Monday, February 9, 2009

These are the days of our lives.

(Flying pig in the middle)

I hadn’t said a thing to Robert, not even hello when I saw my teacher talking with the shuso about the book I’m editing. It was a work day at the temple and I was tenzo again, and I really couldn’t get caught up in my recent feelings, and so I didn’t open my mouth, for fear of something escaping.

In a lot of ways, I felt like Judas. I went behind my teacher’s back and asked some questions I’m not brave enough to ask him. It felt wrong, felt too subjective, and I spoke about our temple as a whole. I didn’t say this is how I feel; I said this is how things are at our temple. There are always problems with I statements, but my issue is that “I” changes so rapidly.

Last week, I was sure I would never take ordination from Robert. I was so positive that he was not the teacher for me. I had plans to go west or to Japan, and it felt so good to dwell in certainty. Not so good, but euphoric, like I figured something out- like I was drunk.

Inebriation and chaos go hand in hand for me. Not only is not okay for me take that first drink, it’s also not okay for me to take the first action step in some manic or depressed plan. When times are good, I’m laying the first and last brick of the tower, and when times are bad, I’ll be the first to put my back behind a sledge hammer.

Feeling all of this, after deciding to leave the temple, I went to a meeting. There is a rehabilitation center two blocks away, but I had never gone to a meeting there. Only real drunks go there, and I usually go to the nice coffee shop meetings, where everyone smells good. After zazen on the Thursday night, I went to where the real drunks are.

There were two meetings, one NA, one AA, separated by a wall partition. In that cafeteria, I thought of sangha. Here was the eating place of all these people who woke up on the same beds and ate at 6:30, 12:30, and 4:30 (as the sign said). The serenity prayer was hanging above a silver steam table. Other posters hung and reminded, and all I had to do was glimpse at the “off the beam” list. Resentment. Again, amongst those who appear Godless, those who smell, those who crawled into the room, and those who snored or vibrated uncontrollably, I was slaked. To listen for a minute was to hear myself. Reality wedged pause between action and reaction.
The tower would stand or it would fall, but for now, my hands were at rest, and I just observed.
In Zen, there is always talk of forgetting the self.

“Self, forget you!”

What that’s about for me is that the self is limited. My self is limited. It’s carries no permanent attribute. The flying pig that wanted to fly away is the same pig that roots through shit. I hear my self, and I have to give pause, because it’s usually bat shit crazy.

Of course, mujo prevails; there will be changes, I will make changes in my life. But instead of giving into my every whim, my every objection, I’ve been practicing good parenting skills. I listed to the first couple of pleas with indifference, but if something comes up repeatedly, like the desire to pursue priesthood and writing, or education and fitness, then I listen.

In life, there is no one to ring a gong for you to know what to do and when to do it. There are no 2 strikes to begin kinhin. Instead, it’s that old horrible truth, that you must be your own teacher sometimes, that’s there. Living a temple life is easy. When the han is struck, I go into the dojo. If I’m leading, I make the breakfast. There is little deliberation in deciding whether or not I’ll let down my sangha and call in sick at 5 am. I wake up and act, and it’s good practice.

But life isn’t like that. I need to decide where the wiggle room is in my schedule. I need to decide when to change jobs, when to take a break. And I don’t think too much about the precepts, but I listen to myself, which usually has its limited grasp on the precepts.

Regardless, with a little or a lot to hold on to, I still need to follow the cosmic order. Get out there and stir up the karma.

Bodhisattva’s cannot hide.


  1. Bodhisattva’s cannot hide.

    I like that allot. I see them everywhere.

  2. There are always problems with I statements, but my issue is that “I” changes so rapidly.

    Again, it will take me much time to absorb all you said here. It isn't that I take it all part and parcel as truth, it is that I find kinship in your earnest search.