Zen Seminar: putting study into practice

by Mark Clark

Wednesday and Thursday, November 4 and 5; fourteen of my Eastern Philosophy & Religion students participated in a two-evening seminar with Christian Dillo Roshi, the Director and Main Teacher of the Boulder Zen Center. In a “normal” year, and for many years, we traveled to Crestone to join the Zen Center and jump into the “Zen Buddhist Life” for a long weekend. Given the restrictions we are under, this virtual (Zoom) Seminar was a way for my students to get close to that experience. 

The first evening was an opportunity for each of us to explore a “Living Question” that Dillo Roshi could help us unravel and get clarity on. The second evening was an introduction to Zazen (sitting meditation) and allowed us to join the Zen Center residents for their evening Zazen session. 

Molly Wright ’21 remarked, “Something I really liked about the online zen seminars was having the opportunity to ask Christian Dillo a “living question” that pertains to my life. The insight he offered was truly remarkable. I really valued his perspective, and I think that applying these lessons to my life will be very powerful. One of my biggest takeaways from the whole experience was the importance of building an awareness of my physical self so that I can perceive myself as more than my thoughts.”

These two evenings were opportunities to move from the philosophical study of Buddhism to the practice of it.  This was exceptionally fortuitous as we had just completed reading and discussing Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki, the Japanese teacher who brought Zen to America. Even more fortunate for us is that The Boulder Zen Center stands in the direct lineage of Suzuki’s teachings as Christian Dillo’s teacher, Richard Baker, took over from Shunryu Suzuki at the San Francisco Zen Center when he died in 1971. 

I am grateful to my students for adding this experience to schedules that were already full and for the sincerity and focus they brought to these evenings.

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