Jun Po Kelly Roshi - Mondo Zen. Part 2: Five Element Training
July 22, 2009 00:37

Mondo Zen. Part 2: Five Element Training
Jun Po Kelly Roshi and Ken Wilber

Jun Po Kelly Roshi is an American Rinzai Zen teacher and founder of the Hollow Bones retreat center, as well as the Mondo Zen process.  Mondo Zen’s Five Element Training allows us to realize—and exist continually—in deep clear mind and in heartfelt, fearless psychological stability.  In this dialogue, Jun Po explains the five elements in considerable detail:

• Sacred Stewardship
• Philosophical and Cognitive Re-Orientation
• Emotional Maturity and Integrity
• Conscious Embodiment
• Genuine Insight

Jun Po Kelly Roshi’s story is itself endlessly fascinating, and when coupled with his radiant personality and gilded sense of humor, would no doubt make for a wildly entertaining and enriching film.  More intriguing, his story echoes a narrative even greater than his own (as all great stories invariably do)—it is hard to think of anyone who better personifies the remarkable progression of American spirituality from the 1960’s until today, standing as he does with one foot firmly planted in the sixties counterculture, and the other in today’s Integral emergence. Pushing the essence of the tradition through the Integral framework, Jun Po is reinterpreting and reformatting ancient wisdom for today’s world, while retaining the fierce intensity and urgency of his Samurai precursors.  He is sitting in the heart of the integral impulse, reconciling the ceaseless throb of evolution with the empty clarity behind this and every moment—the gentle but explosive sound of an unstoppable force meeting an unmovable subject.


(All text taken from

Sacred Stewardship (5:09)

Through the element of Sacred Stewardship we embody all the aspects and ideals of an enlightened culture. We become highly disciplined and keenly aware of what we bring into our minds and bodies. We are attuned to the activities of our ranchers, farmers, politicians, educators, and the broader landscape of our national media. We hold as sacred clear thoughts and feelings, as well as pure food, water, and air. We become standard-bearers for social integrity, and stewards for our minds, bodies, communities, and the world.

Before awakening to the responsibilities of Sacred Stewardship we might enter a supermarket and make our purchases based upon convenience and price alone. We give little or no thought to the consequences of our actions, and what harm we might be causing to our environment and bodies, let alone the general welfare of all sentient beings. After awakening to our responsibility as a Sacred Steward, we might return those very same products to the shelf, feeling sadness and concern that such items are promoted and sold in our culture. We also feel the satisfaction in purchasing eggs from chickens that have not been abused, paper products that are recycled and haven’t been bleached, and meat from animals that haven’t been pumped full of damaging chemicals. Our thinking and feeling has shifted from “me only” to a “cradle to cradle” view of our natural resources. In these small, but highly significant ways, we embody all aspects of an enlightened culture.


Philosophical and Cognitive Reorientation (6:00)

Our ordinary concepts and thoughts usually reinforce habitual patterns of reactive states of mind, including mental processes dominated by greed, fear, and anger. Once trapped within these states of mind, we feel isolated from those around us, as well as alienated from the culture at large. In the Hollow Bones Order we recognize the extraordinary stability, depth and purity of our ordinary consciousness, and so we require a new way of thinking and speaking, a way that reflects the truth and profundity of this insight. Words like “awakened”, “selfless”, and “freedom” resonate with a new and joyous meaning. We recognize and accept our inherent power to literally change our minds, and so we automatically shift the way in which we think of ourselves, others, and the world in which we live. Old belief patterns fall away, and creative expressions that reflect the truth of our being naturally take their place.

Before we awaken to this truth we might believe that the thoughts and the emotions of our ego consciousness are the complete story about who we are. We know that these conditioned modes of mind lead us time and time again into behavior patterns that are harmful both to ourselves and to those we love, yet we feel unable to change them. Once we have re-oriented our view we see clearly that the habitual confusion and concerns of our ego consciousness can in no way alter the deep, imperturbability of our pure awareness. Our belief about who we really are—our true nature—automatically shifts into a constant process of ego-clarification and gentle arising of unreasonable joy. We begin to see through ordinary mind, and recognize extraordinary awareness…our very spirit.


