^zhurnaly   -   Random   -   Recent   -   Running   -   Mantra   -   Tarot   -   Help

Charlotte Joko Beck

Perhaps an exception to test the Flawed Gurus rule: Charlotte Joko Beck (1917-2011). Modest, non-mystical, she left behind students rather than an empire. From three obituary essays "Charlotte Joko Beck dies at 94; American Zen pioneer":

Born on March 27, 1917 in New Jersey, Beck studied at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and taught piano for a time. She married and raised four children before separating from her husband and working as a teacher, secretary and assistant in a university department. She came to Zen practice in her forties and studied with the late Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi roshi. For many years she commuted between San Diego and Los Angeles to practice with the roshi. Of her experiences, Beck said in an interview with Shambhala SunSpace, "I meet all sorts of people who've had all sorts of experiences and they're still confused and not doing very well in their life. Experiences are not enough. My students learn that if they have so-called experiences, I really don't care much about hearing about them. I just tell them, 'Yeah, that's O.K. Don't hold onto it. And how are you getting along with your mother?' Otherwise, they get stuck there. It's not the important thing in practice." Asked what is the important thing in practice, she replied, "Learning how to deal with one's personal, egotistic self. That's the work. Very, very difficult."

and, by Barry Magid:

It is not too much to say that Joko Beck transformed the nature of Zen in America. At a time when a focus on kensho experiences and becoming enlightened after the manner in which we imagined our Japanese masters led to a dismissive attitude to problems that were "merely" psychological, Joko restored a sense of emotional reality to a scene increasingly plagued by scandal and misconduct by our allegedly enlightened role models. She had the courage to say that her own teacher's training had done little to curb his own alcoholism or deal with his character problems. Furthermore, his wasn't merely an unfortunate exception but that it pointed to a deeply ingrained tendency to enshrine emotional bypassing into the very heart of traditional Zen training. She put dealing with anger, anxiety, pride and the self centered sexual exploitation of students into the center of what we must deal with in practice.

and, by Gerry Shishin Wick:

I first met Charlotte Joko Beck in 1972. In April the ice plant bloom along the highways in San Diego. I passed many fields of vibrant purple and violet blossoms on my way to the small sitting group in the home of Ray Jordan, where I came face-to-face with another vibrant flower. Joko's page boy haircut, her dark cat's eye glasses and her rather large breasts would be enough to make her stand out. There was also the fact that she was the only middle aged woman in the sitting group. We became fast friends.

Selected quotes and comments from Beck's books Everyday Zen and Nothing Special to follow ...

^z - 2014-08-18