Hello. My name is Bill Linden fellows are very longtime member of the Zen Center. hanger on. I've been here a long, long time. I heard I heard John Sensei say one time that zc gets the desperate ones. those for whom life just seems to be a procession of highs and lows, disappointments, Joy's spectacularly great moments, deep, dark holes
where our sons do it arbitrary lonely. And then as Roshi puts it, we're all born with that ultimately fatal condition. And so here we all are. Thank you very much for being here. I was brought up a good Catholic boy. I learned the entire ceremony of the Catholic mass in Latin. When I was 10 years old. I knew my Baltimore Catechism the do's and don'ts of the faith, Mass every Sunday, Holy Days, extra days just for good measure. Catholic schooling through high school dyed in the wool Catholic junior grade. So I'm sitting in religion class one day at Archbishop Malloy High School. Grade 11. And I start thinking about all of these beliefs. I've been taught for years. And I asked a simple question. Why, why do we believe this? The teacher hemmed and hawed, I kept probing, and finally he delivered the answer. We have faith. And that just caused an explosion in my head. We believe this, because we believe us an enormous edifice of faith floating without a foundation. That was an abrupt end my involvement with Catholicism. I went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1969 to study physics, RPI is not where you go to seek enlightenment. But most 18 year olds have little understanding of what they're doing. It was simply the next stage of a well worn path. And technical schools are not where you go to explore the wider world of understanding. Because the grind of courses just keeps budding scientists and engineers so consumed that difficult coursework, there's little time to do anything but sometimes, however, when the student is ready, the teacher arises. John Kohler was that first teacher for me, my dharma uncle. His was a survey course of Oriental philosophies. And when it came to Zen, he used Philip Kaplow has three pillars of Zen as a text. Dr. Cole was someone who lived the spiritual path, he wasn't just delivering lectures. To a couple of us, he mentioned that there was a Zen Center, just down the road in Sharon Springs, New York. That was run by Richard Clarke, a man who likewise exuded a deep connection with Zen practice. His Sharon springs zc was nominally an affiliate of the Rochester Zen Center, but he was also a renegade. Though I did not understand this at the time. Nevertheless, he introduced me to a serious and very painful Zen practice. A whole new VISTA had appeared. I came to see how much delusion I had been mired in Maybe it was the fundamental unquestioned assumption of separateness from all that was around me. That was the root cause of unease with the world. The window had opened. In the meantime, I'd started a career as a teacher of physics at the high school level. We were thrilled with the Sharon springs Zen Center when Roshi Kapleau decided to visit with a couple of his senior students. We did not know until shortly thereafter, that he had come to shut the operation down. Richard Clarke was a very loose cannon, with a very tradition minded Roshi Kapleau. This was the first Zen disillusionment I experienced. Philip Kaplow is just shy of God, to a very impressionable 20 something. I started to see though that Zen is practiced by real human beings. Zen was not free of human difficulty. Nevertheless, I arrived in Rochester the following year, part of a great sloshing wave of 20 somethings to wash ashore at Arnall park in the mid 70s. I recognize a few faces here from that that wave. And since filled Kapleau is not accepting more students, Tony Packer became my teacher. But by the time of the early 80s, the rift between her and Kapleau became a final rupture. And I went with her to what was then called the Genesee Valley Zen Center. Talk about disillusionment. Zen no different than squabbling Christian sects, endlessly dividing over the particulars of practice. And as so often happens, life intervened. I married my daughter was born, I changed careers, went back to graduate school.
I still felt Buddhists culturally, but the practice withered away. I thought my involvement with Zen had run its course.
It would be like that for 20 years. And then, a new opening of a kind. Philip Kaplow who died in 2004. An extraordinary man, but not a day of just a man gone
just like I would be someday.
