Peaceful Sitting: Sitting for Peace

Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede (front and center) recently sent this photo (me, back and right) from a 1982 UN Disarmament vigil that we both participated in.

Goodness, how the time goes. Goodness, how the weight comes.

This was in the early Reagan years and many of us were convinced that he’d see us blown to bits in a full-out nuclear war.

The vigil was the brain child of Ty Cashman, a student of Katagiri Roshi, and was one of the first activities of Zen groups in the US working together – Rochester ZC, Greystone ZC (I think that was the name of Bernie Glassman’s group then), Minnesota Zen Center, and I think there were others but I don’t remember exactly who.

Until then, the various groups seemed to be on different planets and we tended to believe that there were no other forms of intelligent life in the Zen universe.

We did zazen and kinhin in a little park across from the UN during the Disarmament Conference. For several days we practiced together and with people who stopped by to join us. Often, passers-by would stop and stand silently with us. An occasional New Yorker would shout, “What the fuck?”

Even so, it was a powerful experience – connecting with each other, connecting our practice with our hearts’ deep love and concern for this little planet, and feeling that we were doing our part for something important.

I remember one day as we packed up our cushions and being-peace placard, a somewhat agitated fellow came up and asked what we were doing. It might have been Ty that explained about being peace.

“Well,” said the by-stander, “I came by earlier and you were doing walking meditation but you were doing it counter-clock wise. This is wrong. You should always walk in the clockwise direction! I practice in the Tibetan tradition and I can assure you that there will be no merit from this activity whatsoever.”

He then stomped away, leaving the confused, rag-tag descendents of Bodhidharma feeling quite relieved.

Print Friendly

  • Koun Franz

    Good job dodging the merit bullet.! Trivia: the clockwise rule is about following the path of the sun, so technically, Buddhists south of the equator are supposed to do kinhin (and turn before zazen, and turn in ceremonies, and so on) counter-clockwise. In the end, we’re all just subject to the same laws as the water in the toilet bowl.

    • doshoport

      You’ve said a lot there.

    • togeika

      Koun, Sun travels east to west in the North and South.

      Also, water draining in different directions is a myth.

      http://www.snopes.com/science/

      Yes, most Buddhist on the planet circumnambulate in a clockwise direction. We are hopeless in America. ;)

      But in Mecca:
      Tawaf (طواف) is one of the Islamic rituals of pilgrimage. During the Hajj and Umrah, Muslims are to circumambulate the Kaaba (most sacred site in Islam) seven times, in a counterclockwise direction.

      • Koun Franz

        togeika–

        Thanks for pointing out how unskillful that comment was. Of course the actual direction of the sun doesn’t change, but perspective does: “Looking at the equator, the sun moves from left to right in the northern hemisphere, and right to left in the southern hemisphere.” (http://www.illustratingshadows.com/split-world.pdf) As for the water in the drain, well, that’s just disappointing. I stand by my point, though. :-)

        Gassho,

        -koun

  • Guest

    Koun, Sun travels east to west in the North and South.

    Also, water draining in different directions is a myth.

    http://www.snopes.com/science/coriolis.asp

    Yes, most Buddhist on the planet circumnambulate in a clockwise direction. We are hopeless in America. ;0

  • Guest

    But in Mecca:
    Tawaf (طواف) is one of the Islamic rituals of pilgrimage. During the Hajj and Umrah, Muslims are to circumambulate the Kaaba (most sacred site in Islam) seven times, in a counterclockwise direction.

  • Mike Cross

    Trying to be right is a kind of endemic disease in Japanese Zen. If you are free from it, Dosho, you are a better man than me. Due to input from Alexander teachers, I at least became aware of the problem — became aware of how trying to be right and undue tension/relaxation in sitting are all entangled with each other. How about “descendants of Bodhidharma” like you and your peace activist chums, who appear to be sitting there so self-righteously?

    • doshoport

      Hi Mike,
      I don’t think it’s just the Japanese who like to be right. I do too. And I think you are right – we were self-righteous … and this was 30 years ago. So maybe a little softening since then.
      Dosho

      • Mike Cross

        Nice response, Dosho. Working in the direction of a bit more softening, rather than expecting total freedom from a delusion, might be the way to go… No need for me to confess which way I habitually veer. When it comes to trying to be right, I bow to nobody!


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X