How often do we forget that even an American Sōtō Zen priest is just a guy in a robe, trying to do his best to not let his ego get the best of him? I’m guessing a lot. We tend to see them as holy men who live chaste lives, never giving in to temptations or thinking bad thoughts. How ridiculous is that?
Case in point; the picture above, is from a blog owned by an American Sōtō Zen priest who lives in Los Angeles. I sat zazen with him and a few others several months ago, something I was excited about at the time. I respect the guy and I enjoy reading his blog. He’s about 10 years my junior and plays in a punk band. I relate to him because he is a regular guy and not someone sitting in a cave meditating or who goes around with an entourage. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I have tickets to see the Dali Lama in July and I am excited beyond belief! But I also know I won’t be meditating with him anytime soon either.
I know His Holiness is well respected but he has the same faults we all do. He might not act on them as much as me or you, but I know he at least thinks about it. I know his ego talks to him just like mine does, but knowing that doesn’t stop me from getting excited that I will be in the same auditorium as him.
This other Zen priest, who is the topic of my post, showed his human side when he wrote about Buddhist priests going to the White House, to protest the military, although I don’t think that was his intention. He was upset that these individuals, calling themselves Buddhist priests, somehow represented the entire Buddhist community. He didn’t want them to represent him. I don’t know how he came to that conclusion but I found it funny that he did. He seemed pretty mad about it. I saw his anger as a perfect example of how our ego can make us say, and as in this case, write some pretty crazy stuff.
Instead of him thinking, “Hey, its about time somebody started a dialogue about our constant need to use military force to create peace,” he was pissed that they claimed to speak for him.
I don’t care who holds a banner on the White House lawn promoting peace; Buddhist priests, Catholic bishops or American Atheists. Somebody has to speak up! To me, they were people who are sick of war and happen to also be Buddhist priests. I think they represent those of us who want another way to deal with conflict. I would also hope that practicing Buddhists would like to see an end to war as well.
He went on to write about the need for a military to protect citizens from psychos who are hell bent on killing people. I agree with him. We need the military and we need police, but we do not need to police the world, and I am sure there are ulterior motives that are too complex for me to get in to here.
My main point is that this Zen priest showed his human side and in my opinion, his gripe was petty. Humans are good at complaining about petty stuff. I certainly do my fair share, although I am working to cut down on the amount of time I waste doing that.
He doesn’t know it, but he reminded me to not hand over my brain and to think for myself. I can read the teachings and opinions of those who have more knowledge of Buddhism than me, but it boil down to this; I am my own guru. We are all human and we have our flaws. Just because someone is well known or comes with a title, doesn’t mean he or she leads a perfect life.