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Lions Roar : November 2018
Peace Inside What happens when an American Buddhist monk goes to jail for parking tickets? TIM TESTU remembers. THERE WAS ONE PARTICULAR expe- rience that really helped me get through my beginning times of being ordained— going to jail. This is how it happened. I occasionally used the temple car to pick up Shrfu, my teacher, go to the printers, or run miscellaneous errands. In the process I managed to accrue a lot of parking tickets. I didn’t pay them much attention because I figured what we were doing was tremendously impor- tant for the world, and we didn’t have time to be bothered with minutia—we’d simply transcend these minor annoy- ances because the Buddha was on our side. Apparently the city of San Francisco didn’t see things quite the same way, because they kept sending us notices, notices, and more notices about the overdue tickets. When they finally sent an order to appear in court, I figured it was time to deal with the problem. I’d just go down there, see the judge, and when he saw me and understood the nature of the situation, he’d undoubtedly let me off the hook. What else could he do? I was a monk; I didn’t have any money. Instead, he gave me a five-day jail sen- tence, though he said I could break the sentence up and serve my time on two weekends, and he allowed me to go back to the temple to get my affairs in order. I was weirdly excited about it, although I don’t know exactly why. Was the monas- tery really so bad that I looked forward to going to the cooler? No, I was stimulated about the prospects of a fresh adventure, a new challenge, a chance to be out from under the big monks. I’d been cooped up so long that even going to prison sounded like a pleasant diversion. I approached the master and told him about the situation. His counsel was that I should turn this situation around. Under no condition should I lie down while at the jail; I should continue with my practice of sleeping sitting up. Also, he added, I should only eat one meal a day, at noon, and be sure not to eat any of the prison meat. The bus ride from downtown San Francisco out to the Contra Costa county jail was almost a pleasure. It was no Greyhound, mind you. The seats were hard and the windows dirty, but I still had a splendid view of the whole South Bay area as we bounced along, my fellow prisoners and I, on our way to the cala- boose. It felt wonderful just to let go of the controls and turn my life over to the government for a few days. Once at prison, they confiscated my robes and gave me some prison HOT OFF THE PRESS PHOTO©ALBUND/DREAMSTIME.COM LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2018 73