Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck has entered hospice care and is expected to be nearing the end of her life. This news first came to our attention via Elihu Genmyo Smith’s blog Clouds over the weekend, where Genmyo describes the practice at his Prairie Zen Center in southern Illinois as being rooted in her practice. Rod Meade Sperry describes her as a Zen pioneer in his Shambhala SunSpace post here, and Adam Tebbe at Sweeping Zen writes about her here.
Read her Tricycle interview, “Life’s Not a Problem,” which begins:
Why did you start practicing?
I had a fine life. I was divorced—my husband was mentally ill—but I had a nice man in my life. My kids were okay. I had a good job. And I used to wake up and say, “Is this all there is?”
Then I met Maezumi Roshi, who was a monk at the time. He was giving a talk in the Unitarian Church downtown. I was out for the evening with a friend, a woman, a sort of hard-boiled business type, and we decided to hear his talk. And as we went in, he bowed to each person and looked right at us. It was absolutely direct contact. When we sat down, my friend said to me, “What was that?” He wasn’t doing anything special—except, for once, somebody was paying attention.
I wanted whatever he had. I found a sitting group of two in San Diego, and I became the third. Maezumi would come down once in a while. Eventually, I began to go up to Los Angeles every week or two for the sittings. And occasionally I began doing sesshins with Soen Roshi. At one point I had a little breakthrough or “opening”—which I now think is a waste of time, but at the time, I thought it was important.
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.