I will disappear, after a short time. Of course, the existential fact is that we all disappear, and we live under the shadow of that portentous fact every day, given the current developments in Eastern Europe and the way it plays out in our Twitter feeds.
But, personally, I mean something so much more. I have noticed, over the last several years, a withdrawal from a basic enthusiasm for the constant activity that represented my first 25 years as a monk. I have simply grown to tired of it all – – not the Dharma, no no no no no, but the repetition of phrases and teachings and hints and hacks and formulas for beginners to come into the practice, and they might not show up ever again. I saw my Teacher repeat many favored stories and explanations for the Dharma, and we willingly and joyfully sat through all of his Dharma talks while he repeated all the old classic Zen stories and teaching “hacks“ that we had heard countless times before. But we not only endured, we were joyful just to be in his presence to hear it.
Nowadays, it is much, much different. These are different times than what he taught in, and what the ancient masters taught in. The ubiquity and easy accessibility of YouTube videos, and the instantaneous and short-lived impact of social media sharing of the Dharma, have left me kind of spent, spiritually. I don’t feel the wish or inspiration to gather up the spirit and energy for the regular performance again, however much I strive to make it novel and challenging and surprising and – – hopefully! – – mentally disruptive for my listeners.
2022 might be a year of disappearing acts for me. Ironic, totally vomitingly ironic, that I release a series of online courses at the very time I am striving to disappear. But this is just the normal progression of my development and expression – – it does not have a logical plan.
There is just this deep allergy, down in the bones, that causes me a mental inflammation when I regard all of the performance and production and advertising and encouragement that goes into raising a few souls who might not ever come back again, anyway. This has been my experience. I’m sorry if it sounds harsh.
i’m not giving up any faith in the Dharma. And I am not at all feeling that these tools are inadequate for the task of alleviating human suffering in an increasingly darkening world. No! Recent experience with practitioners at the Zen Center Regensburg has proven to me that these tools work, even on intractable cases of suffering.
I’m just a little bit more than fatigued for the particular quality of the role that I have carved out for myself these last 30 years of practicing/teaching Dharma.
One thing very valuable I have learned, in these three decades of intensive practice, is that real breakthroughs don’t come from remaining in your comfort zone.
I’m not a great believer in omens and auspicious important. But when the old year changed into 2022, I felt I as one perched (precariously!) on the precipice of a significant change. Something inside me, that had made me pregnant with new possibilities, was arising.
Let’s see what it will be. For one thing, I am completely sure that I have shed any allegiance to the Chogye Order of Korean Buddhism, which I find to be hopelessly corrupt, hollowed out by material needs, and superficially damaging Buddhism in the minds of people with deep thinking, especially in Korea.
So, let’s see about the possibilities of a new expression. I am very open for it, and I would be lying to you if I did not say I am also a little bit terrified. Because I would be unsettling a deeply entrenched comfort zone that comes from 30 years of monastic life. But that’s a good thing!
I’m glad and honored to have you along for the ride. Please enjoy your flight!