I have been practicing Zen for a year now. The only Zen Center in India, Bodhi Zendo, is located near Kodaikanal. I have been there a couple of times to attend Sesshins (an intensive Zazen retreat). Recently I spent ten days at the Zendo in October.
Bodhi Zendo is run by Zen Master AMA Samy. He is the only Zen master in India. He studied with Master Yamada Ko’un in Japan. There are two major schools of Zen. In Soto Zen, Zazen is practiced and in Rinzai Zen, Koans are the primary practice. Master Harada belonged to the Soto school, but he also taught Koans to his students including Yasutani. When Yasutani got recognized as a master, he broke away from the Soto school and formed his own, Sanbo Kyodan (Three Tresures) school. This branch of Zen is also called Harada-Yasutani lineage and Master Samy belongs to this lineage.
Bodhidharma traveled from Kanchipuram in south India to China by sea. He became the first patriarch of Zen. In China Zen was known as Chan, which is a variation of the Indian word “dhyan”. The subsequent Chinese masters further developed and perfected Chan. When it reached Japan it was called Zen. I feel that Chan/Zen must be a more modern/refined form of Buddhism. Vipassana is Indian Buddhism, Zazen is Chinese Chan. Koan was invented by Chinese Chan masters. Japanese brought a martial rigor to Zen practice.
Tibetan Buddhism developed from Indian Buddhism. They seem to be between Indian & Chinese Buddhism.
As Zen moved east, Buddhism faded in India. AMA Samy, who is from Tirunelveli in south India brought Zen from Japan to India. It is like a circle has been completed.
When I got into the Zendo for the first meditation sitting it started to rain. I was reminded of my first visit to Osho commune in Pune. It was my first ever visit to the commune and I participated in the Kundalini meditation in the Gautam Buddha auditorium and the first rain of the season started falling. It started with thunder and strong winds. The roof of the auditorium was shaking violently. (The huge dome of the Gautam Buddha auditorium was made of tarpaulin like material)
The first meditation in the commune had a thrilling and some what scary atmosphere. Today’s first meditation was more mellow.
Whats with this rain and meditation practice? Is it natures way of saying that the inner journey is a process of cleansing the body, mind and soul? May be!
The Process Begins
On the third or fourth night I was not able to sleep. My mind was buzzing with thoughts. Some forgotten incompleteness with an old friend cropped up. I was not thinking. Thoughts took over. I could not stop all kinds of memory and feeling playing out on the minds screen. Just when that started to ease, my mind threw up the pain experienced with another person.
At home when I have trouble going to sleep, I usually distract my mind by watching TV for some time. At the Zendo there was no TV. The night was so cold that I did not feel like getting out of the bed either. So I just lay there and let my mind go at it without interfering.
The turmoil lasted for a while. I must have drifted off to sleep very late. When the morning bell rang, I woke up fresh. After the intense experience of the night I was at peace. I realized that initially I was getting carried away by the strong line of thought and was trying to make it go away. My resistance was causing the turmoil. Later on I had managed to stay detached from the thoughts and feelings. It felt like all the bitterness had overflown and emptied itself. I felt lighter and enjoyed the activities through out the day.
Finding the Inner Space
An extract from AMA Samy’s book, The Zen Way:
“Some people can be completely entrapped in body sensations or external stimuli as an escape from inner turmoil or, they do not have any inner space for fantasy and imagination. They are unable to be with themselves, and so, unable to be with others.”