A VISHWA DHARMA ZEN LESSON: Zen Mind is not just for Buddhist

October 17, 2013 by  

What is Enlightenment magazine Centerfold

This depiction of Roshi Kitabu Turner was featured in EnlightenmentNext magazine. It was the centerfold of the issue.

There was a time, an eternity ago, when my quest to embrace The Way was a secret quest. I was alone in my experimentation, aware only that I was being guided to step into the unknown with certainty. Since no one knew what I was doing there was no one to criticize my approach. My intuition, faith and scriptures were my only companions along the mysterious path.

There is always something mysterious about The Way, whether it is called the “Do” of Aikido or Karate-do, The Tao or simply Religion, the essence of the spiritual path is the dynamic Unknown. The means by which we attain this path beyond mind is called The Way by many seekers of Truth.

Jesus Christ declared, “I am The Way, the truth and the life… no man comes unto The Father (The Supreme Mystery) but by me. “

The Bible gives us a clue to the inner-meaning of this statement. The first verse of The Gospel of John reads:

"In the beginning was The Word." A few sentences down it reads, “and The Word became flesh and came and dwelt among men…“

The Word and Jesus Christ are not two. The Word and The Way are one. Through the ages The Word moves and speaks through vehicles God chooses or calls for that purpose. When the mind accords with its Original Nature God ordained for Man, our actions are naturally spiritual without any need for external or “learned” means. There is a vast difference between teaching The Way and living The Way. I have found that teaching, by its very nature, evokes dualism in the mind, if only temporarily. This phenomenon creates a “catch-22” for the teacher, a glaring contradiction that both student and master must overcome.

Many times people questioned how I can be both a Christian and a Zen Master. The question pre-supposes that there is a contradiction between the two ways. The real problem is that people forget that the experience which we call spiritual can not be defined or limited as we can define and limit that which is called Religion. Religion has a dogmatic and historical framework while the spiritual path leads to the realization of the Beginning-less and indefinable nature of being. We approach Religion with our mind.

Kitabu Roshi in German Lutheran Church

Kitabu Roshi attends a German Lutheran Church.

Yet, inherent in the study of Religion is the impetus to reach far beyond our intellectual capacity to connect with That which the mind can never comprehend or wrap itself around. It is here where most worshippers fail the test.

Strictly religious people never progress beyond the study of The Written Word to unite with The Living Word which preceded The Book, whether we are referring to The Bible of Christians, The Koran of Muslims or any book deemed as a Holy Writ. Perhaps those who approach God exclusively through written notes think that it is impossible to connect with The Author in person. Yet the purpose of scriptures is to lead to the transformation that restores the reader and worshipper to the original living link to The Divine Presence. When a Christian accepts Christ as savior it is proof that the pure essence of The Word can be received person to person.. Christians are familiar with the admonition to become “living epistles,” living scriptures. This is not a command to become a walking tape recorder of the Kings James Version, a person able to quote any scripture at will. However, if we would live by the spirit of The Scriptures ourselves our lives would reflect The Way of The Lord as a matter of course, without effort or conscious design. The Way did not create Religion. The Way is a means of Transformation and Redemption for Mankind. Mankind creates Religion as a tool for rediscovering his spiritual roots. We have arbitrarily bound ourselves by attempting to confine The Endless Mystery of God to a comfortable framework for our minds. The Spirit restores man to wholeness, Religions, like the ego-mind, divides. Religion is a function of people Spirituality is the light of an individual…the one.

In Japanese, a lanquage God also speaks, there are the words, joriki and tariki. Joriki refers to inner-power while tariki refers to outer-power. Zen is usually associated with inner-power, thus traditionally, Zen study does not include mention of “Other” power or God. In, itself, this is not a cause for alarm if you believe in God. It is a matter of specialization. Tariki, on the otherhand draws its strength from faith in Other power, ie: God. This is akin to what Jesus points to as The Kingdom of Heaven which is within man, and The Kingdom of God as an objectified destination. While Christianity, like Islam, underscores God as the focus for the efforts of believers, The scriptures, themselves, also point to an inner-path. For example, The Bible tell those who embrace Jesus Christ) that the disciple or saint can also “Let this mind which was also in Christ Jesus be in you…”.

