White Plum teacher Merle Kodo Boyd Sensei visited the Temple for a full day retreat that she described as a “collaboration” between her and the sangha. Kodo Sensei is a successor of Wendy Egyoku Nakao, the abbot of the Zen Center of Los Angeles and a successor of Maezumi Roshi. She is part of our White Plum family, a “dharma cousin” of Shugen Sensei, and the first African American woman to have received Dharma Transmission within any of the Zen lineages. She leads the Lincroft Zen Sangha in New Jersey, which she founded, and she is part of the Zen Peacemaker Circle.
At the Temple, Kodo Sensei drew on classic koans and her own reflections on her spiritual journey— including finding her way as a Zen student when her teacher lived 2,000 miles away—as starting points for participants to inquire into the depth and breadth of their own practice. Throughout the day, she repeatedly asked us to give voice to the how and why of our practice. Taking nothing for granted, she challenged us with the question of what we mean when we say “practice.” She asked why we keep coming back to the cushion in the face of physical discomfort, and in a world that doesn’t seem to support it. She emphasized the importance of keeping liturgy alive at home and keeping our home altars “fresh” so that they reflect engaged practice and not dusty complacency.
Weaving teachings on impermanence and diversity into the day, Kodo Sensei invited us to reflect on what we think the dharma, or the universe, wants of us. Her teachings, interspersed with periods of sitting, was a wonderful reminder of the vast potential of our practice as a daily, living thing. Thank you to Kodo Sensei for making the trip to Brooklyn and sharing the depth and power of her spiritual study with all of us at the Temple.