A Man




An Interview with Jun Po (Denis Kelly)
Ancient Bald Eagle / The Zen Guy
Interviewed By: mj nelson / rattlesnake

mj: Jun Po, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. I have been very excited about this interview since we first started talking about it. It is not every day that the opportunity to interview a “Zen Master” comes along.

Jun Po: An old Zen master once replied, “I do not say there is no Zen, just that there are no masters of Zen.” A Zen master is not a master of Zen, just an excellent student.

mj: Forgive me for starting at the basics, but I suspect there are those who don’t know what the Hollow Bones Order is and what its relationship is to the Mankind Project. I want to make sure we start at a place that includes everyone.

Jun Po: In 1999, I responded to a few years of prompting from my good friend and fellow student of Zen, Warrior Brother Bill Frackelton. Bill requested that I meet and spend some time with Bill Kauth, of the founders of the ManKind Project, to talk about Zen and New Warrior work. Bill Kauth and I met and had lunch. He ended up attending one day of a retreat I was leading in Wisconsin. His vision and my training came together, and we agreed that Zen training could be a perfect fit for the New Warrior community.

Zen has its roots firmly set in the warrior Samurai culture of ancient Japan -New Warrior meets old Warrior! I and my staff of four brothers quickly attended the weekend so we would know who and what we were getting into. The weekend was amazing for all of us! Finally, we had found a true brotherhood. We got ready to staff the first seven-day Zen Hollow Bones training weekend for MKP, and held it in September of 1999 at Zen Mountain Center in Los Angeles. There have been about fifty seven or eight-day retreats since then. We began with separate men’s and women’s retreats, and eventually moved to where most of the retreats are coed. Hollow Bones is an autonomous training. We offer to serve the MKP Brotherhood in the development of deep insight and clear mind through the practice of awareness skills. Hollow Bones also leads and challenges men to develop more emotionally mature characters.

mj: What is the brief history of Zen, where did it come from?

Jun Po: Zen is a serious meditation tradition that comes to America from Japan. It started in India 2,500 years ago when a meditation teacher named Siddhartha Gautama started a tradition known today as Buddhism. It migrated from India through China and into Japan. Zen is a sect in that tradition. Zen is how the Japanese pronounce the Chinese word “Chan”. Chan is how the Chinese pronounce the Hindu Sanskrit word “Dhyana”. Dhyana means non-judgmental, compassionate awareness. The school traveled from India to China and then to Japan and now to the USA. It is interesting to note that the martial arts tradition came to China and Japan with the Zen tradition.

mj: Thank you. Now, what is Zen?

Jun Po: Zen is the embodiment of clear, deep, insightful mind. It is a combination of the realization of the truth of profound, subtle mind and the stability of conscious awareness, both married to the compassionate realization of our mutual interdependency.

mj: Even though you’ve already stated that there are no Zen Masters, let me ask you again: What is a Zen Master?

Jun Po: A Zen master is someone--man or woman-- who has completed his or her decades of Zen training, and is then recognized by his or her Zen Master to have reached a level of insight and maturity in practice that is masterful. This person is expected to teach and carry on the tradition. Also, a Zen Master is expected to find and train others to eventually pass on the honor and responsibility of being a recognized Zen Master.

mj: How many Zen Masters are there in the USA today? The world?

Jun Po: I don’t really know. Perhaps a few hundred in Japan, Korea and Vietnam and perhaps twenty westerners--mostly Americans.

mj: How many Zen Masters would you say there have there been since the time Buddha 2500 years ago?

Jun Po: No idea. But in 2,500 years I would imagine quite a few.

mj: Do you mind if we inquire a little bit into who Jun Po is?

Jun Po: Jun Po is a name given to me, Denis Kelly, by my Zen Abbott. Jun Po is a man among men, dedicated to a life of meditative awareness. I am a man of Argentine tango, a man of organic wine, a man who makes his own bio-diesel, a man in love with a beautiful woman, a man of intense passion, a man who harvests and eats wild mushrooms, digs clams and collects seaweed at the ocean, a man who feels and loves deeply, a man devoted to the idea of Zorba the Buddha, a man mending relationships, a man with a lot of opinions, a man growing and learning. A man whose heart aches and soars… an ordinary man, a man like you.

mj: (Chuckle) Who are you?

Jun Po: Not knowing!!! Notice I did not say “I don’t know”; if I drop the pronoun, I become “Not knowing!” Just the receptive spiritual awareness.

mj: Tell us a little of your personal journey. What is your story?

