My Passionate Dream - Zen practice for future educators

Kido Inoue

Translated by Misako Nakatsuka


Throughout history educational institutions played a major role to promoting learning, developing and diversifying the body of human knowledge. As early as the 8th century, Buddhist monasteries led by Kobo-Daishi and Saicho served as highly advanced centers for teaching spiritual culture in Japan.
Likewise, individuals such as Shakyamuni Buddha in the sixth centuries B.C. in India, Confucius in China, Aristotle in Greece developed sophisticated insight about the intellect and mind and imparted their knowledge to their students.
However, it was the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge that truly focused on the comprehensive and systematic development of human intellectual power, becoming leading educational institutions in the world. To use the parlance of Zen, they acted as the Masters of Old in pushing limits and generating new intellectual power across a variety of disciplines.
Propelled with new discoveries, human beings went on to achieve further progress in science and technology. And that progress has created the basis of modern civilization. In other words, modern civilization epitomizes the relentless intellectual pursuit and tenacious effort of humankind. And undoubtedly it has brought great benefits to our life.
The central benefit being that modern science and technology freed people, at least in industrialized countries, from strenuous labor for sheer survival. However, while that in itself is certainly a gratifying development, the purpose of education must not be limited to intellectual development alone.

Endangered Minds in Modern Civilization

Modern civilization has witnessed its zenith over the last twenty to thirty years. Although we benefit from it in every sphere of our life, its downsides have grown increasingly more serious as well. As if to write off some bad debts, we have been pressed to develop even more new technology.
This happens because the pursuit of technological progress and resultant material affluence is mistakenly glorified as the central purpose of life. Science and technology is neither superior nor essential to the essence of what makes us human. However, their primacy over mind/spirit is rampant and manifested in a deteriorating environment, depleting resources, and polluting foodstuff, just to name a few. On the psychic front, it is reflected in loss of confidence, absence of appreciation, no sense of high-minded mission and public responsibility, and a diminishing sense of social order and community spirit. The spiritual foundations underpinning the individual are being progressively debilitated and destroyed. The fundamentals for nurturing a wholesome mind/spirit is undermined at home, school and work. Human dignity is pushed aside which inevitably withers spirituality. When our mind is out of balance, we lose confidence. A sense of interconnectedness with others disappears: we lose mutual trust, respect and appreciation. Under such circumstances, it is impossible to expect our actions to reflect truth, goodness, beauty, love, courage and justice. Loneliness afflicts even family life. Often it is no longer where one can feel at home. Without self-esteem, philosophy and dignity, so many people are running to escape from their anxiety, trying to buy one distraction after another. Some continue to remain immature adult children; they are not even capable of raising of their own children.
Parenting is the most powerful human instinct built into our nature. It is an expression of nature, without which the human species is doomed to extinction. Contaminated by modern civilization, however, our inherent, wholesome and natural human instinct is obstructed from spontaneous release.

However, winding the clock backward and denying modern civilization is not the answer as there is nothing inherently wrong with modern civilization itself. We cannot blame modern science and technology. The culprit is our impoverished mind/heart that use them.

The fundamental solution to this contemporary problem lies in education. Education must claim the primacy of mind/heart and focus on cultivating minds. Many universities today take pride in producing high academic achievers who later become leading academics, scientists or engineers. That has been their focus; intellectual development is indeed important in its own right. However, what educators need to take stock of is that their same focus produced the centrality and the primacy of science and technology.
Education biased to intellectual competence might be a great asset to business. But if that educational approach ignores wholesome personality development, it would eventually cost a huge penalty to society and history of humankind. More importantly, it devalues and destroys human mind/heart. It is about time that the educators, scientists and engineers become aware of the danger inherent in their limiting endeavors.

Proposal to set up a new education course in the Harvard Graduate School

It is against this background that I propose to set up a course for future educators at the Harvard Graduate School. The course offers the opportunities for mind/heart development, using both academic and experiential approaches. Students are introduced to the personal, direct experience of self-examination through Zen meditation practice. It allows them to understand that their human nature or their underlying Root existence lies beyond what things or modern science and technology can define. This self-knowledge raises awareness into the simple order of human nature that naturally emerges by itself. Inspired, they could then set out to explore the educational philosophy that honors that simplicity of being.

