White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Before Thinking

Foundations of Zen Practice

by Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi

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In the autumn of 1989 at Zazen-ji, the Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi, founding Abbot of Dainen-ji and Teacher of the White Wind Zen Community, began to present a series of informal talks to the associate and general members of the Community who gathered for practice on Saturday mornings. These Teachings were concluded in the autumn of 1991 just previous to the Roshi’s formal retirement from public Teaching and the beginning of the next phase of his presentation of the Dharma through his deep work with monastics and formal students at more advanced levels of practice.

These “Saturday Morning Dharma Talks” as they were called were incisive and detailed Teachings on the process of preparing for and entering the depths of Zen practice. In contemporary language accessible to the beginner and the most mature practitioner alike, these Teachings came to form the basis of practice in the Zen Community through introducing the primacy of radical and wordless questioning as the foundation and process of the Path of Zen. While phrases from classical texts and traditional Teachings are sprinkled here and there in the talks, rather than obstruct our ability to understand the Teachings in language and terms unfamiliar to those born and raised without any preparation for Zen practice, we are led to begin to recognize the meaning and usefulness of the classical Teachings and how they might be made to live again in this new time and place. Even words and terms that form our everyday language such as "Awareness" are delved into, split open, and reformed with radical and practical meaning.

As with the Roshi's teisho and other Teachings, the "Saturday Morning Talks" were not intended to explain or to convince anyone of anything, but rather to awaken moments of direct  recognition in the listener and then to instruct the listener in how to apply that recognition and deepen it.

The first thirty-seven of these Dharma Talks were published in 1992 as this book, Before Thinking, which along with the book The Straight Path and other Teachings on the development of basic mindfulness and insight form the curriculum of preparation for koan practice, shikan-taza and the other facets of the more advanced practice engaged by formal students of the Roshi and his Dharma successors. With this new edition of the book the Roshi would like to offer his deep appreciation and gassho to all those who have worked to make these Teachings available to others and especially to those students whose practice gave rise to the words that were spoken.