Jun Po: Roman catholic, alcoholic household, disastrous marriage at seventeen; booze, drugs and rock and roll; original wake up with LSD in 1965. Got the picture and realized there are no short cuts, no free lunches, and started serious spiritual practices, mostly eastern; not faith-based however, but discipline based, following the pragmatic meditation traditions of the Yoga of India and the meditation traditions of Tibet and Japan.

Then, after a lot of window shopping and sampling from 1965, in 1978 I met my future Abbot, Eido Shimano Roshi, and started serious Zen training at Dai Bosatsu Zendo monastery in New York State, coming and going from 1978, leading to full ordination as a Monk/Priest into 1984. Opened my first Zen Yoga Center in California in 1984, returned to the monastery in 1987. Resided there, first as head monk, and then as Vice-Abbot; received Masters Recognition in October of 1992, stayed until spring of 1993. I then resigned and went to Colorado for two years of personal psychological work and professional psychological training. Converted all teachings and forms from Japanese into English, and continued teaching and training privately. Found my family, my tribe, my Brothers within MKP in 1999. In finding MKP I also discovered why I had devoted my life to meditation and Zen, why I took the time to get my Masters recognition. I had been preparing my whole life to bring this treasure of Zen training to the western world. I can now die content.

End of Retreat

mj: If this is so, then what is your Truth?

Jun Po: Never doubt the imperturbability of your true Pure Awareness! Never doubt the invincible compassion of your true, Pure Heart!

mj: In light of all this, what is the Hollow Bones Order?

Jun Po: Hollow bones is one week of pure, deep silence. Hollow Bones is the embodiment of compassion, beginning at home. Hollow Bones is the following five training elements:

1. Environmental Consciousness and Stewardship

2. Philosophical and Cognitive Re-orientation (a better map of the whole territory in which we really live)

3 Emotional Maturity and Integrity

4. Conscious Embodiment, as in the interior martial arts and Yoga Asana.

5. Genuine Insight into the truth of your spiritual self, way beyond anything you might think or feel.

Hollow Bones is a sacred order of men and women who practice the art and skill forms associated with these five training elements. Hollow Bones is the continual training, growing and enjoying of our lives. Hollow Bones is a disciplined, physical, emotional, and philosophical body. Hollow Bones is a playful and joyful life. As our martial arts Sensei said at our last retreat: “Hollow Bones is where the rubber meets the road.” Hollow Bones is what you want it to be, and make it to be.

mj: From your point of view, what is the Mankind Project?

Jun Po: The Mankind Project is the birth of a culture, a true reclaiming of the Sacred Masculine for our times; the beginning of the awakening from the negative shadow of the American dream.

mj: What is your definition of a “New Warrior”?

Jun Po: A New Warrior is a man who disciplines, educates, and trains his mind and body to be ready to defend and protect his family and his culture. He is a man who takes stands on issues like clean air, pure water, fair education, multiculturalism, honest politics, as well as a man who embodies--through action and example—disciplined, conscious protection, physical well-being, and alert, environmental stewardship. A man who, when challenged, responds with compassion rather than reacting with anger. A man who responds from wisdom rather than from fear.

mj: How do you see the Hollow Bones training and the New Warrior Training fitting together?

Jun Po: Simply as they do. The Hollow Bones training is what I like to call “graduate school”. After we do our shadow work and get a strong and healthy ego, it is time to begin to mature and develop a deeper relationship with spirit. Hollow Bones is one way to move from the “undergraduate”, psychological model to a more mature, conscious, awareness model. It is an introspective, discipline-based way to move from fear and anger into contentment and compassion.

mj: What is your vision?

Jun Po: I envision a rapturous love affair between the Hollow Bones Order and MKP. This involves a training center where we practice and embody the five training elements mentioned earlier: Sacred Stewardship; Philosophical and Cognitive Re-orientation; Psychological Maturity and Integrity; and finally, Conscious Embodiment and Genuine Insight. And through that embodiment we will develop the skills necessary to take this greater maturity as teachers out into the world as New Warriors and Hollow Bones Zen Coaches. These Zen Coaches can help others develop compassionate insight and, through living and teaching the five elements, will broaden and clarify our vision within the communities around our MKP Centers.

mj: From your experience, what kind of man is it that is called to the Bones?

Jun Po: A man who is beginning to see through the myth of ego and is starting to awaken. Someone who finally sees through his shadow and gets the joke, realizing--at that very moment--that he is the joke! A man who desires deeper spiritual realizations, relationships and understanding. He is a man who desires a broader and deeper expression of the Sacred Masculine, and recognizes that now is the time to begin or expand the interior disciplines and arts.

mj: What can a man expect to bring back from a Hollow Bones Retreat?