We are in desperate need for an educational philosophy that encourages natural, spontaneous and wholesome development of our children. We also need a systematic framework for its implementation on global scale. The development work, however, must begin with individuals involved in examining their own minds. Lack of self-examination is precisely the problem in education courses today. And this feeds into a school setting that pays little attention to human nature.

Why Zen meditation?

Zen meditation enables penetration beyond intellectual learning, while honoring intellectual learning. It cultivates the power of mind; it sharpens our intellectual perception but is not restricted by it. More often than not, we are imprisoned by our learning. We tend to think and speak only through the frameworks we have learned. This happens because our acquired knowledge still remains un-integrated and has not been kneaded into our mind/heart. Intellectual learning is fragmented; it is a mere constellation of knowledge stored in the realm of intellect.

Why does this happen to us?

We need to be aware that intellect has its own limitation in grasping whole scope of mind/heart. Intellect is instrumental in analyzing, conceptualizing and theorizing about the world - a useful tool to discriminate A from B. But if addressed through the realm of intellect alone, the mind/heart inevitably desiccate into an arid landscape.
Zen meditation fosters mind strength to deconstruct and then drop one's conceptual constructs after assimilating useful aspects and extracting nutrition out of them. In other words, the mind can freely incorporate new learnings and use them, enriching our everyday living but the mind is no longer caught up by conceptual constructs. Zen practice allows us to move beyond the experience of intellectual learning while making full use of it. The focus needs to be on learning that self who is learning.

Intellect cannot know intellect just as our eyes do not know themselves that they are eyes. Only way of ultimate knowing is through direct, embodied experience of reidan-jichi which literally translates as `one feels cold and warm by oneself alone`, meaning one`s knowing of `what is` is revealed to oneself alone.
Due to the purely individual nature of the experience, Zen defies any generalization. Nonetheless, Zen practice offers an enormously powerful vehicle to observe and illuminate our core being. And this self-knowledge permeates through as a profound understanding of other fellow human beings.

For those people aspiring to become authentic educators, confirming self-nature is of paramount importance. It is even more urgent if those same high-minded people aspire to transform society for the better through education. They need to develop an educational philosophy that honors their self-knowledge of who they truly are. Zen practice offers them the opportunity to acquire that self-knowledge through direct personal experience and validation, which is a timeless component to education.

The introduction of Zen practice in the education course, if realized, would be of great historical significance. It opens the possibility of shifting the focus toward saving the humankind (awakening to the Root self and saving the humankind).

Undoubtedly there will be many hurdles ahead of us. Without fighting the way through, however, only option left to us will be to writhe in agony, beset with the irreversible damage of human mind/heart.

More than any other time in history, the world is in desperate need of young, competent, fine leadership who are motivated for a life of high service. Not just few but many of them. We must not spare any effort to help develop such leadership. This is a matter of overriding priority. Otherwise, our negligence will lead to the downfall of humankind and the destruction of our planet earth.

A dualistic pattern of thinking pursued in academics and taught at school truncates the human spirit. The dualistic opposites such as good and evil are all relative. It is far too inadequate to develop a whole person, let alone transforming the world for better. We recognize its obsolete nature perhaps belatedly. But before too late, we could incorporate some of the wisdoms of the Eastern tradition in our educational setting.

This requires enormous courage and decisiveness. But it is the Way worth pursuing as our mission for the humankind.

Why the Harvard Graduate School?

The biggest reason is that Harvard is in America. Secondly, it is one of the world's best schools that attracts the brightest people from all over the world and has an excellent environment. Thirdly, Harvard has phenomenal influence in many different areas.

