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.
Appeal of the dharma
So for me, I mean, ultimately, it may be a little in some ways a little less traditional and more a Western concept of interdependence. And those my experience with deep ecology and studying with deep ecology and this idea of everything being ultimately interdependent and codependent and that web of life that we’re all connected and everything is connected. It was it’s really that. And for me, what really hit home when that really hit home is when I’m reading about the Buddha’s awakening experience. And he gets to that that point just before his awakening, and he has that experience where he sees all of his past lives. And he he says, in this life, I was this person, I had this name, I had this like I had this dislike and I had this death. And then I saw another life. And there was this person. I had this name, I had this life. I had this like I had this dislike and I had this death and on and on and on throughout the night. So I’m reading that and I’m imagining having that experience, imagining all the multiplicity of lives that I have lived. And then I even expand farther out and not the multiples of the of layers I’ve had as a human, but as a bird, as a pig, as a tree, as a maggot, as as grass. And if I could have that experience and I could remember being all those things in this dance of life, both joy and suffering, imagine being the victim and the perpetrator would be what would be my first response? And for me, it was overwhelming and profound, boundless compassion. It was in that moment when I realized the power that was within this this Buddhist concept, not even Buddhist religion, because you don’t have to be religious to to take this idea, this concept, and really build a way of perceiving and engaging with the world from that. I’ve gotten arguments with other Buddhist, especially more secular Buddhists as well. The Buddha never taught reincarnation, never taught rebirth. I’m like, Oh, okay, we can argue about that all day long. I’m not talking about the literalness of it. I have no idea if it was literal. I don’t know. But the mythic story is profound. Then if you can just put yourself in the imaginal space to have that kind of experience, even though it’s just imaginal, it could be transformative in how you perceive the world. So so that’s something that that really was different. There was this dualism in most traditions that I experience a special Judeo Christian indigenous traditions. They have that same sense of oneness. Again, I just wasn’t. I think that’s something you have to be born into. I’m not really sure you can be from the outside going in. I think in Sufism it’s definitely there, although the expression is a lot more religious in its expression and even more dualistic in some ways. So it was really that part of Buddhism that really made it different than the rest of them. And then the other thing is how matter of fact it is. In some ways there’s not sin. You haven’t disobeyed God. Your sin is your ignorance that you just don’t know how things work. They have a false map of the world, a faulty story of the world. Then you operate from that faulty story. It’s not that you’re bad or you’re wicked. It’s just that you’re ignorant. That’s a whole different way of approaching our own mistakes in our own life. And sometimes it’s perpetual, as Freud calls it, the the compulsion to recreate wounding. We do that, although we have the same damn story, the same damn map, and we’re not looking at it differently. And and I think a lot of traditions don’t even get to that part of the map. It’s always something outside of yourself, which in itself is not bad, but it’s outside of yourself because that’s just the way it is. And that just didn’t work for me. Buddhism gave me some answers and explanations which which made all the difference of the world for me, and also to impermanence. I have no idea what happens after you die. Although I feel that if I can embody impermanence, the life I do live is going to be a much better life than if I don’t do that. And that probably impermanence and and interdependence are the two key factors of it that really moved me. And then the last component, of course, is sometimes the one that some Westerners have the hardest time with, and that’s life is suffering. And I think I don’t think the Buddha really said that. I think that’s the meme that we see on Facebook. I think the implication of what the Buddha was saying is in the midst of life, they’re suffering. It doesn’t mean that life you have to suffer in life or there’s some virtue in suffering, but that it’s just a fact of life. And I always said that the Buddha was obvious, man, if he had a superhero power, he just stated the obvious. And let’s get past, you know, trying not to to suffer, avoid suffering right away from suffering or think we’re bad because we’re suffering and say, oh, I suffer. Okay, now what? And go to that next step. And then to understand that relationship we have with suffering and and why are we addicted to it or why do we run away from it? And what can it teach me? And and what am I bringing on myself and all those things? They, they affect our everyday life. They affect right now and you don’t have to believe in anything to to put those into effect in your own life. In our fellowship, we have people who are who some believe in God still, some are Christian and Buddhist. We have some that are atheists and cringe at the word God and we practice together. And what I always say in our community is what you believe. That’s yours, that’s your personal business. That’s not our personal business. What connects us as a community is our desire to follow the teachings of the Buddha and to to take those teachings into our lives and to find that transformation and liberation that he was able to experience and that many of our Buddha ancestors have been able to experience in all different manifestations and ways. And for each person, it will be their own experience. And so it’s that service. Let me just oh, it’s sort of, frankly, a little bit. So do you have a pocket? We could just because it also has a clip. So get this clip back that way it doesn’t serve. Yeah. All right. There we go. And I can probably even move this on. Give us a little more space this way that. So one thing I want to get little more into before we have to serve the sangha, serve your organization and serve how what are some of the fundamentals of how you approach serve this nontraditional lineage? And I guess, you know, just from more from a more of a serve, the more specific details around what our serve. But just like you said, I think you referenced in terms of that serve that compassion, that emotional aspect that you serve. So came on to the practice, but maybe a little more specifically going into you can knowledge what was missing in some traditions but you know but you know maybe share again some of the serve characteristics of Buddhism that you’re drawn to that sort of a ted ng and also you kind of say like yet in relation to having supposed to zen in that most proponent but as, as, as a broad concept of Buddhism. Like again, like how, how? Because again, what we’ve been, we don’t want to conserve, say, like it’s I mean, it is a religion in his eyes, but trying to break it down in terms of the path as what are some of the characteristics, the path that made it really come home for you that like you felt was missing from these other Christian obviously teachers, authentic teachers, like from the native Americans. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. But also, you know, what are some of these practices like? Again, that whether it’s meditation, the focus on the precepts that I feel like, you know what, this is where it really means to live an authentic spiritual life. And so just yeah yeah. More details around that because the for so for for me, I mean, ultimately and maybe a little in some ways a little less traditional and more a Western concept of interdependence. And those my experience with deep ecology and studying with deep ecology and this idea of everything being ultimately interdependent and codependent and that web of life that we’re all connected and everything is connected. It was it’s really that. And for me, what really hit home when that really hit home is when I’m reading about the Buddha’s awakening experience. And he gets to that that point just before his awakening, and he has that experience where he sees all of his past lives. And he’s he says, in this life, I was this person, I had this name, I had this like I had this dislike and I had this death. And then I saw another life. And there was this person. I had this name, I had this life. I had this like I had this dislike and I had this death and on and on and on throughout the night. So I’m reading that and I’m imagining having that experience, imagining all the multiplicity of lives that I have lived. And then I even expand further out and not the multiplicity of layers I’ve had as a human, but as a bird, as a pig, as a tree, as a maggot, as as grass. And if I could have that experience and I could remember being all those things in this dance of life, both joy and suffering, imagine being the victim and the perpetrator. What what would be my first response? And for me, it was overwhelming and profound, boundless compassion. Was in that moment when I realized the power that was within this this Buddhist concept, not even Buddhist religion, because you don’t have to be religious to to take this idea, this concept, and really build a way of perceiving and engaging with the world from that, I’ve gotten arguments with other Buddhist, especially more secular Buddhists as well. The Buddha never taught reincarnation, ever taught rebirth. I’m like, okay, we can argue about that all day long. I’m not talking about the literalness of it. I have no idea if it was literal. I don’t know. But the mythic story is profound. Then if you can just put yourself in the imaginal space to have that kind of experience, even though it’s just imaginal, it can be transformative in how you perceive the world. So so that’s something that that really was different. There was this dualism in most traditions that I experience a special Judeo Christian indigenous traditions. They have that same sense of oneness. Again, I just wasn’t. I think that’s something you have to be born into. I not really sure you can be from the outside going in. I think in Sufism it’s definitely there, although the expression is a lot more religious in its expression and even more dualistic in some ways. So it was really that part of Buddhism that really made it different than the rest of them. And then the other thing is how matter of fact it is. In some ways there’s not sin. You haven’t disobeyed God. Your sin is your ignorance that you just don’t know how things work. They have a false map of the world, a faulty story of the world. Then you operate from that faulty story. It’s not that you’re bad or you’re wicked. It’s just that you’re ignorant. That’s a whole different way of approaching our own mistakes in our own life. And sometimes it’s perpetual, as Freud calls it, the the compulsion to recreate wounding. We do that, although we have the same damn story, the same damn map, and we’re not looking at it differently. And and I think a lot of traditions don’t even get to that part of the map. It’s always something outside of yourself, which in itself is not bad, but it’s outside of yourself because cause that’s just the way it is. And that just didn’t work for me. Buddhism gave me some answers and explanations which which made all the difference in the world for me, and also to impermanence. I have no idea what happens after you die, although I feel that if I can embody impermanence, the life I do live is going to be a much better life than if I don’t do that. And that probably impermanence and and interdependence are the two key factors of it that really moved me. And then the last component, of course, is sometimes the one that some Westerners have the hardest time with, and that’s with life is suffering. And I think I don’t think the Buddha really said that. I think that’s the meme that we see on Facebook. I think the implication of what the Buddha was saying is, in the midst of life, they’re suffering. It doesn’t mean that life you have to suffer in life or there’s some virtue in suffering, but that it’s just a fact of life. And I always said that the Buddha was obvious, man, if he had a superhero power, he just stated the obvious. And let’s get past, you know, trying not to to suffer, avoid suffering right away from suffering or think we’re bad because we’re suffering and say, oh, I suffer. Okay, now what? And go to that next step. And then to understand that relationship we have with suffering and and why are we addicted to it or why do we run away from it? And what can it teach me and and what am I bringing on myself and all those things? They, they affect our everyday life right now. And you don’t have to believe in anything to to put those into effect in your own life. In our fellowship, we have people who are who some believe in God still, some are Christian and Buddhist. We have some that are atheists and cringe at the word God and we practice together. And what I always say in our community is what you believe. That’s yours, that’s your personal business. That’s not our personal business. What connects us as a community is our desire to follow the teachings of the Buddha and to to take those teachings into our lives and to find that transformation and liberation that he was able to experience and that many of our Buddha ancestors have been able to experience in all different manifestations and ways. And for each person, it will be their own experience. Oh, yeah, yeah. That’s beautiful to have.