Jun Po: Heightened awareness and new insight about his life, both spiritual and practical. The experience of a week in deep silence and contemplative self-inquiry allows an insight to arise, an “Aha!”. In that “Aha!” we see more clearly where we really are in our egocentric lives, and so realize who we really are in spirit. This is why we use the term “awakening”. Simply wake up! Turn on the light inside! A man can expect, as well, new or sharpened tools and skills to help him make genuine strides in his Hero’s journey and further awaken.

mj: How do you think “practicing Zen” fits in with other religions?

Jun Po: Zen is not a religion, so there is really no conflict. Zen is a pragmatic philosophy, not a faith-based religious system. Non-sectarian meditation and awareness training can fit perfectly in any religious system. It is just a simple process of greater and clearer awareness. Zen says that what you believe might be in your way, so go deeper into truth than your beliefs and see what you discover. Enter into perfect silence and see who you really are. Christian, Jew, Moslem, Sufi, all sooner or later will be led to the gate of silence. In Zen, we call this silent place the Gateless Gate, because there is nothing keeping you out but your practice of not going there.

mj: If a man has a particular religious faith, can practicing Zen add anything to that faith? If so, what?

Jun Po: A far richer understanding of his faith and, in the case of Christianity, the opportunity to experience the “kingdom that lies within.” I cannot express to you the value of deep, silent contemplation in the context of any religious tradition. It is the core of all of them.

mj: What about the man that has no religious faith? Can practicing Zen add anything to his life?

Jun Po: It will add the joy of silent inquiry as the light changes and the sun rises in the early dawn. During evening practice it will add the clear sweet voice of the evening dove, or perhaps a frog’s voice as the sun sets. It will add a relationship with his most subtle, inner self, perhaps someone who he has not experienced or until now known. It will allow him to see how he chooses his emotional responses. It will give him the ability to stay compassionately present in the face of insults; it will allow him to know that the heart was meant to be broken, and that it can never be broken.

mj: What you just said reminds me of the many paradoxes I have encountered in my studies of Zen. I have also come across some wonderful discussions of this mysterious perspective of “Non-Duality” vs. “Duality”. Can you explain, or perhaps describe, this difference in perspectives?

Jun Po: There is an experience in meditation where one directly feels and connects with all life, all being. This knowing is the truth of one living body; this truth, this greater knowing and complete fulfillment, is expressed as “Non-duality”. In Zen we call it “Big Mind.” Here, the mind of judging, feeling and thinking about sensations is experienced as “Dualistic”, or “Relative”. It is this temporary, relative mind that divides things into self and other, good and evil, and so on. This is the world of duality, of the “two”, and the relativity of all conceptual references.

mj: In the New Warrior Weekend each man is invited and led on a journey. It is his own journey where he opens his heart by seeing his “Little Boy’s Deepest Need”. Then, after his heart is open, he touches his “Deepest Wound” and finds his true “Mission” or the real “Gift” he can bring into the world. Can you speak to us about this seemingly dual nature of the Wound/Gift from the place of “Non-Duality”?

Jun Po: From the place of Non-Duality there has never been a wound! Of course there have been interesting and intense experiences that have built a particular kind of character. “Wound” is an ego-based, value-weighted opinion. From the place of Non-Duality it is literally gifts… all the way down. Emotionally weighted value judgments, such as the idea of wound, are concepts about the dual and relative world, a world within our reflective consciousness. In the Non-Dual reality, events simply occur. Believe me when I say to you that it is possible to see this clearly!

However, we need to remember that Zen is not nihilistic. Zen is a very moral and ethical teaching; we do not abandon the relative when we experience the Non-Dual. Nor are we bound in the absolute sense by these moral and ethical teachings. We must realize the deeper truth, and then trust the natural, unwritten moral and ethical teachings. We simply open to a broader and more interesting understanding, a more enlightened view, one with more light, and then correct action naturally follows. When this insight happens, no rules are necessary.

MJ in his element.

mj: The Mankind Project seems to be entering an interesting time of change. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing MKP today?

