Before we get started, tomorrow is our monthly half-day zazen in Culver City at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Come for any portion you like. We go from 9:30am till around 3:30pm. Show up early, show up late, leave in the middle, we don’t care. But it’s more fun with more people, so show up! We also do a fine, fancy Zen service in the morning.
Here’s an email I received recently:
When you spoke about Gudo Wafu Nishijima’s death you mentioned:
“The night he died (when I did not yet know he was dead) he showed up in a dream and mildly criticized me for trying to do too many things. He said I should just stick to teaching Zen.” I was just wondering if you had any further thoughts on this event. It seems to me it would be a profoundly important and astounding occurrence – the night your teach died he appeared to you in a dream, without you knowing he had died. Do you place much significance on this?
I must not. Because up till I got this email I had forgotten I even wrote this. If I think back upon it now I can recall having the dream, but not much more than that. I can’t recall if I saw him in the dream or if it was more vague than that. I can’t remember if anything else happened in the dream. I don’t even remember how I reacted in the dream.
I don’t believe in the paranormal. I do believe there are things out there in the world that we don’t yet have adequate explanations for. I read a book about UFOs a couple of years ago that got me believing there really are a lot of unexplained sightings of flying objects that appear to be intelligently guided. But I don’t feel like speculating about what they might be does any real good, except for providing a certain amount of fun entertainment. It doesn’t solve anything, though.
Which is how I feel about things like seeing dead people in dreams. I’ve met my dead mom in dreams too. Dogen sometimes refers to weird dreams he’s had that seemed prophetic. So I can see how a sensible and rational person can also have a certain degree of … what shall I call it? … Maybe faith? OK. Faith in such things.
But Dogen doesn’t go on from his recollections of his own odd dreams to speculating about their origins, or trying to decipher their meanings or, especially, trying to present them as evidence that he possesses some kind of special powers. And neither do I.
As far as I’m concerned, maybe – maaaayyyybe – that was Nishijima himself sending me a message from the Afterlife. I would not be so bold as to completely discount the possibility. But I also know I have a fairly good idea what Nishijima might say to me if he saw me now, and what he said in that dream fits well within the range of things I’d expect him to say. There’s nothing especially compelling in that dream to make me believe it had to be a message from Nishijima’s ghost. The timing is a little interesting, but that doesn’t mean it has to be him.
As for the message itself, I find it worth considering. It’s probably better to dedicate your life fully to a single purpose and Buddhism is a good one. Then again, I already feel like I do that. But there’s no sense trying to measure up to any of the many, many ideas there are about what a life fully dedicated to Buddhism ought to look like. No one could possibly satisfy them all.
Let’s stay on topic, though. The question is; Do I attach significance to the fact that my teacher showed up in a dream the night he died but before I knew he died?
Well, I don’t chalk it up to pure coincidence, nor do I think it has to mean something profound.
The reason is simple. If I were to start attaching great significance to the event, where would that lead me? I could start speculating about the Afterlife. I could spin this event along with the times I saw my mom in dreams and a few other things into an elaborate theory of where we go when we die. But that doesn’t seem like a very constructive use of my time.
I also could spin it into a fascinating story of how I must possess some kind of supernormal ability to connect with the dead. In Los Angeles I could probably make good money on that. But that’s not really the kind of thing I want to dedicate myself to. I think it would get kind of sleazy pretty quickly. I’d end up having to make shit up and I wouldn’t feel good about it.
I could sit and ponder what it means, but I’ve already done that.
In the end, I just don’t see any compelling reason to get too hung up on it.
Look. I’m not immune to the lure of trying to know what might happen after death. It’s just that I’ve looked into some of the best accounts available on the subject already and even the very best of that stuff is pretty much a load of barely grounded speculation. If I want barely grounded speculation I can find that in Star Trek, which is lots more interesting than anything I’ve ever read or watched about the Afterlife. To me, it’s as easy as that.
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July 8-12, 2015 Vancouver, BC Canada 5-DAY RETREAT at HOLLYHOCK RETREAT CENTER
August 14-16, 2015 Munich, Germany 3 DAY ZEN RETREAT
August 19, 2015 Munich, Germany LECTURE
August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR
August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY
September 4, 2015 Hamburg, Germany LECTURE
September 6, 2015 Hamburg, Germany ZEN DAY
September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT
September 16-19, 20015 Hebden Bridge, England 4-DAY RETREAT
September 26-27, 2015 Glastonbury, England 2-DAY RETREAT
November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT
Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!
Every Saturday at 9:30 there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!
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