Individual interviews with Dokuro Osho are offered every other week, alternating between Monday and Wednesday. This way participants who can come only on a particular weekday have the chance to participate in the interviews at least every 4 weeks. The meetings begin with the first period of zazen and end after the second period. While the effort will be made to see everyone during that hour, no guarantees can be made that everyone can be seen. There are two terms for the formal interviews, which are explained below.
The informal meeting between a more experienced practitioner and another practitioner is called taiwa. Both meet informally and discuss any practice related matter. There are no prostrations involved and no bells – to make a clear distinction to formalized interviews. The literal translation of taiwa is “dialogue.” In many Rinzai Zen lineages senior practitioners may be empowered to offer taiwa to help other practitioners with their Zen practice. Rinzai-ji Oshos have been offering taiwa meetings for many years.
The term dokusan refers to individual and formal private meetings between a Zen student and a Zen teacher. The content of the interaction in the dokusan context may be general topics of practice, life questions, or any topic that is relevant to the current situation of the Zen student and is taken up as a point of focus in ones Zazen practice. Dokusan also covers the work on a koan, which is more formal and generally is based upon a mutually agreed to student/teacher relationship. At Charles River Zen, which is an open and urban setting for formal Zen practice, anyone is welcome to participate in dokusan, regardless of a formalized relationship between student and teacher. A dokusan meeting is ended by the teacher ringing the small hand bell. The setup for dokusan may be unstructured, where no kansho bell is rung, or structured, where the shika or inji sits at the kansho bell and each student rings the bell twice before heading to the dokusan room.
In the formal Rinzai Zen tradition a teacher accepts a student as a sanzen student after some extended time they have worked together. In Japan Zen masters usually accept a student into such a relationship after three years of practice under the master. A formalized relationship of this kind is a serious commitment of both parties and lasts for many years. At CRZ at this time we will be offering dokusan, which will allow all participants to benefit from the interaction with a Zen teacher. Sanzen will be offered once we engage in multi-day residential retreats, during which the sanzen students will go to sanzen up to four times a day. The intensity of the retreat setting is the best place to engage in intense sanzen practice. Sanzen is always highly formal, including the kansho bell, prostrations, and the master ringing the hand bell.
Participants have the opportunity to meet with Dokuro Osho for dokusan. Dokuro Osho holds the Temple Dharma lineage of Rinzai-ji and received Dharma Transmission in the Zen Studies Society from Shinge Roshi (inka shomei). At this time Dokuro elects to offer dokusan and to refrain from offering sanzen until he has received his room name in a shitsu-go ceremony.
Dokuro comments on his experience with one-on-one interviews:
“Individual work with experienced Zen practitioners has always been an important help to my own development. Seeing and experiencing the embodiment of their life and training experience in a one-to-one setting has been most beneficial. I always experienced this as an additional motivating factor in deepening my own practice. In contrast to strict formal interviews, such as sanzen practice, dokusan meetings are open to any topic that needs to be brought up. “