Trauma, Power, and the Use of the Kyosaku in American Zen

4 responses to “Trauma, Power, and the Use of the Kyosaku in American Zen”

  1. Gordon Avatar

    Car accidents. Knock outs in the ring and out. Brain trauma due to allergic reaction to chemo. Etc etc. The bumps as bruises of life. In comparison the kyosaku is an old and gentle friend whose visits are requested. Kind of like getting whacked with a pool noodle. Lots of noise no pain. Releases stuff and right neck / back muscles. Here Now Grateful. 🙏🙏🙏

  2. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Hi Gordon. Isn’t your response just another version of Zen’s “that’s just what we do here”? How would you thoughtfully answer these questions, posed in the essay:

    “One dynamic question that the kyosaku raises in American Zen practice is what exactly are we importing from Japanese cultural and religious traditions, and why? What traditional Japanese practices should be discarded as inappropriate and unskillful in our twenty first century American context, and what should we preserve or modify? How can we reinvent and enliven our practice in ways that reflect our contemporary moment, despite the pull to perpetuate inherited rituals and ceremonial forms that may cause unnecessary suffering?”

    Assuming that use of the kyosaku, or of any other ritual/doctrinal feature of practice for that matter, does not have eternal and universal value, how do you answer those questions?

  3. Hoag Holmgren Avatar

    Personally, I loved the kyusaku as it was powerfully energizing and helped me focus and re-set, especially in 7-day retreats with 10-12 hours of zazen per day. That said, I believe there’s really no place place for it in Zen training here in the 21st century. Too much baggage and trauma for too many people. The Zen Center of Denver retired the use of the kyusaku many years ago. We also don’t use it my current sangha.

  4. Jundo Cohen Avatar

    My Japanese teacher, Nishijima Roshi, did not use the Kyosaku, and neither do I in our Zazen sittings. It is triggering to trauma victims, many of whom are members of our community, and I think that the Chinese medicine concepts upon which it is based are rather unproven. I think that there are better ways to correct someone or wake them up a bit when sleepy. Generally, here in Japan it is used very lightly on lay folks (more of a quick tap), but I did see a senior priest break one on a transgressing younger priest, an act I can only call hazing. It is just not needed and does nothing. By the way, my understanding is that, long ago, the monks in the early years had a kind of stick with a soft end, and would gently prod the person the wakefulness. I find that a gentle tap on the shoulder by hand works just as well for the dozing.

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