Manual A Heart Blown Open: The Life & Practice of Zen Master Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi

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Books Consciousness Integral. He is a Zen master in the Rinzai tradition who has developed his own accelerated version of Rinzai which he calls Mondo Zen. If we go with the notion that a dedicated student on the Rinzai path often takes years to be recognized as an adept or enlightened master, it is speculated that Mondo Zen may be able to cut that by 5 years. Neat, and a wonderfully exciting idea. More importantly Mondo efforts to integrate aspects of shadow work that traditional Zen dangerously overlooks.

We all know the stories of the spiritual leader who got into trouble sleeping with a student. Jun Po is one of them. He speaks of it candidly so that we may all benefit from it. Raised and abused by a misguided alcoholic father. A high school drop out. A heavy drug user and the creator of multiple failed marriages Jun Po also consistently displayed a fierce work ethic and unwavering determination to step outside of the limitations that life seemed to be handing him. It would be hard to call his life charmed. It would be much harder to call it dull or lifeless.

He succeeds only through dragging himself through adventures that would send most people back home to the familiarity and security of a more rote life. This is why this book is an inspiration to me. Denis was no more concerned about this turn of events than a Dust Bowl farmer who had decided the family dog had Th e P rom i s e. Such was the way of things. Denis sat on the bed, listening to the gentle sounds of his little brother breathing steadily.

He heard the kitchen door open rudely downstairs, banging into the wall and rattling the glass in the panes.

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Uncertain steps followed, walking heavily and tiredly across the floor and through the house, weaving into his parents bedroom. There was the sound of urine going into a toilet, then a sink running. Raised voices followed, his fathers voice thick and undisciplined, his mothers terse and low.

The disordered footfalls then went out of the bedroom and meandered down the hallway and back again.

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Slowly a bruised silence returned, and the house settled. Denis rose from the bed, making his way down the stairs in his stockinged feet, until he stood in front of his parents closed door, the shotgun held in his right hand, finger across the trigger. Reaching out with his left, he turned the knob and silently pushed the door open. His fathers life would soon be over, but his brothers and sisters and mother would live on without worrying about the rabid dog biting them ever again.

Whatever might happen to him for killing his father was not even considered. Denis moved through the darkened doorway, raising the loaded shotgun as he crossed the threshold. To his surprise, the bed was empty and still made, and so he pushed the door open further, stepping fully inside, hoping his father might be standing somewhere in the room. His mother sat in a chair by the window, her body bathed in the softness of the light filtering in from the streets outside.

She turned and saw her second oldest son standing in the doorway of her bedroom, a shotgun in his hands, finger on the trigger. Their eyes met across the room, but she did not stand, speak, or move. She merely looked at him. Denis brought the muzzle of the gun to the floor, popping open the breech as he did so. Without a word he turned and left, pulling the door shut. He went back to his room and, still in a surreal space of calmness, took the gun apart and cleaned it as if it had been fired.

He then reassembled it, put the shells neatly back in their box, and climbed into bed. That night he slept without dreams. He did not awaken when his father came back home. The incident was never spoken of, but afterward his father never again, no matter how drunk or angry, struck his children. This was not out of fear of Denis, but out of some kind of respect that his son was willing to take such definitive and resolute action. Bill Kellys post-traumatic stress would find expression through emotional violence and cruelty, but his hands had been stilled. Denis was less and less interested in school and more and more interested in getting out of his house forever, by whatever means necessary.

That meant he was less inclined to argue in class and more inclined to simply not show up. The summer was closing in, and Denis was planning on working the entire summer to earn and save as much money as he could. He knew what he had to do in life, and accepted it without regret or resentment.

At sixteen, he was financially self-sufficient, which hed been since he was ten years old. He arranged and delivered flowers for a local flower shop, delivered newspapers, sold knives to his classmates at a handy profit, and took any opportunity for work that arose. In his heart he felt nothing of the light and love of God; he felt nothing for the man they called the Savior, Jesus; he believed in nothing except the power of his own two hands and of his mind to create the reality that would best serve him. He knew that Father Geiger, for all his faults, was a deeply learned man who spoke half a dozen languages and held two advanced degrees.

