Over the last weekend we held a wonderful workshop with the Diamond Sutra as the central topic.There were about 29 participants and a few visitors who dropped in to hear some of the lectures.
We arranged the workshop at the Providence Zen Center in Cumberland Rhode Island. The current director of the facility is Paul Sonia, who has been practicing within the Kwan Um School for the last couple of years, but who also served as the director at the Albuquerque Zen Center and has been a long-term student in the Rinzai-ji tradition. The staff at PZC was very friendly and accommodating, the meals were wholesome and delicious.
The participants came from near and far, including North Carolina, New Mexico, New Jersey, Quebec, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The program included morning chanting and sitting and each of the meals was preceded by half an hour of zazen. Each day closed with more sitting and a chant and the zendo was open all night for sitting. Silence was kept between the end of the last lecture in the evening and breakfast the next day.
It was a treat to have Sōgen Victor Hori and Kendo Hal Roth speak about Buddhism, Emptiness, and the Diamond Sutra. The lectures pointed out the historical development from Abhidharma (Sanskrit:अभिधर्म, Chinese:阿毗达磨) to the Madhyamika (Sanskrit: मध्यमक, Chinese: 中觀派) school and made relationship between the teaching of Emptiness to Zen practice and how it relates to the Rinzai Zen koan practice. Many contributions from the participants were added to the presenter’s expertise, and a reading of the text of the Diamond Sutra complemented these activities.
We hope to organize further workshops in the future to not only allow for the study of the major texts that influenced Zen but also for deeper practice and understanding of the historical roots of Zen. The workshop closed with everyone chanting the Heart Sutra, which was dedicated to our late teacher Denkyo-shitsu Kyozan Joshu, Roshi.