Suddenly the absolute necessity of a Zen became clear. Great is the matter of birth and death. Now over 50 years old, there was no question about it. To stay sane, while still living, there had to be root sent down. No more. I'm a cultural Buddhist. I had to follow up the way I started sitting again, started working with Bowden Roshi went to sesshin. A lot has happened since then. Especially the falling away of delusion. judging myself who's judging whom? What freedom when you start to understand that. judging others, this is a lot harder. Or is that same spark and the folks around me? That's it myself. Relationships get deeper and easier and maybe it's dropping the biggest delusion that I'm pursuing enlightenment just drop that completely excess baggage
what must be done chop wood carry water with gratitude all you do
right Bill, what happens next Truman
so many questions. So, Joe is going to set up the, the bluetooth speaker here there's this so that people online on Zoom can also ask questions. So we'll just take a couple seconds though, that's all set up
I will say one thing, you now hold the record for the shortest
minutes and 30 seconds. I was concerned I my wife che tends tells me that I tend to run on so I was very conscious of of keeping it brief and and to the point. So I apologize if somebody was expecting there'd be a little bit more to chew on. But that's it. I'm sure a lot of people here have very similar stories to tell. You know. Mine is one of many, I think. And I think it's maybe a mistake that up to this point. I haven't come to hear any others. So I really didn't know what this was like. I didn't know, you know, when I was supposed to run to I don't know, how long did I go for? Nine minutes and 30 seconds. Wow, man. So we can all go home. So I just didn't know. But anyway.
Okay, actually, for the time being while Joe is still saying, Oh, we're good to go. Sorry. So yeah, let's start with people in Nashville. Let's start with people on Zoom. Let's give that a shot. So Josiah, I know is on zoom right now. Are there any questions?
Hello. So if there's anyone that has a question or comment, feel free to unmute. Let me make sure you can unmute yourself. Feel free to unmute yourself and go ahead and speak up.
Nobody yet. Truman. All right.
Let's do it. I'm sure we have. Oh, Dwayne. So why do you practice now?
Like I said, it's it you know, when you do have this upbringing as a good Catholic boy, all right. One of the real positives of it is you come to understand that there's a lot more than meets the eye. You know, it's not just going through the motions day to day to day to day, there's something else there. And, and even if even if Catholicism doesn't happen to be it for you, it certainly wasn't for me. You still have this, this understanding that there's there is something more to being alive here this. It's not just what meets the eye. It's not just what you think. You can read all kinds of books by rationalists, who will talk to you about how God doesn't exist. But nevertheless, this is wonderful world to explore. And you know, yada yada yada. And for some people, that's enough, you know, hey, it's quite a ride, you know? Not for me. There is. As I said, for me, it was driven by a lot of unease. A lot of a lot of all sorts probably, you know, it's written right on the Hon right outside there. Right there. And you have to make sense of that I have to make sense of that. And this is how I start to make sense of it. But as I said, I, you know, I don't do this with a sense of, Well, I'm striving for enlightenment, you know, this is the goal. I mean, if you're an engineer, and you really, you've got goals in mind, you know, and Gantt charts and, you know, processes and everything else, you know. But I think one of the things I've come to understand is that if he, if I just focused on my practice, things tend to it works. I think both Roshi said one time. If you're working, it's working. And I think that's, that's what keeps me going, Dwayne. I just, you know, I understand that things change in ways that I really, profoundly don't understand. And that's okay. I don't need to understand the mechanism behind all this. I don't. That's okay.
So Bill, we've got similar stories, in a way, because I had a little vacation from Zen Center for like, 15 years, so wound down to
having outlasted you.
When I, when I was separating myself from the Senator, you know, psychologically, you know, I felt a lot of relief. It was like, I'm no longer on the hook for this impossible job that I signed up for. And at the same time, I realized, yeah, that's, that's a little sauce. That's a little suspect. You know, as he moved into, like Norfolk, one of the things that really struck me was, I like normal people. Was I would come to the center and there was an awful lot of self conscious striving for like, a lot of imitating Roshi Kapleau You know, everybody, we're a war parades, because Roshi Kapleau. So that, that really clicked the button for me, I said, this was bullshit, you know, I just want to be a person. And I felt this sort of relief to just be okay, I'm gonna be just going to be a person. Yeah. And I guess as things progressed, and, you know, all sorts of things happened with me, I suddenly became more of just a person and all of a sudden, I realize I really want to practice that, you know, and I don't really care about what Holton Roshi thinks of me, or Roshi Kapleau thinks of me or what you think of me. Not even really so much what I think. Because it's all you know, it's all the stuff that I'm trying to get underneath the past. But it was, you know, it's really tricky when you when you know, when you sort of suddenly realize, okay, wait a minute, the way I'm going about this is wrong. It's so easy. And I really saw that tendency of myself to start to focus on what's wrong with everybody else. And, you know, that was part of it. I really wanted to be able to say, you're all idiots. I'm out of here. permanently, which seemed like that would be a great break. I don't know. We're good Catholics like yourself, maybe it's hard to ever get off the
hook. Oh, good. Catholics are endlessly guilty and are willing to find guilt in other people. I mean, it's it's just, it's almost an article of faith in it, you know, almost is. And yeah, it's, it's, it's quite something to overcome. I think that, you know, just being normal folks, is an important realization, you know, really, what is it? I think this is maybe what you were talking about here that that really, what makes me different. What, what position do I have to judge somebody else? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think it's a that's quite a revelation. And I'm grateful to this place, that I helped him Need to, to see that? I mean, most folks go through life endlessly judging everything. And, boy, what a burden to carry. What a burden to carry.