So when I started, I had I don’t know, I, I inherited a book, Sudan from a Nigerian family who died and they had nowhere to send it. So they gave it to me. And I now have a book, Sudan, with a meter statue within each year and books of then each year it would be rolling over in his grave. And I do like more formal practice. I mean, I can’t I do silent meditation. I open up the book Sudan. I bring bells. That’s interesting. The the longer I am in the practice, my practice, my personal practice becomes more, I guess, traditional and in some ways more formal. And I feel more I feel as connected, if not more connected to the teachings through the drama and theater of that act than I did before. And just the philosophy. The philosophy was important, but I needed something more to body that. Once I could let go of my need for it to be scientific or literal, and I could play with the forms and play with the poetry in the imagery of it, I found it for me naturally going in that direction. Is it something that as a as a teacher, I would tell people in our fellowship they have to do now whatever works for them, what is beautiful. What I would encourage is that they do a regular practice, whatever it is, and they do a consistent practice. But I like the idea of an eclectic approach. Lately I’ve been saying the Buddhist boundless bag of tools of awakening, and that there are many things that we can use to to become more awake, and there are more that we can use to show up in our lives instead of living on the surface of things. So for me personally, I need to get out of my head. I have way too in my head. In years of therapy, I finally got a good therapist who told me that, you know, shut up. Stop thinking and start feeling. Because I can I can think my way out of anything and think my way into anything. It’s a skill I developed as a young child. And I think what I like about it in body practice, no ritualized practice is it takes you out of your mind and puts you into your body. To me, Boeing is is a huge practice. One of the things that that has always for whatever reason, since the time I was little, Boeing has always been something that to me is so beautiful as a as just a cultural practice, you know, especially like if you go to Thailand and it’s, you know, it’s very much the show hands and the and this this connection. And I’ve never viewed it as subservient ever, just personally. So for me, I think that that embodied practice, that, that, that that drama of the ringing the bells and opening up the the boots, Sudan and lighting the incense. It’s an embodied practice. It brings me into the present moment. It helps me to show up instead of my mind going into all its discriminations, it kind of just not always, but for the most part kind of shuts it out. Some things go, Why am I doing this? And my response, my response now is, it doesn’t matter. I’m doing it because I’m present and there’s beauty in it and it’s another way of approaching the teaching that is different and in some ways are what I like to call post religious stress disorder. Leaving a tradition and being so reactive to anything that seems religious is really probably one of the greatest disturbances that our old traditions did to us. There is a wounding there because it cuts us off from a whole nother way of experiencing something. If you think of the course of human evolution, divine drama and theater and ritual is part of being human. You can’t separate it out. And even though we like to say, Well, I don’t have any rituals, you can look at anybody’s life and say, Yes, you do. You make coffee in the morning at the same time you only drink it out of the one cup. You know, these little things, these are rituals. And I think having the freedom to to play with those and to make them their own, I have a lot of freedom in the sense that we’re a nontraditional lineage. So I understand from those lineages the importance of it, but what that looks like, I have a lot more freedom in being able to do that. Do I ring the bell three times or do I belt ring at once? Do I light incense first or do I lay that last? Do I put water or flowers or do I put plastic flowers? I mean, I have a lot of freedom and creativity to do that, which I appreciate. And I try to empower those in our fellowship to have that same freedom of creativity. Because I feel, especially for those coming out of these traditions where they’re so terrified of ritual, that if we give them permission to create their own ritual, they begin that embodied practice and they become more free to experience it. And again, a 2500 year tradition, it’s been field tested. The stuff, it’s really work. They ain’t going nowhere. No matter what Westerners do, no matter what Americans do, nor how much we commercialize it. This is the good stuff. It’s going to stay there. And I know from my own personal experience that the more I’m in the practice, the more my practice starts going back to that traditional. I’m not afraid of it anymore. I’m not worried about it anymore. I just find myself naturally going there. And I think that says something to the teachings, it says something to the tradition that when I’m finally free to do whatever I want, I moving back in that direction, I have a choice. And I, I love that experience of going through that dynamic that I’m experiencing right now. Yeah, it’s kind of a really interesting.
Buddhism in the West
So I think and I’ve been addressing this more so lately and I think always, kind of always and we’ve kind of touched on it already. It’s this idea that meditation is Buddhism. Buddhism is meditation, and sometimes it feels like kicking a dead horse. But it is so ingrained in people’s misperception. And I remember I mean, I only learned like four years ago, five years ago, that modern mindfulness or meditation for lay practitioners is really a modern, contemporary thing that, you know, before, you know, the 1900s, not everybody meditated and only specific people, even the monasteries meditated. There was other forms of practice. And I think that kind of blew my mind. And I know there’s a few in our fellowship who sometimes feel like I de-emphasize meditation and I try to tell them, no, I, I don’t think I do. I want other people to realize that you can still be Buddhist and not be a meditator. I think that’s a big thing that gets in the way of more people embracing Buddhism. I think once they embrace Buddhism and they become a Buddhist practitioner in whatever way that I mean the five precepts of Eightfold Path, whatever, that meditation can become something for them at that point. It now has more context meaning for them, and these are more for the people who are not attracted to it automatically. So I think that that that is a challenge in both directions for those who think they can’t be a good Buddhist unless they’re meditating are those that feel that they are a good Buddhist because they’re meditating and the whole idea of good or bad in itself is problematic. So I think that that’s a big challenge. I think another big challenge and this is just and this might be more personally and I try to help people get beyond and it goes back to that, that post religious stress disorder. Is that anything that that seems like religion is nonsense and somehow not Buddhist or not really what the Buddhist taught. There’s definitely a Western ethnocentric cultural elitism towards Asian or traditional Buddhism. And if me just if you take that here’s I’m going to go to my critique mode. I mean, if you look most of the Buddhist magazines, you see, you know, predominantly white teachers in Buddhist magazines, it drives me freaking crazy. And the idea that Buddhism has to be scientific drives me crazy because it’s so much more than that. It’s as if the Western Western practitioners have a tendency to have to package it in a certain way for it to work. And if it’s not that, it’s not right as if they’re, you know, 100 years of meddling with it makes up for 2500 years of everybody’s experience with it. I think in some ways ours is a little different because those who have like serious religious stress disorder would not come to ours because it does have Buddhas and bowing in incense and bells. And I think they just those that have those issues just would not come. They would go to no overshadows a secular group and or would participate in some mindfulness group somewhere. And that’s great. I mean, that’s the beautiful thing about the Dharma is there are these different doors, these different gates in which that we can come into the Dharma. And I think that’s important. So, yeah, a lot of it revolves around that. I mean, the richness of Buddhism to me is the bodhisattvas, it’s the body self of ours that the impossibility of the bodhisattvas, though its, its rebirth as, as a metaphor about the cyclic nature of existence. All these things that, you know, the Western moves. I don’t want anything to do with that. I want anything to do that. And I think it gets in their way from really experiencing a richer participation in an ancient tradition. I think in our group, we, we, we, we do a fine line because somebody, we all pretty much respect each other. And I I’m surprised because I have somebody who say something that’s not even very Buddhist, very like deist or something about God and stuff like that. And you see the there’s the atheist over here kind of cringing and saying, Well, that’s not Buddhism. And then he’s over here being super atheist and somebody talking about, you know, rebirth because that’s not Buddhist, but somehow it works. And maybe it is that mutual respect that that we don’t know. You don’t know? I don’t know to say. I know it’s a little arrogant to start with and that’s yours. That’s mine. And what can we agree on? We can agree on compassionate action that’s at the heart of of the Buddhist teaching. Is better, Karuna, is is interdependence and impermanence and non-self both and and these things we can agree on, I mean, how they look and the flavor of it and the way you describe it and the music you listen to. They should not be as important as they have become in way too many contexts. It’s the things that unify us that should bring us together more than the things that separate us.
