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Lions Roar : July 2016
stuff with us.” The gift of living at Green Gutch, he says, “is that I’m totally supported in the practice. Here, when somebody walks past and they have a grumpy face, I get the opportunity to look at how I’m dealing with that. My responsibility is to my practice, not to theirs. I can put down my judgment and carry on trying to be kind to everybody.” How is that different somewhere else? “I don’t know,” he laughs. “I only know that before I came here, I wasn’t doing it.” Myoyu knows his “wondrous life” at Green Gulch—morn- ing meditation, quietly working in the kitchen, classes, weekly visits to nearby San Quentin Prison, occasionally just sitting on the beach—won’t last. His passport won’t let him stay forever. Eventually he’ll return, as a priest, to a Zen com- munity in England to continue this work and this training. When he does, he’ll carry not only a sense of purpose but also a newfound sense of gratitude. “I’m blessed, you know. I spent quite a long time in my life thinking I had the worst life anyone pos- sibly could have.” He pauses. “It’s not true. It never has been true.” F YOU WERE ELIZABETH CALLAHAN’S next-door neighbor in the Catskills, you might imagine she’s simply a quiet person who works from home. And you’d be half right. But the other half is more interesting. Like many people, Callahan discovered Bud- dhism in college. But unlike most people, that discovery catapulted her directly into intensive, full-time practice, a path from which she hasn’t veered in thirty-five years. “I didn’t have a clear ideaof‘Iwanttobeamonastic’or‘Iwanttobea scholar,’ nothing like that,” she remembers. “But I saw very quickly that if you want to get into it fully, you have to make that your life’s path. And for that, you need in-depth training.” In Tibetan Buddhism, the traditional path of intensive practice begins with a three-year group retreat, after which one can be called a “lama.” Every day for three years, retreatants wake up at 4 a.m. and spend all day meditating, studying, and listen- ing to teachings. They’re even supposed to medi- tate while asleep, and to facilitate that sleep sitting upright in a special meditation “box.” Callahan did one three-year retreat at a Buddhist center in upstate New Year, and after a year in India returned to the U.S. to do another one. “Your first retreat, you’re learning it, and the second retreat’s your chance, really, to do it.” When her second retreat was finished, she decided not to move into a dharma center. “Dharma centers offer a lot in a way, but there’s a lot of activity that they need to perpetuate themselves, and I’m not interested in that,” she says. “I was more interested in practicing and studying, so it was more conducive to live on my own or with my partner.” Her ten years of meditation practice had involved an inten- sive study of Tibetan. “Nothing was translated in those days,” she says. “All the practices and commentaries were in Tibetan.” Translation was a natural fit, and for the last twenty-five years she’s been one of the leading translators of Tibetan Buddhist texts into English. I