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This document can be acquired from a sub-directory coombspapers via anonymous FTP and COOMBSQUEST gopher on the node COOMBS.ANU.EDU.AU The document's ftp filename and the full directory path are given in the coombspapers top level INDEX file. date of the document's last update/modification {20/09/93} This file is the work of Stan Rosenthal. It has been placed here, with his kind permission, by Bill Fear. The author has asked that no hard copies, ie. paper copies, are made. Stan Rosenthal may be contacted at 44 High street, St. Davids, Pembrokeshire, Dyfed, Wales, UK. Bill Fear may be contacted at 29 Blackweir Terrace, Cathays, Cardiff, South Glamorgan, Wales, UK. email Please use email as first method of contact, if possible. Messages can be sent to Stan Rosenthal via the above email address - they will be forwarded on in person by myself. ...........................Beginning of file.................................. ZEN TAOIST ZESSHIN The new student is not expected to know what happens in sesshin, nor to be able to make the appropriate responses immediately, or to remember the terminology or sequence of events; the passing of time takes care of these matters quite naturally. However, if only to illustrate that there is nothing 'secret' about sesshin, the following list describes the events of a typical Zen Taoist sesshin which might be of two or three hours duration. 1 A short period of 'zazen' (seated meditation). 2 An exercise in 'correct (diaphragmatic) breathing' and awareness. 3 Rapid chanting (to clear the mind of extraneous thought). 4 'Sosan', (a short talk to the group by the roshi, usually on one of the precepts, or a zen analect). 5 'Mondo' (structured discussion). 6 The setting of a 'koan' (described below). 7 Response by students to the koan. 8 Continuation of mondo. 9 Exchange of thanks and greetings. 10 A short concluding period of zazen. Zen does not teach that experience replaces knowledge, but that 'experience makes knowledge real'. To this end it employs the unique 'teaching method' known as the 'koan'. These are riddles or paradoxes, sometimes asked as questions, or simply told as stories by the roshi during or after that part of sesshin known as 'sosan' or 'sanzen', the period in which the roshi addresses the students as a group. Alternatively the roshi might present a koan for a student during a private interview known as 'naisan' or 'dokusan'. The main reasons why koan are frequently difficult to resolve are that for most students, it is difficult to identify just what precept or problem the koan is supposed to illustrate, or what it actually means. It could be, and often is the case, that the problem or exercise being set by the roshi is just that; the identification of the relevant problem or point contained within the story. Sosan, and the setting of the koan, are usually followed by 'mondo', which really means 'question and answer', and is a discussion period in which the students ask questions of the teacher and each other in order to improve or confirm their understanding of the issues raised in the koan. When it appears that the students understand the key issue or issues they will be asked to 'offer proof' of that understanding. Each student who wishes to do so then prepares and makes a statement to the roshi, this statement being accepted as the initial 'proof' of the student's understanding and ability to apply those issues. The roshi responds to the statement of each student in terms of its content and form. Zen Taoist sesshin usually include, or are followed by an informal 'cup of tea' and discussion on what has occured during sesshin. The roshi does not usually stay for this discussion (since he or she knows that students feel more free to talk without their teacher being present), but since every Roshi has been, and in many respects remains a student, it is usually a source of much pleasure to the teacher to know that so many people of different ages and background are able to converse with and help each other. Also, the sound of laughter from the 'dojo' (place of learning) as the students relax after sesshin can also be a source of amusement to the teacher, for Zen contains much humour, and in his sosan, the teacher might deliberately have created a 'diversion' to amuse the students during this subsequent informal discussion and 'wind- down' period. It is during this period that a student who wishes to talk privately with the roshi will seek a 'private interview' (dokusan or naisan), and it is no exageration to describe these intimate discussions as being, on occasion 'extraordinary' in their synergic effect, for there can be few, if any relationships which equal the intimacy and understanding which exists between a Zen teacher and student. .................................End of file................................


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