So just before the pandemic hit, we were we were averaging anywhere between 85 and 120 participants on a Sunday. And we were getting to the point where it was kind of a struggle between being too big and not being able to be intimate. We amazingly, we were able to do that. But we we had got to the point where we wanted to provide more to the needs of the the the fellowship. And so first and foremost for me was what I think we are creating. And and sometimes we fail miserably. But I think we’re creating a safer space. So you have that the traditional meta prayer, maybe you’d be well, may you be happy. And I think for Westerners specifically, that prayer show is that should always start with may you be safe. May I be safe? Because I think for some reason in our cultural experience, even though in many ways where it’s very safe, I mean, there’s a very safe place to live, although it’s getting a little crazy. It’s not emotionally safe place to live. It’s not an emotionally safe place to grow up. It’s not a place to be to to to explore or being yourself, that kind of safe space. We don’t get that. And that this image is sort of is Tolstoy used to say that that religion is violence because it tells you what your relationship with the divine has to be. It doesn’t give you a choice. It tells you it forces it on you. And maybe there’s something to be said about that. That through our formative years, we go through so much coercion, we never feel safe. And you cannot create a completely safe space. It’s impossible, but you can create a safer space. And there is something about refuge and refuge of the sangha. And I think that many people right now who are who are coming to the Dharma or seeking that refuge, but not refuge from the world refuge in a way that they can be engaged with the world and they think that’s something that the sangha can provide. It’s a refuge from the old way of living into a new way of living that’s engaged, that’s about showing up, about being present, about being you with all your issues, with your with your with your brokenness and your woundedness and your beauty and all the other stuff. As Young said, I’d rather be whole than good. It’s no longer about being good. It’s about being whole. And where can I be whole and how can I find wholeness? And I’m tired of being told I’m not good enough or I’m not good. And my vision for our fellowship is to to take that thing that we experience on Sunday and and make it not just Sunday and make it for families. I mean, most dharma centers suck when it comes to families. Some don’t even you can’t bring kids. We’ve always said bring kids. They cry, they scream, okay, that’s fine. Whatever. We’ll deal with it. But how great would it be to have a Dharma Wednesday where families actually come and come to a Dharma service and you bring the kids and families are together and support groups. I mean, I don’t I mean, I know that that there’s been that really great, you know, Dharma recovery groups and there’s that support group there. But we started doing support groups for people who are aging and how it is getting old. How hard is it getting old and how does the Dharma inform that? How can Dharma practice help in aging people who left traditions and are looking for a new tree? We have a support group. People sit around and talk about their heartbreak of losing their religion. That’s a good song and and also coming together to come together as as family. One of the things I see for our community is to have potlucks and dances and art shows and poetry readings and and mindfulness works. Haiku is mindfulness, you know, all these kind of things that we can we can do. And I know my vision is grand because right now we hardly have enough volunteers to do what we call Dharma Glimpses on Sunday. But I really believe if you build it, they will come. I’m a big proponent of that. If you give people a space where they can be creative, they’re longing for it. They want it. But I think it has it has to be presented to them for them to be able to embrace it. And then ultimately, in all those activities, you have endless opportunities to develop compassion and all the different the perfection of patience when you’re dealing with other human beings. I wish I frequently tell people, the first thing you need to learn about coming to a sangha is you will be disappointed. People will disappoint you, and you will disappoint people because that’s part of being human and that’s going to happen. And you know what? We roll with it, we get over it, we learn from it, and we are family. I think too often we have these expectations that somehow a spiritual community is going to be perfect, or is it going to be like the other human communities we’re involved in? No, I think they’re just the same. But they have a willingness to change, a willingness to transform, and an openness to hear, an openness to see. And the one the one to me, the one defining characteristic is there there is that humility to be teachable. Ultimately, we are all students and we’re all teachers. The deaf to this demarcation that there’s the teacher and then there’s the. Well, yeah. And there’s a kind of a necessity for that on a certain level. But within our community, I’m really trying to really trying to say, hey, a teacher in our tradition is a teacher, not because they have some special awakening, but two things they have studentship continue learning the Dharma, the humility to be teachable, and they are always showing up. They are willing to be present regardless of the shit that’s going on. And those are the two defining characteristics of a teacher within our tradition. That means anybody can be a teacher in our tradition. I am creating a certified Dharma teacher, and that’s more to understand the tradition where we come from and to have a common language more than anything, that we have a common language. When we say certain things, we understand what that language means. When we say normal a bit about. So that yes, part of it is homage to Amida Buddha. But the intentional translation is come as you are, the invitation we give to the totality of our lives. That’s what the intention was. So they understand that. But ultimately, on an everyday level, all of us walking the path are each other’s teachers and we are each other’s students. And I want to create the future of the song is so that can be so that can really be understood, embodied and ultimately that it can go other places. Because I think the challenge that happens with our group is they leave and our group is so unique and so different that they’ll go other places and try to find a sangha. And there is no sangha like ours. Ours is completely unique and I don’t want that have to be that way. And I want people to be empowered that if they move somewhere, that they just start one, you know, do it. And I’ve told people, here’s all the resources, here’s everything we have started so that that that can continue to provide to the needs of those who who are coming to to the tradition that was the desire to build the physical sangha and to to take that to the next. What do we do now? Attend to all in each. What does that mean? And what does that look like? And for me, that’s that’s where the practice is. That’s the day to day Dharma. It’s that it’s presence. It’s showing up. I think one of the other foundational practices that we talk a lot about and we do a whole winter retreat on, it’s compassionate listening. And the power of listening is practice. The power of that that right speech includes right listening that they’re not there. I love I love the picture of Melo with his hand. I just love that image or the idea of Quan Yan hearing the suffering of the world in Buddhism. There’s this idea that the practice in Buddhism is deep listening, listening to the teachings of the Dharma. It’s not meditation, it’s deep listening, it’s contemplation. So I would say that that would I say were a successful sangha in the sense of bringing people to awakening. I would say yes and no. And that’s again the challenge, especially with Western practitioners. I mean, we could talk about what is awakening. I have no idea. Ultimately. I mean, I believe that there is an optimal awakening where we transcend. For me the way I define, transcend the need of story, and we can be fully present and awake in what is unfolding before us. What I think we share is kind of a beginner’s a beginner’s entry into an opportunity for continual repeated awakening that happens throughout a life that happens with opportunity for practice. What would D.T. Suzuki said? Awakening is accidental. And he says, but, but zazen makes you accident prone. I’ve always loved that and I kind of think that similar idea with with the practice, I don’t know if Western practitioners are there to to become Buddha, maybe Buddha like, but the idea of become a Buddha, I don’t know how many of them really contemplate that idea, that thoughts. I know personally for me, I’ve always identified morals, bodhisattvas, the Buddhists, the Buddhist training. So I would say that we are we have been incredibly successful as a fellowship for diminished living, the amount of suffering in the world. I know that for a fact that those who have attended the fellowship, who are part of our community, their suffering has been has been diminished. And in that aspect of the Buddhist teachings that we’ve been very successful at, and I want to see it to grow even deeper and to help us all be less on the surface of things and to be more be more in the buzz and the hum of the vibration of all things. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s always been kind of interesting because in my life, in my earlier incarnations, I always did things because it gave me something. It gave me a feeling of importance. It gave me a feeling of this. And there have been plenty of times, you know, getting done on a Sunday or evening, I go, Why do I do this? And I go, It’s because it’s what I do. I always think that’s been kind of interesting. It’s even when I feel joyful or doing even that burden by doing I don’t want to do it. Why do I do it? Because I do it. And going back to that idea of liberation and freedom in America, we think freedom is the thousand choices, but the thousand choices is paralysis. You know, freedom and freedom is not having a choice. And it’s not it’s like not having a choice in the sense that they’re taken away from you. But I don’t have any choice but to be this, but to be that, because that is the choice I choose. And I got that when I was thinking about when you go through recovery, your freedom comes when you say, I have no choice about drinking or I have no choice about drugs. There is no choice. It’s not like I can drink a little bit. I can drink some day, or maybe it’ll be okay if I know I can’t drink and my freedom comes when that option is removed. And that’s I don’t know as a Westerner that I think about that and go, wow, freedom is not having a choice. Wow, that sounds so, so Soviet. That sounds so dictatorial to you. But how is that a koan and how is that a koan and how is normal a meter? So a con and what does that mean? And and how is nowhere to go? Nothing to do. No one to be? How is that a con and and I don’t know I don’t know what I’m talking to them about. Yeah. I’ve actually never been asked that question and it’s actually pretty good. Yeah. I mean, I know I’ve wanted more for it and, and maybe I had to let go of success or not success. Well, I think if that makes sense. Yeah I.
