With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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Norman Fischer is founder of the Everyday Zen Foundation (www.everydayzen.org) and former co-abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center. His latest book of poetry is I Was Blown Back (Singing Horse Press). He lives in Muir Beach, California.
Walking into the temple compound, we walked into another world: quiet, serene, holy. Irregular stepping stones led us through a mossy garden to a steadily dripping little waterfall. Off to one side was a standing figure of Kwan Yin, bodhisattva of compassion, standing on a lotus pedestal.
There’s an old Zen story that I like very much: A monk comes to the monastery of the storied Master Zhaozho. Diligent and serious, the monk asks for instruction, hoping for some esoteric teaching, some deep Buddhist wisdom, or, at the very least, a colorful response that will spur him on in his practice. Instead the master asks him, “Have you had your breakfast yet?” The monk says that he has. “Then wash your bowls,” the master replies. This is the only instruction he is willing to offer.
If American politics is more religious than it has been for a long time, we are not alone. The world of Islam is undergoing a tremendous religiopolitical revival. I’m not sure I understand what’s behind it. I have the sense that the explanations we read in any paper or see on television are not accurate. September 11 caught us all off guard, and we still have not digested it.