Tony’s approach to teaching is firmly grounded in the dedication to the practice of zazen as transmitted to him by his master, Robert Livingston-Roshi. This practice is within the Soto Zen tradition articulated by the 13th-century Japanese Master Eihei Dogen (1200-1253) and promoted by Deshimaru’s master, Kodo Sawaki (1880-1965). This approach emphasizes shikantaza, the wholehearted practice of zazen and genjokoan, the actualization of enlightenment in everyday life. For more, see About Zen.
Tony’s primary intention is to provide a place where people can practice Zen and explore and develop their own practice within the tradition that he teaches. While he recognizes that everyone is unique and comes to Zen with their own set of reasons, goals, expectations and life circumstances and that levels of commitment to practice vary, his primary intent is to help those who take the way of Zen seriously and wish to make this practice an important part of their lives.
The most fundamental aspect of Zen is zazen. Briefly, Tony’s model for serious zazen practice within a lay context is:
- Daily zazen practice
- Weekly zazen (at least) with the Sangha
- Periodic sesshin (retreat) participation
For more, see About Zazen.
The other fundamental aspect of Zen practice in the Dogen tradition is that of paying attention, especially to the ordinary activities of daily life. In the dojo, we practice this careful attending by concentrating and striving to embody this attentiveness in every movement, every action, and every gesture. A significant amount of time during a sesshin is devoted to samu, work practice. During samu, sesshin participants carry out assigned tasks like cooking, cleaning, and yard work silently, concentrating completely on the task at hand.
Tony also believes that right understanding of the Dharma is important and offers the following ways of verbal teaching to help facilitate that understanding.
- Kusen—oral teaching given during zazen.
- Teisho—a lecture or dharma talk, usually given during sesshin.
- Mondo—a formal question-and-answer session, usually given during sesshin.
- Dokusan—a private meeting with a student. Tony uses dokusan informally; he does not use any type of formal koan practice as a teaching method.
- Workshops—a day-long introductory workshop which gives a comprehensive overview of Zen Buddhism. While these workshops are designed to introduce people to Zen, experienced practitioners also find it useful to hear the material more than once.
Tony encourages each student to take responsibility for the development of their own practice and understanding through zazen, reading, study and the development of a personal relationship with him as a teacher. He practices and teaches within a lay tradition and does not provide any opportunities for a monastic or residential experience.