Come as you are
So if I think about our tradition, I think about our foundational teachings. And I think, of course, at the heart of what we do is the four noble truths and the eight for path. And, and for for some of us, not everybody. I would say that the five precepts as mindfulness training and also the body suffer vows. And one of the things that I always try to emphasize with the Buddhist self-will and our tradition is their impossibility, and that their impossibility is an important aspect of why we take them. Because it doesn’t give us a choice. Because you can’t it’s not something you can check off and say, I’m done. You know, it’s that perpetual practice. But I think that the thing that that really where everything shifted for me. So when we first started the fellowship, like I said before, I was kind of trying to create kind of a Zen Buddhist dojo, sangha that was nonaffiliated. And I felt that I was trying to put put our fellowship in a square hole from around Pag and, and it just didn’t seem to be quite working and we were pretty traditional ahead of time and I was trying to figure out for myself what did Dharma Amida about su mean for me and trying to get the different definitions. And there’s some that the Buddha and I are one and I give homage to the Buddha and I vow to the Buddha within me. And there’s all these, you know, different translations, especially with some some more modernist chin teachers. And I’m thinking, really, what does this mean to me? What is it that that really brings me and what sets our sangha apart? And it goes back to this idea of come as you are, and what does that really mean? And I know some B.K., some B.K. temples do talk about it. Some born again Christian churches talk about it, too. It’s kind of big. And in some more evangelical schools. But but I don’t know. For me it I liked it. And I remember saying, hey, that’s something. But it was it seemed more as a tagline than an integral part of what was going on in in general, Judeo Christian. Come as you are. Come as you are. But I always felt that there was a but there at the end and other issues like come as you are but there’s all this other stuff going on and and I get that too, because it’s a very ancient tradition. And I said, Well, what is it about us? What does come as you? What is now more amenable to mean to somebody who doesn’t who’s not been raised in Japan, who does not come from a neuroscience you background, who’s new to Buddhism and is looking for something in their life to to to come home to. And that’s when I realized that this this this idea of come as you are, how powerful that that invitation is. Because rarely, rarely in our lives, maybe your mother, but not always. Are you able to come just as you are? There are always some expectation. There’s always some projection on how you’re supposed to be or who you’re supposed to be, especially if you’re coming out of a tradition. It’s even more so that way. And the one thing I think Westerners we all have in common is we all have kind of a collective and I have no idea necessarily it comes from but I do think it is very Western and probably more American is we do come out of this weird familial trauma that is, from what I’ve seen, is different. I mean, familial trauma is not only Western society. It’s a familiar trauma in every human culture. But there is something about ours that is that I think is kind of unique. And there is something that comes as you are addressed this and again, this comes from this compassionate Buddha. Amitabh Buddha often is depicted standing up. He’s rarely he’s rarely in a sitting position. And usually when he’s in a sitting position is more represented of the Bodhisattvas stage other the Buddha. So in me the Buddha is in that stage of action, compassionate action, moving towards you or the famous looking back at me, the statue, which is one of my favorites is Hey, are you coming? I’m watching you. So to me, the boundless compassion, the compassion of Amida Buddha who embraces you never to let go is the one who accepts you just as you are, and that just as you are, is constantly changing, too, because we are constantly changing. So how do we how do we create that and address it? So when we say now more amenable to in our group, it’s an intentional translation instead of a any attempt at a literal or accurate translation. And there’s there’s something about that invitation and also something that I picked up from Korean Zen is that we can’t know anything. The present moment is really the only thing we can get a glimpse of, and everything else is conjecture or projection or reflection. And that that by allowing ourselves to come just as we are and not knowing anything else, we allow ourselves maybe for the first time, to be present with ourselves. And there’s also an aspect from from my my mentor, Reverend Yomi Cobo, say one of the things that he taught for me, which is most impactful is acceptance, is transcendence is our freedom. And it’s not passive acceptance, not giving up. It’s an acceptance of ourselves as we are with our delusions, with our with our our wounds are baggage, our trauma, our ignorance. I that’s where practice starts, is when we get to that point that, yes, this is where I am at and it’s changing, but this is where I’m at. And I wrote a poem which is part of our practice manual, which kind of encapsulates this, this basic teaching. And what I try to share with people that come, I say, okay, so if you want to know what we’re about, what’s the core of what we do here? It’s, it’s found in this poem and then in our Amitava chant. So the poem is Come as you are is the invitation of Buddha, just as you are normal Amida to is the invitation we give to ourselves, to others, to all living beings, to the totality of our lives, just as they are. So come, come as you are. Attend to all and each normal amid a boot to stop torturing yourself. With all those made up stories of who you think you are or are not, regardless of who you are or are not, regardless of what you have done or left undone, and enter the gate of boundless compassion, not mm. Boots, mm boots, not more me the boots of. All right. So I really think that the heart, the beating heart of what we do in our fellowship is that invitation, the invitation of the Buddha to to come as we are and to. And by doing that, to attend to all in each and the attending to all of these issues, what do we do after we accept that invitation? And what does that look like? And then that’s where the practice begins, is once we accept that invitation. But the first step is accepting that invitation. And and likewise extending that invitation to others, to all living beings and to our lives, just as they are now, because we want them to be not as we wish they’re, but as they are right now. And how do I attend to it? How do I engage with it? It’s not the acceptance that, well, my husband’s an abuser as the acceptance of my husband’s abuser, I need to get out or I’m a perpetrator, I need to get help. It’s the acceptance of action, not the acceptance of resignation. So, yeah, that, that that’s I am still playing with it and I’ve written a couple of Dharma talks recently are talking, talking about what that looks like and, and, and yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s beautiful. And I think, you know, I think this is where, you know, I think the idea of how to invite. Well, yeah. And that’s what that’s there’s a guy who’s LDS and he always says that he goes, if we could just do this, come as you are and mean it like like your community does. We would have great success and, and yeah, there’s something to be said about that. And there’s, there’s a there was a a meditation group in San Diego and I can’t remember what they were called, but they call that themselves like entry, entry stream enter sangha, but not from the traditional sense, in the sense that they taught really basic Buddhism. And if you wanted more, they would direct you to the different places to go. And I always kind of thought we were all so that way in the sense that everybody’s accepted. No, we don’t push for anybody to become Buddhist. If you choose, we offer it. You’re more than welcome. You can be a full participant in the fellowship as a non as a non Buddhist. And and if you if you go and, you know, go down to two arrows then and go there, that’s great. If you go somewhere where they’re going to get more. That’s great. I’ve thought about doing that sometimes. Hey, you know, I should take a year off and just go go down to two areas Zen and just do Zen practice for a year. Why not? And yeah, and then I think there’s something to be said about. And I think the key the key is and I think the reason why it works because it’s it’s, it’s marketing, but there has to be the intention behind it. And I think that that a Tibetan group has enough to really support that. I think some other places they may struggle because it’s not the focus of their practice. If that makes sense, because McDonnell’s using it and it’s for me, it’s a theological, a non theological, theological concept that come as you are. It’s it’s not it’s not self-help. You know, it could be it’s very easy to use it as self-help. But for for for me, the context of of the Buddha, the compassionate Buddha in whatever form Kwan Yan, you know, all the other manifestations is an important component of that. And I think that’s what makes it work, as I used to always say to them, amenable to accepts everyone I go, there is no exception. Then he goes, Hitler, yeah, everyone. And they go, How can that be? I go and I’ll just get ugly. I’ll give you one psychological reason because we’re humans. If there’s one exception, we’ll find a way how we fit into that exception. So, I mean, Buddha accepts everybody. There is no exception. You cannot be an exception. And and I think that’s it’s why we we as human beings, we, we almost require an invitation because unless we get that invitation, we feel like we’re interlopers and we don’t belong. And how do we do that and how do we approach that? And then what you said, too, is really important in the in the West. You know, there are I’ve read from teachers from the East who come from a very different culture, don’t understand what’s wrong with these Americans and their self-hatred. And they’re worry about this and they’re worry about self-compassion. That’s the most selfish thing in the world. Well, not if you’ve been wounded the way they have been. Yeah, in a bigger context, probably there’s some issues with it, but we have to find a way to address our karmic inheritance. And how do we deal with that karmic inheritance that is uniquely ours? And I think Buddhism can do it. I think it’s more than capable of doing it if we get out of the way and let it and find a way to do that. And I think in this in a small way, we’ve been able to do that in our community. And time will tell long term how, how, how effective we are. But I always like the idea of the relative and the absolute in the relative. We’re doing great and the absolute we might be doing better. I have no idea.
