Skip to main content

Leaving Home, Staying Home

My wife, taking my Rakusu for a spin. I have from my first teacher, and the one she is wearing, which says Kogen Chikan on the back...Ancient Source, Wisdom Mirror. A lot to live up to! Deshimaru said that just wearing a rakusu, even if just for a second, changes your being. Lulu said, " It did feel kinda special, but that's about it. Made me want one."

However, in our household, when we get something new, we usually get rid of something old, and ironically, we're actually getting rid of a lot of things so that we can get two resident Zen priests for the new zendo, which she is standing in. And I really like Reb Anderson's idea that anyone who takes the precepts is a renunciate, and that is to say that we recognize that nothing is actually "ours." Leaving home or staying home, the path to liberation is still hard to map out.

Someone called Reb out and articulated what I never could. She said, "Even though you're saying that lay practitioners can stay home and attain liberation, I still get the impression that being a priest or monk is better." and Reb said, "Only if by better you mean easier." His point was that when you wear a kesa, that's a symbol to the world that you keep the Buddha way, and the world becomes a foundation of practice, because it's full of others wearing the kesa and sharing "pointers" freely.

I know that when I don't have a Zendo within 20-50 feet of my bed, I don't make it to daily Zazen. It's a crutch, I don't walk the path without it.

My own teacher counseled me to choose my own suffering. That whether I chose to go to Antaiji or some other place, i'd still have to come back to the ubiquitous here and now. Suffer in New Orleans, suffer in Japan, suffer in California, you can have suffering anywhere.

And then there is my good friend who has been a priest for about 5 years, lived in Zen centers and monasteries for longer, and he said, from whereever he is, "This is no place to practice buddhism."

I had to think for a second, because we're actually planning to switch places. Lulu and I are leaving in the summer for full time practice. He and his partner are the priests who are coming here to run the zendo and build a temple. They want jobs so they don't have to "sell" Zen, or workshops that look like Zen, and they want to run an "honest" zendo. They don't want to sell water by the river.

And I'm thinking, "Look at us, aren't we funny?" Because I have felt that my job here is too exhausting. That I don't know the sutras, I can't tell you about the paramitas, I can barely make it to Zazen, and I get caught up in so many things.

I felt like I know something about this workaday world that he has forgotten. And I know his experience is his truth. And we might both be right, or both be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that practice is hard, if not grueling, where ever we sit. And not practicing is grueling. And then sometimes practice is so fulfilling. And sometimes sleeping in is just what I needed.

Pretty much, everything is what it is, except when it isn't. Reb says the path of the priest is easier for someone who wants all the help in the world to keep the precepts, and I guess it will be while it is, and it won't be when it isn't. And as for lay practice, it's all I know, and it's been...well, most of us know exactly what it's like!


Popular posts from this blog

Boredom and Buddhism

To say I feel bored feels disrespectful. How could that be? I have a three month old daughter, I'm training for a demanding job in the temple, I'm a wilderness medic responding to incidents every 4 days or so, and I'm sewing my priest robes for ordination. And I have this sense of disinterest.

I have a few theories as to why I feel bored. One could be the natural come down from having the baby and becoming stable in our schedule. Another come down plays out in the adrenaline crash after responding to a medical emergency or the general up keep work I do at the temple when compared to fixing something crucial to operations. When I hear there's a fire in the area I'm pretty excited to be mobilized for stay and defend duty. I feel pretty guilty about that, too.

So I read Beyond Boredom and Depression by Ajahn Jagaro and I was reminded to be careful about looking outward by this passage:

So what is boredom? It is a subjective experience that occurs when the mind is not i…

Goodbye Green Gulch Sama! Hello Tassajara!

About two years ago I left Mid City Zen in New Orleans. I feared I was leaving something, and now I'm about to leave Green Gulch and that same fear has arisen. I imagined there was wealth, a sort of freedom, and a lot to "renounce."  I had a car (a fast one!), a playstation 3, many books, many articles of clothing, and as I look around our little cabin, that same perception has arisen- I have too much stuff! And I like it!

My book collection that I sold or gave away in New Orleans has somehow manifested out here. And I have quite the collection of farm hats and farm boots. Rubber ones, Redwings, Ropers, Bogs to the ankle, Bogs to the knee, a navy seal Solomon for the wet spring weather. Most of them are fit to throw away, glued back together and stitched with fishing line, and just so smelly, so smelly my wife won't let me keep them in the cabin, so I hide them all around Green Gulch.

So I started packing, and while that fear of renunciation has arisen, it's not …

Vows and Compass

Being in new Orleans reminds me that my way seeking mind ripened here. Maybe it was the level of maturity my father's recovery actualized. Maybe it was the Ben Wren book I found at Beaucoup Books on my lunch break. Maybe it was my step mom's copy of things fall apart by Pema Chodron sitting in the bathroom.

Later I would witness the host of suffering post-katrina offered to a young public school teacher. How could I help? I took my first set of vows not really knowing where they would lead, like the old black metal compass my dad put in my Christmas stocking when I was about ten. Beautiful to hold, difficult to understand.

Now, years later, I feel a bit subdued as form,sensation, perception, impulse, and thought tag everything, beckoning some purchase for the price of belief. I'm home, but a home leaver. People wonder when I'll move back and being a home leaver means being ready to leave home again and again, which could mean coming back.

How will I actually engage all…