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Dale Pendell - A Raven in the Dojo

Dale Pendell - A Raven in the Dojo

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Published by: galaxy5111 on Aug 20, 2010
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Dale Pendell:
***** *****When I think of Gary, I think of his grin. A wonderfully devilishgrin. I think I will start with that. . . .*****A lot of our best conversationswere when we were squatting, inwhat's been called Asian-style-just squatting on the flatsof our feetfollowing the innuendosof an idea: Gary'seyesgetting narrowerand narrower ashisgrin, contra-wise, grew wider and moredevilish.*****Gary'sability to fit small piecestogether into big, coherentpicturesisstunning. Interconnections. Art of reading signs, andthe signsinterlinking history, biology, politics, poetry, andBuddhism. Wildernessof pathsand pathless.A facility with ideasthat impressed and delighted again andagain, kind of like watching Hesse's
in real time.*****I went along with Gary on one of hisreading trips to SierraCollege. We parked in the parking lot, and aswe were walkingtoward the classrooms, we passed a red Porsche. Gary cast an eyeover it and mentioned how someone invested a great deal of work and money to have that machine. Well, we were all living withoutelectricity, pumping our water, hoping that our carswouldn'tcollapse the next time we drove down the Fire AccessRd., so aPorsche wasthe same thing asa Lamborghini or a Ferrari, and inthe same class asany Chevrolet newer than ten yearsold, so Iforgot about it.Eventually we got to a classand Gary started talking. He said,"What isit that motivatesus?Why do we do things?" And so on.Why do some people become corporate executives and others,well, I can't really remember, biologistsor artists, but the answerwasthat it was because of a feeling-to be in contact with a power.And then he talked about that car. How for some people, it wasdriving a red sports car that gave them the feeling of being aliveand in contact with the other power.And from that he built a whole delivery connecting eco-politicsto everyday life, connecting the Pleistocene up through thePaleolithic to the exponential equationsof fossil fuel consumption.*****
Gary hasbeen one of the outstanding missionaries(Gary wouldloathe that word) of Zen Buddhism in the United States. A lot of it washisalter ego, Japhy Ryder, but that doesn't diminish theaccomplishment. It wasnatural for people to look to Gary asa Zenteacher.*****On San Juan Ridge, hereafter to be called the Ridge, where Garyand Masa dug in at Kitkitdizze, zazen and study groupswere a partof the life that Gary shared with hisneighbors. Small group sitseveningsor early mornings, bundled figuresin the meadow tuckedin around the manzanita, hordesof demonic mosquito-demonssurrounding each. Study groupsgroping up through the threebodies: the
, the
, and the
. Onand off. Like so many of our practices, but mostly on. And Garyand Masa maintaining a regular sitting practice themselvesthroughthe timeswhen there wasno group sitting.*****Many actsof kindness. Gary isone of the more generousmen thatI've known. Generouswith hishospitality, and generouswith histime and resources. And professionally generous: Many timesI'veseen Gary mention or credit an unknown colleague or comrade ina paper or at a reading when such mention wasdemanded neitherby law nor by decorum.*****Teaching really meansexample. Study groups, theory, history; allthat isimportant, but the nitty-gritty isthe way the individualteacher moves. One time, in the time before Aitken Roshi cameto Ring of Bone, I asked Gary for formal koan instruction. He de-clined, saying that, technically, he wasn't qualified. I have alwaysheld that response asa mark of Gary'sgreat personal integrity. Andasthe yearshave passed, my appreciation of the gesture hasincreased.*****Gary'sstyle tended toward samurai, and not everyone wascomfortable with it. That no-nonsense, no frills, no mushy-mushystyle from Japanese Rinzai. But let'snot confuse style andsubstance. What I appreciated waswhen Gary would hold back,let someone else try something, even bungle it, when he couldhave done it right anytime. That kind of teaching. Keeping quietin a discussion. Not that Gary didn't alwaysget his way. . . .Well, almost always.*****We sat together one night a week, and had group discussions,usually at Gary'shouse around the fire pit, different onesof us
leading, crouching lower and lower to the floor if the fire wassmoky. And sitting Rohatsu. Working
Coming overeach evening, sitting, sleeping over and sitting again in themorning. The last morning we alwayshiked up to Bald Mountain,usually cold, sometimesfrozen, a line of ragged men and womenthreading their way through the darknessto chant andcircumambulate the stone circle shrine as the sun rose, conchesblowing, birdsstarting, fingersstiff.*****And one year, can't remember which, there were enough of us,the sitting wasregular enough, that we began doing other
Experimented. Gary had built a barn, so we dubbed it the"barndo" and had some sleep-over
there.*****Style. Gary'sunsuccessful effort to keep socksout of the barndo.Bob Greensfelder wondering about the acceptability of down jackets(they rustle). Then came the Great Cold, frozen airdrafting through every crack in the wallsand doors, ice forming inthe teacups, ahhh, Gary still barefoot. . . .With all the layersof clothing, we'd really lay into the
,the cracks reverberating through the dawn. "The best
isaLouisville slugger planed down." I think Steve Nemirow said that.*****There wasa feeling expressed by some folkson the Ridge that theZen thing wasfor "Gary and hisboys," and that to do it one hadto be "tough."
one of the boys, I think thiswas untrue andunfair.On the other hand, though, there
something, what wasit,the stocking/barefoot thing?Some hint or feeling that "dharmacombat" might, ultimately, be decided by pugilism. . . .Sigh.*****So gradually zazen became more regular. Gary had a vision, and hegave the vision a name. "Ring of Bone." Named for the poem byLew Welch and expressed at an anniversary of his disappearance.We were having
in the “barndo,” sleepingover, sitting all weekend. We were preparing ourselves, and whenat a businessmeeting Gary casually brought up the subject of teachers, there wasa lot of interest. We talked for a while,different onesof ussuggesting thisteacher or that: Would Sasakicome up from L.A.?Would. . . who else?Can't remember. ThenGary told usabout Robert Aitken, that he'd been correspondingwith him.*****

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