The reason why I think America ought to be a starting place is because America is the nation that appears to have the highest potential to try, experiment, and incorporate new ideas. If the idea inspires dreams, benefits our future generation and is effective, the nation would be ready to get on and develop the idea in a constructive manner. In addition, I wish to see America restore her health and exercise her leadership in the world. I wish to see America make giant strides to launch educational activities concerned with the security of humankind and the restoration of the planet earth. That is why I wish to start this course in America and at Harvard.

I have no official relationship with the school, other than a few contacts with the academics. However, I am determined to make an all-out effort to persuade the Chairman of the Board and the President in person. I trust in their caliber. With the funds for setting up the course presented to them, I intend to press on and tell them "You have no excuse not to do it. Your death is drawing close to you. Why don`t you make a once-in-lifetime commitment for the humankind before you leave this world?" I am confident that they will respond and say "We get your point. We will set up the course immediately!"

This is the beginning. And because this first step affects the extent to which the course can have influence worldwide, I believe the Harvard Graduate School is the most effective place to start.

The Outcome will be surprising!

Since this will be a curriculum advocating the edification of the heart/mind, we want to assemble only students of understanding and with a highly developed nature and who are highly motivated in the pursuit of cultivating the mind. When we begin investigating the ego/self in earnest, this will naturally incorporate actual practice. Actual practice is concrete representation; it means showing tangible results. With the passage of time, the gifted ones will begin to distinguish themselves. In other words, these people will experience a purification and reordering in their manner and attitude, to the extent that anyone can see from a glance the changes they are undergoing.
Accompanying this, understanding of the human condition will abruptly deepen, and fundamental discussions over educational issues proceed clearly. On one hand, one discovers the vastness of the mind; on the other hand, one becomes a student ready to thoroughly investigate the mind. Both are important.
Since these students will be the actual practitioners who are wholeheartedly investigating the ego/self, they should likewise be educated and guided carefully and thoroughly, because they are the talented ones who will be the future guides for the mind and the leaders for mankind.
In this way, two groups will actually be formed: one group of students for pure learning, and one group for short-term pure practice. Additionally, for the group of pure practitioners, two courses, one perhaps a half year in length and one perhaps a full year in duration, would be established and devoted purely to Zazen (Zen meditation) practice.
Since time is of the essence, quality is crucial. Needed are a dedicated place, experts in the field of study, and the time for students to devote their undivided attention. I would propose establishing a special dojo (training hall) at Ryusen-ji temple, located on the scenic and sacred mountain of Mount Shirotaki, near the city of Mihara in Hiroshima Prefecture, for groups of 10 students to devote themselves unsparingly to this practice.
There they can identify and establish: the original and unblemished condition of the mind; the instant it first engages; and clarify firsthand with actual experience each and every phenomenon perishing in that moment. Having accomplished this, they can return to their homelands and universities armed with theory; the substance of that theory to provide, ultimately, the groundwork for similarly aimed practicable curriculums in the students' own countries.

