“Original Mind“ – A Report On and Around Baker Baker Roshi‘s Book

Original Mind – The Craft of Zen Practice in the West, for over 40 years now, is the title reserved for Richard Baker Roshi’s book. “What if the title doesn’t even fit the book we’re writing now?” Tatsudo Nicole asked him in our first meeting here in Denver, Colorado. “Then we’re writing the wrong book,” he replied.

Roshi continued: “It should be a practice object. Like the body of a Buddha”. The physical book, the object itself, is an integral part of the message. Nicole and I realize that we need to shelf our idea for publishing it as an e-book for now.

With Tatsudo Nicole and myself, Baker Roshi has two disciples at his side determined to direct his creative energy and the seemingly never-ending flow of his insights into a strict regimen. He seems grateful for this. Therefore the directionality that these weeks are focused upon is the gestation and birth of this text.

We feel that this book may never be written if we do not get it off the ground now. In its absence, many insights into the workings of our human minds, discoveries about the effects of our cultural imprints, and finally, all too many practice suggestions, and guidance for living in service of our more profound potential will die with him, with Richard Baker Roshi.

Baker Roshi is feeling well. There is no acute reason for concern, despite a problematic episode in November that we suspect may have been a minor stroke, fortunately, with no lasting severe after-effects. His age is noticeable, and his hearing has declined, even if he describes himself as a young man with some problems.

The purpose of Nicole’s trip to the United States, for which she required a special entry permit from the American embassy amid this pandemic, is to help Zentatsu Baker Roshi with precisely these things that need to be done before his death. And this is not just about his book. It is also about his memories as a witness to and shaper of the times, observations, and role in Buddhism’s development in the West. Especially his role in the evolution of the Dharma Sangha. Roshi participates in weekly interviews with Sascha Borree, a journalist and Sangha member who has been commissioned to chronicle the history of the European Sangha and potentially work on a biography of Roshi.

There are also various objects, many, very remarkable, that, when Roshi speaks about them, reveal incredible origin stories and powerful digressions into a tantric-gestural Dharma world. Brian DeCamp, co-director of Crestone Mountain Zen Center, and Nicole are in the process of systematically mapping these items for both centers.

As far as the book effort is concerned, we wish to include the Sangha as much as possible. Baker Roshi often speaks of how inseparable the development of his teaching and practice is from the many hundreds of people who have practiced with him over the years and decades.

Nicole and I will continue sending news and written excerpts from the book throughout the coming weeks. Joining our mailing list is how you can stay informed about upcoming “book review meetings ” integrated into this winter’s practice period schedule. If you would like to be kept up to date on this book project, feel free to sign up for this email list by clicking this button:

Original Mind Book Project Sign-Up

Greetings from Sloan’s Lake in Denver!

Joshin Keith and Tatsudo Nicole