Nakahara Nantembo (1839-1925) was one of the greatest Zen masters of the 20th century. Born into a samurai family, Nantembo became known as a bold, dynamic man of forceful character and awesome determination. As a Zen teacher he evolved a unique approach to practice that emphasised the development of inner power.
On 17th March 2018 Daizan ran a 1-day workshop based around the teachings of Nantembo Roshi at Yugagyo Dojo in London, which we captured on video.
Edited into an accessible, informative, and clear format, these recordings are now available to purchase and download on video. They include material about his life, calligraphy and unique style of practice, and 1 hour of recorded meditations for you to practice along with.
On this download Daizan Roshi will teach you how to access this source of power in your zazen sitting meditation, while setting this practice in the context of Nantembo‘s life and background. With time and practice you will find your own life empowered with Nantembo‘s boldness and courage.
Included on this download:
- An introduction to Nantembo Roshi, and his background and life.
- A discussion of his famous calligraphies and how these reflect his powerful personality.
- An introduction to Nantembo’s particular approach to practice.
- A guided meditation video, showing you how to develop your inner power as taught by Nantembo Roshi.
- A guided meditation audio, for you to follow whenever you choose.
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In July 2014, two guys from the Zenways sangha spent 24hrs in the Gyokuryuji temple storehouse in Japan exploring Nantembo’s style of inner-power practice, chanting the Zen sound “mu” on every out-breath. Watch these short interviews to see how they got on and what they found.
In 2019 Ed and Mark got together to reflect on how their experience in the ‘mu shed’ in 2014 has affected their practice since.
And in Feb 2016, Pete Jion Cherry spent 24 hrs in a room in London, UK, doing the same thing. You can clearly see the effect this had on Pete in this short interview!
Shinzan Roshi discusses working with ‘mu’
Daizan’s teacher in Japan, Shinzan Roshi describes Nantembo Roshi as “a Zen master from an older generation with a unique way of working with mu: by repeatedly intoning it softly from deep down in the belly.” This was his way of getting students to concentrate fully on mu for extended periods of time. Different teachers used different methods for trying to open a student’s eye and this was Nantembo Roshi’s (which was unique at the time). Shinzan Roshi comments that a number of teachers used this method but that there probably aren’t so many nowadays as true Zen is dying out in Japan. Solitary mu sesshins typically aren’t used in a sodo (monks training hall).
Shinzan Roshi respects Nantembo’s unique style of teaching his students to work with mu. “Mu sesshins work well because they provide the circumstances for students to focus totally on mu alongside guidance from a Zen master (who checks in on them throughout the sesshin). It’s an excellent way to stop thinking because while one continues to intone mu softly the mind clears. A teacher can use this practice as a platform for his or her students to touch and recognize the state of non-self, non-thinking. By shutting oneself up in a room the practitioner is able to devote him or herself completely to realizing that state where the mind/brain stops working and thinking – this experience is of central importance in Zen. The duration of a mu sesshin depends on how long it takes a student to reach that non-self, non-thinking state and familiarize with it. Sometimes it takes a week, some people take 5 days, some 3, some less…there needs to be a quality of desperateness in which the student pours everything he or she has into it. As far as the practice is concerned, the student takes a deep in-breath and intones mu during a long steadily-paced out-breath. As this continues one enters into a samadhi state.”
A slightly different style of working with mu was used by Shinzan Roshi’s teacher (Itsugai Roshi) at Shogenji back last century in which his students would focus on yelling mu with all their might – this was their bread and butter at the sodo. Screaming mu with all one’s might provided a student with the opportunity of glimpsing the state of non-self, even if just for an instant. These glimpses form the foundation for making that enlightened understanding a normalized, actualized state in a student’s life. Typically one would go off by himself and shout mu on a mountain facing away from the village at night.