We will have to review education from the perspective of man's nature. And, based on information from the history and the state of affairs of each country, we will have to analyze each country's educational environment, educational system and our children's present condition. If our children have turned out well, it means our education fulfills its purpose.
For example, suppose the State of Washington proposes to reform its educational system. The first thing they will do is to analyze in detail all present curriculums. The weight of such an analysis rests in evaluating the degree of the student's maturity. To what extent has the student's human development been fostered? Has the student achieved autonomy and self-reliance? Has the current curriculum perhaps even hindered his growth? They would assess not only factors such as moral attitude and sense of justice, but also such qualities as responsibility, duty, perseverance, endeavor, and empathy; in other words, all essential qualities needed to educate and foster a well-rounded individual.
The crucial point is discerning the proper direction, not through reason or theory, but by being able to see if the child's original nature is developing naturally and sensibly. In order to acquire this kind of insight, it is necessary that the people actually doing the evaluating intimately know their own true nature. This is the reason for the utter necessity of the ability to investigate the ego/self.
After analyzing and evaluating the curriculum from this fundamental perspective, we will be able to elucidate thoroughly the present state of our children. This analysis will reveal considerable irregularity and deviation, reflecting the extent of the aberrations in the growth and development of our children.
Our true objective unfolds here; that is, considering at what age of the child and in what manner do we introduce certain components of curriculum stimulating their healthy growth and development and correct stunted growth.
The decision-making process for this objective must consider manifold factors: intellect, sensitivity, mental nature, balance between mind and body, and harmony with the environment. The basic research in grasping and analyzing all these factors will demand considerable time and a wealth of data.
If we use all of data gathered from basic research, which should not exclude values for functional anomalies, to develop universal formulas, it should be possible to reduce project time. For this, all researchers should share in the collective workload and collaborate in their research. All educational research centers would gather material and data from similarly related, cutting-edge governmental facilities to include for analysis.
If all the members of this research group were able to grasp in unanimity children's original nature, it would facilitate the process of examining how to foster a healthy human nature and investigating the conditions for realizing it. Consequently, all the diverse results of our research would jointly be able to expand. This would be the benefit of embarking on this project from the utter beginning and would provide proof of its universality.
To get the ball rolling, the new curriculum created by the group would be taken to the Departments of Education of each State. It would be extremely difficult for such a curriculum to find acceptability in Japan. But in America, where the good name of Harvard carries its influence, this curriculum could be solidly presented using the accumulated analytical data as a source, with added supplemental explanations of the important points. The network of Harvard graduates that extends well into the bureaucracy would surely be of great influence. If we were not able to convincingly present the curriculum, we would have to reflect on the inadequacy of our arsenal of theories.
As a preliminary test, I would have a trial with third grade elementary school students. If their progress is analyzed, the results will clearly show the difference. Then the school will naturally select a new curriculum. The only thing remaining is promoting political support.
It may also be necessary to request curriculums drawn up tailored for each state. If cultural differences between states are not broad, using the same curriculum shouldn't make much difference, in which case disseminating the curriculum in America would only be a matter of time.
Then, since the curriculum of the next target country would have already been completed, the cases of successful completions would be smoothly linked to ongoing implementation.
Fundamental ability will grow. From the application stage of the basic research, the group in a coordinated work distribution system will be engaged in research for drawing up each country's curriculum. Starting with a first class of ten students, in three years time the size of the classes may grow to as many as twenty. The significance and unmistaken tangible results of the curriculum will likely attract more and more attention, drawing highly capable students from around the world in planning and enlarging the program. In three years time, the teaching staff will probably reach close to twenty, and research centers will increase in both count and caliber forming a worldwide network. And naturally with professors from Oxford and Cambridge, and from renowned universities around the world, participating in some way, the new graduate study curriculum will go on establishing itself.

Unfortunately, however, Original Nature cannot be grasped when approached simply from the realm of the intellect. The ways and means available for researchers and educators are inadequate. And this is when those young, aspiring educators from Harvard who has experienced the direct, personal knowledge of their original nature can go and help.
If this curriculum could be implemented across the United States and tangible results produced, it would probably spread throughout the world through some form of United Nations leadership to enhance the fundamental good not only of all mankind and education, but of the earth and its future as well.
What is critical is evoking autonomy and self-reliance (initiative, self-discipline, ability to take responsibility for oneself) inherent in each child. This goes hand in hand with encouraging the natural, rich mind of the child's original nature for manifestation. At the same time, the quality of the whole intellectual educational system will by no means be compromised. Rather, healthy mind sustains hope, gentleness, patience, effort to enhance the quality of his/her being.
The ongoing process of purifying the mind enhances one's daily life. As one acquires a fondness for the environment and magnanimity toward differences in color and creed, sentiments of kindness and goodwill naturally unfold. When this happens, wars naturally die out.
Rather than like a gust of wind blowing off one's heavy mantle, it is like being enveloped by the sun's warm light: you naturally begin discarding your garments. Economic activity becomes more gentlemanlike, and we become more thoughtful toward others. The result: the world starts to settle down, and people even-temperedly contribute more and more to society's needs.
This kind of mind is called "The Mind of the Great Vehicle." What would be the likely future course of Japan? I regret to say that Japanese will not be able to wrestle control away from bureaucratic rule. But this is Japan. And if you take a look at Japanese bureaucracy, the state of the modern Japanese household, and our children, you will understand what I mean.