Fruit of Practice
Well, here’s the first one that comes to my mind. And I think this is appropriate as we are coming out of this pandemic of almost three years was resilience. This capacity city to do this this capacity to find ways to engage with challenges that were less reactive. Finding ways to to to show up in moments where before I would have I would have collapsed into the pressure of the moment. One of the things that I’ve noticed in my practice and and a lot of it is subtle. I think sometimes people want it to be something big. I think there’s daily awakenings. And it’s never about chasing, awakening, experience, but more acknowledging those moments of grace that we have in our day, through our practice. And that’s the ability to be really present with somebody when they’re saying something hard or when somebody cuts you off. And normally you’re really pissed off and you don’t feel that rage. You feel a calm and equanimity. I like to call it a radical okay ness that even though what’s happening to me may not be okay, I’m okay. I got this. And also to a groundedness that that I don’t think I ever had before in my life. My life was very two patches. I was very addicted to a self-conception of being a martyr. I in some ways, I was and still struggle with this this idea that somehow how that somehow no one could love the way I did. And if nobody did, well, then it was their fault. And I realized through my practice that that was a story that was a narrative given to me by someone else, and that the martyr the martyr ID that I had given to myself was simply a myth and a story. I remember the day and the time in the place, literally, where I said, No more done. And it was hard. And at that point, it was hard because I had nothing to replace that story with. But then the teachings of the Buddha came to me. It was at that time when I really started to embrace the teachings of the Buddha, and I didn’t need to be a martyr anymore. It wasn’t my responsibility to fix everyone. Even even as a Buddhist practitioner, some Buddhists and then we talk about this a lot is the trap of idiot compassion, where we think we have to be compassionate to every single person in the whole world and that if we’re not, we’re bad Buddhists, that we can never be angry, that we can never live a rich emotional life, that somehow becoming Buddhist neuters us from experiencing life. And I think my personal practices allowed me to realize that there is a compassionate anger that’s based on compassion and not based on ego. Now I’m rambling. I’ll give you one story. And I think to me, this is probably one of the most profound stories is back to that interdependence and still one that I hold on to. And there’s one story in there, too, kind of related. One was, I had come home from being gone for a couple of days and I had left the cat food cat out in maggots that got into the cat who can and I can’t have maggots in my house and I’m watching them down the drain. And there’s this moment as I’m watching down the drain where I stopped and about and I said, I’m sorry, guys. You can’t stay here, but I acknowledge you and I see you. And then and then a couple of days after that, it rained a lot and there was a bunch of worms out on the sidewalk at work and I started picking them up and throwing them back in the grass. And there was so many of them. And it just reminded me the story of the starfish. You know, the guys don’t the starfish back here, it’s this beautiful starfish that doesn’t matter. And he goes does to that one. It does to that one. They remember that story and I would have never thought of anything like that before. Before the practice, I would have never bowed. I really can’t stand maggots. I have, like a maggot phobia of worms that very partial to worms. So that that too. That, too, has been a beautiful, beautiful thing about embracing the teachings. And ultimately, I mean, that’s really I think of all the bodhisattvas and they’re all running around babbling, trying to help us out, but we don’t need any help. We got it. We need so much help, I think. I pray another last thing is said that become a Buddhist. I’m so much better asking for help, something I never did before because I was ashamed to ask for help. And I think the teachings of the Buddha and the teachers and being in the Sangha, it’s giving me that freedom to say, Hey, I can’t do it. I think that’s the first thing we learn when we come to Buddhism is we finally say to ourselves, I can’t freaking do this. And then we become open to the teachings of the Buddha.
So one of the things which has always been difficult for me is, is that I, I want this kind of interest. So I wanted a I’ve always felt that there were that in a lot of phrases. One of the greatest challenges I’ve had with our fellowship is that I don’t I would like there to be more committed, traditional practice. And sometimes it drives me crazy that we’re not just a Zen center and there’s a Roshi and there’s Ozzy and there’s sesshin, and we just do it. It would make life so much easier. And it’s been a challenge. It’s been a challenge. I mean, we meditate during our gathering every Sunday. We meditate for 15 minutes, sometimes 20. We would offer meditation during the week. Usually Wednesday evenings, four people would show up. We are not a meditating sangha, but there’s a caveat to that and I’ll get to that. But one of the things I felt was always important that I cannot I cannot force the horse to water. I need to make it available. And even though sometimes we have one person or two people show up, we still do it every Wednesday. It was always there, even though some people during Sunday, once we start doing meditation, they get up and go to the bathroom and don’t come back until meditation is done. We still do meditation every Sunday. So one of the ideas of of and this was again before the pandemic of moving to a physical space is to have our own space. So we could make because I do have a few very dedicated people willing to do it, that we could have our own temple and then we have morning meditation every morning that people can come and attend. And we don’t have to tear the altar down. We don’t have to remove all the questions. We have our space. And I really believe if you have a dedicated space, that’s yours, that people are invested in, that people clean, that people paint, that they’re more likely to go to that space to do that. And I want to give them more opportunities for a more formal practice. Know what that looks like. So I tend personally to like Zen style meditation. It resonates with me. I also like to chant, but I also think Metta is powerful and very powerful for Westerners. And I would love to have dedicated better practice, better Mondays. You know, every Monday as a as a temple, we come together. We have those opportunities to do that. And I really again, I really believe that if you give those opportunities to people to practice that in time, that that there is a a energy that is created by creating those opportunities. So so as a traditional practice, also, I want to make other forms of practice available to them. So what is chanting practice look like? I want to give them an opportunity to experience a chanting practice. What does walking meditation? What are models for? How can we use models in our practice to to open up the variety and the the beauty of Buddhism that’s beyond just sitting meditation on the cushion of so so that that kind of practice is important. We did start a meditation practice because of the retreat, because of the retreat, because of the pandemic. And that actually has really bored great fruit. Zoom with all its issues has made a huge difference. We have a group of regular meditators now every morning at seven in the morning. That’s been going on for two years now. They would not call for a meditation for six years before that, but you put it on Zoom where they can roll out of bed and go and do it. I don’t get it personally. I mean, it doesn’t work for me, but it works for them. It’s very meaningful in their lives. I mean, it is very meaningful. It’s very beautiful. And it’s also been a little problematic. And because I have not been as actively participate in it that it did. There’s an intimacy that’s created by doing that. There’s an intimacy by collective meditation. And it did start to get a little cliquish, a little spiritual materialism, started to kind of come in, and they even were calling themselves the mini sangha at one point, then extrapolating that what was going on in their group represented the whole sangha. And it’s not that simple. And I think it was important to kind of push back on that a little bit and say what you do is important and it’s important element of the song. But there is only this longer and you are part of that and it is still going on strong. We have about now we have like up to 15 people on the morning, which is amazing. It tends to be so I incorporated some traditional aspects of it. So they sit for 20 minutes, they do going for refuge and they do the bodhisattva vows for those who’ve taken the Bodhisattva vows. And then we have a usually a a Dharma sharing. I try to emphasize that they do it from traditional Buddhist teachers, but they tend to do it from everywhere. But it works. So I’m not you know, at this point, I’m not going to get in the middle of it. And then they have open, compassionate sharing where they can share whatever it is they want to share with them. Community. I would like to recreate that in the physical sense too. We’re stuck with Zoom. It’s going to be with us. After the pandemic is over. There will be people who will not practice unless they can roll over and do it on their TV or on their phone. And that’s fine. It’s it’s I think my responsibility or our responsibility as a fellowship is to provide them the opportunities so that they can come and practice and play with the practice and experiment and find that thing that resonates with them and encourage them to do that. And I think for the leaders in our community, they have to demonstrate that themselves. I mean, behavioral modeling is so important if if they don’t show up, how can you expect other people to show up? Now, retreat I think historically retreat has been our religious Super Bowl or sangha Super Bowl, where everything we’ve talked about the whole year is comes together into a moment where we have absolute and utter focus. We practice noble silence, which is the hardest thing that these anybody’s ever done before. And and I’m pretty strict with it, not as strict in some places because somebody will actually send you home if you keep talking. I know that they don’t come from that kind of tradition, that kind of background. And we do extensive meditation. We do extensive silent meditation, zazen, we do chanting, we do walking meditation and this is probably more meditation than they’ve done in their whole life. And we do were there for two and a half days, almost three days. So we do two really long sessions of compassionate listening and we’ve even done the tradition of a talking stick. And people share things that you you have no idea of the depth of suffering that some people have been through. And it’s a safe place where people can unburden their self. And and even though they struggle, I know they feel the bodhisattvas I know they feel the Buddha’s and they leave. They leave retreat with a a deep and a deepened appreciation for the practice and for one another and an intimacy that that is always even done in many times. And I’m still flabbergasted that when you leave, you haven’t talked, you haven’t told stories, you haven’t put on a show, you haven’t worn masks, you just sat. And how close you can feel with somebody when you just shut up and you’re sitting with them fully present. We do. And we do sunrise meditation, which which everybody hates and loves. We wake them up at 530. They come into the they come into the temple. We do it up at up in the mountains here. They they come in and we don’t do formal meditation. We literally