The old priest had lived all over the world, seeing more of life than most people ever dreamed. He figured Father Geiger must have a more sophisticated understanding of what God was really all about, that he might be privy to two kinds of truths: the one he told the sheep of his congregation high school-educated men and women who only needed to be told what to think, not why and the real version of the truth, saved for those who could handle a broader understanding of things. Denis knew what the old priest believed; he wanted to know how it was he believed it.

Was there some missing, magical piece? Kelly knocked on the door of the headmasters office. Come in, come in, he heard through the door. Kelly, Father Geiger said, sitting behind his modest desk in the headmasters office. Have a seat. How can I help you?

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The room was cramped and stuffy, and smelled intensely of age and isolation. Heavy drapes were drawn across the windows, keeping out views of the sun-soaked fields of Green Bay, now exploding into a lively green. A single bulb burned intensely over their heads, casting harsh shadows downward.

Books lined two walls, mostly out-of-print and esoteric works whose authors had long turned to dust. Denis leaned back in his chair and the young man and the old one assessed one another. Denis neither needed nor wanted the priests approval. He only sought wisdom. For his part, Father Geiger knew Denis would not finish high school.

Even though Father Geiger was certain of his verdict for Denis Kelly, he did have a respect for the young man, whose blue eyes often blazed with passion and determination and energy, even if they were nearly always blinded by ignorance and lack of discipline. Okay, so I get it, Denis began. The Virgin Birth. Rising from the dead. Walking on water. Appearing forty days after his death as an apparition to the Apostles. Bringing a dead Th e P rom i s e. Water to wine.

All that stuff. Its like its all, I dunno Father Geiger sat forward, the great tufts of white nostril hair coming more clearly into view. He folded his hands neatly in front of him. Denis noticed the priests shirt was so stiffly starched it could probably be stood erect in the corner without a man to animate it. Is there a question in there, Mr. Father Geiger asked, arching his bushy white eyebrows. Or are you simply informing me of your opinion? Im saying I know that stuff is bullshit, Father. Father Geiger, unbothered, shrugged his shoulders. Profanity doesnt make your points more salient, Mr.

Kelly, just less convincing. Its like the idea of Hell. You teach that your God will condemn a man or woman eternally for a finite sin. Thats beyond unfair even humans have more compassion than that!


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Gods ways are not mans, Father Geiger responded diplomatically. It is not our place to judge Him, but rather our place to accept His divine judgment. He has given us due warning, after all. Deniss lips pressed together until they were white, and his fierce blue eyes sought the priests. I know what you believe, Father. I know you believe in all the stuff you teach. Tears came to Deniss eyes, surprising the old priest. I want to know how you believe it. I know people like my parents need to be told what to do, what to think, what to believe.

But youre the one telling them what to do. How do you believe in this stuff? Its so transparently, his limited vocabulary deserted him, well, bullshit. Father Geigers face softened as he saw the young mans passion so clearly. He leaned back in his chair, bringing his hands together under his nose. The knuckles were swollen with arthritis, and the nails a little too long and distinctly yellow. Those things you mention Christ rising, His divinity, His coming back to the Apostles these things are foundational to Christianity.

The Council of Nicaea, in of the Year of our Lord, determined the parameters of our faith: Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotntem, factrem cli et terr He paused, then smiled, You never did study your Latin, Mr. Deniss face flushed. Its okay. I know your path is not one of erudition. You know the English version, yes? Sure, Denis said, but thats just a creed. Its just a bunch of words. All the miracles and water-into-wine and Son-ofGod stuff. Denis leaned forward, elbows on the desk. How do you believe it, Father? The word dropped between them almost before Deniss voice had gone quiet.

