Transcript/History

Hi. My name is Christopher and I am a father. I have two boys. I have Ronan and Teague. I’m married, I have a regular job. I am a currently I am a corporate instructional designer and I do that 40 to 50 hours a week. And then on my free time, I’m a lay minister with the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship. I’m the founding sensei there, and I am from a kind of a newer tradition called the Bright Dawn Way of Oneness, this Buddhism tradition, which was born out of John Ocean View and a modernizing movement in the mid-forties, and then and then we’re not really affiliated with one another. We’re kind of all independent, but we have similar training and we come from a similar background. Let’s see, I had oh, I’m married to I have a beautiful wife. Her name is Linnea and she’s been a big supporter of our fellowship and my practice, even though I wouldn’t consider her a Buddhist.

She is a Buddhist in many ways, and we support one another in our different practices, our spiritual practices. So my my spiritual journey, I started the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship about almost nine years ago after reading a book called River of Fire River of Water. And it was interesting because I had picked up the book off of the used bookshelf many times before. It had put it down, put it down, put it down. And then one day it just picked it up and read it. And it was pretty transformative, even though I didn’t I even though I didn’t buy everything in the book, like hook, line and sinker and like, Oh, this is Nirvana and this is what I wanted. There were things in that just really resonated with me and that were very powerful. And, and so I started kind of researching the origin of, of the book, the tradition where the teacher was from. And I started to look into that. I even attended our local Joe Shan Temple, which was very welcoming and, and enjoyed it. But there was still there was something missing, something that wasn’t quite resonating with me. And so I found a group called the North American Buddhist Association, and they were kind of an independent Zen Buddhist group, unaffiliated with any of the traditional groups. And I kind of started the fellowship. I think the thing that really resonated with me within a generation, Shu, was this idea of this mythical poetic, ultimately compassion in that Buddha this. This for me, an emotional Buddha I’ve been exposed to Zen have a great affinity for Zen, but I never felt that there was this emotional aspect to Buddha or to the practice of I don’t maybe that’s overstating that, the emotional part. But in general, in general and maybe that comes from my own personal, spiritual journey. So growing up I was raised Catholic and I really enjoyed being a Catholic kid. We were a little more nontraditional. I did do the altar boy thing, but I really loved the ritual of the church having priests and nuns in the family. I think there’s like a little bit of cultural DNA that you’re born with out of it. And even to this day, even to this day, even as a Buddhist, there are times when I’ll go down to the Cathedral of the Madeleine downtown Salt Lake, and on the western Wall, which is interesting, because that’s the direction of Amida Buddha is a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and she still resonates with me to this day. And I’ll go and I’ll talk to her and pray. And I mean, it’s all metaphoric, but I find comfort in that she’s I consider her one of my Buddhist offers, one of my nontraditional bodhisattvas, but being raised Catholic. And then there, I guess, is that most people do when they get to the age of 18, 19, they start exploring different religions. I started I started taking a myth and folklore class. The Long Beach State really loved it, really started to get to the Golden Bough and and mythology.

And I think some ways so many people within
our fellowship and our sangha, we always say when
we find Buddhism, it’s like coming home.

