My Teacher, and Our Relationship

My Relationship with Kobun Roshi

Although I considered Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi my Dharma teacher, I never asked him about it or was given his permission. Also, it is probably true that our relationship was intangible, and not close.

I did go to one or more sesshins lead by Kobun annually, and thereby heard hundreds of his talks. I also had a dozen or so personal dharma interviews with him, discussing my practice and other matters. Finally, he kindly helped officiate at my second marriage, and was helpful and encouraging to me in many personal ways.

Kobun talked very softly, with modest English and an accent, so my understanding was limited particularly as my hearing became worse. He taught mostly by example, so my problems did not seem to matter. What was important to me was that I was drawn into his ever-changing Sangha, and into sesshin practice with them. I subsequently served as an official and as a Board member on various occasions.

I did have an ongoing meditation practice before meeting Kobun, following my midlife crisis involving divorce from my first marriage, and later experience with therapeutic encounter groups and mind-expanding psychedelic drugs. Erich Fromm, J. Krishnamurthi, Ramana Maharshi, and a variety of psychologists were probably most influential in my early reading; followed by Ram Das and other writers on modern interpretations of Eastern religions. The psychologist Claudio Naranjo pointed me to Buddhist retreats led by Tarthang Tulka Rinposhe in Berkeley, but Berkeley and Tibetan Buddhism seemed too foreign and too cluttered for me after a year or so of study. My meetings with Kobun and his sangha did not make any demands on my ideals or beliefs, or my habits, family, and professional career, but did add sesshin practice to my life. Fifty years of daily, weekly, and sesshin practice progressively opened a much richer ongoing practice, always changing and developing. Zen becomes a way of life.

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