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Lions Roar : July 2016
I recently had a bad experience with a Buddhist who informed me that I couldn’t be a Buddhist because I own a wine bar. Is that true? Every religion has its fundamentalists—even Buddhism—and it sounds like you ran into one. While different schools of Buddhism view alcohol differently, it’s true that all counsel against losing your awareness and other negative effects of drinking. But it’s up to you to judge the merits of what you do, and no one can impose on you their idea of what it means to be a Buddhist. There’s only one agreed-upon criterion: taking sincere refuge in the three jewels (see “Buddhism by the Numbers” on this page). Beyond that, the details vary from tradition to tradition, and even from person to person. The most this person could fairly have said is that you can’t be a Buddhist as their tradition or community defines it. Anything beyond that and we’d for- give you for a distinctly un-Buddhist response! I’m sold, intellectually, on meditation, and have even carved out time and the space inmyhometodoit. Still, I find it so easy to avoid it! Are there any tricks that can help? You didn’t hear it from us, but yes, there are a couple of good tricks. First: don’t be ashamed to dial back your sit-time. As they say, the best practice is the one you’ll actually do, so if you can only sit for 10 minutes, and not 25 or 30, then go with 10. And here’s a great little cheat if you can’t get yourself to do even that: simply commit to get into your meditation posture daily. You don’t have to actually meditate, or spend any particular amount of time there—but keep doing it. In time, it will feel more familiar and you’ll be less resistant to actually meditating. All that said, if there’s something else that’s keeping you from sitting, like physical pain or the sense that your time on the cushion is actually counterproductive, honor that. If your meditation is without discernible benefit, use that time for something you can feel good about instead. ♦ WHO? WHAT? WHERE? TASSAJARA ZEN MOUNTAIN CENTER TASSAJARA WAS ESTABLISHED by Zen master Shunryu Suzuki in 1967 as the first Soto Zen training monastery outside of Japan. With City Center in San Francisco and Green Gulch Farm in Marin County, it is one of three residential practice centers under the umbrella of the San Francisco Zen Center. Tassajara, also known as Zenshinji (Zen Heart-Mind Temple), is on a 126-acre mountain property in the Ventana Wilderness Area, a five-hour drive north of San Francisco. Renowned for its healing hot springs, it was once home to the Tassajara Springs Resort, and Japanese-style baths utilizing the hot springs remain an integral part of life at Tassajara. Practice periods from late September until early April follow the traditional Soto Zen monastic schedule, with life revolving around zazen, study, and work. From May to September, Tassajara opens its gates to students and guests for the Guest Season, which includes a major kitchen operation renowned for its cuisine. Edward Espé Brown’s Tassajara Bread Book is regarded as a major catalyst for artisanal baking in the United States, and his Tassajara Recipe Book is a staple of vegetarian kitchens across the country. In 2008, approaching wildfires forced Tassajara’s evacuation, but five senior monks defied the authori- ties and stayed behind, risking their lives to save the monastery. Thanks to their training, they saw the fire not as an enemy but as a friend to guide. Colleen Mor- ton Busch’s book Fire Monks tells their inspiring story of saving one of the most historic and revered centers in American Buddhism. Tell us what you’d like to know about Buddhism and meditation at