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An Introduction to Zen Training

When Buddha Said that We suffer because of our attachments, he was describing the condition in which we view the world from the perspective of our ego, that part of us that sags fundamentally we are each individual, apart from all that surrounds us. Buddhism in general is a religion that leads to a deeper perspective, that all existence is part of the Whole. While many people find that a meaningful belief, Zen Buddhism takes a slightly different position: don't believe a lofty religious ideal. All of you - flesh and blood, thoughts and emotions - can experience the Whole directly at all times and under all conditions. The process by which this experience unfolds is called Zen training. Introduction to Zen Training is a translation of a text by one of the foremost Japanese Zen teachers of the 20th century, providing an overall view of the nature of this training. Omori Sogen Rotaishi's approach to this training was unique. Having trained rigorously from his youth in Zen, swordsmanship and calligraphy, he became a sword teacher and ultimately advisor to the Japanese Cabinet prior to World War II. Following the war, he became a priest and continued his work as a teacher and court magistrate. His approach to Zen was very direct and physical as befits a martial artist, but he was also known for his compassion. This text was written to both provide a solid introduction to the physical nature of training - how one's breath, pain, posture, drowsiness, state of mind, and physiology all take part- as well as the context in which it takes on meaning. In the first two chapters, he discusses the rationale for zazen, the form of meditation that is the foundation of Zen training. Although seemingly a simple activity, zazen is not just "quiet sitting", and it is valuable to see it so thoroughly defined. The next chapter provides solid instruction in how to sit zazen, how to adjust the breathing, the posture, the state of mind. But this is just a starting point. Introduction to Zen Training is one of the few books to then go on to discuss many of the questions that naturally arise as one begins to train, ranging from how long you should sit at a time to how to maintain concentration when not sitting. As a martial artist, Omori Rotaishi was uniquely able to illustrate his points by drawing upon the vigorous tradition of Zen and the martial arts that flourished during the samurai era. But his scholarship in both Chinese and Japanese Zen is no less informed and he is able to bring alive many of the traditional teaching stories as well. The book ends with commentaries on two Zen texts that help to place all of the instruction into context. Hakuin, the reknown Zen Master of 18th century Japan, wrote the text Zazen Wasan (A Song of Zazen) to make zazen understandable in everyday terms to the common people of his era. Omori Rotaishi takes the same text and makes in meaningful to our era. He finishes by using the traditional Ten Ox-herding Pictures to once again show the rigor and physicality of Zen training. Translation of the text was done by Boy Yoshimato and Hosokawa Dogen Roshi. Yoshimoto was a Ph.D. candidate in Japanese literature at Columbia University and a long-time Zen and sword student at Daihonzan Chozen-ji, the temple founded by Omori Rotaishi in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hosokawa Roshi, dharma successor of Omori Rotaishi, is the Abbot at Daihonzan Chozen-ji. Overall supervision was provided by Tanouye Tenshin Rotaishi, dharma successor of Omori Rotaishi. Tanouye Rotaishi was the first Abbot of Daihonzan Chozen-ji and became Archibishop upon the death of Omori Rotaishi in 1994.
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