Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Rev. Dai-En Bennage, abbess of Mt Equity (, had the kindness to send a wonderful and touching email in which she tells about her very inspiring experience in Japan and manifests clearly her boundless devotion to Tataghata's teaching and his kesa. You may read more about this funzoe in Zen Friends :

"(...)Twenty-seven years ago, on takuhatsu in Nagoya, I received discarded bolts of silk of all kinds from a bankrupt kimono shop. I guess it was an inner voice that meted out to where and how much cloth should go to others. For last year, we found we had just enough for the funzoe`. It could be a small book to tell of what we went through to make it. And Okamoto Sensei (will you be having fukudenkai with her?) telephoning us: "Now you blue-eyed ones. Don't forget. This robe is not for human eyes. It is for the Buddha's eyes. Do not make it too bright." We sent panels to people in Japan to sew on, and to eight states in the U.S. It was wonderful. The granddaughter disciple of Sawaki Roshi, Wako Sensei of Myogenji gave me linen material in a "dried grass" color. It took me 17 years to complete it! I started it in Japan, then got too busy pioneering our temple here. When it was needed, it was a French disciple now in Ales who helped me finish it. I first made a robe for my teacher from some of this donated silk. Being from a poor temple, he'd given me his colored robe when I was given Transmission. The material I had was white. I did not have money to have it dyed. So I went on the alms round for seven months asking housewives if they might have some onion skins to spare. When I had the proper weight of onion skins (LOTS of onion skins!) I dyed the cloth with them, and set the color with the mordent of rusty nails. I boiled it outdoors with a long stove pipe supported by a step ladder, pointing the smoke away from the dye vat! It turned out to be "mokuren", like Soto robes generally are. I would never have had the courage to take on this challenge, except for being poor, and because the result was to be "mottled". How could I lose? "

17 years! I was quite proud of my four years, but I think you are now and by far the winner of the competition.

Thank you so much, Dai-En.

Buddha bless



Blogger Mike Cross said...


Just as you begin to despair that no-one appreciates your efforts, echoes start coming back.

The echo is nothing but the sound of your own voice, and there is nothing better than this echo for waking up the ear and all the other senses that are subordinate to the ear.

So we wake up, and ask ourselves again: who are we, Pierre? Who are we?

Reading your latest post, the answer that occurs to me is: two dropped stitches, in something much bigger and more beautiful than we are able to comprehend.

2:04 AM  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Following the link which you, Pierre, give here to Sotozen-net, I found the following description of "How to Do" so-called Soto Zen:

Rest both knees firmly on the zabuton, straighten the lower part of your back, push your buttocks outward and hips forward, and straighten your spine. Pull in your chin and extend your neck as though reaching toward the ceiling. Your ears should be in a line parallel to your shoulders, and your nose should be in line with your navel. After straightening your back, relax your shoulders, back, and abdomen without changing your posture. Sit upright, leaning neither to the left nor right, neither forward nor backward.

It makes me angry to read this horse-shit being spread in the name of Master Dogen. THIS IS NEVER THE TEACHING OF MASTER DOGEN!!!

The true kesa is MUSO-FUKUDEN, "a field of happinesss, without form." You cannot arrange it by pushing and pulling. What is arranged by pushing and pulling is never the true teaching of Master Dogen.

I beg you, Dai-En, to wake up. The Zazen of the Soto Sect is not true Zazen. So we should just leave the Soto Sect, and never participate in its spreading of false teaching.

2:21 AM  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Dear Mike,

We have never met Dai-En and something tells me that she has nothing to do with the upright and army-like style practice that we both know very well.

I basically disagree with the way you express this wonderful truth of Zazen. As we both know, we entirely agree on the very essence of Master Dogen’s teachings.

I admire your integrity and sometimes I am, like many others, I react to this uncompromising style of yours. You remind me of our dear ancestor the wild and fierce Fuyo Dokai. To many, people that never met you, your attitude and words are too strong, too angry, outrageously provocative and dismissing of any weakness in you or others. Being your student and friend, I know a very different Mike Cross.

I believe in a more gentle way, and I know that although master Dogen never taught a rigid form of sitting ( we just have to read Shobogenzo and Eikoroku to understand it), the gospel of the Sotochu gives very different practice directions. Nevertheless, we also both know that all monks and nuns don’t sit in a rigid way as we both did and still do.

My wish for this blog is not to be another battlefield, but a field of happiness. I am sure that everybody will understand.

3:40 AM  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Pierre.

The kesa is not a uniform of doing; it is the uniform of undoing (GEDATSU-FUKU).

The kesa is not the robe of showing a good form in sitting; it is the robe of formlessness (MUSO-E).

These things are black and white. Doing something such as deliberately pulling in the chin, and undoing, are totally opposite conceptions. We cannot do an undoing.

Similarly, we cannot get our dirty paws on formlessness; it endlessly slips through our greedy, grasping fingers.

In order to realize the true kesa, we must endeavor to realize the true meaning of undoing, and to realize the true meaning of formlessness, in our Zazen.

The truth as I see it is that, although you subscribe to this principle in theory, although you pay lip-service to it, you are too lazy when it comes to putting in the hours necessary to realizing this principle in practice. I see it in you because I see it first in myself.

Regardless of what you wish, in human civilization different teachings are always competing with each other for supremacy, and in Master Dogen's teaching the Samadhi which is King of Samadhis is supreme. So if our karma were better than it is, probably we would be able to spend more time devoting ourselves to that.

4:18 AM  
Blogger Pete, an ordinary bloke. said...

Pierre, don’t concern yourself about people reading and posting on your blog. If only one person reads what you have written it will be worthwhile. If nobody reads what you have written it will be worthwhile. I for one am looking forward to updates on Nyohoe Kesa and Blue Mountain. As you embark on your travels I have no advice to offer you. I have nothing profound, mystical or poetic to say.
Take it easy,

8:24 AM  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Thank you Peter for that helpful reminder...not to mind.


3:10 PM  
Blogger kourin-zenkei said...

Having met Dai-En, I can say that
she is quite gentle and warm. Her
teachings were humility and dedication. A number of us were at Mt. Equity for training while
Dai-En's mother was dying. She cared for her students and for her mother, and on the last day of training.her mother died. How generous, to wait until the day we departed to leave with us!

Thank you for this blog and for
your passion for this formless field.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Pierre Turlur said...

Thank you kourin for your appreciation. I don't doubt one moment that Dai-En is a great sister, humble, diligent and dedicated. Not like the foolish monk I am!!!

Anyway, enjoy sewing the boundless robe and pass it, pass it to others.


Kuma San

11:45 PM  
Blogger zenkei-san said...


This is my first experience with a blog of any kind, but I feel some energy to ask Mike Cross if the zazen of Dogen zenji tends to make him more kind than he was before he began to practice it. I truly hope so, but it is difficult for me to discern kindness in some of his remarks. As for Dai-en Bennage, I can personally testify to her kindness, humility and devotion to Dogen Zenji's way.

My understanding of Dogen Zenji's zazen, "ears over shoulders" as he describes in SBGZ Fukanzazengi, is an instruction to help us balance the weight of the head over the spine, so that the muscles of the upper back can be at ease as we sit for long periods. So also with "sitting upright, leaning neither to the right or left, neither forward nor backward." As I like to say when I teach zazen, "Upright is not uptight." Straightening or lengthening the spine brings the sternum forward and opens the heart.
Upright and balanced need not be rigid or militaristic.

12:32 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home