Sunday, August 7, 2011

Vow and Commitment


A disciple of the Buddha does not steal, and I've heard it a few times. I took that vow, and this vow has been a threshold I've stepped over and back over the last couple of days.

This is a part of my Everything Changes, Everything's Connected, Pay Attention, program.

First, I sat in a benefits meeting at work. There was a rich man telling us we could all get rich, too. All we had to do was invest with his firm, and better yet, my school was going to match my contribution up to 5%. Someone raised their hand and asked if the company could direct our investments to green or ethical companies, so he wasn't funding genocide or ecocide, and the rich man said, no, that just wasn't a part of what his program offered.

Besides not wanting to destroy sentient beings, I feel very anti-capitalist, even green capitalism turns me off, and here was this threshold- but here was this "free money", too. I knew to enroll wouldn't sit well with me- we all draw lines somewhere- and here was something that felt like a no brainer, so no thank you, I won't be investing. On my eight fold path, it seemed like the right step to take.

Then two days later I came home to see that my rear bike wheel had been stolen. Gone, gone, gone, very much like my other bike which was stolen about 6 months ago. I hadn't locked that back tire up...I'm an anger type, and my first instinct was to punch my car. I didn't punch my car. I haven't punched anything (or anyone) for a very long time, however, that's what comes up. I thought, I don't have to be happy about this, I don't have to rationalize this, but I also can't avoid the emotion. I decided to read Reb Anderson's chapter on the precept of not taking that which is not given, and I wondered what I'd been stealing.

Reb gives a very detailed break down of the precept and includes example of stealing like having sex in a relationship that's not mutual and that murder is a type of stealing, too. But the one that rang true for me was making commitments you don't keep.

It's glaring in my mind- have you ever heard someone talk about something negative and just knew that it was 100% you? I have. My principal was talking about teacher absences and how detrimental they are for the classroom and my ears were burning. For the last 4 years I've missed about 25 days of work. It feels criminal. It feels like stealing.

Granted, I've had my burnout issues, I've had my investigations into depression, alcoholism, resentments of the system at large, and tried some "cures" too. Self diagnosis rooted in delusion gave cures rooted in that same delusion. Truth is, I'm afraid to fail, and that's what keeps me home. Funny though, you only fail when you do, and there's not much to cure that!

So, commitments. I made a commitment to my school this year, to a team of teachers, to the innercity kids coming my way, and I don't want to steal from them.

How do I bring this to the forefront of my practice? How do I make sure I don't forget? I feel very alone, very much facing in the direction of the Buddha.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Leaving Home, Staying Home

My wife, taking my Rakusu for a spin. I have two...one 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!