I had lunch at the Zen Center in San Francisco recently where I ran into so many German speaking people that I asked myself, is there a special relationship between Zen and Germans. What is it that attracts Germans and Swiss (I didn’t meet any Austrians) to Zen Buddhism? One of my former interns ended up at the Zen Center and part of the deal was that she could extend her stay in the US as a student of Zen. The other part was serious work from cleaning rooms, helping in the kitchen, gardening to practicing Zen from 4am to 8pm. A long hard day. My friend Bernd, trained as a modern dancer, has been a student of Zen since 1984 and spent most of those years at the Zen Center in SF. He will move back to Germany and open a center in Berlin this summer. Richard Baker, serving as the head of the ZC from 71 – 83, is now dividing his time between Colorado and in the Black Forest, Germany. I can think of many other Germans who go to ZC for practice sessions, spend a few months in Green Gulch, or, like me, just sit for an hour in the practice room, dimly lit by candles, to start the new year in peace and quiet. Sitting is difficult when you do it so rarely and at my age. The first 15 minutes I can only think of the pain in my legs, the next 15 minutes I try to think of nothing, the mantra of sitting, and in the final stretch I forget about everything and just sit. Stephanie Levy describes a workshop that she attended in Germany as follows:

“The Zen workshop was very interesting, very disciplined, and led by a Japanese Zen master from Tokyo. It was truly a new cultural experience for me. I never thought about how certain aspects of Japanese and German culture are so similar – the love of order, punctuality, hierarchy, perfection…”

Next time I will pay more attention to order and perfection at the ZC. I love their lunch menu which is always cooked to perfection. Check it out. http://www.sfzc.org/

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