About Bayview Zendo
Bayview Zendo honors my teacher Kobun Chino Otogawa, Roshi.
Kobun came to the United States from Japan at the invitation of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi to help establish Zen practice at Tassajara Monastery.
Later he taught for a number of years at Haiku Zendo in Los Altos and helped establish Jikoji Zen Center in the coastal mountains above San Jose, as well as a number of other Zen Centers in America and Europe.
Kobun died in 2002.
Michael Newhall, presently the head teacher at Jikoji, has written a fine article about Kobun, including a good selection of Kobun’s teachings, which you can find under A Few Words on the home page of this website.
A Few Memories
One night during a sesshin at Hidden Villa I visited Kobun in the tent he was sleeping in that week. We talked quietly in the light of a battery-powered lantern.
I asked, “OK, so you apparently love almost everyone. But Kobun, for real, there must be some people you just don’t like. How do you deal with that?”
Kobun reached under a blanket and pulled out a scabbard I hadn’t seen before. Then he pulled a sword, “swuup,” out of the scabbard. He certainly had my attention.
He held the sword between us with one of its very sharp sides up. “You and I can walk together on this part of this sword,” he said, placing his finger just above the sharp edge of the blade.
“When I meet someone I’m not able to meet here,” he continued as he slowly turned the blade on its side, “I turn the sword until I find a place where we can walk together.”
Before my ordination Kobun had asked me to shave my head, except for a small, circular patch at the back of my head called a shura.
As he prepared to shave off this last tuft of hair, we talked about how it felt to have my head naked.
Then he asked me how I thought my life might be different after I was ordained. I responded that I didn’t know, that I’d have to see.
“You will have a lot more suffering,” Kobun said.
At the conclusion of sesshin we often had a Shosan ceremony. One time a student, tears flowing down her face, asked Kobun when her crying would finally end.
Kobun was quiet for awhile. Then he said, “Don’t be concerned with when it will end. Just let the crying be, and we will all cry with you.”
When we were studying koans from The Blue Cliff Record, Kobun said “These are important to work with, to learn from. And the most difficult koan, the most important koan, is your own life."
During sesshin at Hidden Villa, one of the servers tripped a little and the deviled eggs he was carrying on his tray bounced onto and along the tatami-covered floor.
Kobun reached down from his bench, plucked an egg from the floor, and popped it into his mouth.
Not a story about Kobun.
Rather, what our bodies know that we don’t.
During one of my journeys through the American Southwest I visited Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. I drove into the campground late in the evening, ate dinner, washed-up, set up my sleeping place, and settled onto my zafu to sit for awhile. The campground was fairly empty, and pretty quiet.
A new car drove into the campground. As it turned, its headlights cast a particular shadow against the wall of the campground washhouse. I noticed the shadow and thought, “Oh. That’s Eric Remington sitting zazen.”
Eric and I had sat a good number of times near or beside each other at Haiku Zendo. I liked Eric, we did similar environmental education work, but we didn’t have a particularly close relationship. I certainly didn’t think I’d noticed anything detailed about the posture he sat in. I certainly didn’t know he was in Arizona.
How did I know, from such a brief, moving shadow, that it was he? I have no idea.
I got up from my zafu and walked over to where the shadow had come from. “Eric?”
One night, after a meeting at a friend’s home in Menlo Park, Kobun and I took a walk down the asphalt street that ran by Mary Kate’s.
I told Kobun that I had reached a transition point in both my work and in the place where I lived. I asked him if there was anything he’d like me to do, anywhere he’d like me to go.
“You think you are walking behind me,” he said, “but that’s not the way it actually is.”
He stepped behind me, took my shoulders in his hands, and firmly pushed me forward ahead of him. “The truth is you are walking ahead of me.”
I turned and looked at him. I remember the street lamp’s light on Kobun’s face. “It’s good for you to occasionally look behind you to see if I’m doing OK,” he said. “And if I see that you’re not paying attention to where you’re going, I promise I’ll kick you in the butt.”
Bayview Zendo is one way of protecting my butt.
Trout Black, 2016