just watch the sunrise in silence. And I always tell them just to be very aware of the change of the light, the change of colors. Watch, watches, the sunrise as how things now become more distinct and how that represents how how our practice in in the Dharma does that same thing that that which was a shadow before slowly and it does feel like forever sometimes comes into focus and it’s kind of a contemplation meditation. And then from that we go to a form of meditation. Then we have a couple of Dharma talks. We usually do a workshop around some Dharma topic. The one that we did last time before the pandemic was from the quantum school, where you say, What am I? And you you have to answer, but what are you? And you have a person you’re in dialog with and the other person has to keep saying, Well, I am a father, I’m a mother, I’m. And then you just keep pushing. What are you what are you? And you just push him to get past all these stories and definitions of what they are. And then we do a Dharma talk on on non self. And the one thing I always say is not know self non-self and there is a difference between the two and not conflating them as the same thing. And then we have our surana and I think it’s important to do the teacher on up there, we offer it other times too, but I think it’s really important up there because you’re going for refuge to put it the Dharma in the saga. And that’s what retreat is representing in a different way than we can on a Sunday or during our regular time. It’s, it’s, it’s coming out of the mundane world and moving into the world of Dharma practice. And it gives us a container of focus. A container of of practice. I mean, the pure land, the idea of the pure land is really that container of practice where everything can be dedicated to to that. And it’s been so hard we, we’ve not been able to go for two years now because of the pandemic. And that’s been I think it’s been a little detrimental and we’ll survive it. But I think that’s been problematic and also along the same line, but completely different. And I just want to bring it up real quick. One of the things I noticed about being on Zoom is there was this weird shift where and we get back into this when we talk about being a teacher where people started to look at me as a teacher, as a guru, it was really weird. It wasn’t that way before when we were in personal practice, but some reason we had Zoom and we got a lot of new people in. It was really odd that shift and even though I understand my role at times is as a teacher, I’m not comfortable necessarily as this concept of a well, you know, he’s a Zen master. He’s he’s a guru, he’s a lama, he’s a roshi. And when we use the word sensei and we use it, and I like the idea of a teacher as being one step ahead half the time student that’s behind. But do you know what I’m saying? It’s not as much a hierarchical thing. And that was weird, and I’m still exploring that. Why that happened, I’m not quite sure. I think maybe it’s because when you’re a person, it’s real. And one of the things I miss about our fellowship meeting, because we used to laugh a lot. We, we left a lot in Sangha Dharma talks. We just laughed a lot. There’s no laughing on Zoom. Well, at least not that much. And I really do miss that aspect because I really do think that’s one of the things that did make our fellowship so attractive to people when they would show up is that it was so down to earth and self-deprecating, and we could laugh at ourselves and, you know, drop a F-bomb here and there and, you know, be a little more trucker ish, I guess. I don’t know. Yeah. Yeah, no, I definitely I think that was people that talked about just the importance of that human connection. And they didn’t, again, you know, know take their hands off that, you know, the sound of being the bird of the future. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So I think. Yeah, you did exactly. Groundbreaking and, and and and and it’s challenging to be say there’s no roadmap and no answer. And and then in that, you know, and even, you know, again, like I know of the tribe right there is the whole what you know, the spiritual friend. Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so I think yeah. So it’s definitely, you know, challenging, but also it’s a different framework of how to support each other, you know? Yeah, in, in sort of siege of supply spots and fighting that. And so it is definitely a great experiment. Yeah, well we would have people come more in the early days and they would say, Will you be my teacher? They got me. No, we don’t do that here. What do you mean? They go, we do spiritual friendships. Yes. You want to go get coffee and people would say no. And we do have Dharma coffee still. I mean, people show up after Sunday after sangha. They come together, they talk about the Dharma talk. Yes, maybe. Can you come? I’m kind of doing something. What do you need? What do you need? Something very cool. Very cool. On roadblocks on YouTube to use the bathroom. Perfect. Let’s do that. YouTube. The likes of.
One of the things that over the past three years is, as we’ve talked, a lot of compassion, compassion and a sense that that. So I personally think in some ways it’s easier to have compassion for a maggot or a worm than somebody who’s attacking you. And our community is is somewhat diverse. For Salt Lake City, it’s really diverse. But we have a lot of people who identify as LGBTQ. We have some Latina Latinos, Latinos in our group. We have a few African-American people who participate in our group. And we’ve been somewhat active with Black Lives Matter, with some other groups that are looking for social justice within Salt Lake City. And I think one of the things for me, when it comes to compassion and one of the things that that I I’ll get back to that in a minute. One of the things about compassion that I think really needs to be understood is that we have a tendency, I think, within in Western Buddhism, too, to look at compassion from a self-serving point of view that I’m going to be compassionate towards you, so you change yourself, so you become different. So you like me, it becomes instrumental. And we find it very difficult to be compassionate towards somebody who either is very different from us or disagrees with us, or maybe even dismisses us as having value. And one of the things that that and my own personal exploration in, I remember I remember a very specific event with me and my wife before we were married where she was dealing with some very difficult things. And I remember being with her and we didn’t know if we’re going to stay together and if this was going to work out. It was it was really intense. And and I felt that I was being really compassionate towards her situation and and there was a space there was this gap where I realized no, I was being compassionate towards her to get something from her, to help our relationship to stay together. And I realized in that moment that compassion has nothing to do with what I want. Compassion is in that moment seeing another person in a more subjective point of view, in her experience of her suffering. Not mine, not how it relates to mine, not how it impacts me, but simply understanding that here’s another sentient being whose suffering and how hard that must be, and letting go of any need or expectation of an outcome from that compassion. It was it was amazing. It was amazing. The difference when she came back, the energy between us shifted. And I don’t know if it’s just me, but it felt like it was her to I mean, it was still difficult for some time after that, but it was just it was different. It became lighter. It became grounded. It became more about me. One of the things we we have in our practice manual, we have this thing that I borrowed from a Dharma talk I heard years ago out of the Western Buddhist Fellowship or something like that. And, and for me, this, this said everything about compassion, compassion, this practice. And we say this every Sunday as part of our, our, our, our gathering in compassion. There is no respect and no disrespect, no responsibility, no judgment. There is no anger, no bias, no prejudice and compassion. We do not keep others from what they are doing or what they are thinking. We do not look for cause or blame and give no thought to effort and compassion. Our only concern is for the suffering that is there. May it be solved. So I find myself in my own practice and with our with our sangha coming back to this that that to see anger, judgment as the overflowing of suffering, it doesn’t mean we allow people to walk over us, that we allow people to hurt us. It’s not idiot compassion, but we acknowledge first and we always bring back to our mind and train our minds and heart that our first response or the response very immediately after the first response is that understanding that it comes from suffering, comes from fear, and how do we engage that with that understanding that? How do we approach that? There’s also a affirmation of prayer borrowed from I believe it’s Robert Aiken and it’s invocation for yen. And it’s this line each thought of compassion ever so brief is Kwan Yan herself turning the Dharma wheel. Oh, I love that. Just makes me want to cry. It’s talk about a training. I mean, that’s a lifelong continual every day training to be able to have even the briefest moment of compassion. And then what does that look like? Oh, that’s a whole it’s a whole nother. One of the reasons why we want to move to a physical a physical sangha. We were leasing a space. We had a little bit of time, but we want a full time space is because really an embodied practice is a practice of compassion. What does that look like? Hospice, working with homeless. The homeless, feeding the homeless, working with those within our community who may be struggling, assisting with suicide prevention and not as service projects. People are not projects to our brothers and sisters. That’s why we don’t call them service project. We call it compassionate action. And it’s also forces us to look as Quan Yin does look, not turn away look. Because the only way that we can understand, the only way we have a chance of any transformation is to have the courage to look. And I tell people all time to be a Buddhist. It’s a it’s a path of warriors, because you have to have the courage to look and not turn away. And sometimes you may have to turn away for your own sanity. And I get that. But the practice is to turn that head back and to look and to be a witness and to be there. That, that, that I mean, being a witness in itself is powerful, but but then doing whatever in your power to do is important. I think too often we think compassion has to be something big. I have to go solve the world’s problem. I have to go stop the war in Ukraine. I got to do something. I got to help the immigrants coming over from Syria and the poor kids. They’re drowning on the beach. I have to do something. Yeah, I get that. But the problem is, you can’t. But you can. The briefest. The briefest thought of compassion is kwan. You’re doing the dharma wheel. What about the starving person in your own community? You’re worried about the starving person in Syria. You got the guy down the street who’s not eating or a family that doesn’t have a place to stay. We have to put things in perspective and part of embodying compassion is doing it. Where you can do something right now doesn’t have to be big. It can be compassion to your mailman. He’s having a hard time. It’s hot out. And you give him you give him some iced tea. Those things make a difference. And one of the things you learn as you live a little bit longer, you don’t know how the smallest act can have a transformation in some of these life. You don’t know that you talking to somebody briefly or smiling may have saved literally saved a life that somebody was contemplating suicide in that moment. They didn’t because of something simple you did in an act of compassion, wanting to embody the spirit and the heart and the love of a Buddha.
