Jakusho Kwong was born in Santa Rosa, California, in 1935 and began studying Zen with Shunryu Suzuki-roshi, author of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, in 1960. He received ordination at the San Francisco Zen Center in 1970, and established the Sonoma Mountain Zen Center in 1973 as his commemoration to his teacher. In 1995, he was given the title Dendo Kyoshi, Zen teacher, by the Soto School in Japan. He is only one of nine Western teachers to receive this acknowledgement. Jakusho Kwong has been teaching Zen in the United States and Europe for more than 30 years. He is the author of No Beginning, No End: The Intimate Heart of Zen, edited by Peter Levitt.
On this seven-and-one-half audio retreat contained on six cassettes, Jakusho Kwong presents 12 dharma talks recorded live at the Sonoma Mountain Zen Center in California. In the opening talks, we can hear birds chirping in the background along with the rustle of this teacher's robes. He immediately makes it clear that the Dharma is something that we already know. We don’t have to go on an arduous quest to find it; all that is necessary is to uncover it in our daily lives and let it gently color all that we do, say, or think. Zen is not something special only gotten through meditation: it is in the aliveness and in the spirit with which we cook, do the dishes, take out the garbage, appreciate the night sky, and close our eyes in the sweet surrender to sleep. Kwong agrees with an ancient Zen master who said, "Each thing has its own intrinsic value." In other words, we practice by bringing attention, harmoniousness, and reverence to each task during the day. This is what Kwong means when he says that Zen helps us appreciate the simplest things. Nothing is too ordinary or unimportant to be ignored.
Kwong covers the foundations of Zen, the drawbacks to dualistic thinking, the active participation in loss, and the meaning of emptiness in Buddhism. Perhaps the most helpful sessions are those in which this seasoned teacher explains the method of sitting meditation or Zazen, the practice of slow walking or walking sutra, and the practice of bowing, which he calls "the true fruit of Zen." Kwong is also very articulate in his overviews on the relationships between students and teachers, the challenges of living in a Zen community, and the art of giving oneself completely to tasks; as examples he talks about cooking, collecting the garbage, and sounding the bell.
For Kwong, life right now is infinite and eternal, and we can return to our natural inner radiance by living fully in the present moment. This is a glorious learning package replete with a printed glossary of terms and an extensive outline of each of the twelve sessions.