Mirror of Zen Blog

Ágios Ioánnis tis Thessaloníkis [1]

(Usually, eyes are ‘down’ in Zen. Except for the things that only He sees…)
He’s actually 28 now.

He’s in the house now.

Ioannis of Thessaloniki took the Five Precepts last March at ZCR with Zen Master Dae Bong. Now, he’s back at ZCR and practicing hard. It’s so great having him on the cushion, looking into don’t-know in silence together.

When he’s not here, Ioannis helps on film production back in Greece. A work he recently teamed on, “Back to the Top” (dir. Stratis Chatzielenoudas) is an award-winning true story about Leonidas (a 33-year old punk rock paraplegic) and his friends, who plan to climb to the highest peak of Mount Olympus. For whom is it going to be more difficult? A real story of total try-mind.

Try-mind. Like Ioannis. Don’t we all have our own Olympus to climb? And are we not all handicapped by some things, disabled by aspects of our karma (“mind habits”)? This is the meaning of the teaching, “Sudden enlightenment, gradual cultivation.” Insight is possible, in even a single retreat, and much moreso in decades of practice. But, Children of Entropy that we are, we exist under constant challenge by the work of applying and reapplying the practice in the flow of mind-habits, some of the strongest of which do not always trend in helpful directions. For monks as well as for beginners. This is the patience of “try, try, try, for 10,000 years nonstop — get enlightenment, saving all beings from enlightenment.”

Ioannis is such a great example, among the people I know most nearly, of this quality of pure “try-mind.” His anarchist friends back in his former squat in Thessaloniki think he’s so strange and exotic because of the full-dive immersion he has made into meditation over the last three years. But they also see the changes in him, and they are quietly respectful. But not too much. The “Buddhism” part seems a tad reactionary to some of them. It has the stink of tradition, precedent, authority, rules. They don’t know that the most radical rebellion is the one we wage against automatic imprisonment chained to our unexamined karma. Viva la revolución!

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