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Buddhadharma : Spring 2008
buddhadharma| 59 |spring 2008 Rabbi Rami ShapiRo iS the foundeR of one RiveR, an educational inStitution pRomoting dialogue on matteRS of Religion, Science, SpiRituality, and ethicS. he iS a gRaduate of the hebRew union college–JewiSh inStitute of Religion and holdS doctoRal degReeS in both ReligiouS StudieS and divinity. he haS been a Student of Zen Since 1968. “Where is God When stick hit floor?” Joshu sasaki roshi, my Zen master, asked over and over. Unfortunately, i wasn’t listening. this was the second day of a sesshin, a Zen meditation retreat, and my first oppor- tunity to experience sanzen, a one-on-one meeting with the roshi. the purpose of sanzen is to work on a koan, a Zen puzzle designed to open you to the profound simplicity of reality. i knew this as i prepared to meet with roshi. What i didn’t know was that roshi spoke english. All my previous encounters with sasaki roshi had been through a translator. roshi lectured in Japanese, and the translator relayed his words in english. i assumed that was because roshi spoke no english. so as i sat across from him in sanzen, i had no expectation of actually speaking with the man. roshi sat in front of me, his right hand tapping a gnarled piece of mahogany on the hard wood floor between us. his lips moved, sounds emerged, but i heard no question. “Where is God When stick hit floor?” Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s humorous account of his trying, but ultimately helpful, encounters with Sasaki Roshi. © John SchweikeRt photogRaphy donfaRbeR