Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

The Book of Equanimity - Foreword

Illuminating Classic Zen Koans

Foreword

Attention! Master Jizo asked Hogen, “Where have you come from?” “I pilgrimage aimlessly,” replied Hogen. “What is the matter of your pilgrimage?” asked Jizo. “I don’t know,” replied Hogen. “Not knowing is the most intimate,” remarked Jizo. At that, Hogen experienced great enlightenment.
—Case 20 of the Book of Equanimity

I met Gerry Wick at the Zen Center of Los Angeles in the early 1970s, during the time when I was studying with Taizan Maezumi Roshi. He had just arrived in California from London, England, where he had worked as a physicist and science editor for a magazine while studying Zen with Sochu Suzuki Roshi, a disciple of Soen Nakagawa Roshi. He had received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California-Berkeley in the 1960s and soon began to work at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. At ZCLA, Maezumi Roshi gave him the Buddhist name Shishin, which means “lion heart.”

This was the early 1970s, and hippies were far more common than scientists at the Zen center. Shishin stood out. Eventually, Maezumi Roshi put him in charge of the administration of both the Zen Center of Los Angeles and the Kuroda Institute for the Study of Buddhism and Human Values. In 1990, Shishin Wick succeeded Maezumi Roshi in his lineage, becoming full heir to his Dharma.

I recall during that time that Shishin wrote a scientific paper on tornadoes—not those born of the meeting of warm, moist Gulf air with cold Canadian air or the dry air from the Rockies, but rather tornadoes created by cars going speedily in different directions on the Los Angeles freeways, seeding dramatic swings in wind patterns, which were, in fact, small tornadoes. You might say that at that time tornadoes were also coming out of the vortex of the Zen Center of Los Angeles, not due to freeway traffic but the traffic going back and forth across the Pacific. Japanese and American teachers and practitioners were bringing their Zen from Asia to America and back to Asia again. The impact of Japanese Zen on America is clear. Important Japanese teachers introduced the Dharma to thousands of new students in this country. And even in those days America was beginning to have some perceptible impact on Japan. American practitioners were seen by certain Japanese teachers largely as more sincere, energetic, and committed to realizing the Buddha Way than their Japanese counterparts. Americans like Shishin were invigorating the practice with fresh ideas and inquisitiveness and exploring the very essence of Buddhism. And that caused turbulence.

This American Zen master who as a Zen student once wrote so cleanly and scientifically about tornadoes on Los Angeles freeways now turns his scientific eye to what lies at the center of the twisters of our minds, the twisters of our lives. In the present book, Shishin provides an incisive Western commentary on a collection of koans, poems, and thoughts developed in China many centuries ago. Known as the Book of Equanimity, this twister has equanimity at its core—the equanimity that arises out of the state of not knowing, which is, as Master Jizo says in the epigraph, the most intimate.

Shishin Wick brings to this important work the depth, precision, and the true vision of the scientist who always stands ready to question everything, never satisfied with platitudes or old standards. He exemplifies the relentless clarity of the teacher challenging us to start afresh in each moment and unabashedly explore in these koans the essence of Zen—and the essence of our lives—in our own words, in the time, culture, and places where we find ourselves.

After receiving Dharma transmission, Shishin moved to Colorado where he started his own Zen center in an area known for its thunderstorms and violent weather. He is now a roshi, which is the highest designation a teacher can receive in our lineage. Yet even now, Roshi Shishin Wick never stops questioning, never stops learning, never stops not knowing. And with great clarity and elegance in this valuable and highly enjoyable commentary, he invites us to do the same.

Bernie Glassman
Montague, Massachusetts
Fall 2004

 

How to cite this document:
© Gerry Shishin Wick, The Book of Equanimity (Wisdom Publications, 2005)

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