Keeping Kobun Alive

An effort to help those who never knew Kobun or got to practice with him, have some feeling for him.

This is my responsibility to him,
to transmit is to receive.
I owe this to him.

Prepared at the request of Kobun's Dharma heir, Michael Newhall, my Dharma brother.

Respectfully,
Wonderful Cloud
Shining Dragon

Birdhouses

When I began to study with Kobun, I was staying in a hut high on a mountainside. I would do zazen facing across an empty valley toward a beautiful green forest. Every morning I'd ride my bicycle down to the zendo, which was several miles away. In the woods around the hut I put up several birdhouses, but not in plain sight, so as to offer the birds the privacy they need to raise a family. One day Kobun came up to see the hut. He spotted and commented on every birdhouse. I was delighted, as well as surprised. I asked him how he'd managed to spot them all. He said, "My senses are very sharp."

Suicide

After zazen one morning at Haiku Zendo, Kobun told me that Dan Welch's sister had killed herself. He asked me if I knew her. I said, "Dan is my friend." I asked why she did it. He said, "The reason isn't important. Suicide is always a mistake." I don't know how he knew, but thoughts of suicide have troubled me since I was a teen. What he said has helped me with these thoughts throughout my life since then.

Karate Teacher

One time Kobun and I had finished our hot fudge sundaes at Denny's in Santa Cruz, and headed back to Lost Altos. He was wearing his Japanese robe, as usual. There was a hitchhiker. Kobun wanted to give him a ride. I pulled over. The man got in the car. He was looking at Kobun's robe. Before he could inquire, Kobun said, "I am a karate teacher. You want to fight?" I don't know if the fact that our friend Clint, who sold us ice cream in Los Altos every week, had recently been murdered by a hitchhiker on his way to Santa Cruz. In any case, this hitchhiker rode quietly in the car until we dropped him off.

Apples

When I first began to sit at Haiku Zendo, I didn't own a car. I hitchhiked wherever I wanted to go. At times I was hungry, and there was lots of apples on trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I asked Kobun if it is OK to pick an apple. He said, "For a hungry hitchhiker to pick an apple is not stealing."

Blood Religion

One time I had injured by back. After I had lain on the living room rug for several days, unable to move, my wife suggested I call my grandmother, who is a successful healer in the lineage of Mary Baker Eddy. I called, and with Gramma's help I arose and walked, immediately. Tina was amazed. I told Kobun about this healing. He questioned me, but at that time I couldn't explain how Gramma did the healing. Kobun encouraged me not to give up what he called my "blood religion." He also said, "Zazen will help you with any virtuous practice."

Dokusan

When the Santa Cruz Zendo was located at 214 Swift Street, someone asked Kobun, "I'd like to hear more about 'the dark side of love." The one who asked was married. Kobun looked puzzled. The fellow started to explain, but Kobun cut him off immediately. He said, "Do not make public the contents of dokusan."

Will you marry us?

After our second practice period at Tassajara with Katagiri-roshi, I asked Kobun, "Will you marry Tina and me?" I don't remember ever seeing him blurt out a grin so fast. He knew Tina from Zen Center. He said, "She is your born angel!" And, "She is the most suitable mate for you!" He siad, "How about April 23rd? There are a lot of flowers." He asked me to compose wedding vows.

He said to me, "Love is no hiding."

Husband and Wife

One time Kobun said to me, "Marriage is like a 3-legged race. If one goes too fast or too slow, you both will fall down. You can learn to match speeds with Tina."

After we had a baby, my wife didn't sit regularly; babies are a lot of work, even with a partner. I was concerned and asked Kobun about it . He was clearly not concerned. He said, "When the husband sits, wife sits too."

Blue Cliff Record

Several weeks in a row, I saw Bill Kwong leaving Kobun's home in his car, as I arrived for Dokusan. I commented to Kobun about this. He said, "Bill has been coming very week to study the Blue Cliff Record with me. Today we finished. I told Bill, 'Now you are Zen Master."