Father Geigers eyes were kind, but hard. So you believe in the whole thing? Kelly, I do. The miracles and the walking on water and the raising the dead and the bodily, uh, ascent into Heaven? The priest smiled, not unkindly.

A Heart Blown Open

So how do you have faith? Denis repeated, exasperated. I mean, youre really educated. Youve seen the world. Faith comes from grace, Father Geiger answered, again without a moments hesitation, his answer bearing the weight of immutable stone. Denis mirrored, stunned. Through the mercy of God, Father Geiger stated concretely. Deniss face turned red, sensing the cul-de-sac of an argument into which he was being lead. But whats faith without experience?

Denis protested. Whats faith without knowing its true, in your own experience? I mean, isnt it experience that makes the difference between belief and, uh Father Geiger offered. Yeah, Denis said. We are not given that luxury in our faith, Mr. The Bible is quite clear: there is no room for interpretation. No one comes to the Father except through me. John It is faith, and faith alone, that will lead you from darkness to light.

Your thinking mind, he tapped on his skull for emphasis, fools and tricks you. Believe me. But faith shines like a light in the heart. Throw your doubt into your faith and you will find the grace to stand stronger than youve ever imagined. You think my argument circular, but I assure you it is not.

You can, Mr. Kelly, be fed to the lions in front of your Roman captors, or be crucified for following your Lord Savior, or have your limbs torn from your body and not suffer or feel the least bit of fear. That, he said, his voice rising and his eyes boring into Denis, is the product of faith, of grace, and of the mercy of God. It has nothing to do with knowledge. Denis sat in a stunned silence. Im sorry, Father, he said, standing.

I dont mean this with any disrespect, but that doesnt sound like a very good way to live. I need more than faith. I need evidence. Yes, evidence, Father Geiger agreed quickly. Denis hesitated. Evidence is indeed valuable. The theory of evolution, for instance, is very compelling. Kelly, I am not so ignorant as you might think. Evidence for evolution will help refine and reform our religion, it is true. Science, and the evidence it uses, can do a great many things, as can the Th e P rom i s e. But neither science nor rational philosophy can bring you comfort in the night.

You will find that your hands and your head provide you with little in life when things really matter. Denis, whose own hands were becoming as large and powerful as his fathers, closed and opened them unconsciously. They seem your greatest gifts right now, but without your heart you will be lost to darkness. Father Geigers blue eyes were deeply alive, and Denis was struck by both their passion and the insanity of what they proposed. Make no mistake, Mr. Kelly: Without faith, without your heart, you will be lost to the darkness. Denis nodded, then moved toward the door.

Thank you, Father. Father Geiger nodded at him, then looked down at the open book on his desk, taking a pen up in his right hand and starting to work. Denis lingered, but the old priest did not look back up. He left the headmasters office and walked through an empty school, smelling spring flowing in through the open windows. The world, Denis realized, was mad. No one had any idea what they were doing; his parents stumbled and struggled through parenthood and their own lives; priests and nuns mirrored beliefs taught to them, but had no more an understanding of God than a parrot had of its empty phrases.

Everyone everywhere was asleep, and those who pretended to hold answers held nothing but empty beliefs and tired stories as transparently improbable as a childs. Education did not translate into wisdom, or even to understanding. Someone could be incredibly bright and very well educated but utterly clueless. Intelligence and education had nothing to do with how much you actually saw around you. It would take Denis fifty years to unravel this mystery, starting when he first heard of the Integral philosopher Ken Wilber.

This experience with Father Geiger, though, cemented his distrust of authority and of authoritative institutions, which only seemed to perpetuate ignorance, dependence, and patriarchy. G r ace a nd D enis h a d, in t he m a nner only t eenager s can, the most serious of love affairs. When Grace was fifteen, she went to visit family out of state and, in the way that rumors are spread and multiply like viruses in small towns, an elaborate tale grew and morphed in the halls of the school concerning her disappearance.

