STUPID DOG

I walked the dogs yesterday and saw the above sign. Right away I felt at home. Why? Because I belong to all three categories. Old dog, for sure. Stupid dog, no doubt. And young dog?

I’m on my way to a conference of lay Zen teachers in Seattle, Washington. There, many of the dogs will be younger than me, and I’m very curious about what I’ll hear and learn

 I reflect about the dharma in the world we live in, the challenges it faces in attracting young meditators. It began with the Buddha 2,500 years ago, at a time of tremendous turmoil, colliding cultures, and tribal warfare. While the Buddha himself was greatly engaged with a variety of people and questions, many of his followers withdrew into forests and, later, monasteries. The Indian, Chinese, and Japanese cultures often cultivated a passive, compliant citizenry, with almost no challenges to authority or government.

We live at a different time and in a different culture. Young people especially (but not exclusively) want to meet the challenges head-on and don’t trust the people in power to do so. Are we, dharma teachers, failing them? We’ve adopted so many of the practices, training and formation methods that were first developed back in other eras and countries. What’s called for here and now?

I don’t have answers, just look forward to listening to younger teachers. They, too, at times get a little too compliant, a little too respectful towards their elders, and I want to shake them up and say: Think for yourselves; this is your time. Come up with new skillful means for creating peace and wellbeing for all the beings in this world. Drive carefully, by all means, as the sign says, but keep going forward, and have confidence in yourselves and the dharma. This stupid old dog will follow, I promise.

On our way back to the car, a thin, yellow lab came running from behind the house barking, and Henry the Illegal Chihuahua hurried to rub noses with him. Aussie rushed over, too, and then I heard a name being called. I looked up to see a middle-aged woman emerge from behind the house, stark naked.

“I was sunbathing in the nude,” she explained, “and I wondered what the fuss was about.”

Cool, I thought to myself.

“Wow,” said Henry.

“Cover your eyes, Illegal,” said Aussie.

“My goodness,” said Henry.

“If you ask me, the human female form is way overrated,” muttered Aussie. She turned her back on the woman and rushed off to meet up with the Hereford cows in the adjacent farm.

I’m very, very grateful for the donations that came my way in the last couple of days. Thank you not just for the funds, but also for the kind words some of you sent.

The blog will probably be silent till I return on Monday next week. A time to meet old friends, walk with them, share meals. Listen, listen, listen.

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