I'm a person who largely sits zazen alone here in my family home in the west of Ireland. My teacher is from Ireland, but he presently lives in Japan with his family for most of the year. Sometimes it seems a little strange to be practicing zazen alone in a rural Irish community where there is no-one else doing it, but I'm in the habit of doing it every day now, so I just keep going as best I’m able. I really have no clear, first-hand impression of what the life of a Zen monk in Japan or China is like. When I see movies from monasteries in the East it seems very strange and exotic to me, and a little daunting. At the same time I appreciate that monasticism has had a profound formative influence on Buddhism. I suppose I used to have, and probably still do have, some romantic notions about Zen monks and monasteries, but increasingly it seems important for me to just keep studying a bit and practicing zazen wherever I am, whenever I can. I enjoy the koan cases of the old Zen masters. Even if they are not accurate accounts of what really happened they seem like a great record of human experience. It seems that such situations as recorded in koans happen all the time in every kind of circumstance: Life presents me with challenges and binds as a matter of course, if I care to notice it.
I feel fortunate to have encountered Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, and to have started practicing zazen, in my unremarkable Irish layman's way here in our little pool on the edge of the world.
Regards to All,