Dharma elders

Someone sent me this photo just now. This is Jan “Chozen” Bays, Roshi, a bright star of the Buddhadharma, a living, breathing example of “the Great Vow” of compassion.

Chozen Roshi—using every moment, in the garden, in the kitchen, in the zendo, awakening, awakening, awakened.

Many of my closest dharma friends are approaching their twilight years. Nearly all of them have devoted their last five to six decades to serving the dharma. These lights are at their most brilliant. Are you seeking out their retreats and teachings? Are you engaging with their their books, their podcasts, their YouTube videos? Are you getting this nectar while it is dropping like dew onto your path? I would trade 10 minutes with any of these teachers for a whole day with most people I respect and admire.

I remember having a conversation a few years back with a dharma student of my own generation. She said something along the lines of, “All those years I had such generous and free access to (our teacher). I so wish I had known then what I know now: that that great realization, great compassion, that was available to me for years was slipping quickly away.” She went on to say that he was so ‘ordinary’ that she had not appreciated the preciousness of contact with his awakening mind. She had treated their relating like an ordinary friendship and had frittered away time with trivial conversation about movies and boyfriends. Suddenly, sitting on retreat, she realized this, and felt a great shock and sadness at her innocent mistake. She was grieved by having been offered unfettered access and having treated it like the most mundane meetings on her schedule: no preparation, no follow through, not much gratitude or depth of engagement.

Time is marching onward, friends. There are people in your life who are great benefactors, but only if you reach for what is being so freely offered. Contact with a living teacher is a hundred times more potent than a book. That candle burning so brightly?

It will not last. It will not last. It will not last. Wake up.

Chozen Roshi at her 2022 Mountain Seat Ceremony.


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