There. There’s one interesting thing where where I have been a little stubborn in some ways. So I have other fellow teachers, some bright down late ministers who who really attend to those who are in the throes of the trauma of leaving their family tradition. And I do say it’s trauma. People like to say, oh, no, I just believe in science. Well, yeah, but there’s still something you lose. There’s a there’s a maybe the magic of childhood. There is the connection of of something grander than yourself, a mystery and enchantment that you lose. And there is something there. But they tend to attend to them by stripping away ritual. And in the initial days of the fellowship, it was a struggle because people didn’t like the bowing. They didn’t like the Buddha on the altar. They didn’t like the flowers. They didn’t like the chance. And I would just smile and say, okay, well, you know, there’s other places to go. I mean, you don’t have to come here. There’s other Buddhist centers and people would come. And it’s interesting. There’s one kid who hated bowing and he would tell me, I go, well, then don’t do it. If you want to, you can, but don’t. And years later, he does his tea surana. And here’s kind of my, my, my own lack of courage is that he’s doing his t surana he’s going to go for refuge. And I’m I’m looking for a dharma name for him and the one that comes to me is one who boasts the sun and they go, I don’t know, he hates bowing. I can’t give him that name. He’ll punch me, whatever they’re going to do. And I go, I don’t know. So I ended up giving him a different Dharma name, which I have since fixed. And I’ll tell you why. So we’re about to do that t surana ceremony on that retreat. He wakes up. I see him wake up in the morning. Sun’s just rising. He gets out of his tent, he stands up and he vows to the sun. And I’m going at that point. Wow, I’m such a coward. And I realized that that here’s that transformation, and now this. And it was beautiful. That moment was beautiful simply because he was embodied in that moment and bowing to the sun. And I always like the thought of the sun rising, the bright dawn, the dawn of the Buddha’s awakening. The morning star. And here is. Here is this endless, this beautiful, endless lineage family of practitioners for 2500 years, bowing to the morning sun and it was yeah so so I get that that that that wanting to strip away and I would always say to people don’t just don’t make them do it but do it and and some will come along and some will leave because the only way they’re going to get over that resistance they have to ritual is to participate in ritual and realize, Oh, hey, this really works for me. Oh, hey, no, it doesn’t work for me or Oh, wow. Well, I’m okay with it. And to see the transformation of people now, when you take some of that stuff away, oh, man, they go, Where is it? Why didn’t we do that? Why don’t we have this? Why do we do that? Well, I thought you really didn’t like that. Oh, no. It’s now meaningful to me because it becomes a part of a larger embodied practice instead of simply meditation. Meditation is integral, but there’s no virtue in itself. Being mindful is not virtuous. There are plenty CEOs that are mindful. As one teacher said, even Darth Vader is mindful. What does that mean? So there’s there’s it’s it’s so much more robust tradition and so much more than simply mindfulness that that that can inform a daily practice that can really make it transformative.
So I think for for me and this, again, is something that I learned from something I read. I can get you his name. I think his last name is Régine. And he was a mid 20th century Jerusalem teacher. And so in Buddhism and Jewish in shoe Buddhism, there’s this idea of the pure land. In the pure land is a it’s a place of bliss from the traditional perspective that you go after death, where you are taught by Amida and Bodhisattvas to come to awakening that the Earth is too difficult, too hard to learn it here, and that you can do it there. That’s the traditional metaphor. And he takes that traditional metaphor, and he basically says that that that pure land is the sangha. It’s not about a place, you know, ten CalPERS away. It’s right here. It’s it’s the sangha. And I think for me that as I started to come into this this this tradition and this evolution from a more traditional aspect to a different manifestation of it was sangha as practice. And, you know, throughout my life, I’ve been a meditator, I better chanter, I’ve been a sit on my ASR, not really doing anything. And I’ve been in all those different places at different times in my life. And for me, the thing that really resonated was this idea of sangha as practice, the community and practicing together in community. Was, was, was that and how do you practice together in community? Traditionally, Justin Shu is not there’s not meditation generally since you although you see more of it now in the past 20 years, most Shin B.K. temples will have meditation. So meditation is a part of what we do in our fellowship. But so it’s compassionate, listening. I think one of the most transformative aspects of our are weekly gathering. And for me to as a practitioner is we do open sharing where anybody can share anything they want and everybody is there to listen with compassion. We don’t give advice. We don’t comment back. We simply listen. And when somebody’s done sharing, we bow and acknowledgment of their sharing. It’s amazing how something as simple as that. But there is something about that practice in community, that practice of sangha, where we come together with all our issues and all our stuff, and it’s kind of rock polisher. And by practicing together, it smooths out those rough sides of ourselves. It helps us to look at the preconceptions we have about ourselves in others. And we slowly start to see the world more as it is. Instead of through our our stories. Meditation is an important part of doing that, too. Peeling back the onions of our stories. But so is being in a community and helping out in the community about holding somebody as they weep. Because the first time they admitted some horrible thing that happened to them and the first time they vocalized it. And you were there. People who are suicidal, people who are in recovery and have never felt a connection. One of the things you learn in recovery is that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but connection. And I think in general, for Western Buddhists, this is something that’s been kind of difficult. There are certain dharma centers and certain traditions where it’s, you know, you belong to a good Zen temple, you know, coming together, Zen the other. And that’s what it’s all about. But generally, it’s people first come to Buddhism. It’s through a book, it’s through a podcast. It’s through a technology on a video or something like that. And it’s not the sangha is the last part of the three jewels that people think about. The first one, of course, is the Dharma, then the Buddha. As long as you don’t make him too cool because then he gets a little too religious, make him a an early scientist and philosopher, and he’s cool. But any more than that. And then finally you get to the song. And that’s the last part that people go to. And it’s hard because there’s not a lot of them around. And it’s difficult as a practitioner to find a good sangha. So for me, as a practitioner, if for some reason I would move and go somewhere else, my practice, it would be interesting to see what would happen because it is such an integral part of who I am as a Buddhist is the practice of sangha to see what that would look like. And for me, virtual sangha, it helps, but it’s not the same. It’s it’s different. There’s nothing more intimate than sitting silently with somebody for a couple of hours and not saying a thing and just hearing each other’s breath. And you leave and you feel like you’ve known them your whole life. It’s just. It’s weird and beautiful at the same time.
