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Showing posts from August, 2015

The Human Fulfillment Checklist

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I just got back from a week at Green Gulch Farm, part of a covert mission a friendly experiment to infiltrate and destroy American Zen to see if I would enjoy doing residential practice there at some point.

One afternoon after my work was done, I went to the snack area by the kitchen to spy and started talking to a guy I knew from my time at Tassajara. I mentioned that I'm coming back to the United States soon. We were eating peanut butter on toast, and drinking tea. There were apples and bananas on the snack table as well.

"What do you think about American Buddhism so far?" he asked.

"I'm not sure," I said.

"It's pretty fun," he smiled. "There are snacks."

Indeed.

Green Gulch is pretty lovely. There's zazen, and then you work really hard and get really tired, so you can fall asleep early. People are nice, things are relatively well-organized, there's enough food, and there are a couple people I respect and could learn from.…

Will the Real Buddhists Please Stand Up

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Last month I read an essay in Tricycle Magazine by bell hooks called "Waking Up To Racism." This article was difficult and painful for me to read. bell hooks has been a personal hero of mine since I was in college, living in a primarily African-American dorm dedicated to social justice work on campus. At that time, I read her books obsessively and willingly applied her ideas to my mind like someone might use a pair of pliers, screwing and unscrewing certain nuts and bolts inside of me until the machine was drastically different. Franz Kafka wrote, "We need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply... a book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us," and this is exactly what bell hook's writing has always done to me.

This time around though, it felt particularly personal, like an attack directed at me specifically (good ol' ego! I'm sure bell hooks is sitting in her office, envisioning my face and typing a criticism against me as w…

The Life of the Temple

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I’m flying to San Francisco tomorrow! I have been in Japan for only five days, and I’m off again. After the Hossenshiki in Switzerland I traveled to France to visit my friend Jokei-san’s temple. Jokei-san is a French nun in her fifties whom I met at Nisodo. She is incredibly energetic and positive, but tough and no-nonsense in the best possible way. At Nisodo when I would be having some personal problem and thought it was the most important thing in the world, she would glare at me and say, in a thick French accent, “We have a lot of work to do and you are still thinking about yourself.” 
Jokei-san lives alone in what looks like a converted farm house, an hour’s drive away from the nearest train station. The center is small and very French, with stone walls, a big vegetable garden, and these amazing red flowers that stand tall on long stalks, like sunflowers, but more bell-shaped. The zendo has wood floors, no tans, and there is bread at every meal. Jokei-san works hard and seems to al…