Taking the Path of Zen
Endless Path Zendo, a Diamond Sangha Zen temple in Rochester, NY, is a lay Buddhist group, intimate and non-institutional in atmosphere, dedicated to walking the Buddha Way in the midst of our ordinary lives. We find our center of gravity in the deep creative imagination of Zen and in the ancient vows of the Bodhisattva.
The name of our Zen temple is a reminder that no matter where we are on the Path, if we keep walking, keep practicing, there is always more to come. That’s the great news. As Zen Master Hakuin wrote, “Buddhism is like an ocean, the further you go into it the deeper it gets; it’s like a mountain, the more you climb it the higher it gets.” The Path is endless. It’s even said Shakyamuni Buddha himself is only halfway there. On we go!
why we sit together
Yamada Roshi used to say that new people should come and sit with the group as often as possible.
“Please come and do this,” he would say. “It is most important.”
His point was that the depth of the groups’ silent solid sitting permeates and strengthens each of us. He would add that once our sitting stabilizes, once we really get this, we should please come and sit with the group as often as possible. Our sitting now helps not just ourselves but others as well—whether we know it or not.
zen and us: why do we practice?
The point of Zen is the realization of our own fathomless nature, and the ongoing effort as well, that follows such realization, to drop our habitual addiction to self-centeredness, and allow the Way to manifest in/as our ordinary daily actions. And so, to be of benefit to all beings. Or as Yamada Koun Roshi has said, the point of Zen is the maturation of character. This means persistent practice. This deepening is what the essential forms of Zen—zazen, dokusan, teisho are designed to help us actualize. This means coming to sit, coming to hear teisho, coming to dokusan so as to touch base with situations designed to help us face ourselves completely and vividly.
When the self is even momentarily dropped the awareness, wisdom, and compassion that have always been there can emerge. Our faith comes from actual experience. We don’t need to add it on. Drop by drop persistent rainfall can wear holes in concrete. Drop by drop raging fires can be quenched. This is the Way of the Bodhisattva—another name for the way of character. We don’t need to add it, but we do need to work on it and at it.
Great vows for all
Our “Great Vows for All” or “4 Vows” are not just a formula we repeat at the end of formal zazen, something to do before we get up and exit the zendo. They are a renewal of Bodhisattva Vows, a way for us to dedicate ourselves anew to what the practice of zazen makes possible in our lives. They are a deep expression of actualized practice, of our vow to walk the Way. So, before we leave the zendo and take up again the Path of ordinary life we commit ourselves to practice out in the world, with whomever we meet, wherever our steps might take us. Great Vows for All confirm our intention and serve as both compass and guide.
The many beings are numberless,
I vow to save them all;
Greed, hatred, and ignorance rise endlessly,
I vow to abandon them all;
Dharma gates are countless,
I vow to wake to them all;
Buddha's way is unattainable,
I vow to embody it all.
About Sensei Rafe Martin
Sensei Rafe Martin
Sensei Rafe Jnan Martin began formally practicing Zen at the Rochester Zen Center in 1970. In 1989 he became a personal disciple of Philip Kapleau Roshi. After Kapleau Roshi’s retirement in the mid-90s, he practiced with Robert Aitken Roshi, founder of the Diamond Sangha. From 2002-2016 Rafe worked intensively with Danan Henry Roshi founding teacher of the Zen Center of Denver, a Kapleau Roshi Dharma Heir and Diamond Sangha Dharma Master. Rafe received full lay ordination from Danan Roshi in 2009. In 2012 he received inka—recognition of his completion of the Diamond Sangha koan syllabus—and was given sanction to begin teaching as an Associate Zen Teacher authorized to share the Harada-Yasutani koan line and teach Zen through the traditional forms of dokusan (one-on-one spiritual work), teisho (Zen talk), and sesshin (Zen retreat). In 2016 Rafe received Full Dharma Transmission as an independent teacher and Dharma Heir of Danan Henry Roshi.
Rafe has a master’s degree in English literature and literary criticism, and is an award-winning author and storyteller whose work has been cited in Time, Newsweek and USA Today. He is a recipient of the prestigious Empire State Award from the NYS Library System for the body of his work. Given his successful career in the arts, combined with his extensive training in authentic Zen, Rafe offers a uniquely creative approach to lay Zen practice. Combining the clear focus on realization of Philip Kapleau Roshi with the subtle practice-realization of Robert Aitken Roshi, his Zen is especially well suited to anyone interested in living a richer, more harmonious life today.
Rafe is married with two grown children. His wife, Rose, former director of Cobblestone School, is also a long-time Zen practioner. If you're interested in finding out about what Rafe was up to before he became a Zen teacher, take a look at this page.
Author and Storyteller
Rafe is an award-winning author and storyteller, and a recipient of the Empire State Award. His most recent book is Endless Path—Awakening in the Buddhist Imagination: Zen Practice, Daily Life, and the Jataka Tales.
Rafe has given talks at Zen and Dharma centers around the country. His writings have appeared in Parabola, Tricycle, Mountain Record, Zen Bow, Blind Donkey, and Buddhadharma. Given his background, Rafe tends to work a lot with myth and story, and their deep relation to Zen practice, in his teaching and talks.Rafe's Books
Enlightenment is not a “thing," not something we get. Rather, we realize what has actually always been here through losing not gaining, losing all that ancient, interior, self-centered “stuff” that cuts us off from wind, rain, sun, moon, stars, trees, animals, people.
Storytellers can only make sounds on the air—that’s all spoken words are. A writer can only make squiggles on paper. Yet those who hear or read those words can see, can feel and live, a whole life in their minds.
Two outstanding Zen Masters of modern Japan, Daiun Sogaku Harada (1870-1961) and Hakuun Ryoko Yasutani (1885-1973) established a new school of Zen Buddhism that combined the strongest features of both the Soto and Rinzai sects. This dynamic, integral school of Zen was brought to the West by Philip Kapleau, (Rochester Zen Center), and Robert Aitken (Honolulu Diamond Sangha), two outstanding American students of Harada and Yasutani and, in Aitken Roshi’s case, also of Yamada Koun, (an heir of Hakuun Yasutani). This new “Harada-Yasutani” koan line they (and others) brought has since has become established as most central to koan practice in the West.
Danan Henry, originally a Dharma heir of Philip Kapleau, subsequently completed ten additional years of Zen training with Robert Aitken, to become a sanctioned Diamond Sangha dharma master as well as a Kapleau heir. Rafe is a dharma heir of Danan Henry’s. Having received full transmission as an independent teacher, he is authorized to teach authentic Zen and to assume the spiritual directorship of a zendo or center, continuing the Harada-Yasutani teaching line.
Harada Sogaku Roshi
Yasutani Hakuun Roshi
Yamada Koun Roshi
Roshi Philip Kapleau
Roshi Robert Aitken