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Lions Roar : May 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2012 90 already broken. I know that my time with it is temporary and precious. So I enjoy this glass while it lasts, but I am fully aware that eventually it will fall from the shelf or be knocked over and shatter. And when that happens I will say ‘of course.’” I heard this teaching early on in my Buddhist practice and it was a very important guide for me on how to relate to change and impermanence. This was tested a few years ago when my 1964 Chevy Impala lowrider was being test driven by my mechanic, who was working on the hydraulic suspension system. The car bottomed out as he drove over a large metal construction plate on the road and the frame was ripped in half. My prized posses- sion was wrecked. When I got the news, I experienced anger and sadness, but I reflected on Ajahn Chah’s broken glass and said to myself, “Of course, this lowrider too was already broken.” NOAH LEVINE’s new book is The Heart of the Revolution: The Buddha’s Radical Teachings on Forgiveness, Compassion, and Kindness. Where Is the True Place? SHOZAN JACK HAUBNER I AM ALONE: my monk peers have traveled to northern Cali- fornia for a retreat. I stroll the Zen monastery grounds, touring the arid, stony terrain as though for the first time. Tears arise as I sit atop an enormous boulder I have cursed countless times after smacking into it in the black of night. The sun is setting, and, with the help of a great deal of smog, the sky looks lit as if by cinders from God’s own campfire. Every corner of this property throbs with meaning for me—as only a place can that you are about to leave for good. I duck into cabin one, the site of my first night on this moun- tain. I inhale the rickety shack’s musky aroma. Mouse turds speckle mattress covers. Nonetheless, for me this is a sacred shrine. Memories rush in of that dream, the night of my ordina- tion, the one I’ll never forget, the whole thing but a single image: a skeleton puts his hand on my shoulder as I weep in a corner. How can I leave the monastery now? I think. Not now, not when these mountains have finally become my home! For some reason, pretty much out of nowhere, my teacher recently set in motion the process of my “promotion.” Surely someone will stop this madness, I’d thought. But no. I have just discovered that our community has agreed that I am to be made a priest, which means I will leave the monastery to teach. In other words, right around the time you stop wanting to des- perately escape the monastery, it’s time for you to go share what you’ve learned there with others. I think of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s observation to the effect that living at a monastery is like walking around in a mist. At first, you merely feel dampened by the monastic structure and rhythms. But if you stick with it long enough, eventually you dis- cover that you’re soaked to the bone in formal Zen practice. You have become this new way of life, only it is no longer new. Where before you were full of yourself, now you are full of Zen—which is to say, empty. Moving off the mountain, and starting a city temple some- where is not the end of my training, I assure myself, but the beginning of a whole new phase of it. No one stays here forever; it’s a place for people like me to grow up, not grow old. But I have grown old at the monastery, I sigh. Or at least mid- dle-aged—which is to say: newly old. I am touching the hemline of forty, a gown—more of a mildewed, old bathrobe, actually— which I will slip into next year. Exhibit A: my wee, gray gut, flop- ping slightly over my belted robes, like the chin of a child peek- ing over a fence. Plus, my hips have little jowls. When did that happen? Professional athletes and cops are now younger than me. Cops! “The Man” is my junior! But I’m still twenty-five, aren’t I? Haven’t I always been twenty- five? Every adult I ever ignored warned me that this day would come. But I didn’t listen. There’s only one consolation for getting old, I decide: becom- ing wise. Am I wise? A wise-ass, yes. But wise-wise? Am I nas- cently wise, at least? Wise-lite? I realize you can never field this question yourself; the answer has to come from others, and to prove it true, you can never believe them. So I try for some lower-hanging fruit and conclude that I’m certainly stupider in all the appropriate Zen ways since arriving at the monastery. Wise will come much later, if at all, when I become stupider still, with my stupidity finally, hopefully, ripen- ing into simplicity. Simple is key. If you lose simplicity as you accumulate years, then you begin to look and feel very old indeed. After my first summer Embrace Change continued from page 61 The waxing gibbous moon PHOTOBYTEDROGERKARSON