Lemme see... We had 20 participants at the start of the retreat and 16 at the end. Most of those who left had planned to go home early. One guy came from Europe and the jet lag proved to much for him so he opted out early from total sleep deprivation, which was probably a good idea.
A number of people came from Germany for the retreat. Two from Chile. And one guy from Finland. One from the US. The rest were from Japan, though even these were a mix of Americans, Canadians, English people and Japanese. All of these folks came specifically for the Dogen Sangha retreat and not to see me per se. The DS retreat was an on-going thing for about a decade before I ever even attended one, let alone started leading them. So I feel kind of duty bound to keep it the way Nishijima Sensei set it up.
A few of the people who'd been to other retreats were a little put off by the fact that we don't keep strictly silent. It's more or less standard operating procedure at Zen retreats that there is absolutely no talking. Even eye contact between participants is discouraged if not outright forbidden. The DS retreats have never been like that. It's a bit of a different atmosphere.
One woman who came from Germany said she felt it wasn't quite as deep when you allowed talking. I can see her point. Having done both silent and non-silent retreats, my take on it is that the silent ones do feel somehow deeper. But I'm not sure if they're necessarily actually deeper. What I mean is that I feel like Zazen has its own depth. Whether you notice it or not is something else. In that way maybe it's like sleep. While you're sleeping you're not really aware of the depth of sleep. It's more about what you feel like when you wake up. And my feeling following the DS style mostly, but not totally, silent retreats is a bit more stable than the feeling I have following totally silent retreat. After a silent retreat I feel a bit spaced out and funky. It's a good feeling. But it's a bit like being stoned, and there's a comedown just like when you're coming off some primo weed. I don't get that from retreats where a bit of social interaction is allowed.
Uh... what else? It seemed like I had more to say...
There was a funeral on the last day. So we got to listen to them chanting during our final round of Zazen. There was a lot of rain, though no typhoon. That passed us by the night before the retreat began.
I shot some video, which I'll put up after I get back to California. I didn't have enough tape to record the lectures. Which is probably a good thing. I guess they were OK. Seemed like people liked them. Peter Rocca was taping them on some kind of digital audio recorder. So maybe we can put the files up. I kind of improvised this time. Usually I follow Nishijima Sensei's tradition of doing a lecture on the life of Buddha, one on the life of Dogen and one on some aspect of Shobogenzo. But this time I did one on Fukanzazengi and one on Genjo Koan and then winged the rest.
Got some good shots of one of the gigantic spiders that live in the temple. That should be fun.
Guess that's it.
By the way, I'm starting to read the comments again. Things seem generally OK in there lately. It's always funny to see people make broad sweeping statements about what kind of person I am based on what I write, even though they've never met me. It's cute.
I'm at work. Gotta go do stuff.
I know what I wanted to say. It's related to the above regarding what I'm like (as if that matters anyway, but people seem interested). I observed in my teachers a tendency to keep everything very open. This included being very open about themselves. I don't mean they confessed a lot of sordid details of their pasts. I don't know much about Nishijima's personal history, for example. But they presented themselves very clearly. They were not like the spiritual people I'd encountered before who seemed to hide behind the mask of a generic "spiritual person." They were, instead, very genuine.
My way of imitating that behavior is to be very clear about my own utter lack of holiness. Yeah, I write for a porn site (actually, Suicide Girls is not porn, but so many people say it is). Yeah, I dig Godzilla movies. Yeah, I'm pretty much a stickler for the type of practice I learned and I've got no time for anything else. Yeah, I think certain people are jerks and I enjoy saying so. I also downplay those aspects of my personality that might seem holy. Mostly this is because I've been so burned by "spiritual person" types.
When I was given the task of being a Buddhist teacher, I decided the only way to do it was to be myself. I briefly tried to play the "spiritual person" game, albeit in a very half-assed way. But it didn't work. I don't recommend it at all. It gave me headaches.
Shunryu Suzuki (I think it was him) said it's sometimes helpful to imitate the behavior of saints. I think that's true. But in my own case I've had to try to find a way to do that and still be genuine. That's the tough part.
In any case, it's not about me. I use myself as an example in hopes that might prove useful to others.
Shit. Now I really have to go back to work...