Transcript – History/Discovery

My name is Bruce Lampson, and I am 70 years old and I live in Salt Lake City. I’m originally from Seattle. I grew up in Seattle, spent 50 years of my life there before I moved to Salt Lake and actually and I didn’t tell you this before, but my first encounter with, uh, with Buddhist practice was, uh, when I was about 14 years old, a Japanese family moved into our neighborhood and I became really good friends with their son, and his mother had a nature and shochu practice group and they chanted NAMI hollering a hill and had a go Hons and uh, and all that. And he invited me over and something about it just kind of really, I was like, Wow, okay, I’ll do this. And I did that for a year or so, um, and got my good hands and, and set it up at home. And my parents were always very kind to me about things I wanted to try. And so they said, you know, do whatever. We were raised Episcopalian and went to church.

And I’d always been interested in sort of religious things or the bigger questions, I guess. So, you know, it wasn’t that was probably let me think that was probably around 1964. And, you know, a lot of things were happening in that time and I got swept up in all that. And you know, started smoking pot and and going to concerts and, you know, wanted to be a hippie. And my dad was a Navy officer, so I couldn’t grow my hair long. But but at that point, I, you know, after I graduated from high school in 1969, I basically dove into my job and getting ahead and, you know, all those kind of things. I skipped college. I worked since I was a young and every job I could find. And I thought like, I’m fine, you know? And so I went along like that for a long time, had a good career actually, a professional musician during my twenties. And then I the you know, and I was on the road for six years, one time, basically all the time playing nightclubs, rock and roll. And I got back from a lot of that and I had the exact same amount of money as when I left, had a lot of good experiences and crazy experiences. But, you know, I thought, well, I got to get serious. And so I got a job working in industry, in the paint industry actually, and just dove into that and did well and bought a house. And I never got married, but I fell in to a crowd kind of in my neighborhood that was also very much motivated for, uh, accomplishment and money and, and status and that kind of thing. And after and it was fun for a long time, but after a number of years, it was just like, I just, this isn’t doing it for me. And I started thinking probably in the late eighties about, you know, what are these? Bigger questions started coming back to me and I kind of remembered and I, you know, I still have the go hands. And to this day that I got, you know, when I was 14. So I, I would pull that out once in a while and look at it. And then I started thinking, okay, so I started looking into different things and there wasn’t a lot available in Washington or in Seattle at that time. I would go to bookstores and actually the first book a guy recommended to me was, um, Sex, Spirituality and Ecology by Ken Wilber.

I think two things, two or three things attracted me to Zen
over the Tibetan practice
that have nothing to do with the, the Dharma.