You can never really train your gun told me on other people and you can shoot yourself too.
Sure. Yeah. I guess it wasn't a question. It was more like a little mini dialogue, right.
I wanted to circle back to your departure from the Catholic Church with this, this faith issue. Because, you know, I experienced similar things around the same age, you know, when I treaded into the water of agnosticism, and then, you know, really stood my ground as an atheist. And I'm just wondering, where are you? You know, I know what it's like when I'm in machine there's a there's a little bit of doubt creeps in every now and then. For a lot of it.
And me and doubt about what you're doing. Yeah. Yeah.
And, and that I circle back to faith. And I'm curious what your experience of faith is now, compared to what it was, you know, that's what took you away from the Catholic Church. What's your experience of faith? Now?
That's a really good question. I knew I could count on you to ask a good question.
Yeah, I mean, you know, if you're one thing they don't teach you, okay, the Catholic Church studiously avoids, okay. It's where all these tenets of faith come from. Okay. And if you start to dig in a little bit, you come to understand that, you know, about 300 years after Christ was dead. Okay, a whole bunch of church elders came together in the Council of Nicaea. And I put the whole thing together. Okay. And that's what you believe. That's what's in the Baltimore Catechism. You know, who is God? Well, it's Question number one, there's an answer right there. Okay. And, and that's what you believe. And that's what I meant about this edifice. This and it's grown since then it's gotten to be enormous. And that's, that's one kind of faith, okay. Believing stuff that other people just believe that that's, for me, that's all it was. But the faith that I have today, and this was sent to me here at the Zen Center, and it made well, being an engineer, it had to make sense. All right. And what was sent to me was just have faith that this works. There are enough people who have experienced this over the course of millennia. Yeah, this works. Just have faith in that. That's all. So when you're sitting here doing so sheen, and your legs are feeling terrible, and your mind is just a blender, okay, have thoughts coming and going? Worrying around? You just means like, oh, okay, this is this is what's happening right now. It's here for now. And you know what, I know something else, it's going to be gone. And a little while too, so I'm not going to pay any attention to it. I've got some doubts about what it is I'm doing. But you know, what, I really do believe that the experience of so many, in the past, the experience of those living today, is is meaningful. And I don't know if properly, that's something you call faith. But it's more a confidence, I guess, in the experience of people. You know, the other thing too, of course, I mean, you look at Buddhism, I mean, my God didn't talk about an accretion of faith in me all gods, you know, everything else. And you can get hung up on that, too. I mean, it's just but I don't care about that. In fact, I think generally in Zen and please, Sensei, please correct me if I'm wrong here. We don't pay attention to that stuff. Okay. We don't do that. So faith, yeah. It depends on what you have faith in. I have faith in the experience of people who have led extraordinary lives. That's what I have faith in.
James, thanks for being here. You mentioned three teachers Richard Clark and two Only Packer packer and Zoltan Roshi, what was the difference was one of them, right?
One of them, right? They What do you mean?
That's how I do it in motion capitalism environment and you're out, that's how I do it. Oh, wait, then the bonus version comes in. This is how I do you state your state with?
Well, with you repeat the question. We've heard all the rest of it. It was changes. It wasn't clear.
There were three teachers that were mentioned by Bill. We mentioned Richard Clark,
Tony packer, packer and
Golden Girls. And what was what was the difference is one of them, right?
Well, that'd be one of those judgment things. Who knew James? Who was right and not so right. What do you mean, right for me? Is that what you're asking?
No, just right. Right. So that they should have a center.
Each one of them had. And again, you know, man, I was like, 2025 years old. Okay. Yeah. So what the hell did I know? Really? You know, this person seems to know what he's talking about. Okay. All you know.
I like what you mentioned about the spark is in Egypt.
