With clouds and water
Dragons take the zendo
There, they sing like whales.
I had this notion that maybe people would like to read about what it’s like to be neither lay person nor priest. Suzuki Roshi said it like this: “ I understand it this way: That you are not priests is an easy matter, but that you are not exactly laymen is more difficult.” With that, he’s speaking to the ordained and the lay-ordained, or the non-ordained, or the ordained wearing clown noses. He’s not the first to say it. In the Parinirvana Sutra, the Buddha addresses the fact that his disciples are not lay, not ordained.
So, there’s old time Zen priests here, beautiful purple Okesas, humble brown Okesas, even shiny mustard Okesas from Japan. There are also old time lay practioners with fraying lay robes and dark blue, bright blue, and dark green rakusu. There's even a lay practitioner who has received dharma entrustment who wears a green Okesa. Some of them are married, some aren’t. And then there’s a steady flow of youngish people (from to 20-50) who come and stay from anywhere between 3 months and 5 years. Some of them take lay ordination (Jukai) and some don’t. Some don’t believe in it. Some lay-ordained don’t believe in full ordination. It’s really a vast, vast phenomena.
Sometimes a monk, sometimes a priest, sometimes a lay person- where do my wife and I fit in? We have a little room in Cloud Hall. We sleep in separate single beds. We wake up around 4 am. We meditate, we chant, we work, we go to class. I want to ordain, she’s very open to not interested in ordination. What do we look like to the outside? That were not priests is simple; that were not exactly lay people, harder for those outside our tradition to see.
I started this post with a Haiku. I wrote that after hearing Dogen’s “ With clouds, water, and cooperation, dragons take to the water.” The singing of the whales is the sweet range of voices that come together every morning when we begin to chant:
Great robe of liberation
Field far beyond form and emptiness
Wearing the Tathagata’s teachings
Saving all beings
I hear so much from our ancestors; we are not lay people, we are not priests, we are dragons, we are elephants, we wear the the tathagata’s teachings...
What do you think? To ordain or not to ordain? What’s all this robe culture about?