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Lions Roar : July 2016
“Zen monk” may seem an unusual career move for someone who began his career in the British Navy. But during his time in the service, he stumbled upon a book about Tibetan Buddhism. “I wasn’t that happy in the armed forces anyway,” he says, “and I sud- denly realized there was something else I needed to check out.” That didn’t lead directly to Buddhism—at his first Buddhist retreat, years later, he was asked about his practice and replied, “The only thing I practice is soccer”—but it did lead to vegetar- ianism, pacifism, and a guiding question: “What is Buddhism?” Myoyu first took up Zen practice when he met Reb Ander- son in 2007. He came to Green Gulch for a practice period a year later, and he’s been a resident there since 2009. Myoyu was ordained last November. In Zen—and all the Japanese schools of Buddhism—the term “ordination” can be nebulous, especially as it’s taken shape in the West. As in other Buddhist schools, Zen monks and nuns have a status and role distinct from that of laypeople, but they are not always required to forgo having a family, and many continue in their professional careers while also working as a priest. For Myoyu, deciding to ordain was a way to be with his teacher, but he also hopes it will open career doors: “I had this idea fermenting of doing two jobs. One was to work in pris- ons—I’d done some work in prisons, mainly with sex offenders, and that was really challenging. Challenging, but rewarding. The other was to work with children in hospice, to be there for them and their families. Having the title Reverend in front of one’s name makes it easier to do that kind of work.” Much of his Zen training, he explains, is about “deportment— how I dress, how I do chores, having a shaved head. Whatever it is.” Is it difficult? “The whole thing’s difficult! I’m an old man, sixty-five this year—just getting up in the morning is difficult. And nothing’s difficult. It’s not about that. It’s about why am I here?” Living at Green Gulch, he says, “I get the chance every day to sit on the cushion and not try to be anything or get any- thing. Just be there in that moment. If we could all do that, we wouldn’t be doing some of the other stuff we’re doing.” Myoyu doesn’t take this opportunity for granted. “One of the things the Navy taught me is that wherever we live in the world, whatever our circumstances, we’re human beings. We carry “I get the chance every day to sit on the cushion and not try to be anything or get anything. Just be there in that moment.” – MYOYU MALVERN COSTELLOE PHOTOSBYANDREAROTH Myoyu Malvern Costelloe meditates in the zendo at Green Gulch Zen Center and (right) walks in its famous garden. Training to be a Zen priest lets him work closely with his teacher, Tenshin Reb Anderson. LION’S ROAR | JULY 2016 70