Yoshiko

One time I came over to his home and he was holding a bouquet of flowers. He said, "Yoshiko likes to pick flowers in the neighbors' gardens. I go to them and apologize for her."

Mortars and Pestles

Sometimes I found Indian mortars and pestles in the wonderful wild parks in the Bay Area. I asked Kobun if it is OK to take them. He said, "Taking things from parks is stealing from everyone."

The Barn Owl Place

When I lived above Lost Altos Hills in the mountains, there were still many abandoned old buildings there. Some were quite picturesque. I often visited an old water tower where a family of barn owls lived (I had obtained the owner's permission). I collected owl castings for my students at the Children's Center of the Stanford Community to take apart and see the small mammal bones in them. In a shed without a door near the tower were dusty boxes of assorted nails, screws, washers, and nuts. I thought my students might like to mess around with them. I asked Kobun if taking them is stealing. He said, "Get them to give them to you. If you just take them, the owners will notice and be disturbed. We are men of peace."

Marriage

One time Tina and I had a fight. I went to Kobun for help. He said, "Don't insist on your own way like a two year old. Be a man, but not a ma; I don't mean be a woman. Learn to bend. In a strong wind a big oak will break, but a willow just bends." Then he said, "It's your fault. Now go home and get busy apologizing." That helped a lot.

Jealously

I told Kobun I was feeling jealous about my wife. He nodded, as if to say, "I know how you feel." He said, "Jealousy is like the flame of a candle. You should blow it out immediately."

Time Flies

Kobun and I were going down Foothill Expressway in a car. He told me he was worried he wouldn't have enough time to accomplish something he wanted to accomplish in America. I tried to encourage him. I said, "Don't worry Kobun. I"m sure you'll have plenty of time." Right away he had a look of fear in his eyes. He said, "Watch out. Time goes by very fast." And he was right. Before I knew it he was no longer in Lost Altos, and I didn't see him often after that.

E.S.P.

I told Kobun that I often know what others are going to say before they speak. He said, "This is good quality of you, which can be developed."

A Parked Car

I was not paying attention to my driving, and ran into a parked car. I told Kobun. He laughed the kind of laugh he laughed as he bustled around his home. He asked me if I had time to drive his young daughter, Yoshiko somewhere. I said, "I'll be glad to." As Yoshiko and I walked out to my truck, Kobun said, "Be careful, but not too careful." Then he hurried back into his home, trusting completely in me.

The Country

Kobun had a way of confirming things I felt, but hadn't put words to. For example, he said, "Don't make the country into the city. If you can, try to pull nature toward you, wherever you are." With his words, I was better able to help my students and myself discover the joy of the natural world wherever we are and find peace.

Chanting

The Swift Street Zendo in Santa Cruz was close to the beach. I was often Doan and Kokyo. One time Kobun and I were speaking about chanting. He said, "The way to learn to chant is to go right where the waves break and practice there. Then you'll know how to chant." He also said, "When I was at Eiheiji Monasterery, I used to practice chanting after the other monks had gone to sleep by chanting into my zafu." You should try this!

Live Animals

After I became a father and a teacher, I usually had live animals in my truck. I caught them wherever I went. Kobun asked me about them and liked to see how I handled them. I remember how he laughed, maybe a little nervously, when I demonstrated how to get a big alligator lizard to bite my finger. Kids love that sort of thing. Kobun was quite knowledgeable about animals and insects which live in Japan. As a boy he found lots of them. He told me interesting facts. But he was afraid of snakes, which I love. He called me "snake master."

His pond

Kobun designed a pond in front of his mome in Los Altos. He told me it was int he shape of the Japanese character for "heart." It was deep. As he was tying together the rebar, I came over. He asked me if I could bring some frogs and turtles fo the pond. When I told him they wouldn't stay, and would get run over by cars, he looked disappointed.