Jun Po: I think it is for MKP to stand up and claim what we are willing to be New Warriors about. What is the stand we take environmentally, for instance? What about compassion instead of anger? What about education and health care? What about drug prisons? We need to be willing to stand in the fire and claim who we really are, and then get on with changing our culture in the most conscious and ethically responsible way. MKP, in my opinion, needs to become more of a transformational, educational institution, a vital culture that addresses all of these issues. Issues and “Isms” is a good first step. I often ask students “What are you willing to die for?” I think it time to start asking ourselves and all of the New Warrior Brothers of MKP that very question.

mj: Once again, what do you see as MKP’s real “Mission” in this world?

Jun Po: To lead the reclaiming of our culture and the world through the examples I just cited.

mj: From this place of “Non-Duality” can you speak of MKP’s challenge/mission?

Jun Po: The notion of Non-Duality is interesting and important philosophically and cognitively. However, in this context a more practical view would better serve. Here, Non-Duality is a bit abstract and not really that important.

mj: Have you heard the Confucian Curse/Blessings: May you live in interesting times?

Jun Po: Yes, and these are the most interesting of times! I laughed out loud the first time I heard this curse. Everything changes and everything remains the same. I am reminded that during the first century in Rome, one of the greatest problems was environmental: To supply the free hot water to every Roman citizen they had slaves maintain huge coal fires to heat all of that water. Huge soot pollution! Rome was a city smothered in soot. They washed the marble constantly, and lung disease was rampant, yet they wouldn’t give up the comfort. Today in our cities we breathe shit constantly and think, like the Romans, that we are cool and everything is just fine. I think it’s time for a Hollow Bones wake up call!

mj: What is the biggest challenge the human race faces today?

Jun Po: Environment! Environment! Environment! Population! Population! Population! Pollution! Pollution! Pollution! Corporate control of government! Profit rather than compassion as the ruling intent.

The difference about these “interesting times” is the undeniable reality of the degradation of our environment. Humanity’s capitalistic adventure is running a very dangerous game based upon short-sightedness.

mj: What gift do you see a man bringing back to the Mankind Project who has gone to Hollow Bones – to “Graduate School”?

Jun Po: Insight. When a man finally goes inside and discovers who he is, he is changed, just like when he finally gets his unaccountable ass to the New Warrior Weekend, he is changed. He has now taken the time for a true spiritual warrior initiation; he has reflected deeply and become a man of contemplation, a man of meditation. In other words, what he brings back is greater maturity.

mj: Maturity and insight! What wonderful gifts to bring back to this organization as it struggles to grow and evolve in these “interesting times”. If enough men in MKP embrace and embody the gift of Hollow Bones, what impact do you see that it will have on MKP and the Gift that MKP can give to the world? What is “ManKind’s Project” from this place of “Non-Duality”?

Jun Po: As MKP continues to awaken, and as we embrace proven, internal, disciplined, practice forms like Hollow Bones meditation, our culture will naturally become more contemplative, meditative and aware. In that heightened awareness we will be more mature and more effective. I do not want to be remembered as a bunch of emoting, middle-aged, white guys who couldn’t agree upon what was worth dying for and who “almost” woke up.

On the other hand, to ask about Mankind’s Project from the place of Non-Duality is a confused question. What are you asking?

mj: Thank you, Jun Po. This is what I love about Zen and Zen Masters. I love the joy of discovering answers to life’s difficult questions myself, and I love receiving such fierce, loving guidance clarifying the questions. Ok, the real question is: What is “Mankind’s Project” really? Why are we here?

Jun Po: Always a tricky question lurking somewhere! From the Non-Duality thing right off to the “why are we here” thing.

The chicken or the egg… which came first? Why are we here? Why not? From this Hollow Bone, we are simply here. Why is beside the point; the question itself creates the “duality” trap. Speculation will not produce a single glass of organic wine, a loving embrace, or the light in your child’s eyes. The real answer to that question can be found only in our lives. We are here to live fully, to love fully and to die fully. This is why! If you need some speculative answer, go to a philosopher. I’m clueless. I’m the Zen guy. Out of silence and emptiness we arise, and into silence and emptiness we return. In-between it is joy and sorrow, awe and gratitude.

Let me close with two words of my favorite ancient Zen teacher, Siddhartha Gautama. He said, “Ata dipa”. You are the light.

mj: Ah… “Not knowing”!! Thank you Jun Po, Aho and Namasté.

Jun Po: Thank you.

Check out www.hollowbones.org

© 2006, Reid Baer

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The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria Vanderbilt

Reid Baer, an award-winning playwright for “A Lyon’s Tale” is also a newspaper journalist, a poet with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide, and a novelist with his first book released this month entitled Kill The Story. Baer has been a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and currently edits The New Warrior Journal for The ManKind Project www.mkp.org . He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.

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