Back to Square One

In spite of my bold declaration in the past of trying zen or nothing, I’ve stopped going to the Zen temple I visited recently.1

As a temple in its own right, I still think it was a good temple. The head priest was a very nice fellow, the temple had good leadership, the community was solid and without petty factionalism, and people did try to help me adjust to the Rinzai rituals and ways of doing things. But the monthly dues were pretty expensive, and I couldn’t devote the time to weekly sesshin retreats. As a father who’s raising little kids (one coming soon), I couldn’t make it work. Also, I was really hoping to find a community that had more connection to contemporary Japanese community. Lastly, I found that unlike my experience with the temple in Arizona, I just didn’t really “click” with some people there even after a few visits.

However, going there made me realize who I was as a Buddhist. My first real experiences with Buddhism other than books, were through my wife, visiting Kyoto, and through people like “John L” who helped show me all the wonderful temples and communities that were outside of tourist areas. Because I’ve experienced many positive things through “Asian Buddhism”, I find it difficult to separate the culture from the religion, and I guess I just like it that way. It’s always been one of the biggest reason why I started (and still maintain) this blog: sharing all these things with westerners who want to know more.

Also, as a lay-person, I realized that it is probably easier to be a Pure Land Buddhist exploring Zen (or Shingon), than a Zen Buddhist exploring Pure Land Buddhism. Hope that makes sense.

So, I guess I’ve come full-circle. For now. But, I have other ideas I’m still entertaining though. One shouldn’t be complacent. πŸ˜‰

1 There is one other Zen group here in Seattle, but their schedule is a little more difficult to work with, but I might still try going on Friday mornings before work. Thanks to “M” for the suggestion. πŸ™‚

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Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

4 thoughts on “Back to Square One”

  1. I checked out the website for the group you’ve been going to and the dues did seem a little high (but their over recommended donations were lower than most) but they did say they would take any monthly donation if it was to much. Of course a Zen Center is going to stress that sesshin is very important and will encourage their flock to attend them often however that doesn’t always for all of us. If I were you (am I :)?) I wouldn’t worry to much about the dues and I would also consider slitting my sangha time between 2 groups and do try to make it to a 1 day retreat especially if they do “formal” meals, I’m sure you’d really enjoy that.

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    1. Hi raichozan,

      Thanks a lot for the advice. I will probably try sitting with a few other groups before giving up.

      The need for sesshin makes a lot of sense but I wish it wasn’t a blocker for taking the Ten Precepts. That seems a bit unfair but maybe other groups do it different.

      Regarding dues, I used to go to a Pure Land temple and its dues were $300/year which is about $25 month. I know a Shingon temple that’s even less. So successful temples can definitely function with lower dues if they diversify their income and such.

      Sorry for the late reply by the way. I definitely didn’t forget but did fall behind. πŸ™‚

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  2. Just curious, did you take precepts with another sect? The group in Phoenix where we meet doesn’t even offer refuge let alone jukai and this kind of bothers me although I don’t know why since I have fake Shukke Tokudo. Sometimes I wonder if some of the online jukai programs aren’t such a bad idea.

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    1. Thanks to a certain Theravadin Buddhist monk who reads this blog (hello “A”), I was fortunate enough to take the Five Precepts formally over Skype. I’m pretty happy I could even do that, as Pure Land temples (specifically Jodo Shinshu) do not administer the precepts. They are entirely lay priests and have no ability to confer them.

      For a time I did explore tokudo training through the Pure Land temple I used to go to, but I eventually stopped for a number of reasons. I still miss it sometimes and wish I had kept at it, but I also had to make a hard decision and am glad I did it.

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