Each time the story came into the hands of another, it grew more lurid and fantastic in its details, until Graces reputation was somewhere slightly south of a street prostitute. A few days later, at lunch, one of the boys a year ahead of Denis stopped him in the cafeteria. Hey, Duck Butt, the boy, named Michael, sneered, referring to Deniss haircut. He was thick in the neck and had small eyes that were dull and flat. His table of four friends all eagerly leaned forward, grinning cruelly.

Your dollys real loose, I hear. Hear she fucked the whole football team and got knocked up. Hadda be shipped off to her relatives so they could knock some sense into her! And knock that baby out! They all roared with laughter. Denis stopped walking, and turned to face them. He held the lunch tray so tightly it was trembling. Youll wanna watch that mouth, Mike, Denis warned. Oh, Michael taunted, you gonna razz my berries, Kelly?

Kelly was the school-yard name Denis had acquired in his first few years attending classes. It seemed to better fit the hardening shell he was developing, and he had encouraged the rechristening. Now, only his family and close childhood friends called him by his given name. He stood up, his doughy frame easily a third heavier than Kellys. Come on, tough guy. He opened his arms, exposing his chest. Take a shot. Razz my berries!

His three friends Donald, Henry, and Gordon bristled in their seats. Whats a-matter, Kelly? Donald, a short and muscular boy with a plume of black hair, called. You porkin Greasy Grace too? You and the whole football team? No wonder youre so sore about it! Ill come after you, too, Donnie, Kelly threatened.


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  6. Ooo, Donald replied in mock concern, you and what army, Kelly? He stood up as well, and Henry and Gordon joined them. Kelly met each of their eyes deliberately. See you guys around, then, he said, turning. See ya, Duck Butt! Michael said. Bye, Nosebleed! Donald called. Why dont you come by the Passion Pit tonight, tough guy? Henry joined in. Since youre too yellow to do anything here!

    Kelly went to his table with his friends, who wanted to conspire with him to wreak vengeance on Kellys impugned honor. Kelly listened to his friends impassioned pleas silently, and after ten minutes, when he was certain his voice would not be shaking with emotion, he said only, Ill handle it, boys. Thanks, though. The complicated truth of the Kelly household was that while Bill Kelly was inexcusably violent against his children, he also gave his boys the confidence of how to fight and win.

    That meant that each child received formal boxing lessons from their father about how to jab, hook, and connect with a body blow, complemented with street-smart lessons on how to apply these techniques in the real world. This included how to take a hit and not lose your senses, how to strike an opponent repeatedly and viciously until he fell to the ground, and why no man surrendered so long as there was breath in his body. Michael got it first. He lived closest to Kellys own house, and the big eleventh grader had an alcoholic mother and a mostly absent father.

    Kelly knew the boys parents were never home before five, and so he stopped by the house on his way home from school. Kellys bike went into a nearby shrub, out of sight.

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    Michael lived in a rundown shack of a home, a windblown ranch whose turquoise paint was coming off in large swaths. The yard was a tangle of dirt and weeds. Kelly ascended the steps, peeling and creaking wooden planks nearly worn to the breaking point, and knocked on the door. A moment later it swung open on creaking hinges. Michael managed to get out before Kellys fist landed squarely on the left side of his nose, knocking him sideways into the doorframe. Ill razz your goddamn berry, Kelly shouted. The boy, unwisely, attempted to counterattack, but Kelly landed four more punches, all on the face, before Michael even thought to put his hands up to protect himself.

    The last punch caught him just behind the ear, next to the jaw, and he dropped to his knees. His watery eyes, the same dull brown as his hair, looked up helplessly. His lip was bleeding, as was his nose. Call her Greasy Grace again, and Ill kill you, hissed Kelly. We clear? Michael nodded dumbly, but Kelly knew the battle had only just begun. He had to get at least one of the other boys before the next school day, so that they would be afraid of him and not team up in the bathroom or in the parking lot.

