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If you go on practicing, as the years go by you may attend monastic training periods at one of the larger centers. If your life permits, you might want to stay at this center for a while—perhaps for many years, or for the rest of your life, eventually taking on the teachers and lineage there as your primary lineage. Or you may come back home and continue your ongoing practice, going back to the larger training center from time to time for more monastic experiences. Or, if it is impossible for you to get away from your family and work life for longer than a week at a time, or if you do not want to do this, you will continue with the practice of weeklong sesshin, and that will be enough.

It is also possible that you do not ever want to go to week sesshin, and that Zen classes, one-day retreats, meetings with the teacher from time to time, and the application of all that you are learning to the daily events of your life is the kind of practice you really need for your life, and that nothing more is necessary.

What will all this effort do for you? Everything and nothing. You will become a Zen student, devoted to your ongoing practice, to kindness and peacefulness, and to the ongoing endless effort to understand the meaning of time, the meaning of your existence, the reason why you were born and will die. You will still have plenty of challenges in your life, you will still feel emotion, possibly more now than ever, but the emotion will be sweet, even if it is grief or sadness. Many things, good and bad, happen in a lifetime, but you won't mind. You will see your life and your death as a gift, a possibility. This is the essential point of Zen.


Norman Fischer is founder of the Everyday Zen Foundation and a former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center. He is the author of Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up and Opening to You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms.

Nothing Holy: A Zen Primer, Norman Fischer, Shambhala Sun, March 2004.



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