Experiencing the same mind as Christ would transform anyone from a secondary position of faith to oneness with the Father (The Supreme). That person would instantly enjoy the same perception of Reallity as Jesus. While this view is verified by the teachings of Christ who said, “I and my Father are one. I would ye be one as we are one.” The religious mind can not pass through this barrier. The Prophet Muhammad is a barrier to orthodoxed Muslims, Buddha is a barrier to most Buddhists and Jesus Christ as perceived by the average believer stands between the disciple and the goal Jesus outlined as their birthright. “The disciple can not be greater than the master but he can be LIKE the master.” Spiritual barriers are only in the mind.

A door swings two ways. We may use it to go within or we may use it to go outside. Lao Tze taught that “The Tao is a way of return.” If you go within, your journey is not complete until you return to “the marketplace with bliss bestowing hands,” Zen masters say. You must return to your starting place.. “Go ye therefore into the world, teaching and preaching whatsoever, I have taught you…” Jesus said.

It is not the nature of The Way to be a means of escape. The fulfillment of man is not escaping into heaven but making a roundtrip. Our work is right here in the world where we first found ourselves, tilling the soil, screaming over a touchdown, shouting hallelujah on Monday morning. Zen is a prescription for the mind of man.

A clean window casts only shadows when covered by a shade or curtain. If you have a brand new computer with Windows 95 as the operating system you will not get Windows 7/8 capability, even if you just took the CPU from the box. While your spirit may be quickened and redeemed by your faith in The Lord, himself, your mind will still see the world according to its past programming. You will experience a greater dichotomy between right and wrong, good and evil but this will in no way help you defeat the disease Jesus diagnosed as a double-mind. Now you are even more deeply torn mentally, than ever before. How do we escape this dilemma?

The conflicts we hear about in the world today are not just the results of infidels who claim no God but often the opposite. Many conflicts arise between those who interpret God differently. They are willing to destroy each other because of those perceived differences. Man has always been fighting over his perceptions of what God wants. He has expressed jealousy and rage when others differed in their view of The Author of Life and Creation.. In Christianity we site the story of Cain and Abel, two brothers who offered God very different gifts? Abel gave a sacrifice that pleased God. Cain did not. Rather than learn from his error he killed his brother and became the first murderer. Such conflicts have less to do with God than our misunderstanding of what is being asked of us.

The mind is not properly the teacher of our spirit. What we think, if clung to, is of no value in awakening us spiritually. Mind should always be the student of The Spirit. Its proper attitude should be humility and shoshin. We should maintain beginner’s mind as the late, Master Shunryu Suzuki taught. That is a great lesson to practice. Maintain beginner’s mind.

You may have felt something within you leap when you came in contact with the teachings for the first time. If this is so, it is this something within you that must be allowed to flower.

A Roshi or Guru can only water a seed and cast light upon it. They do not choose the plant or flower you will become, the answer is locked within the seed, itself. Unlike the seeds of the plant kingdom which produce millions of clones, the seed within you produces a one of the kind, never before seen plant…and no one will ever see it unless you allow it to blossom.

This single seed in you is the one thought (nen in Japanese).This consciousness I refer to is the primordial self before the birth of your mother and father, so I am not speaking of your body nor the memories you think are you. Like all who are born on this planet you have become so thoroughly identified with form and thought that you are unable to experience the deeper aspects of LIFE. If a single thought (nen) is you. What happens when that one thought is divided?

Zen is living in the immediacy of an experience, direct contact with life at its source without hesitation, deliberation or conscious effort. It is acting with the totality of our being with nothing left over or held back. This is impossible to achieve with a double-mind, a mind attempting to monitor or control an experience while it is taking place.

