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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
36 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2 0 1 3 And, indeed, when I didn’t have to deal with people off my zafu, I could continue to savor this serenity and spend hours at a time listening to birds singing in the trees outside the mansion or watching the waves roll in at Yuigahama beach. But when circumstances demanded that I interact socially, a disorienting sense of my “I” disappear- ing would sometimes seize me out of nowhere, an unnerving phenomenon that I chalked up to makyo hallucinations similar to my experiences under laughing gas at the dentist and while surf- ing at Waikiki. I took it as further evidence that I was approaching my Really Big K. DESPITE MY LONG HOURS of peaceful sit- ting, a practice made possible for me by “Japa- nese” Zen, I began to find the Japanese cultural baggage saddling Zen to be more and more irksome. This was, no doubt, born of a sama- dhi-induced hypersensitivity on my part, rather than any substantial defect in the practice. Any practice anywhere will inevitably be tinged with the culture out of which it springs. But, in my self-imposed arhat isolation, I was developing a real paranoia about Japan. I even found myself occasionally lapsing into the favorite expression of a fellow American San Un Zendo member: “Is this country fucked up or what!” At the conclusion of each sesshin, the old hands of the sangha were expected to stay behind and help put the zendo back in order. For my first couple of sesshin I was not included in this, since I was too young and too green, but after one in March 1973, a senior leader came up and asked me ever so politely to pitch in. The proper was as close to a feeling of perfection as I had ever felt, perfection in some form being some- thing I had long been seeking. The next koan in the series had as its theme a tree with bare branches, and I was equally certain that it must also be about the desolate beauty of absolute samadhi. But at my next dokusan, to my deep consternation, Yamada Roshi sent me on my way to meditate some more, saying that neither koan had anything remotely to do with samadhi—although I felt sure that he was hold- ing something back, deeming me either unready or unworthy or both. Undeterred, I continued to cultivate samadhi, often sitting four or more hours a day in hopes of it bursting forth into my own Great Enlightenment. The more my samadhi deepened, however, the more removed I felt from the world off my zafu, and I began to begrudge the time I had to spend doing almost anything else. As if read- ing my mind, Yamada Roshi touched upon this issue in a teisho not long afterward. My Japanese had improved significantly, and I found I could understand more and more of what he said, such as, “Why do Zen people get so attached to samadhi?” He then answered his own rhetorical question: “Because it feels so good. You don’t have a care or worry in the world.” He went on to caution against forming an attachment to even this most equanimous condition of the heart and soul, ending the teisho with his usual theme, “Zen is the practice of ‘ordinary mind.’” It was a caution I disregarded. Whenever my samadhi- jones started itching, my fix was not far away in the form of another hour or two of zazen. Then life was perfect again—for as long as I sat. The more my samadhi deepened, the more removed I felt from the world. Yamada Roshi cautioned against forming an attachment to samadhi, but it was a caution I disregarded.