Mountains and Rivers Sutra weekly practice book coming

Practice! Sumeru Books Zen

Pleased to report I've received the final manuscript and am ready to start production for

Mountain and Rivers Sutra: Teachings of Norman Fischer

Transcribed and Edited by Kuya Minogue

A Weekly Practice Book

Here's a brief introduction to the book from Kuya, the editor...

In 2015 and 2016, I transcribed talks about Dogen’s Mountain and Rivers Sutra that Norman Fischer gave at the Upaya Zen Centre in 2012. I divided his talks into 52 short essays, added a practice suggestion to each essay and published them in my bimonthly column, “A Zen’s Eye View” in our local newspaper. The Creston Valley Advance is the weekly rag of Creston, British Columbia, the small rural town where I am resident priest at a backyard lay practice temple called Sakuraji. Local response to the Mountain and Rivers Sutra series was overwhelmingly positive.

Creston is a small farming community located in the Kootenay region of southern British Columbia, about a 10-minute drive from the Idaho border. The town’s population borders on 5,000. Before we founded Sakuraji in Creston, there was little direct contact with Asian religions such as Soto Zen Buddhism. The primary religious orientation in Creston roots into traditional Christian teachings.

I started the column in 2008, and in the beginning, I presented Zen teachings without reference to Buddhism or to Zen. It was basically a self-help column based on Zen principles. But by 2015, the practice at Sakuraji had attracted a core group of Zen students, and it became a popular place to participate in traditional Zen practice, yoga glasses, qigong classes and courses on mindfulness.

After a short break from writing the column, I decided to produce a column that contained more traditional Zen teachings. At the time, I was deep into a study of Dogen’s, Mountain and Rivers Sutra. In my research about this text, I discovered Norman Fischer’s online dharma talks on the Upaya Zen Centre website. There were eleven talks from a retreat called, “Awesome Presence: Dogen’s Mountain and Rivers Sutra.” I transcribed all eleven talks and broke sections of them into column length essays. After each essay, I added a practice suggestion that readers, if interested, could explore over the two weeks between columns.

By early 2016, the column was extremely popular and people were trying out the suggested practices. In our local grocery store, at our Saturday Farmer’s Market, and at the community swimming pool, people of all walks of life, religious backgrounds and ages would approach me to discuss a practice that they had tried. Some who had followed the suggestion to walk in the mountains paying close attention to their own walking proclaimed that “Mountains really do walk.” Others began a meditation practice and began to show up at Sakuraji for Zen practice instruction and support.

It occurred to me that it would be good if these columns could have wider distribution. It was apparent that there was great benefit to the readers to have time between columns to try out and reflect on the practice suggestions. Consequently, this book is divided into 52 short readings, each followed by a practice suggestion written by myself.

One reading represents one week of practice. Consequently, this is not a book to sit down and read from beginning to end, although it’s good to do that. This is the book to keep on a bedside table or close to the toilet so it can be read daily. Rereading each essay deepens and extends its impact.

The teachings in this book are not my own; they are Norman Fischer’s. I selected the readings based on my own limited understanding at the time. I do not claim to have transmitted to you the full depth of Dogen’s or Norman’s mind. I’m sure I missed a lot.

When I asked Norman about using his words, he said that they were not his words, but the words of his teachers, and claimed no ownership over them.

. . . . . . .

With deep respect and gratitude to the San Francisco Zen Centre, for permission to copy the translation of Dogen’s essay and to the Upaya Zen Centre who gave permission to use their recording of Norman’s words, and to Norman Fischer for these magnificent teachings.

All profits generated by this book will be divided between each of those Zen Centres.

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