Again, as we were saying before. I’ve had people come up say, hey, I want to be your teacher. So we don’t do that. We do spiritual friends. Let’s go have coffee. How many people don’t show up? This is something that I really learned from the bright down way of one, this Buddhism. There was a teacher, I CarGurus, who was very influential in Japan. He was part of the Cobra Kai movement. This kind of modernization and revitalization of Buddhism in the thirties and forties and one of our Cugat students was it was my mentor, Reverend José Cobo say. But there is also a lay person named Kathy was first name right now his last name was my ETA. And there now is the Maya, the center of Buddhism in Berkeley, which I’d recommend going if you’re if you’re over in that area, just check it out. But the big emphasis of my ETA and then my aid is student Nobuo Haneda is, is that concept of studentship that what, what, what set the Buddha apart and what set Honan Shin Ron’s teacher apart. What was it that made them unique? And I just I love this this quote so they’re talking about really that that so honed hone and Honan Shonen was a very well-respected teacher administer in the ten day tradition and he gave it all up he saw he saw the move towards the aristocracy and a whole bunch of different have oligarchical attitudes within the within the ten day tradition. And he just left and started reading. And then he found that pure land to tread. And the Kyoto shoe, the first true school just dedicated to every type of Buddha, was started. So Enron Zinman was not a well-versed or accomplished priest. He he he was a dedicated priest. And he, too, felt like this practice, this ritualized practice, was working. I need something else. So he starts wandering, looking for a teacher, and he comes across Honan and once he meets Honan he goes, Here’s this man, here’s this Buddha. He’s a Buddha in front of me. He had that experience. And then Maita and and later Anita talks about that experience and he says So Sheeran’s first encounter with Honan was important because, quote, Before Sheeran met Honan, he had thought that a Buddha was a teacher, a respected and worshiped person. But now, having met Honan, he realized that the Buddha was actually a student of respecting and worshiping person, end quote. And I remember reading that and reading and and how this little shift from somebody being like a teacher or a dispenser of knowledge to someone actually doing that. But that’s not the focus of what they do with the focus. What they do is being a student, learning, being respecting of others, and worshiping in the sense of being devotional, being served, a serving being. What does it say in the way of the body surpassing everyone else’s greater than them? Humility. Absolute humility. And that just that really how especially for one who is not awakened of how can I stand up and be a teacher of anybody now awakened? Have I had awakening moments? He has to have insight. Yes. But am I awaken them? I am practicing the best I can from my delusive state and I’m a little less delusive than I was five years ago. But I’m still the lucid which I inform the fellowship. Guess what, everybody you so all deluded. You haven’t woke yet. So if you start feeling your oats back down in shambles and they have this thing called foolish being and a bomb boom. And I first, I didn’t like it kind of annoyed me, but there’s something I do appreciate about it. And, and that’s why I loved about Shimron, Shimron says. He said, I am such that I do not know right from wrong and cannot distinguish false and true. I lack even small love and small compassion and yet for fame and profit, I enjoy teaching others. I love that way. Find me an American teacher. I will say that you know and he goes to me, there is something there’s something very there’s something very authentic about that and very vulnerable. We are good. And I think that’s also something that a teacher in their student ship demonstrates is that vulnerability, that that openness. I think that one of the greatest calls the Buddha’s ask of us is to open ourselves up to the world, not in our tradition. We don’t have masters, we don’t have gurus, we don’t even have a Dharma Transmission all like that. And I think it’s different that day. I see Enron and this this idea of foolish being. And then I look here in the American teachers and we have the the masters that are not so master ish with their Dharma transmission, their girlfriends or or we have this guy who’s claiming that he was to the 17th level of awakening or pretending humility, but not willing to take time off after they have hurt their community because their teaching is too important. And then they got to keep doing their teaching. Here’s Shinhan. Here’s my front, here’s my back. You know, I know, I know my delusion and I’m working on it. But here’s my delusion. And this is where we begin together. And let’s walk together. Let’s walk this path together. So it’s really that journey together. The teacher is taking a journey together and and I think that I know all the the thing that that I have been able to bring to the fellowship Sunday after Sunday for for four weeks, months and years is not some great, profound wisdom or some awakening. But my studentship, my willingness to engage with the teachings to to challenge myself when I struggle with my secular side, my devotional side, don’t give in to one or the other dialog with them and wrestle with them and dance with them and try to try to figure this out and when I’m wrong, say I’m wrong, or if I don’t know, say I don’t know. Instead, try the dance and pretend I do and that’s why I see that, like the Bright Donnelley Ministries. But we’re also different. We’re loosely affiliated. If you would go to like for breakdown teachers very different one one may be more kind of Tibetan flavored, one will be more secular flavored, one will be more pure land flavored one you might know what the hell they’re talking about. And there’s something beautiful in that diversity. I think that that ultimately I realize that that and I hope we in the commune realize that we’re continually becoming and then that continuum will be coming, that there will be times when we don’t do it right and to allow ourselves the grace and the freedom to be able to be human and to realize that that if I realize other people aren’t always going to be perfect, that means I don’t always have to be perfect, too. And that gives me, again, that idea of freedom, I think freedom from perfection or the need to be perfect, to be loved and accepted is liberation is probably a really powerful liberation for a lot of Westerners. And I think there’s something powerful with that way. Okay. More Oh, it’s just interesting the evolution as time goes on and and and and even as viral like before I started, I really wanted to get the title of Sensei because I wanted to have some street cred. You know, here I am teaching some Buddhist group and it’s kind of religious. Who am I to be doing this and having some people say, what Dharma transmission do you have your Oh no, I well, I’m a sensei with the right of way of oneness and I kind of joined it initially to get some street cred. But once I got there, I fell in love with the teachings and what it was. And now over the past year, it’s like, Oh good God, don’t call me teacher, sensei, call me friend. And it’s not because I feel like my role has changed. It’s like you’re not seeing what’s important. If you see me as a teacher, you’re not seeing what’s important. We bow before the Buddha and not because we worship the Buddha. Because the Buddha is a mirror of anything. The only thing I can ever be is a mirror. And half the time a cloudy will. That is a Windex. But awakening. The paradox of awakening is awakening. I can only do the work of but I can’t do it alone, you know? It’s like I can’t. What’s your say? Only I can save myself. But I need a hell of a lot of help getting there. And that means I need the Bodhisattvas, I need the Buddha, so I’m dependent. And that’s okay. And and there’s nothing wrong with that. And I hope that our community, what they learn in our community, that that message translates not just to the community, but to their friends and their families and their children, and that that that positive karma will then spread out to others. And it only takes one.
It’s nice to. It’s like so my my teacher, Reverend Coyote, kind of put together the bright down way of oneness to carry on his father’s legacy in his teaching. He’s a great guy, but he’s he’s as regular as you can get. And he’s a horrible administrator. And has he taught me stuff that’s helped me awaken more? Absolutely. Is he frustrating? Yeah, absolutely. Does he not follow? Yeah, but what? What does that ever have anything to do with the Dharma? You know, it’s it’s interesting how people set teachers up and people up, and they say, oh, well, you know, he’s not very mindful because he did do X or Y. Well, okay, what’s that got to do with anything? He’s still human. She’s still human. I think maybe that’s also a challenge that Western Buddhists have. Is this expectation that a teacher is X or Y. And it’s also interesting because like personally, like some of the things that happened with the Temple Roshi here locally, you know, I met him, I talked to him, I knew his wife. As a teacher, you have a higher standard. I’m sorry, in my book. Your higher standard. So, yeah, you might be human and yeah, you might. You might be fallible. I get it. But something like that. So you can’t just excuse it. And there was hearing people say, well, he’s only human. And they go, Yeah, but as a teacher, he’s vowed to do not harm. And how many people has he harmed by this this behavior? So it’s kind of weird. It’s like they’ll get so angry at a teacher because they weren’t super compassionate this moment or they were reactive at this moment, or they’re bad organizer, and yet they’ll give him all kinds of latitude if they like. I’m so confused. I don’t get it. And maybe that’s our relationship as Westerners with spiritual leaders. I think we have a lot of issues. I mean, there’s a lot I mean, there’s a historic history historically. A lot of clergy abuse, physical and emotional. The relationship just inherent within a priest or a pastor in the congregation, the separation and and I don’t know, I think that’s a problem for for Western people. And maybe it’s a problem also for Western teachers. You know, there’s a lot of things about Trungpa that that I don’t appreciate, but there’s a lot of things I appreciate. And I think spiritual materialism should be a book that every pastor or minister and reverend should read, because I think there’s a lot in there that, you know, unless you’re continually self-aware of that kind of stuff, it’s problematic within a Western context and how many people just kind of give up their their independent thought. And I’m a Westerner, I believe in science, and yet they’re following their roshi where. Well, and that. Well, I love the idea. I personally have no issues personally with Guru or or even personally even Guru. If I could meet a Honan or a Shimron and I can meet one or if I can meet Sato Suzuki Roshi, you know, I think I’m cool with it, you know, I’ve never met one and I know I’m not that and they think for me it’s not so much that there’s anything inherently wrong with a roshi or with a guru. Again, we talked earlier about there’s too many Roshi mills in America that that a really enlightened, good teacher, too deep and I would love that. Personally, I would I don’t have anything with it in the context of what we do in our fellowship. That’s not our tradition. And I would encourage anybody, if they found it, that that would be wonderful. That makes sense. Kind of go back go back to the salvia. I don’t have issues with the salvia Buddha. I know a lot of people can’t stand that idea that somehow, somehow purely in Buddhist, not real Buddhism because it’s the salvia, the Buddha. Oh my God, I got a problem. I want to be saved. Save me. I mean, it took me 50 years to say, yeah, I want to be saved. Because before I go, no, no, I got this. No, I could do it. No, you know, like, screw that. But yeah, it’s there is a place for it and there is a important aspect of a good teacher. Matter of fact, in the Zen tradition, especially the kind of the kind of dobie’s high modernist movement, it was all about meeting that teacher, that teacher, that, that, you know, that in some ways crushes you and lifts you up at the same time. And the importance of such a teacher, it’s all about that. And I yeah, I think, I think it’s an important thing not to dismiss, but as you were saying, to be very critical of in the sense of is this legitimate? Is this a good coach? Is this a good guru? Are they living are they living by example and and and in the important things, not in the minutia. People get too hung up on stupid stuff.
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.
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.