Saturday, May 01, 2010

Monk, Lay Person, it's all all right

In reading across this article on the Buddhist Channel about Cintita, I was puzzled.

Basically monastics live simple no-frills lives, but generally do so joyfully. They also tend to exemplify ... wisdom and compassion in their lives. Their presence encourages reflection that helps people get their values straight."
Before he embraced Buddhism, Cintita was John Dinsmore, a divorced father of three with a successful career in computer science. Successful, as he has written on his blog, but not satisfactory. In midlife, he found himself drawn to Japanese Zen, which emphasizes the practice of meditation. Ordained as a Soto Zen priest in 2003, he took the name Kojin Hosen and served at the Austin Zen Center.
But monasticism in the Japanese Zen tradition left room for interpretation. Some monks were celibate. Some weren't. Some had property. Some didn't.
Questions nagged him: What am I? What is this ordination?
"It became very confusing to me," he said, "because every Zen priest had a different idea of what it is."
Privately, he took the traditional monk's vows — which included being celibate and not acquiring wealth — and began visiting the Sitagu monastery to seek advice from the abbot.
In 2008, he decided that in order to fully embrace monasticism, he needed to re-ordain in the Theravada tradition and live in a community where the rules for monks were more clearly defined.
This led him to Myamar. And eventually to the idea that this wasn't just a private spiritual journey. That this ancient tradition from the East could offer something useful in the West.
Cintita wants to see monasticism thrive here and believes the best of Buddhism can be an antidote to our "relentless self-seeking behavior," our materialism and unhappiness. As Cintata sees it, America is struggling with a spiritual crisis, trying to regain — or find — its spiritual grounding.
 In my humble tradition, "the" guy,  the guy who revolutionized the Rinzai sect in Japan, was notable for bringing for using whatever means were available to help the laity, as well as monks. Descendants of Hakuin in the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa eras down to the present  were also notable for bringing Zen to the laity.  In my own life I don't really find much contradiction here; this is another instance of "non-duality."  As I've said elsewhere, the "monk tradition" in part arose because of economic circumstances, and the present practice of blurring distinctions between laity and monastics is in part due to the fact that economic circumstances in industrialized countries allow for people to pursue avocations.

I find that my practice at work (i.e., "my job"), and at home can be profound and deep, and ultimately meaningful.  Most of the people I work with have never heard of Hakuin, and wouldn't know Mu from a museum.  And it doesn't matter, because they're all working together, even when they're in homicidal bitching mode.  And thankfully enough, they're usually not in that mode.

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