The spiritual path, for which the word Zen is indicative does not depend on logic for its success. I underscore this despite the fact we are able to use logic to illustrate points about Zen, after we have a great satori. This ability to point to things beyond the reach of intellect using constructs from the mind is not just the hallmark of Zen Buddhist literature. Jesus spoke in parables to illustrate spiritual truths and gurus tell elaborate stories to illuminate the minds of their students.

Internally, Christianity, Zen, the martial arts are a seamless thread to me. There is no need for me to divide myself. Here I am reminded of the words of Sant Keshavadas, “Neti neti.” “Not this, not that.” To have attachment to labels is to disrupt the flow of life giving Spirit by constructing conscious barriers to impede the natural flow. Labels are what Other beings use in their attempt to “comprehend” your actions. If you fall prey to this practice yourself, you will block enlightenment. If you read this far, you are being drawn to the inner path, The Kingdom of Heaven. This is the Original Home of Adam, which is Hebrew for Man. It has always been here within you It has always been accessible. Deception and ignorance blinded us to it. The Light is within and without.

"The Light shineth in the darkness but the darkness comprehendeth it not.”

The Gospel of John

“I am the light of the world…”

Jesus Christ

From my vantage point I perceive the Light within as impersonal realization and The Christ as personiflication. From the standpoint of impersonal realization I can say with the authority and forcefulness of Gotama Buddha ...

"In the heavens above, in the earth below, I, alone, and the most honored one."

It may shock many people that I speak of Zen using The Bible as a reference more than I do any other source. It is an absolute must that I am true to my own experience. I was born to the practice of Dhyana (Zen) before I knew of such a path. I was raised in and found my spiritual life through Christ. Since my spiritual connection was a living one brought to life in my childhood by a personal encounter with The Living Christ, the profound nature of this darshan, not dogma, became the foundation of my spiritual strength. The Mind became my life-long study. I was ripe to meet Zen Master, Nomura Roshi and primed to absorb his teachings in a flash. When I encountered Sadguru Sant Keshvadas ten years later he told me I was chosen and proceeded to prepare me for my personal mission. He made several things clear. There was no need for me to alter my Zen approach to practice, nor my Christian heritage. I accepted Nomura Roshi, Sadguru Sant Keshavadas and all the spiritual personages who ever blessed my life as extentions of my original darshan with Christ at nine years old. I extended this humble acceptance of teachers and supporters not just to those who appeared to me in flesh and blood but recognized that all buddhas, past, present and future as well, were manifestations of The Single Mind of the Cosmos. Without a religious mind to block the avenues of revelation, Truth can be sipped from many vessels. God is one. The lover of The Divine can find his beloved no matter what disguise is worn. “Try the spirit by the spirit to see, if it be of God,” the scripture warns. To do this we must learn to measure things with our spirit, not the mind but how?

Gurus appear in every culture and Religion. There is no need for a guru to denounce his culture or native Religion to do his work. By staying were he is, a guru can expand the vision of his people and still reach out to everyone who comes to him. A guru may be born to a particular religion but he belongs to no religion. He is an emissary of God.” His body is born of flesh but inwardly he is Spirit…The Unborn. He is like Melchezedec, with no beginning or end of life…Tathagatha, in Sanskrit, a being who comes and goes without a trace. A guru is a being God sends into the world to dispel darkness from the mind. In effect the guru is the personification of God’s Mind, Cosmic Mind, Buddha Mind, call it what you will. When you sit before the guru, you are in the presence of that Spiritual Mind. Wisdom, radiant emptiness, life without form or phenomenon revealing moment by moment through the form and personality of the one who is called guru, secrets of The Way.

In a few simple words … but more explicitly by his actions Sant Keshavadas outlined the nature of gurus, my nature. I should teach and speak only what comes unimpeded from The Source of Being. The Chosen teachers are spiritual emissaries sent to shed light on the condition of Man not to court his favor by seeking agreement with his mind. To speak and act from this traceless source is what is indicated by the word, Zen.

