Featured in Mountain Record 29.2, Winter 2010

There is a frequently quoted Zen saying—Seven times knocked down, eight times get up—that speaks to a core aspect of practice and training: namely, the cultivation of unflagging perseverance, even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances. The dharma points to the essential nature of great determination on the spiritual path because it recognizes the necessity for deep resolve in a fully combusted life.

As a practitioner, I’ve drawn inspiration and encouragement from this phrase, and I’ve also noticed many questions arising in the silence between the words. What are the subtler aspects of great determination? What is perseverance if it isn’t simply about dusting ourselves off and being tough? What is the role of gentleness in this unswerving practice? Is there a relationship between love and determination? How exactly do we transform perseverance into powerful, compassionate action?

This issue of Mountain Record grapples with the nuances of great determination, exploring it in the context of the dharma as well as from non-Buddhist perspectives. Daido Roshi’s discourse emphasizes the importance of diligence in practice, while also urging us to be patient with ourselves. He says, “Be determined—be determined to make yourself free.... Practice is a gentle and gradual process of transformation.” Ryushin Sensei illuminates the aspect of perseverance that requires us to continually return to the vow to let go of our self-centered attachments. “[Practice] is not opportunistic, preferential, and has no utility connected to it whatsoever. .... It is conduct that doesn’t change one bit if you’re alone or with others.” And Shugen Sensei teaches about the perseverance required to keep practicing our attachments by encouraging us to seek “an ultimate medicine to heal all illness, including the illness of a dharma view; of spiritual purity, of holiness.”

Then there is the relationship of right action to great perseverance. Eve Ensler writes of an everyday woman whose determination to stop war had an extraordinary impact on the nation. In her piece about Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a young American soldier killed in Iraq, Ensler provides insight into the power of one person filled with inexhaustable love, commitment, and true intention.

We’ve also included writings that take up the question of what is needed to address the social, economic, and environmental injustices existing in the form of the current earth crisis. In an excerpt written by Paul Hawken, he suggests that a large-scale spiritual awakening is necessary to right these wrongs and speaks of a movement that is “relentless and unafraid.” In an interview about the Green Dragon Earth Initiative, Shugen Sensei describes the MRO’s role in this movement. He discusses how practice can help us cultivate the courage and constancy needed to face these particular challenges and to act with compassion, even in the midst of grief, anxiety, anger, and fear.

We hope these writings will provoke questions, offer models of true fearlessness, and— most importantly—act as encouragement for each of us to embody our own indomitable spirit of unwavering perseverance

Valerie Meiju Linet, MRO
Mountain Record, Editor