Sunday, July 15, 2012
A life of constant revision
I've finished draft one of my Zen book, Brand Name Zen. I have written novels before, but this is the first book-length non-fiction project I have ever undertaken. It was a new and exciting process for me, one that challenged me on many levels--intellectual, doctrinal, spiritual, and emotional. In order to write the book--a critical evaluation of modern Western lay Zen--I had to delve deep inside of myself for answers. As a result, I felt a deep connection reemerging between me and the Zen tradition I practice.
At times, as I sit in meditation or even watching my children play, I feel the presence of the great Soen masters beside or with me--Seung Sahn, Chinul, and my teacher, Ven. Paul Lynch. "Presence" may not be the best word, but it's about as close as I can get.
Zen is about intimacy, with our teachers, the Dharma, all beings, and the entire universe. Our Buddhist ancestors live on through us, as we try our best to embody the Dharma in our lives. There are no words to express that ineffable feeling of closeness and gratitude we experience when we realize that the Dharma is all around us, and that the ancestors are alive with us, and through us.
I often find myself overwhelmed with love and wonder at all of the Buddhist teachers, who in their infinite kindness and generosity as Bodhisattvas, gave everything they had to preserve and maintain the Buddhadharma for us to live and practice today. I am eternally grateful to all of them.
All of this emerged as I wrote this book, as I tried my best to honor the heart, and not just the words, of their teachings.
It was a very incredible experience, one that has nourished me and my practice.
Now begins revisions. The book is relatively short, maybe 25,000 words, so I eagerly look forward to reengaging the book. For me, revision, like my Zen practice, is a never-ending process. I'm always tinkering and tweaking phrases and adding passages, looking for a better way to express or expand upon a point. It's exciting and frustrating at the same time.
I don't know who said it originally, but "Books are never 'finished'; they are simply abandoned." Having written a few books before, believe that to some extent; Eventually we have to let the books, like children, go off on their own, hoping they can stand on their own and do some good in this suffering world.
But I still have a while to go before I get to that point. In the meantime, I'll be busy revising. Thanks for reading.
This book would not be possible without the help of countless beings. Thanks to all of them, but especially to three great Bodhisattvas: my teacher Ven. Paul Lynch, Seung Sahn, and my wife.
Photo borrowed from Creative Commons flickr user: syntaxoflife.