And and that really resonated with me. And I became a seeker. And then as a lot of young boys do in Southern California, they meet a latter day saint or a mormon girl and fall in love. And then they get introduced to a whole nother tradition. And how many times is loved on that? Probably quite a few. And it resonated with me. But I wasn’t ready to do it and I didn’t want to join anything because of a beautiful woman. I don’t know. It’s just a personal kind of thing. Yeah. So we broke up and went our separate ways and after that I did go and explore it and I did eventually become a latter day saint. And I served a mission. I served a mission as an older person. To most missionaries are 19. I was 25 when I went out, so I was considerably older and I had only been a member for about a year, which was also unique within in that tradition. And it was it was a wonderful experience that was incredibly difficult because they wanted to believe it. I wanted it to be everything. I thought it was, and it never quite turned out that way. I always thought it was that the focus was off and things were missing and I wanted to believe it. And I realized after being out there for for the two years and coming home, that the more I read the book of Mormon, the less I believed, the less I read the Book of Mormon, the more I believed. And I think that’s problematic, that if your foundational document pushes you away, then draws you in, you need to look at that. And it was very difficult. It took me about six years before I was ready to leave because it was had become my whole identity, had become my social group, had become part of who I was and how I identified myself. And I just got to the point where I left it. It didn’t it didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t resonate with me anymore in my heart or mind or what I wanted to how I wanted to experience my life and interact with other human beings and what was important to me and and I think there was a pivotal moment when I and I didn’t realize it at the time when I knew I was going to go. And I was really struggling and I was looking for this this this deep compassion, this this love that I wasn’t finding elsewhere. And for me, you know, God is love. Jesus was love. And and for some reason, I wasn’t feeling it. And I remember one day saying and being in a Latter day Saint bookstore saying, I need to find a book about love, I just I need this. I need to find this. And there was this book on the shelf and it said, The unconditional love of Jesus of Christ, because Mormons don’t usually say Jesus cultural thing. So I open up the book and the very first epigraph in the book was God loves the Obedient. I remember just being heartbroken at that moment. And the funny thing is, I wasn’t being disobedient. I wasn’t drinking or smoking or fooling around or having sex. All the things that, you know, a lot of Mormon younger people deal with and young adults deal with. I don’t know. It was weird. I had friends who were Mormon who said, Oh, I believe it. I’m just not living it. And I go, Isn’t that ironic? I’m living it and I don’t believe it. And I think I realized there that I there was something else I needed something else. So I started a spiritual journey I looked into. I was real at the time. I was really into deep ecology. So indigenous religions became an interest to me. Shamanic ideas became very interested in those. I think a challenge is when you go on an exploration, you most of the time you don’t run into very good teachers. And usually in a place like this you come into a bunch of people pretending to be practitioners. The guy who’s got 1/32 Native American, and he says he’s a, you know, a Native American teacher and he’s from Toledo and he’s never done a sweat before. He read how to do it on YouTube or shamans trying to get you to do psychedelics. And they have no idea what they’re talking about. And that was disappointing. But there’s always been this thread throughout my life because I’ve been exposed to it over and over again. Many times, and that’s been Buddhism and I think a lot of Western experience. Westerners, we before we come to Buddhism, we touch it many times and then I guess person, place in time we get to that place where it sticks. Finally or finally is just that moment where, Oh, this is what it’s been trying to tell me this whole time. And then we find a new home. And I think some ways so many people within our fellowship and our sangha, we always say when we find Buddhism, it’s like coming home. It’s a it’s a it’s a homecoming more than anything. And that’s kind of, you know, my spiritual journey in in a nutshell. So I found the fellowship North American Buddhist Association. I was struggling with the language of Zen Buddhism. It’s very religious in its expression, especially 19th to 20th century Buddhism. And it might be it’s trying to relate to other Christians, maybe. So you have a lot of the similar language of evil and sin and and that and for somebody coming out of a sin based tradition, it can be challenging sometimes. And so I know I struggled with it and I started to realize that I was even though I had great respect and honor for Shin, the shin, with this tradition, I really wasn’t as Shin Buddhist. So I was trying to find a way where I fit in the world, where I fit in this non tradition, tradition. And that’s when I found bright dawn way of when this Buddhism, which my teacher, Reverend Kojo Kubo say is the son of Reverend Jamaica, both say who really is the father of of our of our tradition. We don’t we don’t really have a lineage in the sense of a Dharma transmission like some do. It is more in the pure land tradition of having patriarchs. So in some ways, Reverend Guma is my patriarch and kind of pointed this direction for a a compassion based Buddhism that comes out of Kyoto, Shin Shu, but really focuses on everyday life and that everything is a teacher of the Dharma. And that practice takes place not just on the cushion, but in the car when you’re driving to work at your desk, at work with your family. The way I like to think of it is that we have sangha is everywhere. We have our home sangha, we have our work sangha, we have our freeway sangha, we have our football sangha, wherever we’re at. It’s an opportunity for practice, not an opportunity to learn. So that’s kind of me in a nutshell.

 

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