It is now becoming a kind of out-of-body experience to see these unexpected projects (online course, and a freaking meditation app, of all things!) suddenly become a reality. I never truly believed this would actually happen. Believe me, the appearance of these new “things” is not part of some overarching ambition or some plan. I look on it all with a major dose of irony, even a little self-derision that a student of a Zen Master whose most famous dicta included the phrase “Don’t make anything — then you get everything!” would make such stuff.
But here’s the thing, in the Buddhism of the 21st-century, especially during a worldwide pandemic where everything has gone online: You get all sorts of good ideas, all the time, about developing tools for spreading the Dharma —“You should make a Zen podcast!”, “You could teach Zen on Twitter!”, “Do Zoom Dharma talks!”, “My friend is a filmmaker who could make a cool documentary about you!”, “What if you do live Q&A’s on Clubhouse?”, “Sunim, the new thing is Tik-Tok! Short and to the point!” — but for various reasons, each of these approaches, however well-intentioned, seemed to be designed to tempt me into just yet another cheap, superficial, surface-of-the-waves approach to bringing scattered minds into the indescribable Path of Zen. We already communicate on Facebook, and then the Zen Center community thought we should have an Instagram account, and then the lockdown forced everyone into online-learning, so our YouTube channel began to grow. Yada yada yada.
The online course and the app are my compromise with cheapness. The online course would provide a clear, systematic, substantive, step-by-step training in building a home meditation practice, using the experiences I had over 30 years of practice and teaching. The meditation app would be a portable “temple ecosystem” which could provide a training structure for actually carrying this out. Of course, actually coming to a Zen Center would be optimal, to develop direct experience through lived experience. But with this pandemic becoming endemic life — the Omicron variant was just announced this past week, and several more are projected to emerge! — there needs to be an at-home technology for people to practice this school of Zen.
To be quite honest, after 30+ years of constant teaching activity, I feel physically and mentally a little spent. I’d like actually to be left alone as much as possible — maybe a year, or more, stepping back from the noisy obligations and expectations that have grown up (through my endless desire) around me like weeds. I yearn for some of my former aloneness again, even just chilling in retreat again, where I don’t need to be the teacher/organizer/administrator/work master — this would be the greatest gift. I actually fantasize about it sometimes.
Soon, I will be able to step back. Stefanie, our Direktorin, tells me that these new courses and apps will let me be a “digital nomad Zen teacher”. That would be quite cool.