Food for thought: My favorite question I’ve ever been asked (and it comes up frequently) is “Is that monk stuff?” Tell me what’s more monastic, buying a $250 tailor made grey Korean cuffed jumpsuit that makes mothers pull their children away in public places (true story) or a $12 blue jean and button down outfit from the goodwill? For me, the heart of the dharma rests (or perhaps is active in) meeting people where they are, and in thus living an ordinary, mundane yet present and responsible life. Personally, I have no interest in changing or encouraging others to change their culture (and thus language, dress, diet and social norms), or to to remove themselves from our inherent position as dictated by evolutionary biology as social pack creatures, by living in solitude.
The Zen way is to wake up to our lives as they are, not to create an alternate reality wherein problems are seemingly less likely to arise, but rather to do as Master Kyong Ho and other eminent personalities have suggested and make good medicine and practice of the suffering and problems that arise in our day to day.
For me, being a monk means taking full refuge in reality as it unfurls, abiding in the monastery of the world, and being with people in ordinary situations as a force of compassion, presence, love and service. It means living the dharma, moment-by-moment in an organic and unforced, non-contrived way.
If we have nothing to offer the world but a call to a shaven head, solitude, drab garb, mystical ceremonies (arcane often even through interpretation in native tongue), and a divorce from the ol’ regular reality of life, then we dont have much to offer at all.
The Zen way is about waking up to THIS moment and to THIS life. Many will disagree, but as for me, I have no capacity for understanding anything more than this one point, as unrefined and plain as it may seem. And in this, I prefer to stay close to the ground, surveying the soil and living with what’s there- leaving the pyramid building and mystical spiritual work to those more mentally apt. The so-called ground work is tall enough an order for me in this lifetime :-) ~thich duc tam