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Buddhadharma : Fall 2015
72 buDDhaDharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2015 right,” as he put it, and threw himself into the role of being a “professional” meditator with wholehearted effort, get- ting up for predawn zazen and bearing down for sesshin even when his health was frail, as it increasingly was. Whalen did the Buddhism right, even when that entailed following his teacher to Santa Fe—far from his beloved Pacific Ocean and the ever-beckoning chow fun parlors of Chinatown—after Zen Center was thrown into chaos by the revelation of Baker’s love affair with the wife of a major supporter of the sangha, followed by several similar revelations involving students and his subsequent removal as abbot by the Zen Center board. Whalen tried to make the best of living in an arid environment that abraded his skin and aggravated his asthma, but then eagerly accepted an assignment to return to the Bay Area to become the head of practice at Hartford Street, a combina- tion temple and hospice in the heart of shore upon which he could drag his psy- chic dory, there to receive calm but hip instruction.” Expat life in Kyoto, even with its myriad hardships and bafflements, had a tonic effect on Whalen’s poetry. He com- posed his most sprawling work there, Scenes of Life at the Capital, a book- length poem that encompassed notes of his travels around the city, news reports, scraps of history, ideograms and doodles, and obscure words that tickled his mind’s ear, like bezoar and curcurbite. Instead of a popular poet, he became a poet’s poet—an artist whose work gave other artists permission to blow as deep as they wanted to blow, as Kerouac put it. Schneider is forthright about the practical challenges that Whalen faced in trying to survive as a poet who could not abide holding a day job to pay the rent. “A real writer or thinker shouldn’t have to work anyway!” he would com- plain to Snyder (which, as Schneider points out, isn’t quite the Zen attitude of “a day without work is a day without food”). It’s a bit painful to read about Whalen living in penury for most of his life, unable to afford a new pair of shoes much less the fattening delicacies he was always hankering after, depend- ing on the kindness of strangers and the forbearance of friends, sleeping in borrowed beds until the pleasures of his erudite conversation ran thin. After a couple of decades of this, the invitation from an old friend from poetry circles—Richard Baker, another Ameri- can Zen student who trained in Japan and became Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s dharma heir—to take up residence at San Francisco Zen Center, where Baker was the abbot, must have come as a relief, even if Whalen quickly resumed complaining about feeling exhausted by the daily schedule (which he was not, in fact, obliged to follow). Even so, Wha- len was committed to “do the Buddhism revieWs *CEU CREDITS AVAILABLE FOR SOCIAL WORKERS. 119 W. 23rd Street, #401, New York, NY 10011 Zen Meditation Practice Dharma Teachings Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Bereavement Support Groups Caregiver Support Group Karuna Sangha LGBTQIS dharma group Refuge Recovery A Buddhist approach to recovery from addiction NEW YORK ZEN CENTER FOR CONTEMPLATIVE CARE ZENCARE.ORG LIVING FEARLESSLY OCTOBER 6, 2015-MAY 3, 2016 A nine-month exploration of meaning and mortality CERTIFICATE PROGRAM IN CONTEMPLATIVE STUDIES Applications are accepted on a rolling basis MINDFULNESS BASED STRESS REDUCTION September 18-November 10, 2015 with Jon Aaron *SILENT SESSHIN RETREAT JANUARY 14-17, 2016 at Garrison Institute, Garrison, NY