Discovering Stillness

One time, Kobun asked me where I had discovered stillness. At the time I didn't even know I had! Seeing this, he gave me hints. He said, "I discovered stillness while watching water boatman." He described how they swim in a pool of water, how they take one stroke, stop, take one stroke, stop. The way he described them is exactly how I see them. Then I asked him if I could trust my intuition. He encouraged me to do so. I said, "It was in the desert in Mexico." He said, "Which part?" and divided Mexico inot four parts, like a cross, in the air with his hand. I said, "Northeast quadrant." "He said, "How old were you?" I said, "About 12." He said, "That;s when children become interested in religion." He also said, "You strayed onto stillness."

Kobun encouraged me to continue taking my students on field trips as a regular part of the curriculum. He said, "When children or their mothers spend too much time indoors, they get turned inward and preoccupied with themselves. When you take them outside, they naturally become happy and free of concerns."

One time I came over to Kobun's home. He came out with an attractive young Japanese woman. He introduced her as his niece, and said, "She is a Rinzai Zen master. You should have dokusan with her sometime. She will be hard on you." He asked if I could drive them to the S.F. airport. On the way, he said, "A Zen teacher and his/her students is like a nursery school teacher and his/her students, with a view from higher up than the students." A teacher

One time he told me about the phrase, "Mu shi dokugo." He said it means, "No teacher, accomplish way alone." He said, "You are a very independent practicer," and added, "You will feel the need for a teacher."

The Dharma

At the Swift St. Zendo, I asked Kobun this question: "Is it necessary to study the Dharma, or can one just sit?" He immediately said, laughing, "Especially for one who asks such a question!" We all laughed.

He liked a hard time!

I wondered why Kobun sat facing outwards at Haiku Zendo, and all of us faced the wall. I said, "How come you sit facing out, and we have to sit facing the wall?" He said, "You can sit facing out too. Why don't you try it!" I did. I found it interesting that even when I gave him a "hard time," he was delighted by the question. I looked up to him for this. He was gentle, not authoritative with me. He seemed to like the way I naturally stirred things up. Later, I was wondering why he "sent" me to Tassajara to train with Katagiri-roshi, and asked him. He said, sincerely, "I don't know if Tassajara will be good for you, but you will be good for Tassajara!"

Wear Your Shirt

During one especially hot, summer sesshin at Haiku Zendo, the sitters were soaked with sweat. American Eric took off his shirt. Kobun said, gently but firmly, "You should wear your shirt in the zendo." The way he spoke made me feel like he'd just given me an important Buddhist teaching. I was eager to put it into practice.

Firewood

The name of the field school for 3 and 4 and 5 year-olds which Tina and I started, with the advice of Kobun , was Talking Turtle. One morning, the 8 students, one of my helpers, and I visited Dead Man's Cave. We had a lot of fun talking back to the "dead man" who always echoed whatever we said, even our laughter. On our way back to the magic truck, we cut through Alta Mesa Cemetery. A man had cut up an oak into fireplace-size pieces. I knew how Kobun loved a fire in his fireplace, and enquired about the wood. The fellow said, "You want it? It's yours." The kids and I heaped up all the pieces between the benches where the kids sat, in the back of the truck. The heap reached nearly to the roof. We were all excited! After the kids went home, I brought the wood to Kobun's home. I told him how he came by it. He said, "You were in the right place at the right time."

He showed me where to stack it, in the carport behind the house. There was already a neat stack of carefully split wood there. Kobun told me it was a thank-you from one of the men who lived in the woods around Jikoji, before it was Jikoji. He said, "I helped him a lot with his problems." After I stacked the wood I'd brought, Kobun gave me a $20 bill. I told him the wood was a gift. He urged it on me anyway. He said, "Don't spend it all on yourself. Buy something for Tina and the boys." I later remembered how he once told me, "Take every opportunity to express your understanding of the Dharma." He didn't even miss this spontaneous, unplanned opportunity.

Kinhin

The first practice period I was at Tassajara (fall 1971), Katagiri-roshi was teacher, Bill Kwong was shuso. In the zendo, I observed how Bill did kinhin. He moved his foot forward, set his heel down fist, them slowly lowered the rest of his foot until finally it was flat on the floor. I took to doing it this way. After practice period ended, with Rohatsu sesshin, I went back to Haiku Zendo. Kobun saw the way I was doing kinhin. He corrected it. He said, "The way to do kinhin is to place the whole bottom of your foot ont he floor at once." I said, "I've been doing it like this because the shuso does it like this." Kobun said, "I'll speak to him about it."

