Skip to main content

For no one can be a Sage in his own home.

I left Tassajara two day ago and I won't return for another two weeks. So far I've watched three movies, one episode of Game of Thrones, played about 20 games of Go (online) and ran about 20 miles. I also ate a chicken, a quiche, and some gnocci.

I'm not exactly sure what monks are supposed to do on vacation. I imagine other monks maybe don't get them. It's 3:30am and I'm wide awake. Funny, when I return to Tassajara, we'll start practice period and the wake up bell will becoming around in just 15 more minutes. The stillness is still pretty still here.

After tomorrow my wife and I will go to Northeastern Pennsylvania. I like to pretend that I'm not really from there. I like to say, oh, I'm a military brat and I'm not from anywhere and then talk all about New Orleans, where my Dad and Step Mom (and little brother) live. What's there to say about NEPA? What's there to say about where we're from?

Master Ma Tsu advised:

I advise you not to return to your native place
For no one can be a Sage in his own home.
This old woman by the side of the old brook
Still calls me the garbage man's son!

I was a Dungeons and Dragons dork. I was a C student and a mason's apprentice. I wanted to escape, enlisted in the Marines, but chickened out and didn't go to boot camp. I went to a commuter campus, bumbled around, got lots of tattoos and piercings, and really could never have imagined I'd be living in the middle of the wilderness, practicing Zen Buddhism.

And that "monks" could marry and have kids.

And they have to sew their own robe.

Usually, I wear samue everywhere. Not sure you know what a samue is? Well I'll spare you a picture- it's a karate outfit. Or a sushi chef's outfit. I brought one, but I'm not so into wearing monastic garb in a place where they accidently shoot things that aren't wearing blaze orange.

But I'm being dramatic. Truth is my lovely sister is picking me up and I'll stay at her house for awhile. My wife is pregnant and everyone will be interested our baby. People ask me how I'm feeling and I usually say hungry. Baby? I'm just not worried about baby! I wonder if she'll like to run, if she'll to be quiet, and want to stay at Tassajara forever, but no, I'm not worried about baby. I'm worried about me and what my family is thinking of me because I'm not worried about baby!

Ever sit in a conversation worrying about what people think of you? If not, you must not have inlaws. My inlaws are wonderful, so wonderful they make me nervous. They make me want to do something heroic, which is generally not a good idea.

So I'll refrain. I'll refrain from trying to explain what Doanryo is, too, when they ask me what my next job at Tassajara will be. Maybe I'll just say garbage man and leave it that.


  1. My teacher and I hail from the same place we grew up. It is an interesting conundrum. We have spoken about it occasionally. Good dharma in central pa if you ever stop by :) 🙏✌️

  2. Hey, that's where I got started! With Dr. Mazis on Harrisburg Penn State campus

  3. Enjoy the framiliarity and comoradity of being home....


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How To Become A Zen Monk (or die trying)

"Now, if you have decided to become a monk because you think that life in this world is too hard and bitter for you and you would prefer to rather live off other people's donations while drinking your tea - if you want to become a monk just to make a living, then the following is not for you." -Kosho Uchiyama
So you want to be a Zen monk or priest? Unsui, which means clouds and water? Good on ya. Me too. 
Having googled that very aspiration for the first time in 2003, I was convinced it was impossible. I'll admit I am as thick headed as they come. I was also resistant to meet some figure in a robe. I heard my father's voice when I begged him to get my fortune read in Jackson Square, New Orleans, "I'm not paying some fat asshole in a bathrobe to tell you lies." Instead, for the first four years of my Zen practice, I committed as little as possible to my local sangha, left when they started chanting, and never talked to the teacher. I was so unapproacha…

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 …