Breaking through the obstacles

No project can take off unless requisite conditions are first met. This is the weak point of our proposed curriculum. We are starting without facilities, a teaching staff, nor capital. This fact will be our greatest source of concern. Whether or not we are able to achieve a breakthrough in rescuing mankind depends on whether on not we can overcome our weak points.
No matter how the environment and backdrop may change, man has to cherish a healthy mind and spirit. And this depends on really fostering capable people to guide the way. The urgent business at hand is to quickly send out into the world a large number of highly action-oriented leaders.
To accomplish this vital task, we need unsparing, supportive personnel. With them the continuance and sanctity of mankind and can be fostered and preserved. I'm convinced that with at least about $50 million the direction of world education can be established. If this can really be established for about $50 million, the money would be well spent.
To set this curriculum in motion, some rooms and laboratories are needed. The facilities should be spacious and suitable for our task. Computer related equipment would be at the heart, with ample space for resource materials, everyone's research work, and efficient storage. This research center will probably be, before long, the world's leading center on mind education and research on the true nature of man.
If an international zendo (Zen meditation hall) on Mount Shirotaki is to be established explicitly for this purpose, funds for construction, management, and maintenance are urgently needed now. We must insure payment of the salaries of our eminent teaching staff and insure the teacher-student balance. Expenses for the research and teaching staff will probably be large.
If we have the enthusiasm, drive, and the methods, along with a firm basis of financial backing and competent management, solid results can be produced. But unless our faith and confidence are firm, this curriculum will never get off the ground. It would be impossible without high ideals, strong belief, and a love for mankind. The meritless merit would be vast and boundless, benefiting many generations yet to come.
After his Enlightenment, National Teacher Daito spent twenty years underneath a bridge in Kyoto living amongst the beggars. He made the remark when asked about what he could have possibly attained going through such trouble and hardship:

Examining these circumstances, the harvest moon floating in the water.

What he was saying was, "On this refreshing evening I look at the unbelievably beautiful moon. See! It floats unsullied in the water. Isn't this in itself enough!"
Indeed, these are the words of a clear-eyed Zen master: My realm of activity is just fine! This is the world, or domain, of no reasoning, no gain-and-loss, no calculating. He forgets himself and simply does what has to be done. Daito was eventually found under the bridge and summoned to become the religious teacher, the National Teacher, of the Emperor of Japan, Godaigo.
Mount Shirotaki is like a jewel, an extraordinary holy mountain that must not be vulgarized. This is a place where one can earnestly pursue the mind and foster people of great ability. In order to concentrate only on this self-examination, one should separate himself from worldly affairs as much as possible.
Without a financial basis, there will be no implementation. To fulfill a dream, you need a dreamer. It is this kind of fool who opens new paths. A person, or society, without dreams will perish. The fool has enormous energy in that he throws away his small-minded ego/self.
At any rate, ideals, enthusiasm, and drive, along with a financial base are the basic requisites. And along with fate, and the connections and personnel links to mediate and merge these basic elements, the flower will open and blossom. For a start, won't just one other person share with me in this dream? This kind of dream for the future's sake is the one kind of noblesse oblige we should meet.

Kido Inoue Roshi

Born in 1940, he took his first religious vows at thirteen. In 1962, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Oriental Philosophy at Aichi University. From 1962 to 1984, he practised at Shorinkutsu Seminary under Gikoh Inoue Roshi and Daichi Inoue Rohni. In 1981, he was appointed to be head priest of Kaizoji, and in 1984, he became the Fifth Abbot of Shorinkutsu Seminary. He has written several books on Zen in Japanese; Zazen - the Way to Awakening is the first of his books to have an English translation.

Contact Address

Shorinkutu Dojo, 2-10-1 Tadanoumi-tokonoura
Takehara-shi Hiroshimaken, zip 729-2314, Japan
Tel. 81-846-26-1264
Fax. 81-846-26-0565