Kobun's Rakusu

Kobun wore different rakusus at different times. On e time I asked him what was written on the back of the one he was wearing. He turned it around, and translated the Japanese characters for me. "Wind. Rain. Sun. Calm. One Practice."

The logo of his brother Keibun's temple is a perfectly symmetrical, white, plum blossom. He told me, "The plum symbolized blooming and making a good smell, even in severe situations." The plum blooms, even in the snow.

Breathing

One time I told Kobun I wasn't successful in counting my breathing during zazen. He said, "The best breathing is the unwatched breathing."

Problems in Zazen

When I began to sit, I would shake violently. My whole body would be tense to the max. After a period of zazen, I'd often be exhausted. My eyes would be deep and bright with the effort and pain. But them my eyes would stray to Kobun's, and he knew where I was. That kindness meant a lot to me.

At first, I tried to sit half lotus. Kobun encourage me to push to sit half then full lotus, but I just shook. He suggested I try Burmese style. I shook. Finally he said, "Don't sit cross-legged any more. Sit in seiza; it's a more flexible position." That helped. At some point, he said, "You have the perfect body for zazen." After what I'd been going through, I was surprised, and relieved, to hear this. I asked him if I could injure my body by sitting. He said, "No." "He said, "This kind of shaking is not know in Japan." I asked him, "How does Buddha appear when I shake?" "He said, with a grin, "Shaky!"

Problems in Zazen-2

One time Kobun said, "When your body is shaking, your mind is still. Try to make your body and mind still at the same time." I asked him, "What is the purpose of zazen?" He said, "No purpose." Kobun had a very high opinion of zazen. He told me, for example, "Zazen makes you so free, you can dance on the heads of demons, and they can't catch you!"

Physical Benefit of Zazen

One time a Japanese physician, who also practiced zazen, gave an inspiring talk on the physical posture of zazen. He said that all the elements of the body function at their best in the zazen position, both individually and together. I had never heard this, and looked over at Kobun for confirmation. "Could this be true?" I wondered. Kobun nodded and smiled in a most definitely affirmative way. I could see he already knew this. He didn't even need to add the word, "Yes!" Kobun told me that the zazen position is kind of a magic posture. All one has to do is take this position and keep on taking it forever. At that time I made a vow to myself to sit every day for as long as I live and never stop.

Advanced Students

For some reason I don't remember, I was concerned what other people thought of me. Maybe it was all the shaking. I brought it up to Kobun. He said, "Advanced students don't care what others think of them."

Rice Balls

One time I was helping clean up the area around where Kobun lived. When I went and told him I was going to leave, he said, "Wait a minute." He went into the kitchen and made several rice balls and wrapped them up nicely. As he gave them to me, and thanked me for my help, he said, "Don't eat them all yourself. Give some to Tina."

Koans

One time I asked Kobun how to work on my koan. He said, "Ask me an answer."

Zen Practice

I was out in Kobun and Harriet's back yard with my family and a nice bunch of other people in the sangha. We were celebrating the birthday of Taid or Yoshiko. Kobun came up to me during the middle of the huhhbub and said, "My understanding of Zen practice is making connections within the sangha."

One time, some Japanese Zen master had been at Kobun's home for dinner. With a chuckle, he told me that his wife, Harriet, had cooked big staks for everyone. He said, "Zen priests have to eat whatever they are served." (I think it was Tatsugami-roshi liked it! Kobun said he did too.

A Moth

One time a moth flew into Haiku Zendo. I wondered if it had come in for some spiritual reason. Kobun said, "It came in by accident." He asked me to help it out, which I did.

A Monk

One sesshin I was shissui at Hidden Villa. I made a list of various jobs I hoped people would enjoy. I asked Kobun what he would like to do, and before I could make suggestions, he said, "A monk can do any job."

