—An Interview with Genko Rainwater, Part Six—
>>> Part One: Shikantaza Meditation - Sitting, Practice, Techniques
Meditation How: There was something I wanted to get at before, but it was not clear. In the interim it has emerged from the fog and so I want to address it. I believe that we have agreed together in the course of this interview that all human beings are fallible— that emotions are what they are (though we may learn to observe them as if a storm). You believe that a teacher is essential— someone you can trust. I believe that nature itself can be trusted— trusted to be itself, whether human or any other expression— ultimately beneficent.
You mentioned that "there is a force in the universe that cares and has power to change one's life". Is this not a single force that is embodied in all nature? Why isolate this nature and trust it in a few persons only? I would be concerned over being somehow prevented from experiencing nature in its full range. You say "Everything that has happened to me is part of what has given me the insights I have so far." Is this limited to formal teachings? I wonder if you could address this.
Genko: Oh, that is skillful means— a teacher, that is. I believe that for me, it has been essential to have a teacher, and probably the specific teacher(s) I have found. Who knows what karmic conditions led me here? The teachings are what we sometimes call "a finger pointing to the moon"— cautioning not to value the finger over the moon itself. We can't really put into words what this is.
In Zen we talk about Emptiness or Suchness— a thing as it is or sometimes "that which is greater"—that which we can't define or put into any sort of words. I don't know that it is a single force. I certainly wouldn't isolate it or try to define it. I'm not sure I would agree that Nature is beneficent. I think it is much more neutral than that—saying that though, I would agree that there is a lot to learn from Nature—from simple observation and reflection.
My teacher is definitely fallible. I can see him as the goofball he is, with the failings he has, and also see him as Buddha. I have projected a lot of stuff on to him, and he simply sits there and absorbs it, to my great gratitude. I see myself projecting stuff onto him—see all the ways I falter in my relationship with him. And I see him as essential to my finding myself. At some point, I will be able to leave him behind. There are many sources of teaching—all my experiences, everything and everyone I meet day to day, moment by moment.
There are endless writings and commentaries of teachings. In Buddhism we don't have an agreed-upon canon of writings, though there are many that most Buddhist groups value. Nothing is left out. No one is left out. It is not mine to tell anyone else what their path is. I can only find my own path and follow it to the best of my ability. If someone can find some value in observing me, in my relating my experience, that is my wish.
Meditation How: All very well put in my opinion. Thank you so much for opening your heart and sharing so much of your personal meditation experience. I have enjoyed this process. I have no more questions. I just want to thank you.
Genko: You are welcome. It is part of my vow, of course, to cultivate just that openness and willingness to share. I've enjoyed it too. It always gives me more grist for my own reflections. I'm trying to write a dharma talk, and this has actually provided me with some material. So thank you also for pursuing your questions.
About Genko: Genko is a monk at the Dharma Rain Zen Center in Portland, Oregon. She has been in residence there for ten years. She occasionally teaches workshops on zen meditation.