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Lions Roar : November 2019
Favorite meditation practice? Nighttime graveyard zazen. Your favorite virtue? Integrity. Speaking the truth. Courage. Your chief characteristic? Being present. Leaning into my fears. Your principal poison? Fear. Perfectionism. Your idea of happiness? A warm cat on cold feet during early morning zazen. Your idea of misery? A cultural blunder resulting in me giving a forty-five-minute speech in Japanese to a group of 150 retired high school principals on a topic about which I know almost nothing. Name three of your heroes. Maura O’Halloran, Emmeline Pankhurst, the Notorious RBG. The natural talent you’d most like to have? Can I say flying? Is that a natural talent? Also, the ability to learn languages easily. Your favorite authors? Toni Morrison, Shantideva, Charles Wright, Marilynne Robinson, Edwidge Danticat, Elizabeth Strout, Elena Ferrante. Your favorite musician or group? Miles Davis, George Clinton, Prince, Stevie Wonder. Your favorite current TV show? Dear White People. Guilty pleasure? Going to one of those high-end chocolate shops and “shopping” until they give me a free sample. MEET A TEACHER Tenku Ruff I WAS BORN IN FLORIDA and grew up surrounded by woods in an isolated community. Where we lived, people didn’t ask whether you went to church—they asked where you went to church. I had my own horse, and was close with my great-grandmother Rose, a former suffragette who’d marched in London with the Pankhursts. At my high school, the school farm was bigger than the school building. I first encountered the dharma in a college course called “The Sacred Quest.” The thing that drew me in were teachings on emptiness, which made Zen a natural fit a few years later when I tried a five-day silent retreat while living in Japan and work- ing as a high-school teacher. I never looked back, continuing Zen practice until the present. I ordained and trained in monasteries in North America and Japan. After novice training, I completed a both a Master of Divinity at a Tibetan Buddhist college and six units of clinical pastoral education, then became a board- certified chaplain. My chaplaincy work focuses on end-of-life care. In 2011, I volunteered to offer spiritual care to survivors of the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. The following year, I undertook the 900-mile 88-temple pilgrimage around Shikoku Island, walking in the footsteps of the ninth-century Shingon monk Kobo Daishi. My pilgrimage honored the victims of the tsunami, as well as people who had died on the oncology ward where I worked as a chaplain. I’m now the president of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association and teach Zen in Beacon, just north of New York City. As the SZBA president, I hope to bring together people from different Soto Zen lineages to address issues of today’s world. ♦ LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2019 33 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE