Zen Counseling Training

This is a famous zen poem and has been one of my favourites for the many years that I have been studying zen. I really thought I had penetrated to the core of this poem. But that was not true and I realized the true meaning of this poem in the Zen Counselling course I attended during 15 to 18 Aug at the Integral Space, Lower Parel, Mumbai.

The training was organized by Loving Foundation’s Dr Ronak Gandhi, a four times black belt in Zen Archery and who is on a mission to spread love. Zen is not so well known in India and apart from Osho’s followers, not many profess to follow it. There are no zen monasteries to talk about, no zen masters as such, although I remember having been to Bodhi Zendo, a zen monastery near Kodaikanal and met Zen Master Ama Samy, but that’s the exception.

So I was really intrigued with the Zen Counselling course that I came across on Google and instantly felt like I should go there. But I had my reservations. Because I knew I had a deep understanding of zen from my study and practice over 15 years and so had a doubt whether this was true zen. Seeing that the teacher was a Japanese person added to the mystique of the course. After speaking with Dr Ronak, I confirmed my participation.

Kenichi Ishimaru is the founder of Zen Counselling and there are only a few videos with him speaking on You Tube. The thing that caught my attention was the premise of Zen Counselling that every client is a Buddha. And this is a high class understanding, in fact the highest understanding in Zen. So I went for it.

With Dr Ronak Gandhi and Kenichi San and Kyoko

And what a time it was! Those four days with Kenichi San and the 22 fellow students. I solved all my problems, hesitations, mental blocks, diffidence, attitudes towards women and discovered my true way. I learnt more from the live experience of listening to the master, watching his demonstrations and his answers to our questions than in all my readings of zen of the last decade. Kenichi san lives zen and teaches zen. And he does not teach theory because zen is a matter of experience so all the teaching was actually learning through personal experience. 

Standing from left: Rinkal, Kyoko, Aabhas, Alpana, Meghna, Ridhima, Sanjeev, Ashish, Mona, Shruti, Pankti, Reyes, Dixit, Subodh. Sitting from left: Zia, Geet, Gauri, Antara, Kamalika, Reet, Namrita, Aditi

Zen Counselling is the most powerful technique (if one can call it a technique) to solve any problem of any individual. When an individual has a problem, he suffers. When the problem is solved, he is happy and free. But in contrast to other forms of counselling, in Zen Counselling, the counsellor does not give any kind of advice. The premise is very clear and it is non-negotiable – the client’s problem can be solved only by the client. The counsellor can only support with a few intelligent techniques based on listening, being relaxed and asking questions to clarify the problem. In the process of Zen Counselling, the client solves the problem for himself by clarifying it in his own mind with the support of the counsellor. And I have experienced this magic of solving problems without doing anything, in all my practice sessions.

This experience of Zen Counselling has given me the power and confidence to go out and help others. I had reached a conclusion long time back that people are not listening. And therefore, I always hesitated to speak to anyone about zen and my work on Big Picture Zen. But now with all my problems solved, I am free to talk and free to listen.

I have always been a good listener but that was not enough. But the listening approach that I learnt in Zen Counselling was nothing short of magic. And I realized that the way to another person’s heart is through our ears – through listening. There is no value I can place on this skill and technique. This is priceless. This skill is what makes a real loving human being.

To me, this clarified to me many zen stories and also the way Buddha would have helped people, and not just theoretically but now I can also do it. All the disconnected pieces in my mind have now connected into a whole. Now I can truly see with my ears and listen with my eyes.

Ever since I had my awakening experience around 2003, I have been very keen to share it with others and get others to become curious about it and strive for it. But nobody listened. And I had almost given up. I was also thinking upside down about helping others. The reason I was reading all kinds of books on human psychology was to be able to learn how to help others. But that’s not the real way.

My zen mind was always against learning things to teach others because the end goal was to drop all knowledge. So how can I help someone drop all knowledge by giving him knowledge of any kind – zen or otherwise? I was caught in this koan for many years.

Zen Counselling opened me up to direct experience and then at last, I reached the point where I had nothing to say anymore. This was like a second satori to me. It became a clear fact not a statement of belief that every person is a Buddha. Now knowledge or no knowledge is no hindrance. Everything is perfect as is.

Sitting quietly doing nothing, the Zen Counselor listens relaxed, the client shares his problem and the solution appears by itself

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