Yeah. Yeah. And I think you remember Phillip capital from many years ago. And, yeah, he's difficult to forget. And, you know, this was a man who projected the sense of, he's done it, man. He's, you know, he's, he's, I think this is Martin Luther King now coming up. He's been to the promised land. And you want to go where he is. And he very much projected that that sense. And he was he was older than my father. And so there was also that great sense of authority. He projected, he was older than my father, and so he know, and he projected this authority. That was, you know, like, you know, yeah, yeah, very much so. And so. And that was, that was something I mean, every one of these people I met, had something and let me John Kohler, for example, is my dharma uncle, I refer to him. You know, and I gotta tell you, I feel bad that it took me 40 years to thank him for having having started me on the path. Yeah, I did. I thanked him. Finally, oh, my God. Does it take that long? But I thanked him, because it as I said, he wasn't just delivering lectures. He, he he had a spark in him. He had actually gone to sesshin with Yasutani, Roshi, and Hawaii. I mean, we're talking about like the 1960s. He did this. So he too had this quality about him. Richard Clarke had that quality about certainly Philip Kapalai. This quality about Tony packer, for those of you remember Tony packer, a wonderful teacher, really very different. A very different aspect than Philip Kaplow. more gentle, not be fooled. Kapleau cultivated a well, a cult, really. And it was it was pretty harsh. It was a harsh environment here. Back in the 1970s. Was that your sense? Sensei
ducked out before it got really
harsh, really good. Okay.
Yeah, absolutely. I got blasted by Roshi Kapleau. Yeah. But, you know, I
just don't know, whatever. Yeah, I know, that affected
by it. But yeah, it was it was just because so much emphasis was put on coming to awakening. Because I, you know, I may have been close, but I haven't sealed the deal. You know, I was continually feeling inadequate. And, and also, I was just looking and this is just too hard. Here's how I felt at the time. And, you know, it's just Roshi Kapleau probably wasn't the ideal teacher for me. He was, he did what worked so well for him. And he's brought was worked well in Japan. And for some people, it was great. And, you know, he did tremendous things by
Getting the Senegal he did.
It's evolved in a different way both Roshi mio is really different, but still, you know, pretty strong guy. Yeah. Oh, yeah, definitely, I'm really encouraging but I was able to work with much more easily.
Yeah. Yeah, I was greatly relieved when I came back here after Philip capitalist death, because boy, it was clear that the atmosphere had really changed and was far more conducive for me. You know, especially when you're in your 50s you're not, you're not going to do boot camp anymore. I mean, see, you're way beyond that. And that's what, that's what xencenter was, like, in the 1970s. For me, at least it was it was boot camp. It was, you know, the, what's that? What's that saying? The Marines have got, you know, The Few The Proud, you know, that says, you make it through this place. And me, something to be proud of, you know. So it was it was great to come back. And to work with Bowden Roshi early was really was
like, Oh, my
God, go ahead on my face. This one is interject something with respect to Roshi Kapleau. Having been a student of him for many years, and also having been very close to Roshi Kapleau. I would I would disagree that Roshi Kapleau cultivated a couple, I never saw that, I think Roshi Kapleau had the you have a natural charm that rose out of his understanding of Zen as long as personality in this is refined personality, and we're gonna use a training. And people flocked to him all the time. And this was despite the fact that Roshi, people here who experienced working with him know that he can be very hard, he can be very difficult. But there was nothing coefficient of Roshi capital per se, he didn't, he didn't. He didn't attempt to create a cult. It was rather than people who were attracted to him, just naturally it was it was a natural Chan without him, attempting to draw people to him. He wasn't trying to, I never saw this, I never saw him at all. And I spent a lot of time with him both summer in Florida later on. So I just wanted people to understand that he was hired. He was a hard teacher. But But actually, in retrospect, one other thing I want to say is that he had very few flaws, with my perspective, my perspective and my experience. But the one flaw that he had that sort of sprouted was that he could be insensitive to people. He could be insensitive. But but other than that, other than maybe once or twice, I saw him get angry. And that was very weird. We are very sure that but otherwise, he he certainly lived up to the best aspects of the Buddha Dharma is obviously as I understand it.
Thank you for that. Thank you. Yeah. Thanks, Peter. Peter grew like Twain.