Formal Instruction

When I began to sit with Kobun, our relationship was relaxed and open and informal. For example, when I'd ask him to have dokusan, we'd meet in private after zazen, or at his home. Still, he was always definite about what is dokusan and what is not. He told me, "Dokusan is an opportunity to recognize Buddha." I didn't really know what that meant, but I opened to it and tried hard. At that time, Tassajara was the only Zen monastery outside Asia. Kobun spoke to me about it like he was speaking about a child. As the time for me to go there for training period approached, Kobun instructed me in more formal ways of practicing. Before dokusan, he taught, one makes full prostrations to the floor, in front of the teacher. He said that the teacher can see your practice clearly. That interested me a lot.

Clarifying Kinhin

Kobun instructed me further in kinhin, sort of polishing the form. He noticed that I was holding my hands in the shoshu position correctly, and at the correct height. He spoke specifically about how to take only one-half step forward at the first suggestion of the inhalation. He said, "Kinhin is very slow. If someone is watchin you from a distance you might not appear to move." He said, "The correct way to go around teh corner is important. Make it round, and keep the natural rhythm of breathing so there is no interruption." He demonstrated how not to go around the corner: don't come to a stop, turn, pause, and resume. I had the feeling that he sent me as his representative, as his contribution to the training periods, and tried to train well.

Kobun and Tatsugami-roshi

Tatsugami-roshi was a huge Zen master. His presence was powerful. At Eiheiji Monastery, he was both Ino and sumo wrestling champion. And he was known as a precise, formal, and traditional Japanese teacher. One time he came to Haiku Zendo to deliver a talk. As the hose, Kobun was attentive and considerate. He bustled around, apparently wanting things as they should be. Tatsugame, his head shaved clean as a billiard ball, took the prominent teacher's seat, where Kobun usually sat, Kobun , his head not shaved, took the seat to the side. Roshi looked at Kobun, leaned over, and placed his hand full on Kobun's head. With an enormous grin, he said to Kobun, "What's this!" The two had a very warm and hearty laugh together. Roshi spoke to us in a resonant voice, in Japanese. When he finished, Kobun quipped, "Do you need a translation!" We all laughed and laughed and those two did too. Kobun said exactly the right thing.

Only One Vow

Besides my ordination vows, Kobun only invited me take a single vow with him. I had gone over to his house very upset. As soon as he had me inside, he turned me quickly to the living room and asked me in an urgent tone of voice, "Do you like the new rug?" I was flabbergasted. What could I do? I had to come to my senses immediately in order to give him an answer. I stammered out, "I like it." And then he cornered me. He said, "I have taken a vow never to separate from Harriet. Can you take a vow never to separate from Tina with me right now?" I nodded helplessly in affirmation. I have kept this vow through thick and thin, and I'm very grateful to Kobun for this invitation.

A Grove of Redwoods

One time Kobun got to the Swift Street Zendo late enough that we began to wonder what had happened to him. We were a little concerned. When he appeared he apologized for being late. He said, "I was visiting a temple." We were all excited because we didn't know of any temple around about. He explained, "I was visiting a grove of redwoods!"

When I began to practice with this man, I thought Zen practice was practicing like hell and living in a devout and austere way. So I tried very hard and got nowhere. I asked Kobun about it. He said, "Enjoy your practice!"

Marijuana

One time Kobun asked me if I could get some pot for him. I said, "I'll keep my eyes open." Soon after, I found some plants growing wild along a creek, and collected some for my teacher. After he had smoked it, I saw him again. He said, "This is mild. Try to get me some of the really strong stuff!"

Writing

At one time Koei Chino-roshi was giving Kobun a lot of pressure to return to Japan. Kobun asked me to write a letter on his behalf, and tell Roshi how much Kobun was appreciated and needed here in America. I wrote a letter for him as requested. He read it and said to me, "One thing is missing," and gave the letter back to me. After I searched for the answer in my zazen, I realized what was missing, rewrote the letter and gave it back to him. He thanked me for writing it.

