Dharma Theme: Zen Luminaries, A Series of Conversations with Jon Joseph Roshi

Description

Modern Zen Luminaries: A series of Zen Buddhist scholars, writers, poets, translators, and practitioners join PZI’s Jon Joseph Roshi for lively discussions online, with a focus on our Chan lineage. Includes all recordings beginning with the series’ launch in September 2021.


Zen Luminaries: A Series of Conversations
hosted by Jon Joseph Roshi


UPCOMING: Poet Naomi Shihab Nye
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
June 27, 2022

Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye is an American poet, editor, songwriter, and novelist, born to a Palestinian father and an American mother. Nye has been affiliated with the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas and poetry editor for the Texas Observer for over 20 years. She is a professor of creative writing at Texas State University. Her works include poetry, novels, young adult fiction, and illustrated books. She has published or contributed to over 30 volumes of poetry.

I have always loved the gaps, the spaces between things, as much as the things. I love staring, pondering, mulling, puttering. I love the times when someone or something is late—there’s that rich possibility of noticing more, in the meantime… Poetry calls us to pause. There is so much we overlook, while the abundance around us continues to shimmer, on its own.

—Naomi Shihab Nye


UPCOMING: Chan Scholar Morton Schlutter
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
May 23, 2022

 

Morton Schlutter’s book How Zen Became Zen, examines the dispute that erupted within the Chan school in the 12th century, when Chan master Dahui Zonggao railed against “heretical silent illumination Chan” and strongly advocated koan meditation as an antidote.

 

 


ARCHIVED: Writer & Roshi Susan Murphy
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
April 25, 2022

Audio: Minding the Earth, Mending the World

Susan Murphy Roshi

Susan Murphy Roshi is the founder and guiding teacher of Zen Open Circle sangha in Australia. She was made Roshi in 2001 through Ross Bolleter Roshi and John Tarrant Roshi. Susan is also a writer, freelance radio producer and film director. She was a film studies university lecturer for many years before leaving to devote herself to teaching Zen and writing.

Her most recent book is Red thread Zen: Humanly Entangled in Emptiness isan argument against the bloodless and socially disengaged form of Buddhism that is generally being gestated in the West, one that shades too readily into the blandest of bland self-help.”

Her other books include Minding the Earth, Mending the World, and Upside-Down Zen.

More about Susan Murphy Roshi. 

Susan Murphy is a gifted leader in the new generation of Zen Masters…. She is anchored in the old Asian tradition but she is also helpful if you have the courage to want more than that. She shows how Zen and Western, along with older, native traditions, illuminate each other. She locates spiritual work where it has always really belonged – bang in the middle of whatever is happening.

— John Tarrant


ARCHIVED: Hosho Peter Coyote
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
March 28, 2022

Audio: Following the Red Thread

KOAN: Why can’t the clear-eyed person cut the red thread?

—Songyuan Chongyue’s Three Turning Words, Entangling Vines, Case 142

Hosho Peter Coyote

Hosho Peter Coyote was ordained in 2011 and in 2015 became Chikudo Lewis Richmond’s dharma heir. He is working on a book entitled “Vernacular Zen,”which draws on the teachings of Shunryu Suzuki, his grandfather in the Dharma.

In it, he explores loosening the Japanese Zen “wrapping” around the Buddha’s gift, discovering the Buddha’s teaching in “vernacular practice” —everyday American life—which he believes Suzuki Roshi would have encouraged had he lived longer.

Peter followed the red thread his whole life and felt he had “mastered the worlds of love and power to the degree I maintained interest in them,” but was still restless and vaguely dissatisfied. At age 68, “Sickness, old age and death had become tangible to me in ways that had only been romantic posturing in my twenties.” He decided to enter a sesshin at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.

On the first day of sesshin, a question spontaneously arose in his mind:

“What is it I am missing or searching for?” which shortened to just “What is it?”

On the sixth day a group passed outside in walking meditation, and a scrub-jay screamed, ‘Eeek! Eeek! Eeek! Eeek! Eeek!’—obliterating all thought. “Suddenly, its cries were understood as ‘It! It! It! It! It!’ —the indisputable answer to my question. I took one more step, and the world as I had always experienced it ended.”

—Hosho Peter Coyote


ARCHIVED: Zen Priest & Writer David Chadwick
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
February 28, 2022

Audio: The Suzuki Roshi Legacy

David Chadwick

David Chadwick studied intensively with Shunryu Suzuki Roshi and received Zen priest ordination from him just before his death in 1971. After his teacher’s passing, Chadwick became a practice leader at Tassajara and eventually studied with other Japanese teachers in both the Soto and Rinzai traditions.

Since the mid-1990s, he has dedicated himself to establishing an archive and historical record of Shunryu Suzuki’s talks and calligraphy, which can be found at:

www.cuke.com, www.shunryusuzuki.com, and the San Francisco Zen Center audio archives.

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi is one of the foundational teachers in establishing Zen in the West. As Taizan Maezumi Roshi of Zen Center of Los Angeles shared with Chadwick in 1995, there had been a number of Japanese Zen teachers visiting and establishing sanghas in America since the turn of the previous century. But none had borne fruit.

What was it about this teacher that his dharma appealed to Zen students from many schools across both space and time?

I could see Suzuki in his office, surrounded by a crowd of people on their way out. Still my mind was bubbling. He turned, caught my eye, and smiled, and for the tiniest increment of time, everything stopped, and I saw him…I still hold a snapshot of memory of that first moment of direct contact with the man who had just become my teacher.

