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Masters – Part 2

This man, a great master indeed – the Roshi Taisen Deshimaru – is, and without doubt, Bert Miller’s spiritual doppelganger.

Roshi Taisen Deshimaru

In a moment, I’ll tell you NOT to take my word for it; but before I do, I have to explain what Roshi Deshimaru is holding.  By the way, Roshi means teacher or master.  Deshimaru is his personal name, and Taisen is his family name.

Okay, so what about the stick?  It’s a meditation discipline instrument.  Imagine you’re a new pledge, hoping to become a monk, yes?  There you sitting perfectly still trying to meditate for up to some number of hours without motion.  Of course you’re going to fall asleep, everyone does.  SMACK!  Roshi Deshimaru will come along and wake you right up.  How awesome is that?

The stick is designed to sting, painfully, but do no damage.  No bruises or bleeding occurs, but boy does it hurt.  I know, I own one and tested it out.  They’re wonderful.

Bert Miller carries precisely this stick inside his speech and comportment, and that’s a huge part of why he’s my master.

That all covered, here are the words that I’ve chosen to share from Master Deshimaru’s book The Zen Way to Martial Arts– pages 15 & 16 – on Three Stages of practice:

Shojin is the first stage, a period during which the will and consciousness are involved in practice: in the beginning they are necessary.  In Budo as in Zen, this stage lasts three to five years—in olden days, it was ten years.  Throughout those ten years one had to continue practicing zazen with one’s will, although sometimes after only three or five years of true practice, the master would give the shiho, the transmission.  In those days people had to live permanently in the temple and participate in all the sesshins: nowadays in Japan, the shiho passes from father to son, it has become a sort of formality.  That is why true zazen has declined and there are hardly any authentic masters in Japan.  In the past, before one could even be ordained, one had to spend at least three years in the temples of Eiheiji or Sojiji; but nowadays one year is enough to become a monk, or three months, or even a single sesshin.

Who is master in this day and age?  The question is an important one.  Who is your master?

Most Japanese monks would answer, “My father.”  But in reality only people like myself, who am a disciple of Kodo Sawaki, are true masters: I have followed my master’s teaching for forty years.  The dojo of Kodo Sawaki was nothing like Eiheiji, there was no formalism about it.  Kodo Sawaki used to say, “My dojo is an itinerant dojo.”  He went from one temple to another, from school to university to factory and sometimes even to prison.  His teaching adhered to life.

In Zen as in Budo, the first period, shojin, is the period of training in which the will and conscious effort are implicated.

The second stage is the period of concentration without consciousness, after the shiho.  The disciple is at peace.  He can truly become a master himself and teach others in his turn.

In the third stage the spirit achieves true freedom.  “To a free spirit, a free world.”  After the master’s death, one is a complete master.

But that doesn’t mean that you look forward to the master’s death or hope for it, thinking you will then be free!

These three stages are identical in Zen and in Budo.”

I haven’t asked him, and don’t know if he’ll agree to it or not, but for my next posting I’m hoping to interview Bert and share his reactions to what we’ve covered so far.  If you know him, tell him he really should agree, will you?

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