19 May 2006

Issan Dorsey...

Like Tristram Shandy, life happens quicker than I have time to write it down but I guess you don't read me, for diary. Do you want to know about the worms in my worm bin? My approach to childcare with the Wall brother, Peter, Larry and Vincent? Would you like to know more about my glamorous and exciting partner, Sarah? Do you want to know my strategy in the nail biting contest for Green Party of England and Wales Principal Male Speaker? Do you want my comments on the Orange book and perfidous ungreen Liberal Democracy? I guess not

No what you want is some more Gay Zen....so today I am going to flag up the book about Issan Dorsey the late, great roshi of Hartford Street Zen centre.

1.Note on books and Zen....read books on zen for pleasure, not instruction....zen may or may not be 'religion' but even if it is it is not about the correct understanding of 'scripture' its not esoteric, no gnostics hiding under the floor boards, just check into your nearest zen dojo and practice meditation. I recommend 'sarf London' on a monday night, click on the zen link, some people think the Buddha was born in Japan....he wasn't.

2.Note on books...best to order and borrow from the library, get second hand second best, buy new and photocopy, third....books its about enjoyment not consumption, an article in todays neo-liberal Economist reveals on the environmental problems associated with pulp for paper. So decommodifiy your book use. We will move on to the rest of the economy as time progresses.

Issan Dorsey

'In my experience, many people come to Zen practice because they love the stories of Zen masters of long ago. They love reading about outrageous teachers who said strange things and acted in even stranger ways, seeming like children, fools, and even madmen to the rest of society.

It has also been my experience that while we love these characters that lived long ago, we don't love them so much while they're still living. We don't always love our present day madmen and eccentrics, for these are the people who manifest our shadow. They live in the cracks - nor just of our society but of our psyche. They put in our faces certain qualities we'd prefer not to see - a refusal to conform, a refusal to 'grow up,' a human being who ignores conventions and acceptable standards of behavior and make up his life as he goes along.

I think of Issan Dorsey as the shadow in many people's lives. He was a drug addict, he was gay, he appeared in drag, and he died of AIDS. For many years he lived right on the edge, befriending junkies, drag queens and alkies who lived precariously like him, on the fringes of society. When he died, a Zen teacher and priest, he was still befriending and caring for those whom our society rejected then and continues to reject no, people ill with the AIDS virus.

I often think of Issan as a combination of Lenny Bruce and the Dalai Lama.'

Bernie Glassman in the preface to 'Street Zen: The Life and Times of Issan Dorsey' David Schneider. Shambhala Press: New York. 2000.

Well, I am not sure I would compare some one's sexual preference with their junk habit, and I guess given the fact that the Dalai Lama has come out as a homophobe Issan is more like a mix of Lenny Bruce and Lenny Bruce!

Incidentally which religious figure does Issan remind you of? Hung out with 'deviants', was not afraid of up setting authority...

1 comment:

BrightHeart said...

Just as ash does not become firewood after it is ash, so after one's death, one does not return to life again" dogen-zenji At Issan's funeral about 400 folks showed up. Asked to tell stories about 40 people spoke, half of them said "he was my best friend." One distinctive voice I recognised and couldn't figure out how he had known Issan so I went and inquired. He said he had only met him once, but felt truely heard and accepted.
I still haven't recovered from the first hug he gave me, or him kissing me as I walked up to introduce him at a public lecture, his mountain seat ceremony (confirmation as abbot) or sitting with his body for three days after he died.
"nevertheless flowers fall with our attachments, and weed spring up with our aversions. dogen"

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