Julie Honmei Snider
I looked for a teacher my whole life, although I didn’t know that was what I was looking for. Like Dogen says, until you are shown, you don’t know.
I like Dogen because he tells me how it is and I don’t have to understand. He’s critical of everything except practice. I resonate to that. I haven’t mastered it in the same way, but I appreciate that, like a bodhisattva who hates suffering, he makes no exceptions or compromise. I also appreciate his intensity and that he wrote so much. I like that his writing is so sharp it’s like science. He describes reality. I like that he loves Buddhism.
Nyogen Roshi has said that his teacher, Maezumi Roshi, might have been Dogen reincarnated. I don’t know Maezumi, but he is my hero. It’s easy to have a hero you’ve never met, but just looking at his face in pictures, hearing our Roshi give us Maezumi’s teachings, and seeing the profound love Roshi has for him makes it that way. Maezen said once that I meet Maezumi every day in Roshi. Roshi also told us that Maezumi gave him Dogen’s and Tendo Nyojo’s characters in his name.
Roshi gave me the name of a Chinese nun, Ben Ming, with the Japanese pronunciation, Honmei. Ben Ming’s teacher was Yuan Wu. They both speak to me. I read Yuan Wu’s letters and he is always where I am. Phrases from his letters are still working themselves out and come back to me, surfacing years later. He inspires me and encourages me. He poses questions in a way that make me want to find out. He draws on teachers continuously and brings out the family.
Ben Ming is also the name of one of our Sangha sisters. I really like that. She has a powerful practice and I like to be near her. The poem of the original Ben Ming is very beautiful. It transforms affliction into wisdom and takes away fear. She gives good instruction. She is also very encouraging and compassionate. I loved her before Roshi gave me her name. He knew somehow.
I can’t express my gratitude to him. I know we all feel that way. I feel like the aim of my practice is to realize the koan of the seventh ancestor. It is about no separation between teacher and student. I am so green I have nothing but that feeling and aspiration, just gratitude that we have this teacher and this temple.