Hi. I’m Jeff Kōgen Seul, a teacher at the Greater Boston Zen Center. I post my talks and other musings about Zen here. Turning words in Zen prompt realization. Your mileage may vary, but I thought it was a catchy name for a Zen blog.
Tibetan Buddhist monks taught me to meditate in the late 1980s. Having been raised a Roman Catholic and studied with the Jesuits, I soon learned of the Christian contemplative tradition (through a book by a Zen teacher) and met the Trappist monk Thomas Keating, who had participated in some of the first sustained dialogues among Christian monastics and Japanese Zen teachers. I practiced Centering Prayer under Keating’s guidance for a few years, while also sitting with Zen practitioners and practicing Kyudo (Zen archery) as a student of Kanjuro Shibata XX, Sensei, the Imperial Bowmaker of Japan.
After years of formal Zen practice, I ultimately became a student of Kevin Jiun Hunt Roshi, another participant in those early encounters among Christian monastics and Japanese Zen teachers–and the first North American Trappist monk also to become a Zen teacher himself. I eventually received dharma transmission from Jiun Hunt, Roshi. I am a teacher and preceptor in the White Plum lineage of Taizan Maezumi Roshi.
The Zen path is dynamic and ever evolving. I embrace Zen’s ancient forms, practices, and teachings as they have been transmitted to us from China and Japan, as well as contemporary turns of the Dharma Wheel, including Engaged Buddhism and ways in which Zen has been enriched by contemporary encounters with other traditions. As Zen Master Keizan wrote seven centuries ago, “Don’t just long for the past–avail yourself of the present day to practice Zen.”
I’ve thought and written a lot about conflict and peacebuilding, including the relationships among religion, conflict, and peace. I spent a couple of years (1995-1997) at Harvard Divinity School studying comparative religion, ethics, and conflict resolution, then taught conflict resolution at Harvard Law School (where I also studied) for a few years. I still teach part-time at Harvard today, with a focus on negotiating across worldviews. I also serve as co-chair and contribute to the fieldwork of the Peace Appeal, an NGO that supports peace and national dialogue processes in countries afflicted by, or at risk of, violent conflict. My day job is practicing corporate law at a big firm, where I lead our tech industry group.
p.s. In case you’re wondering, Kōgen is the Dharma name my teacher gave me when I became a teacher. He had the image of a flame in darkness. There isn’t a succinct way to translate that into classical Chinese, the language from which these names are usually derived, even today. Kōgen means light source.