I'm happy to report to all our friends and to the members of Korinji's Rinzai Zen Community on the activities of the past month. Since the beginning of August, two sesshin and two important training seminars have taken place.
The beginning of August saw our annual long sesshin, jointly sponsored by Daiyuzenji in Chicago and Korinji. The group this time around consisted mostly of experienced students, and so the sesshin was smooth and marked by a quiet depth that was perhaps also reinforced by the warm, humid weather. Once again Daiyuzenji rented Camp Dewan in south-central Wisconsin as the sesshin venue...after so many sesshin there, the place seems to fit us like a glove (with the Korinji zendo nearing completion, however, it's wonderful that we can finally envision a day when renting such a place will be unnecessary).
Daiyuzenji Abbot So'zan Miller Roshi, Soen Linxweiler Roshi (who also served as tenzo) and myself were all present; James Traywick was shika and Alex Shakar lent his energy as jikijitsu.
Immediately following sesshin, I flew to Poland to instruct at an annual 8-day summer training camp there hosted by Tomasz Krzyzanowski Sensei's AAI-Polska, a large Aikido organization. I was pleased to instruct not only a number of martial art classes but also zazen each morning. It was encouraging to see 80-odd students - many of them first-time meditators - solidly sitting at the beginning of each day. Even when the exhaustion of the week's training schedule began to take its toll, zazen attendance did not drop off. It's my hope that this bodes well for future Zen training activities there.
This year and in past years the Poland event has drawn martial artists and teachers from Poland, Russia, Latvia, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, Germany and Sweden. Of course this year I was excited to show pictures of our progress at Korinji to many of the students, and in general to spread the word about our community. I do anticipate that when Korinji is complete some of the first resident trainees may well come from among this group of international friends.
After that event I had a week free before the start of another sesshin in Germany. During this time a few of us toured by car from the Baltic Sea, south through Poland into Slovakia and Hungary, and then through Transylvania in Romania to the Black Sea at Constanta. It was an exhausting but fascinating journey through parts of Europe I'd never seen. Then in Bucharest, I tracked down an old training friend from many years ago named George Raicu. George had spent some time in 1990 in Chicago at the training hall of our late teacher, Toyoda Rokoji. Though it's been twenty years since we last met, the bonds of our time living and training together still held. He (and Romania) have been through a lot in the decades since his return from Chicago, and George has been instrumental in spreading traditional Japanese martial arts there. Toyoda Sensei would be pleased, I'm sure. We had a wonderful, nostalgic meeting together which may also blossom into further activity.
Finally, in the last week of August I flew from Romania to Salzburg, Austria, and was driven from there over the border into the town of Laufen. Our annual European sesshin is held in Bavaria in a renovated 16th-century Capuchin monastery which, though now hosting many kinds of events, still holds something of its originally rigorous, quiet atmosphere. The sesshin organizers are Anselm Stahl and Raymond Schroder, who both have many years of Zen, martial arts and bodywork training. The attendees are largely drawn from the community of bodyworkers they've worked to develop in Europe. It is certainly a pleasure to practice with such a focused and physically "present" group of trainees.
I was particularly impressed to see many of the students taking advantage of the free-sitting periods, not only in the zendo but on the grounds of the old monastery and even in the small cemetery where the simple stones of the monk's graves stand. One particular area a few of us used for for walking meditation, in the forested rear of the compound along an old wall into which are set faded paintings of the stations of the cross, remains strongly in my memory. I feel very good that our group's usage of this old monastery is, in some small way, in union with the spirit of those contemplative monks who lived, trained and died there over several centuries.
After a long journey back from Europe and a few days rest, we then held the second of this year's Internal Training seminars in Chicago. The event was scheduled for Labor Day weekend and so I didn't expect the type of attendance we'd had earlier in the year. But still, 14 enthusiastic trainees came, including a few from a Soto practice group in the Champaign/Urbana area of Illinois. After the events and travel of the previous weeks, it was wonderful to spend two days practicing tanden kokyuho, Hakuin's naikan and nanso exercises, and our Do-in Ho breathing, movement and self-massage practices. Physically and energetically it was a perfect way to end what's been a whirlwind month of travel, training and teaching.
I'm grateful to everyone who organized all of these events. And I'm especially grateful to Enmei Hunter and our other Korinji board members and friends whose work in my absence makes it possible for me to travel without worry. Greg Dekker and Jim Mills also have kept the ball rolling on construction at Korinji, and we're now set for our next work weekends. Before the end of October our zendo's exterior will be completed.
Everyone here in Chicago did such a wonderful job holding the fort, in fact, that I now feeel very comfortable leaving again when necessary!