Seshin, Monk Issan and the buffalo

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In the last 3 weeks I didn’t work on my blog. We had a week off before and another after the Seshin ( Zen retreat) and I was really off, so I didn’t write or draw.

But let us go to Seshin … We practiced intensely for 7 days, a week in silence, speaking only to organize the common work. Hear only Dharma words. Sit, noticing body and mind, follow the flow, be one body with the Sanga, the practitioners.

In this seshin I was studying a Koan, a Zen question that obliges us to break with the conventional thinking to achieve a deeper understanding of reality.

The Koan: Isan once told a student, “I, an old monk, will be reborn as a buffalo in the front house of the temple a hundred years hence, and five words will be on the buffalo: Monk Isan such and such.” If you call it a buffalo, it is Monk Isan such and such. Tell me, what do you call it?” Kyozan made a bow and went away.

So I spent the week between the Monk Issan and buffalo, simply looking for. The more I was chasing the response, the more it seemed distant. What I hear in Dokusan (personal interview with the teacher) was keep working. And so it was, I followed working, little by little I was getting more comfortable with my not knowing. And I don’t know yet. But I discovered that there was better not to “fight” with the Koan, that it was best to just be with It. And I realized that the way to deal with it was not different from a challenge in life, a book cover to create, an illustration or a person of another culture. How can I open myself to the unexpected? How to deal with the new? How to live the new?

And then what do you call it?

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