…Weary with winter I wandered out
On the frozen waves, hoping to find
A place, a people, a lord to replace
My lost ones. No one knew me, now,
No one offered comfort, allowed
Me feasting or joy. How cruel a journey
I’ve travelled, sharing my bread with sorrow
Alone an exile in every land…
…“Firmly clutched by a fickle fate
Fortune vanishes, friendship vanishes
Man is fleeting, woman is fleeting,
And all this earth rolls into emptiness”
So says the sage in his heart, sitting alone in his thought…
-The Wanderer (Poetry from the Exeter book)
…..It was in South Korea in 1975 that I decided to become a Zen nun. I had wanted to see if meditation would enable me to change my mind. I’d been idealistic from a very young age: from 11 onwards, I’d wanted to save the world. I became an anarchist and read Bakunin; then I dreamed of taking the Magic Bus to India from rural France. But at the ancient age of 18, I realised it wasn’t that easy to change the world, let alone myself. So when I read a Buddhist text that suggested meditation might help, I decided to find a teacher and a practice. I ended up in a Zen Buddhist monastery in South Korea where, for 10 hours a day, I silently asked the question: ‘What is this?’….
….A month into my second three-month retreat, I was sitting on my cushion asking ‘What is this?’ when I suddenly became very aware of what was going on in my mind. It was all about me being at the centre of the universe — what I wanted, what I hoped for, what I did not like, and so on….This experiential awareness led to a deep self-acceptance. I saw clearly for the first time the obstacle at the centre of my suffering and what was needed to transform it….
…I came to see that meditation was not about suddenly lighting up like a Christmas tree, but about releasing something and letting go…
As the Japanese Zen Master Dogen said in his work the Genjokoan:
To study the Buddha’s way is to study oneself,
To study oneself is to forget oneself,
To forget oneself is to be enlightened by all things.
…The toddler stopped fidgeting. His face relaxed from its spasm as he opened his eyes to see everything around him. There was no sense of fear, no sense of what should be, no sense that things were worse or better. There was awareness of his body and of a silence out of which everything arose. It was a peace deeper than anything his young mind associated with his mother’s embrace or her breast, unbound to anything or anyone. It just was….
….. Although the experience was gone, that sense of a peace deeper than anything he had ever known scored itself into the memory of the toddler, burned itself into the forming grey matter of his young brain, leaving a permanent marker for a sensation of stillness outside of time, space, or the sense of a separate self. For a few moments in early 1945, Denis Kelly had been utterly, radically free….
…..The world, Denis realized, was mad. No one had any idea what they were doing; his parents stumbled and struggled through parenthood and their own lives; priests and nuns mirrored beliefs taught to them, but had no more an understanding of God than a parrot had of its empty phrases. Everyone everywhere was asleep, and those who pretended to hold answers held nothing but empty beliefs and tired stories as transparently improbable as a child’s. Education did not translate into wisdom, or even to understanding. Someone could be incredibly bright and very well educated but utterly clueless. Intelligence and education had nothing to do with how much you actually saw around you. It would take Denis fifty years to unravel this mystery….
……And so he went to the monastery seeking freedom, not just spiritual freedom, but freedom from his conditioned mind, freedom from his small self. He really wanted to figure out why he was such a deeply conditioned man. But life conditions arose and he would react very strongly, as we all do, but he really saw it for the first time just how deep the conditioning went….
Jun Po;…. “realized there are no short cuts, no free lunches, and started serious spiritual practices, mostly eastern; not faith-based however, but discipline based, following the pragmatic meditation traditions of the Yoga of India and the meditation traditions of Tibet and Japan.
Then, after a lot of window shopping and sampling from 1965, in 1978 I met my future Abbot, Eido Shimano Roshi, and started serious Zen training at Dai Bosatsu Zendo monastery in New York State, coming and going from 1978, leading to full ordination as a Monk/Priest into 1984. Opened my first Zen Yoga Center in California in 1984, returned to the monastery in 1987. Resided there, first as head monk, and then as Vice-Abbot; received Masters recognition in October of 1992, stayed until spring of 1993. I then resigned and went to Colorado for two years of personal psychological work and professional psychological training. Converted all teachings and forms from Japanese into English, and continued teaching and training privately. Found my family, my tribe, my Brothers within MKP in 1999. ……”
Jun Po; “Jun Po is a name given to me, Denis Kelly, by my Zen Abbott. Jun Po is a man among men, dedicated to a life of meditative awareness. I am a man of Argentine tango, a man of organic wine, a man who makes his own bio-diesel, a man in love with a beautiful woman, a man of intense passion, a man who harvests and eats wild mushrooms, digs clams and collects seaweed at the ocean, a man who feels and loves deeply, a man devoted to the idea of Zorba the Buddha, a man mending relationships, a man with a lot of opinions, a man growing and learning. A man whose heart aches and soars… an ordinary man, a man like you.”
1. Poetry from Exeter book – The Seafarer, Wanderer & The Wife’s Lament.
4. The wanderer stilled – Martine Batchelor
5. A Heart Blown Open – Keith Martin Smith. (Life of Zen master, Jun Po)