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Ask The Expert

Eido T. Shimano Roshi, 72, abbot of New York Zendo Shobo-Ji and Zen master

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How can Zen Buddhist meditation help me break the ties to my possessions?
This is where Zazen practice comes in—Zen meditation. At first, it is quite difficult to sit a long time. But then, gradually, we understand the interesting paradox: The less you have—less material things or less emotional feelings, less ideas, less hopes, less anger, less jealousy—the more peace.

So, how exactly does it work?
With piano, you have to practice every day to improve technique. The same is true in Zazen: You must practice every day to detach. But to say detachment and to be detached are two different matters.

I love music, but my CDs are taking over my apartment. How can I cut back?
You cannot hear several hundred CDs at once, right? And the excellent ones are only a few—you should keep those, and the rest share with others. This is the practice of charity. Sometimes it’s good for you to appreciate how much you miss something. The more you miss, the more you appreciate. Is there anything I should hold onto? The only thing you can keep in your mind is “I have to simplify my life, I have to simplify my life”—you have to repeat that every day. In Oriental philosophy, the saying goes, “Simplicity is profundity.”

For you, was anything particularly hard to give up?
No. I love to give things away. Strangely enough, the more I give, the more that comes back! So I am just circulating.


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