And it’s a thick, rough going read, right? But I dove into it and it just kind of really opened me up and I thought, okay, I’m going to go further. And I started reading other stuff of his and of course he talks about Buddhism and the relative and the absolute and, you know, these kind of things in there. And one thing led to another. I picked up a book by showing him Trungpa, uh, spiritual materialism, I think it was. And I read two or three of his others, uh, and then I found a book by Sylvia and became the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and which is written in even more plain English than Trump was even. And uh, in the back of the book, you know, you can contact and find out where there are groups to study this. And so I did, and I, I joined one group, a Tibetan group, and then there was a Tibetan temple in town. And I started going there and you know, this and that. Well, at the time, you know, I still have my job. And I was traveling around the West Coast a lot. And everywhere I went, I visited Tibetan Center, Zen Center, you know, you know, Hindu centers, whatever, and just looking and looking. And then finally in 1996, I happened to be in Salt Lake City and I ran across the and Zen Center here, and which was led by General Roshi. And I. I walked in the door and it was full on monastery at the time. There was about 30 monks there, a good portion were from Europe because he had traveled a lot in Europe teaching the Dharma and people came to him here and they’re all in their robes and everything was very sort of severe Zen style and you know, they had their own kind of lingo. But I thought, wow, this is kind of the real deal. And I decided to come start coming for retreats, which I did kind of every year on my vacation and sometimes twice and in in right after 911, actually, which is kind of a traumatic experience for all of us. I really started questioning at the time. Then I own my own business with a partner, uh, industrial machinery, conveyors and the like. And I just was like sitting there watching CNN for six months after that, uh, 2001 thing. I just thought, you know, I got to change everything. And so I rented out my house and I paid off, you know, the debt that I had, which wasn’t much. I sold my company. I was set for a while. I thought, I’m going to go down to Salt Lake City and I’m going to live there in the monastery for a year. I thought, I’m going to do it for a year and see what I think and see if I really like it or not. Well, I ended up being there for seven years and I really dove into Zen. And it was interesting for me too, because I was always kind of comparing my Tibetan teachings and things back and forth, and I was starting to see the parallels and also see the differences. And one thing that that came apparent to me too, during that sort of comparison, because I had done Tibetan practice for three or four years and was that the outward appearance was I was just on top of it all, on top of the teachings, on top of the fundamentals. And and as I was there at the Zen Center, GAPPER Roshi two, who had come from Los Angeles and Center, was the second successor of my Izumi Roshi. There was also in this mode of bringing it more into L.A. practices, really, because it was all monks there at the time. And the the Zen Center was located in a very much a neighborhood. And like all churches, they sort of served the neighborhood. And a lot of people from the neighborhood were kind of wanting to come and see. And so it kind of morphed during that time from a monastery to kind of monastery, community center, lay practice, monk practice. And it was very interesting time and I was very much supportive of that and helped to make that happen in every way I could. I became executive director there for the last five years that I was there, and then I left in 2010 because at that point I had, you know, I mean, we meditated for 5 hours a day and studied and traveled and taught. And I was with Gabor Rossi all the time traveling and teaching and watching him teach. And, you know, and there were others who were coming up, you know, through the organization. And I thought, well, it’s time for me to step aside and carry on. And and of course, part of the motivation was I met a woman and we got married and we’re in my house now. And I have an eight year old daughter, uh, and my mother, 96, lives with us. And so then I, I suddenly had to apply this sort of monastic training, this intensive training that I had to what am I going to do now? And that is, you know, was I living a dream in a way, then? Because I was very much attuned to how easily I could delude myself that I was doing the right thing all the time and, you know, and I dropped my Seattle connection and my business aspirations and all that. And then but then it was funny because as executive director, I felt like I’m just doing the same business stuff that I was doing before, and I’m feeling pretty good about it and excited that things are growing and I felt really good about the mission, of course, and it was not so self centered, but still, you know, I thought I need to kind of just take a break and it was about a year later actually that the the Zen Center basically dissolved because, again, Petrucci had had this sexual affair and the sangha went nuts and canceled them. And but, you know, he was very, very strong teacher and, you know, I know that we all have flaws and and that karma can catch up to us and we can get puffed up, you know, no matter where we’re at. But he’s also a very, very strong and good teacher. And he carried on. And many of his students, including myself, stayed in touch. And he went through a terrible grief period. And, you know, self, uh, introspective period and trying to think, well, you know, what did I just do? And it was really, really hard for him as well as everybody else. Probably harder on him, actually, than anybody. And in a way, when this thing blew up, uh, you know, all of us who lived here in Salt Lake, so were friends, you know, and people had different opinions about him or whatever, but we all had the same opinion that Zen was a good thing. And so little groups formed an eye for my group and some of the other people formed their groups. And we’re all friends and we all get together. Sometimes. And I’m talking, you know, probably 150 people or so here in Salt Lake. And then there were we had many, many people from Europe and around the country that used to come. And so Roshi eventually started picking up the teaching again. And and so people would still work with him and talk to him. And he was very honest and open and apologetic and all these kind of things. Um, and, you know, after a while people got over it and got back to our practice and uh, so now I’m living, you know, in L.A. situation, but I’m still involved in that organization and I still believe in the Dharma and I still believe in practice. And I and I realize clearly that it’s not a smooth path and that there are setbacks. And I’ve had mine too. And, you know, we all just keep kind of moving forward and, you know, this is where, you know, Jack, when we talked about the the three treasures, you know, the Buddha, Dharma and sangha, you know, this is where the sangha really comes into play, because if the sangha holds together and is strong, they can carry this thing until other teachers arise. And the Dharma is always there. And of course, the teachers represent the Buddha. And as are our example of a role model, you might say, uh, and, and in a way it made it even more clear that here in the West, you know, I, I mean, the statue of Buddha that I see is not my role model, you know, it’s what he discovered and what he taught. And how does that affect me? Because, uh, you know, I’m an American person and I have, uh, American sensibilities and things like that and, uh, and so what is the Dharma here? And I don’t, I have my robes, and I know how to do all the services, and I know how to light the intention, fold my rock suit and all these things. Um, and those things are still very important to me as a container for, for this practice of Zen. Um, but really it’s, it comes down to life, you know, and how am I operating in the world and what are my intentions, what are my motivations? And can I stay sort of brutally honest with myself about who I am in the world and how I show up and how I show up for my wife and my relatives, my daughter, my neighbors. Of course, we live in a very Mormon community and, um, but I don’t have any kind of, uh, you know, I’m not anti-Mormon or anti-Christian or anything like that. And, you know, but how do I contribute? Uh, and how do I deep in my practice, how do I use my, uh, awakenings in on the absolute side and see oneness and see my own oneness and emptiness and interdependence and dependance arising and all these, you know, how does this really manifest day to day? And I still have to work. We still have to make money, we still have to deal with the sickness and the family and, and conflicts that arise. Um, so that’s my practice now. It’s very much real life, and I think that’s really what the Buddha intended at the very beginning. He didn’t intend, I think, for us to all go sit on a cliff somewhere, you know, like this or climb a mountaintop, you know. Of course, climbing that mountaintop is the practice. But coming down from the mountaintop is also the practice. And coming back into the world and being being a fully functioning human being.

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