Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Getting Excited about Dharma en Espanol

Yesterday (Feb. 4) I spent the afternoon sitting with a group of Spanish-speaking practitioners in a half-day workshop entitled "Dharma en Espanol." Lead by Joan Amaral, a friend and fellow resident priest here at City Center, the workshop was an expansion of Zen Center's offerings in Spanish, which include zazen instruction and a discussion group on Saturday mornings. Joan's gentle way of offering instruction on the basics of zazen and the teachings gave us all a chance to breathe deeply and relax. I enjoyed the afternoon, appreciating the chance to put my language skills to use supporting new pratitioners to taste the life of Zen. For me, hearing a newcomer talk about their enjoyment of practice is one of the benefits of taking up a monastic life.
We sat in the Buddha hall, taking in the bright sunlight, the grassy smell of the traditional Japanese mats, and the comfort of well-worn cushions. The schedule alternated between brief periods of mindful movement and periods of sitting or lying down in meditation. At one point, standing with arms outstretched and eyes closed, I felt childlike, free to forget about everything but the cool air touching my face
About midway through the workshop we chanted a Spanish translation of Eihei Dogen's "Fukanzazengi," a text that exhorts everyone to take up the practice of zazen as a way of manifesting their inherently awakened nature. It's interesting to take in this seminal text - which I've read dozens, or maybe hundreds, of times - in my second language. Different aspects of it come forward. For example, one section reads "El Camino nunca se aparta de uno, esta donde uno esta. Porque afanarse en pulirlo?" These two sentences are relating Dogen's comments that "We are never apart from the Way of Zen, so who could believe in a means to brush it clean?" Yet this word in Spanish "afanarse" has the sense of getting excited about doing something. The dictionary translates it as "to work with zeal." I liked hearing it put that way because, in my experience, that's what people often do. They want things to be a certain way, a way that is in accord with their preferences, and they get excited about trying to make the world conform. They get zealous about polishing things until they are just right for their way of thinking. This is truly suffering since, no matter how excited you get, the world will never really conform to your desires. So if you're going to "afanarse" (get excited) maybe it would be more helpful to be excited about discovering a way of being free within a world that doesn't meet your expectations. This is the Way of Zen. So let's get excited, not about polishing things, but about freedom.

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