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.

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