I'd like to say something about Roshi Kapleau. Also, I learned that the rules and restrictions here, were there to give a context in which to break the rules. I had a mock EO on the second day of the session one time, which I heard an encouragement talk that in my mind amounted to, Alright, it's time for you guys to start working. And I just blew it. And I went to Bowdoin and said, I believe this was when Kapleau was was still in charge. And we were having switching gears. And Bowden tried to talk me out of it to no avail and I left and I set the rest of the say she had my own home the schedule. And when scheduling witness sesshin was ended, I was in in the foyer waiting for an opportunity to speak to Roshi. And when he appeared, I said, come to apologize for leaving. And at that time, the rule was a few weeks or sesshin you don't go to any more so she and he said to come The mean. So I did. And he asked what happened and I explained what I had done. Audrey Fernandez has been a great ally, and a true dharma mother. And helped me understand what was going on in my mind. And he says, So kayak. All right, well, you do this. Every day, I want you to do something that somebody asks you to do that you don't want to do. And there was no question at all about my current divorce issues. Yeah.
Thank you, Ben. Appreciate your acknowledgement of the pain we often experience as new practitioners on sorry, event, just raise your wishes a little bit. Yes. Right. Thank you. Right. I was just gonna say, yeah, that, as new practitioners, we are universally have experienced pain, pain. And we want I was hoping you could speak on like, how you found your work through this the struggle that with finding your practice as a new practitioner?
Well, well, you know, I had Oh, I've always been pretty stubborn. And so when I was in my 20s, for example, I just, you know, I just sat through, I mean, really excruciating pain, you know, especially in the legs, it was just, it was bad, man, it really was. And then, you know, on top of that, of course, your mind just starts reeling as you're trying to escape all this, and it's a real horror show. So shades can be, especially when you're a newcomer, it can be really, really hard. But certainly one of the things I discovered, discovered, I mean, it's not this is not new to people who been around the practice for a while, certainly, make sure you're physically comfortable, okay? And don't do things to yourself, that add to the difficulty, the physical difficulty of doing, I'm not a very flexible person, okay, sitting cross legged for me, every time I sat cross legged, every time for decades, my leg fell asleep. You know, after a while, this I'm not particularly fast, sometimes after a while, it occurred to me don't do that bill. Okay. Don't do that. Do something different, okay. And I started sitting zazen. And guess what, well, all of a sudden, that pain in my legs went away. And my practice dropped down to the deeper level as a result of that. It was it was a big, it was a big help to just change my posture, just do something different. And I encourage anybody who's starting off, just you know, find what works for you, who knows, maybe someday you'll be sitting cross legged, but just start off like that. Quarter lotus or something like that, on zafu, and nothing else. That's setting a very high bar, okay, initially, and it's probably experimental, but, you know, try the things that to find out what works for you. You know, I think it's, I think it's very, very helpful to do something like that. And then, and then, of course, what really happens there then is your mind starts to quiet down too. And that's the big benefit of it. Now, suddenly, you haven't got the screaming body to deal with, you know, now you can start to really focus MIBs a lot of other stuff to deal with, of course, but at least you don't have that. At least you don't have that. Thank you. Thank you, Ben.
All right, maybe just one more question, and then we'll wrap it up.
Sure. Hi, Jerry.
It's interesting. We have similar histories in the sense that I think I this is my fourth time I returned to the center.
First time was I was with Kapleau was the teacher and I don't know something I just felt so intimidated. I left and I came back later and tried it again. So something was attracting me to this and I stayed again for a short period of time and and two wonderful Children I was really absent because I wanted to be a father and then came back, left came back. So here I am. And so you know, and it's interesting how similar our stories are to because, you know, and I right now I have this thing is, is that the teacher I mean, the teacher is a wonderful guide, and it's been, for me incredibly helpful. But when I became a student of Bowden Roshi, he mentioned that he was kind of the finger that pointed the way but I've got to do it. And I wondered, okay, how important really important is the teacher? Because the responsibility is on me. And so at any rate, yeah, and this, this practice does require faith. And even even the doubt, to me, it's part of the faith now. And I don't understand it. And, you know, I don't know what I think it's just where I am. I'm kind of taking a break now and but I haven't stopped sitting. Yeah, it's still in a way I'm still here. Yeah, like, yeah, yeah. I don't know. It's really amazing how similar our stories are. In terms of you
know, Jerry, we're, we're just ordinary guys. Okay. Ordinary guys. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, no, thank you. Trim is the time to pull the plug or
Yeah, yeah. Primer cap very well. That's got ready