Emotional Maturity and Integrity (6:48)

Once we have experienced the clarity of a purely receptive mind, a mind free from opinion, bias, and emotional turbulence, then we are able to accept whatever feelings might arise for us. We move beyond our usual reactive patterns of denial, fear and anger and abide in the deeper feelings of honest forgiveness and compassion for ourselves, and genuine empathy for others. We realize directly our inherent freedom and begin choosing our emotional responses instead of habitually reacting with old, conditioned, emotional patterns. We feel the truth of our lives more profoundly than ever, yet trust that we will now express that truth through our inherent compassion and wisdom. All of this we call “skillful means.”

Before we directly experience this level of psychological maturity and integrity we might find ourselves at the end of a long relationship, only focusing on being the “victim.” We tell ourselves that we have been “wronged,” and experience hostility and vindictiveness towards the other person. After realizing our inherent compassion and freedom, we might find ourselves in a similar situation, yet we now respond in a totally different way. Instead of reacting with anger, we feel ourselves inclined towards self-examination and self-reflection. Realizing the difficulty of coping with our own grief, we feel nothing but loving kindness towards the other person. We feel no need to perpetuate more conflict and suffering. We step away from projecting blame onto others for the reality of our own suffering, and now accept responsibility for our own feelings and actions.


Conscious Embodiment (4:30)

The Hollow Bones Order does not try to suppress the natural joy, delight, and miracle of our bodies. We delight in movement, dance, music, and athletics, and do not suppress the mysterious intimacy of human sexuality. During retreats within the Hollow Bones Order, practitioners are guided by highly skilled teachers through the internal arts of Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and Aikido. We discover how to embody conscious clarity with personal sense of emotional ease and physical grace. Because the Hollow Bones Order does not hold a nihilistic view of spirit, because our view is not based on ignorance, denial, and cynicism, we throw our hearts into being human. We work to diminish any feelings of heaviness or lethargy in our bodies, and turn instead to physical joy and freedom. We feel our bodies to be what they are: spirit made flesh.

Before practicing conscious embodiment, we might not even realize how heavy and lethargic we have become. We enter denial, and our heart and health suffer for it. It seems our interest in art, music, dance and beauty has diminished, and we eventually become anesthetized, claiming we don’t feel much of anything anymore. Once we reawaken our bodies to the depth of spirit within, all of this gradually changes. Our bodies grow alive, and instead of feeling burdened and overwhelmed, we expand our sensitivity and experience our lives afresh. If called upon to defend ourselves, or our loved ones, we would do so without hesitancy. If a friend is celebrating her birthday, we’ll get up and dance a jig. If a poem needs to be written, we get out our pen and jot it down. When the sun sets over the hills we smile at the transitory nature of phenomena and celebrate the ordinary experiences of life.


Genuine Insight (7:50)

Genuine insight is the revealing of the divine nature within us. Through this insight we realize the immortal truth of pure, receptive consciousness at the center of all sentient beings. As a consequence of this direct experience any sincere practitioner sees clearly the contrast between the true nature of spirit and the transitory nature of ego. Once this view is known, we spontaneously intuit an internal awareness of freedom, no matter what thoughts, emotions, or feelings arise in ordinary consciousness. If the insight is genuine the practitioner of Hollow Bones Zen also experiences a subtle and highly unreasonable sense of joy that flows from this pure receptive consciousness throughout his or her heart, mind, and body.

Before we experience genuine insight we look out with our physical eyes and believe the world is only as we think it to be. Obsessed with ego consciousness and the seemingly endless cycles of concepts and emotional reactions produced by this form of knowledge, we perceive nothing extraordinary about the world. Our awareness is unable to pierce the veil of ego, and so we might feel autonomous, but also alone, a part of the surrounding world, yet somehow alienated from it. In a futile attempt to overcome our deep sense of doubt, anxiety, and fear, we shift from one unfulfilling belief system to the next.

Once we have honestly experienced genuine insight we look out through these same physical eyes, but we are now aware of the pure, silent nature of consciousness within. Our anxiety, fear and doubt slowly fall away, supplanted by unreasonable delight and joy. We experience others as our ourselves, feeling connected and in communion with all sentient beings. We still notice the hope, fears and delusions of the ego without being governed by these misguided forces. All of this occurs-- not in some abstract idealistic fashion-- but in a simple, direct and undeniable form of knowledge. This is the process of awakening to our inherent nature, what we call “Buddha mind.”



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