The grasping mind of man always seek to define things and people as well. Yet, you the student of The Way must not see definitions. Definitions are only expression in words. You must also go beyond techniques, they are frozen movements without life. If you want to live life as it bubbles up from the fountain you must stop clinging to words and ideas and drink life as it comes.

From the strict standpoint of Religion the world would see Sant Keshavadas as a Hindu. He was never Hindu with me. For over twenty years I yielded to his guidance and all I experienced was The Wind of The Spirit blowing through a human vessel. This was his example to me. Throughout those years, I went to church even when I lived in the temple. I practiced Zen and martial arts and read my Bible with only encouragement from the master…and the cosmic path became clearer.

I did not meditate to become a Buddhist or Hindu or even a better Christian. It was more simple than that. My soul demanded that I turn my mind to the silence within. It was a delicious longing to return but no place was indicated. I just knew without knowing that home was not what I saw with my eyes. As far as I was concerned this was a private matter that concerned no one but me. Strange how the world fights to destroy our access to our own soul. What does the world fear? How does it block us?

You must enter the path from where you are. Where are your feet right now? I never doubted the existence of God or the mission and person of Jesus Christ so I started from right there. It is because I know Jesus well that I also know that as the Son of God and the Son of Man he was not just attuned to the Godhead, he was by default, an enlightened human being

While salvation is freely given to those who ask for it, enlightenment is not a gift. As a little boy I began the quest for enlightenment. The moment that quest began I was off the radar of The Church. The church promotes and provides maintenance for the “saved.” Enlightenment is not on its agenda. God did not assign that work to The Church.

"To some he sent preachers. To others he sent teachers. How can they hear without a preacher? How can they learn without a teacher?"

People can hear a preacher. They can repeat what they hear and memorize it. The work of a teacher is largely done in the spirit. It is passed on without words. Who can comprehend that? In that context this statement about The Buddha may be clear.

The Buddha preached for over 40 years but never spoke a word.

In my experience the teacher does not educate the mind, he helps us defeat it so that it can be brought under the authority of The Spirit. The student of The Way is a spiritual warrior not a sheep. He faces the greatest battle there is, the battle over the world-trained mind.

If you can remember this one thing then you will know why you need not worry about what others think of your path to realization…They Think. When you are called to this path your steps are ordered by Heaven’s will not by man nor your own. You need only refer to the deep movement within you that no one but you knows about. Trust this alone.

You can only get there from where you are. If the Non-theistic Zen approached worked for you you would not be here. If dedication to church service was all you need you would not be here. If your devotion to the way of the warrior fed the hunger of your soul you would not be reading this. You are a person who needs a holistic message…but you already feel the Truth of it.

Do not analyze these lessons, do not block, just sip from this tea and smell its aroma. Then leave your computer and do what you will. There is garbage in the can. Take it out. Play with the children, kiss your wife. Take a walk. It is with you in all these activities but don’t seek it in thought. If you do, it will flee far away, "as far away as the east is from the west."

I have two favorite words:


They are matched by a different yet equal realization without equivocation…


You are the only one reading this. Which of these statements is the absolute TRUTH?

There is plenty of Religious talk about peace and love but it is very hard to see the evidence in day to day life. It is popular to quote Zen writings these days. The ancient masters wrote sparkling treasures but where is the Zen writing today? None can be written to illuminate the darkness without genuine enlightenment. There can be no realization until there is no “you” left to recognize the process. Jesus said, “Take no thought!” There is no truer Zen instruction than that. Buddha was not a Buddhist. He was Siddharta Gotama. Jesus was not a Christian, He was Jesus of Nazareth. When thoughts fall away there is no designation left. Just this…No Thought…No Mind, is what we mean by Zen. Zen is like lightening. By the time you formulate your mouth to say the word…it is gone.

When Christ appeared to me when I was nine there was no instruction given. He looked into my eyes and I understood. The first time I spoke I fell headlong from grace. If you have read this far you need to remember but this. Chew words, swallow them, digest them. Then head for the nearest toilet and sit. By the time they flush out the other end, you will be right where you need to be .


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