also be nice, of course, so there’s no need to be all doctrinaire about “No.”