Thursday, October 02, 2008

Chico author Lin Jensen on the imagery of words


Lin Jensen is the founding teacher of the Chico Zen Sangha and an accomplished author.

Saturday at 6:30 p.m., as part of the Artoberfest celebration, he will present a talk entitled "Words Into Images: The Art of Painting Pictures with Language" and will read from his newest book, "Together Under One Roof: Making A Home of the Buddha's Household" ($16.95 in paperback from Wisdom Publications). The talk and book signing will take place at Avenue 9 Gallery, 180 E. 9th Ave., Ste 3, in Chico.

For Jensen, the "Buddha's household" encompasses everything. "Every object you and I touch is Buddha," he writes, "and every house--including a homeless shelter or a prison complex or the downtown mall with its sprawling parking lot--is the exact place where the Buddha takes up residence." This realization, he says, is not something reserved for Buddhist greats, but for "ordinary minds," which "Zen insists . . . is as holy as it gets."

Jensen's collection of short essays celebrates not only life's ordinary experiences but the human power of naming those ordinary things. "We fleshly, earth-bound creatures are writing a language of creation, word by word. . . . Putting names to things, rather than taming the world by substituting language for living fact, infuses the world with a wild wonderment known only to creatures who trade in words."

While we must not confuse words with the things they name, Jensen writes, nevertheless the naming suggests close attention to the world. Naming something "bestows upon the things of this world a quality of intimate observation that I personally equate with love."

Jensen uses his words to characterize Buddhism as "kindness" borne of the "knowing that nowhere does there exist a single separate self. The perception of no self is one of compassion, since compassion is not so much a matter of feeling as one of identification." This identification extends beyond the Buddhist community (the "sangha") to one that is "inclusive of all beings." All this is not easy, since "human lives are 'ten thousand beautiful mistakes' as the old masters liked to point out." Jensen's is Zen with scraped knees, zazen (meditation) with an itch. Still, "we find our voice each day in the words the universe utters."

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