SOKEI-AN SHIGETSU SASAKI, a Japanese Zen pioneer in the West, describes some of the many differences between his American lay followers and the monks back home. From a lecture given on February 21, 1942, as published in issue #1 of Zen Notes, January 1954.

Peaceful in body, peaceful in speech,
The bhikkhu peaceful and well-concentrated
Who has rejected the world’s bait
Is called “one at peace.”
-The Buddha, Dhammapada 378


©Istockphoto/Jinyoung Lee
©Istockphoto/Jinyoung Lee


PERHAPS YOU CANNOT imagine such a practice as that which has been current among my people. In China or Japan, monasteries are built on a mountaintop or on the edge of a cliff. From there you can see a thousand miles before your eyes. In winter, when the valley is covered with snow, you feel you are in a world of silver. No color is before your eyes. In the valley it is so quiet. In the daytime when the monks are meditating, if there is any sound in the temple it will be only that of a mouse or a rat.

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