—David Chadwick, from his book, Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Legacy of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi


ARCHIVED: Poet & Chan Poetry Translator David Hinton
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
January 24, 2022

Audio: Return to Hunger Mountain

KOAN: (translated by David Hinton)

Birds have vanished into deep skies.
A last cloud drifts away, all idleness.
Inexhaustible this mountain and I
gaze at each other, it alone remaining.

—Li Po (Reverence Pavilion Mountain, Sitting Alone)

David Hinton

David Hinton is a poet and translator who specializes in Chan literature and poetry. His many books include The Selected Poems of Tu Fu (Du Fu), The Selected Poems of Li Po, and a translation of the I Ching. Hinton’s translations of the great Chan poets have earned acclaim for conveying “the actual texture and density of the originals.”

Unlike modern phonetic languages, Hinton believes the ancient graphical language of China allowed the culture to express a remarkably modern worldview: one that is empirical but also deeply religious—“profoundly gynocentric”—with a cosmology oriented around “earth’s mysterious generative force,” a “female dark enigma.” It envisions a “deep ecology, wherein human consciousness is woven into the natural world at a most fundamental level.”

Through translation I’ve come to realize that I stumbled upon a way to think outside the limitations not just of the mainstream Western intellectual tradition, but also of my own identity; a way to speak in the voice of ancient China’s sage-masters and for them to speak in mine.

—David Hinton


ARCHIVED: Buddhist & Daoist Translator Red Pine (Bill Porter)
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
December 20, 2021

Audio: The Heart Sutra

KOAN: (translated by Red Pine)

Here, Shariputra, 
form is emptiness, emptiness is form;
emptiness is not separate from form, form is not separate from emptiness;
whatever is form is emptiness, whatever is emptiness is form.

—Excerpt from the Heart Sutra

Red Pine Bill Porter

Red Pine (Bill Porter) is recognized as one of the world’s great translators of Chinese poetry and religious texts.He was the first to translate the entirety of 9th-century Chan poet Hanshan’s works into English, published as The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain. He has also translated several of the major Buddhist sutras, including the Heart Sutra, Diamond Sutra, and Platform Sutra.

Audio Excerpt: Red Pine answers a question from Allison Atwill on translating poetry.

The Heart Sutra is a great torch that lights the darkest road, a swift boat that ferries us across the sea of suffering.

—Fazang, founder of the Flower Garland (Huayan) school

The Heart Sutra is a work of art as much as of religion…distinguishing these two callings is both artificial and unfortunate.

—Red Pine


ARCHIVED: Zen Scholar & Philosopher Peter Hershock
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
November 1, 2021

Audio: The Value of Ancient Chan Teachings in Our Modern Context

KOAN: No North or South in Buddha Nature

On meeting Huineng, the teacher Hongren asked him where he was from. Huineng said he was a peasant from the South. Hongren then asked him, “If you came from the South, then you are a barbarian. How can you become a Buddha?” Huineng replied, ”Though people differ, north and south, there is no north or south in Buddha Nature.”

—from The Platform Sutra of 6th Ancestor Huineng

Peter Hershock

Peter Hershock, an East-West Center scholar in Honolulu and a long-time practitioner of Son (Korean Zen) Buddhism, is well known for his book, Chan Buddhism (2004), a modern review of Chan’s golden era in China during the Tang and Song dynasties.

In his historical narrative, Hershock finds relevant parallels between the social currents of medieval China and those in the West today. Many of Chan’s distinctive practices emerged during a period of warfare and privation that resulted in the dislocation or death of vast numbers of Chinese.

In this context, Chan can be viewed as a counter-cultural movement. Chan had an increasing focus on “home-grown Buddhas,” native Chan masters who had wide support among Chinese monastics and laypeople, including women.

Chan’s mission is to induce each and every one of us to demonstrate our readiness for truly liberating intimacy. To a Buddhist practitioner, it is clear that the contemporary relevance of Chan does not lie in what it tells us about our current situation, but in how it helps us transform it.

Practicing Chan means moment by moment opening and extending our own capacities for appreciative and contributory virtuosity, and skillfully offering them for the benefit of all beings in the midst of our own unique stories.

—Peter Hershock

You can read a summary of Peter’s book here:
http://www.eastwestcenter.org/publications/chan-buddhism


ARCHIVED: Zen Scholar & Translator Thomas Kirchner
in conversation with Jon Joseph Roshi
September 27, 2021

Audio: My Life in Zen

KOAN:  A coin lost in the river is found in the river.  —PZI Miscellaneous Koans, Case 64

Thomas Kirchner

Thomas Kirchner has translated, annotated, and edited great works in our Chan lineage, including Entangling Vines: Zen Koans of the Shumon Kattoshu, The Record of Linji, and more. His translation of Linji’s Record builds on the work of Ruth Fuller Sasaki’s team, and adds extensive and valuable footnotes as well as a historical introduction.

Kirchner is a longtime Zen practitioner, was born in the US, and has lived most of his life in Japan. He joined Jon Joseph on September 27th for a wide-ranging conversation about his life in Zen.

I have a deep sense that this is a really, really meaningful experience. It has given me a compass for my life. With time, I will be able to face death with peace of mind.

—Thomas Kirchner

You can read about Thomas Kirchner and get links to his books here:
https://terebess.hu/zen/mesterek/ThomasKirchner.html