    He managed to get a hold of Donald after dinner, out by the railroad tracks where he knew the boy hung out. Kelly waited and picked him off as Donald rode his bike in. Donald was tougher than Michael but couldnt match Kellys speed or his anger, and after the two exchanged a few glancing blows, Kelly landed a punch squarely on the boys lips, bursting them.

    He followed it with a quick flurry of punches and, when Donald fell to the dirt and covered his face, kicks to the body. He made the same threat: Call her Greasy Grace again, and Ill kill you. Donald, like Michael, nodded his bloodied head. Kelly sought the two other boys, but was unable to find them. He had taken out the biggest and the toughest of the foursome, and sure enough neither boy came to school the next day, no doubt embarrassed to show their bruised faces when Kellys was free of any marks.

    Kelly heard that both had mysteriously fallen off their bikes and banged their heads, and the taunting of Grace ground to a halt. M a rt in -S mi t h wa s r a ised in the closed and self-assured world of Catholicism, but by his early teens felt alienated by it and the suburban America that surrounded him. He started out his college career as a mechanical engineering major, but science only led to more questions and an even stronger sense of separation from the world. He ended up with a degree in English and minor in journalism, allowing him to work as a freelance writer not bound to a particular location.

    A profound crisis of meaning sent him on an odyssey that spanned ten years and three cities: New York, Philadelphia, and Denver. He searched for answers through post-modern philosophy and bohemia as the esoteric disciplines of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu, Qi Gong, and Buddhism were reshaping his life. In addition to his writing, Zen, and Kung Fu practices, he is also fond of sleeping in, drinking fine ales, and lying about.

    He lives in Boulder, Colorado. You can read more about him, including new works and offerings, at www. It includes a more practical, experiential in the world engagement of Zen. Relying only on direct personal experience, as taught by the Buddha himself, it does not allow mythic constructs or mental abstractions to complicate its philosophical orientation.

    It rejects ideas such as reincarnation, soul as personality, bardo realms, past lives, a creator, and other non-experiential beliefs. It is important that in the practice of Mondo Zen we consciously choose to set aside all such ideas, at least temporarily. This allows us to experience, test, and evaluate for ourselves a simpler and stronger way of knowing. This is important because our beliefs and concepts about God, karma, or an afterlife can force our immediate experience into a container of predefined understanding.

    Preconceived ideas rob us of deeper insight. By letting go of our attachment to our beliefs and mythologies at least while we are actively doing this practice we remove a barrier to insight caused by our attachment to those views. This attachment to our views is part of why realizing our true nature, in this moment, eludes so many of us!

    A koan is a special kind of inquiry, an enigmatic question designed to awaken one to a deeper truth. To answer a koan one must have an actual realization experience, not just an intellectual understanding of it. They are designed, quite simply, to still the noisy mind and allow the light that is always shining in the silence to enlighten us.

    This is because Enlightenment, as many of us have heard and read, is right here this very moment, permeating all of who we are. It is our conditioning that prevents us from seeing this, and a koan is simply a direct question designed to help break up our habitual way of viewing the world. In an instant flash of insight, we can see the deep truth of our liberated mind. With this two-fold Mondo Zen koan dialogue comprises thirteen koans, all requiring a spontaneous answer. The first ten are insight, embodiment, and articulation koans.

    The last three koans are emotional koans. In traditional Zen, these would be the precepts. We also need emotional maturity. His insight was that emotional koans, taken from our actual lives, provide a process that transforms habitual negative emotional reactions into compassionate intelligent responses.

    Instead of reacting mindlessly to our emotions, we experience their deeper message, and listen to the information they bring to us. This divine feminine voice has much to share. Hers is a genuine path, leading from the erotic, to the meditative, to intimacy with all things. She will inspire your journey of self-discovery. Let yourself be inspired to live grandly from your authentic source and infinite stillness. Saleem Berryman Spiritual Teacher I am in amazement at both your beautiful, honorable, and courageous life and the dedication you brought to bringing your life experience into such a work of art.