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
dont 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
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 mens and womens
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
mj: Even though youve 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
mj: How many Zen Masters are there in the
USA today? The world?
Jun Po: I dont 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
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
mj: (Chuckle) Who are you?
Jun Po: Not knowing!!! Notice I did not
say I dont 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
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
2. Philosophical and Cognitive Re-orientation (a
better map of the whole territory in which we
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
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
mj: From your point of view, what is the
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
mj: What is your definition of a
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
exampledisciplined, 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
mj: How do you see the Hollow Bones
training and the New Warrior Training fitting
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 Heros journey and further
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
mj: What about the man that has no
religious faith? Can practicing Zen add anything to
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 frogs 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
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 Boys 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
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
MKPs real Mission in this
Jun Po: To lead the reclaiming of our
culture and the world through the examples I just
mj: From this place of
Non-Duality can you speak of MKPs
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
mj: Have you heard the Confucian
Curse/Blessings: May you live in interesting
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
wouldnt 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 its 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
The difference about these interesting
times is the undeniable reality of the
degradation of our environment. Humanitys
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
ManKinds Project from this place
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 couldnt agree
upon what was worth dying for and who
almost woke up.
On the other hand, to ask about Mankinds
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 lifes difficult
questions myself, and I love receiving such fierce,
loving guidance clarifying the questions. Ok, the
real question is: What is Mankinds
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 childs 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. Im clueless. Im
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
Let me close with two words of my favorite
ancient Zen teacher, Siddhartha Gautama. He said,
Ata dipa. You are the light.
Thank you Jun Po, Aho and Namasté.
Jun Po: Thank you.
Check out www.hollowbones.org
© 2006, Reid Baer
* * *
The fame you earn has a different taste from the
fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria
Reid Baer, an
award-winning playwright for A Lyons
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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