At last night's Young Urban Zen meeting, after a little gentle prodding, and perhaps in the interest of gaining a few more readers, Shannon acquiesced to my outing her blog, which I had happened across after she left a comment on one of these posts. As with the Zen Beginner, I find it enormously helpful to have other people's perspectives not only on what I do, since I play a bit part in some of the entries, but on what I take for granted, as they figure out their steps on the path to being Buddhists.
At more than one Way-seeking Mind talk, I have heard people from more traditional religious backgrounds describe the relative difficulty of outing themselves to their parents as gay and outing themselves to their parents as Buddhists. For me the question "Am I a buddhist?" was less contentious than "Am I a monk?" - I think the only person who ever asked me if I considered myself a Buddhist was my sister-in-law who is more inclined to ask questions than anyone in my more immediate family.
I don't think I have told the story here about how I spent my tangaryo at Tassajara composing haiku in my head about the very limited number of things that were happening and the many reactions I was having to them. I thought of this again after sesshin as one participant recited for us a haiku she had come up with. One of the better tangaryo haiku was around the observation I had had during oryoki - the servers would approach the tan, and in the curving reflection of their silver pot, I could see a line of people in robes, who sure looked like monks. And so I started thinking that maybe I was a monk - or at least going through the process of becoming one. Obviously the haiku version is shorter than that.
One important part of this equation though, was that I was living in a monastery. It followed that I was a monk. Here in the city, I don't describe myself as a monk, and I find it a little dissonant to read of the residents as monks, or to read about this temple as a monastery as I just did elsewhere. I could just be leaning on semantics, but I think it has a lot to do with what City Center is about. We are here to offer the teaching to everybody, in a formal setting; we are not so internally focused as we would be at Tassajara in the winter, although it may seem that way to the visitor. Having just emerged from the Tassajara-style schedule of the intensive to our more usual spacious and work-oriented days, I am certainly noticing the difference.