One time Kobun and some others were over at Sonia's house in Sunnyvale. I noticed him look at Sonia's zafu and zabuon, placed neatly against one wall, and I saw him smile. That smile said a lot.

A Young Family

When Tina and I and Ejyo and Jeff were a young family, I was struggling to find time to sit. It caused some friction. I asked Kobun about ti. He sympathized, "because of my own struggle." He said, "Do not show your zazen. You have to give something up to sit; maybe you can shorten your sleep."

One day I came to his home. He was tending a fire in the fireplace. He looked at me and said, "I can answer all questions now."

At times, my pretty, young Chinese wife became very upset. What she was saying made no sense at all to such an inexperienced, young husband. He felt she was taking her upset on him. The harder he tried to understand, the more upset she got, and the more frustrated and upset he became. He went to Kobun for help, and as expected, he received a point of encouragement, some indication that a piece of the puzzle was missing. Kobun said, "She thinks with her skin." Mysterious! As he tried to understand, he took this as a clue, and a clue means that understanding is possible!

One time he told me, "Animals are not free; they are trapped in the present."

Kobun often spoke in a very creative, poetic way. He gave me a chance to figure things out for myself, which, in a way, gave me a sense that he trusted me. For example, he said, "Don't put stepping stones in the future."

Sometimes I didn't understand why Kobun did what he did, and it was only through speaking with another Zen master that I received help. For example, I was feeling unworthy of wearing the Buddha's rakusu. I wondered if Kobun had made a mistake by ordaining me. I asked Keibun Chino-roshi, Kobun's brother, about it. He said, "Kobun only ordains the best people."

During our wedding ceremony at his home, 23 April, 1972, I gave Kobun the wedding vows I'd written. He looked at what I'd written, grinned large, and wrote quizzically on my copy, "What?" On Tina's copy, he wrote, "Only one night." Then he brought out a jar of what he said was "Holy water." He told me happily, "Any water is holy water!"

One thing Kobun said which helped me to sit with less discomfort was, "Skin on skin." He meant not wearing clothes, which get between the skin of my lower and upper legs, behind the knee.

During the period devoted to sutra study at training period at Tassajara, Kobun said, "Only read sutras. Don't read commentaries on sutras or books about Buddhism. Only study sutras."

Even though I tried to drive carefully, my wife was very nervous whenever I was driving. I asked Kobun about it. He said, "Women are like cats." At least I knew!

After I'd been sitting a few months with Kobun, he encouraged me to visit Tassajara Zen Mountain Center between practice periods. My friend and fellow sitter Bob Foster and I hiked into the new monastery through 14 miles of snow. We were delighted to see the brand new Japanese-style gate Paul Discoe had built. We celebrated the new year in the zendo, partying with a few monks. We played the huge work drum and all the things which could be used for instruments, and danced around and laughed like fools. When I told Kobun about it, he told me about being at some Zen monastery in Japan and doing what we had done, and drinking a lot of sake! After this visit I made a decision that would set the course for my whole life: I would go to training period the following fall! Kobun was enthusiastic!

Kobun said to me, "If you kill someone, you should tell a spiritual friend, like me."

After my first training period at Tassajara, Kobun and I spoke about my experience there. He asked me, "What are the qualities of a senior student?" The first thing i said was that a senior student stays put until you have finished speaking, in contrast to those who are already walking away while the speaking is going on.

Something I love about Kobun is that he was as "bad" as me! Few people are. He encouraged me to be even "badder!" Maybe I encouraged him too! We both had children at about the same time. One of the first escapades we shared the joy of conspiracy in was teaching our kids the Zen art of eating "boogers!" He described to me how he'd been teaching his 3-year old son, Taido how to pick his nose, pop the "boogers" in is mouth, smack his lips and exclaim, "Mmmm—delicious!" Just imagine how a little kid can enthrall his friends with what no parent can teach their children!

He said, "Children have little bodies, but they're not larvae." He pointed out to me the uniqueness of 3 and 4 year old children, before "they become interested in how others do things when they are about 5." He said, "You are a light and the children are lights."

He always enjoyed hearing about the "bad" things I did with my own children, like introducing them to the word "sphincter",and, with my students, I enjoyed hearing how he himself taught rebellion. He laughed when I told him how I'd brought my students at Talking Turtle to the ridge west of Jikoji and rolled a whole truckload of bright orange pumpkins down the steep slope, thus "littering" the slopes! I asked him if I could bring my students to Jikoji and create a lot of laughter and "disturb" the sitters. He said, "Yes" and I did. In this way Kubun also brought the urge to be "bad" or to get "dull" under control by allowing it such freedom and delight.

"Bad" doesn't just mean "bad." It also means fresh and new and alive. I think Kobun rebelled against the stultification of orthodox and formal Zen in Japan and loved discovering and teaching with fresh flowers in America. In order to do this, he had to be an impeccable teacher, and he was. All of us respected and loved him.

Kobun noticed that I bathed before sitting. He spoke to me about washing the hands and face and neck before sitting. He noticed that I enjoy cleaning the zendo. During practice period at Haiku Zendo, he once assigned me the position of "knowledge of bathing and cleaning." To another (Jan Derkson), he assigned the position of "he understands ritual."

As a result of Kobun's struggles to understand his own wife, he was able to help me. He was not aloof or intellectual, but right with me, speaking as a husband to a husband, sharing in my conundrums. But he was also a Zen master. So when he said of Tina, "make her your master," it helped me to listen to her and understand her. He supported my trust in her. Indeed, he said, "You really want to understand her." He told me that a woman's energy goes from hara to heart, while a man's goes from head to heart!

Soon after Kobun and Chogyam Trungpa, Rimpoche, were introduced by Sonia Margulies at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, a strange little man drove up to Haiku Zendo in a British sportscar. By then, everyone had left but Kobun and me. This dark little man got awkwardly out of the car and hobbled toward us with the support of a cane. Kobun's entire demeanor changed instantly. It made me think of how it must have been had the Buddha himself come to see Kobun. The strange little man was Trungpa.

During a shosan ceremony at Haiku Zendo I asked Dobun, "How can I practice harder?" He said, "How hard to you want to practice?" I shouted "All the way!"

During one sesshin at Hidden Villa, I hurt so much in sitting that I skipped Kobun's talk and went off in the woods where I didn't think anyone could hear me, and screamed and screamed. But someone did hear me. As I returned to the zendo I caught a few of Kobun's words. He said, "Zazen can be very painful. It is scraping off ignorance."

In the time I practiced with Kobun, he recommended that I study three things: The Lotus Sutra, Meditation in Action, and Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.

Kobun said, "You should know when you are not keeping the precepts."

Kobun didn't just answer questions about Buddha's Way. One time I asked him, "What is Buddha?" He said, "Good!"

Another thing Kobun said before I went to training period at Tassajara was, "Get a taste of pure practice." After practice period, he said, "Did you get a taste of pure practice?" In this way I got a taste of pure practice.

The first time Kobun went to the Naropa Institute to lead a sesshin, he invited Tina and me and our little son Ejyo to come visit him. We did. He was very gracious and was very attentive to Ejyo, so he wouldn't fall out the window. At that time we also visited some of our friends who had left Zen Center and followed Trungpa there.

One time I asked Kobun if "God" means the same thing as "Buddha." He said it does.

The first time I came up to what was to Jikoji, there were still people living there, the remnants of Pacific High School. Kobun came up to me as soon as I arrived and explained that he had signed the "bill of sale" without going to the board of directors of Bodhi. He wanted to explain his signing to me, he said. I said, "I trust you Kobun. You don't have to explain yourself to me." But he wanted to anyway. Basically, what he was was that this is a special place which will take care of my practice, and everyone's practice. He aso said, "There are turtles in the pond?" I thought it unlikely, but when I took a look, I saw mating turtles! He encourage me to bring my family and camp out and go fishing and "put your spirit into the place."

Tina says, "Kobun was my friend, he was not my teacher. Katagiri was my teacher. He was a really nice man to me. He was very kind, always helpful and gentle, very refined. He didn't make me uptight like Dick Baker."



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