This is October 22 2023. My name is Kanji Argetsinger. And this is a Coming to the Path Talk.
So most of this talk was put together about 13 years ago, when I was training with my teacher, Amala-roshi in Auckland, New Zealand. And I was asked to give a Coming to the Path Talk there.
And I guess I'm Coming to the Path Talk is a chance for a person to
think back to their early years and kind of look at some of the causes and conditions that came together to make it so that they ended up here at the Rochester Zen Center, which, for most of us, I think, is a pretty unexpected outcome. So that's the material I covered in my initial coming to the path talk. And I'm gonna stick with that today for the most part. But just to say that so much has happened since I'm 68 years old. Now, when I first came to the center here, I was already 45. So I had a lot of life already before I came to the center. And then I've had a lot of life since I came to the center. So it's really been hard to know what material to choose here. And, you know, we can say that there's coming to the path, and then they're staying on the path. And I think a lot of us has found that the staying is really a lot more challenging and remarkable in many ways than the coming. So I'm mostly going to look at the common, but I hope that at the end, we'll have a little bit of time to look at the what happened after I got here and the 23 years or whatever it is since then. Okay, but right now I'm going to jump back to the time before my parents gave birth to me, until one of my favorite favorite very favorite stories from the Jewish side of my family. So this story starts in a little settling in Russia. Least My grandmother always called it Russia. But recently, I've become aware that it must actually been Ukraine. But anyway, it was the area that they called the pale where the Russian Empire allowed the Jews to settle. So in this little struggle, there were two little Jewish girls growing up. One was my grandmother, and the other was her sister, my great aunt, and they're named near their names were fatal and Finkle Steinberg. So I know that Fago and Finkle sound like I'd names for little girls, but actually a new dish faecal means little bird and Finkle means little star. So they were actually beautiful names that they had. The family was very, very poor. And so at a certain point, the parents arranged for their daughters to marry men who had managed to emigrate to America. So the girls didn't know these men, but the idea was that if they could get to America, they would have a better chance at a future. And I don't know if their marriages were arranged at the same time or if they were, what if they came to this country, one after the other. But at any rate, they must have been interviewed by different intake officers at Ellis Island or whatever port they came through, because when my grandmother said that her name was Faygo, Steinberg. He said, Well, from now on, it's Fannie Steinberg. And when Frankel came through the center, you're now Fannie Steinberg. So we had these two sisters both named Fannie Steinberg. They both married men named Isaac. They both named their son Samuel. So my father was Samuel Waldfogel. And his cousin was Samuel Kaplan. And I think they were fairly close growing up, but eventually they went their own ways. And my father became a professor of psychology. Sam Kaplan became a professor of mathematics. They both married non Jewish women, and those non Jewish women denature name. My mother was Diana and Sam's wife was Marjorie. And Marjorie was not only non Jewish, but actually had ancestors who came over on the Mayflower. So quite a American aristocracy. Well, they weren't in touch when they had their kids but when they did get back in touch, you're not gonna believe this. It's true story. We had three kids in my family, my sister Anne, and then me, Kathy, and my brother David. And the Kaplan's that turned out had two kids and they were Kathy and David. And Sam was living in West Lafayette, Indiana. He was teaching mathematics in at Purdue University. And I don't know how many people have been to West Lafayette, but it's just a classic Midwestern town. And so this would have been in the 50s. Jews were really an anomaly there, you know, and any Jews that there were would have been associated with the university. But Kathy and David went to public school there, and we're usually the only Jewish kids in their class. And Kathy was Sam and Marjorie's birth daughter, but David was actually adopted. And ethnically, he was Korean. So here's where you get to the point of the story. One day in school in David's class, they're studying the the pilgrims and the Mayflower. And the teacher asks, is there anyone in the class who has ancestors that came over on the Mayflower, and the only child to raise their hand was David Kaplan, the Korean boy.
So anyhow, the reason that I start with that story is because I feel like it tells us something quintessential, not only about America, but about the religious environment here in America. And certainly the religious environment that I was born into. My father was raised as an Orthodox Jew. And my mother was born into a tight knit Icelandic community. In Winnipeg, Manitoba, they were staunch Lutherans. So we could say that both of these communities were maintaining religious traditions that had doubtless been unchanged in Europe for centuries and centuries. But once they came to America, everything was up for grabs. And there wasn't a lot of chance that the kids were going to stick with the traditions that they were raised in. And I think that's still true in our country, I don't think a lot of people tend to follow the same religious path as their parents scuze, me having the same problem we had last week.
I don't know the statistics of our country compared with others. But we're a country of individualists, and we have the freedom of religion written into our Constitution. And it's seems to be almost a demand that everybody find their own way, and that they're not going to necessarily be their parents way. And I remember in my first years of school, we'd always start the day by saying the Pledge of Allegiance. And then the 23rd Psalm, and then the Lord's Prayer. And this was public school. But I grew up in a suburb of Boston and Massachusetts, at that time. Prayer in the schools was still legal. So we say the Lord's prayer every day. And if you remember that some of you, it ends with the lines and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen. So that was the way the teacher said the prayer. And that was the way all the Protestant kids said the prayer along with the teacher. But the Catholic kids didn't say that last part, they stopped after and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, and then that was the end for them. And the Jewish kids, of course, didn't say the prayer at all. They'd say, the 23rd Psalm, but not the Lord's Prayer. And in the summer, where I was growing up, it was really just about 1/3, Protestant, 1/3, Catholic and 1/3. Jewish. So you knew who you were, you know, from the beginning, and there was it was, again, religion, there wasn't one way, it was clear that different people had different patterns. And that was kind of an open question. Myself, I was being raised in the Unitarian Church, which actually was a really common choice for parents of mixed marriages, as they used to be called in those days between Jews and non Jews. So since I went to the Unitarian Church, I would say the Lord's Prayer along with the teacher and the Protestant way, but also with the awareness that I was Jewish, too. So it was there was just a kind of kind of a question there from the beginning. As far as the Unitarian Church itself, I have really fond memories of it. It was kind of ethical people. They were very concerned with social justice. And I also very much felt that I was part of a church family there. I was really bonded with the kids that I sang in choir with and the My choir director was a was a musical mentor for me. And many of the adults there were just sort of informal mentors. For me as I grew up, just seeing their intellectual curiosity and their commitment to advancing what we call them, the brotherhood of man. It was good. And I think it also offered me a kind of gentle free spirit spirit, kind of gentle, free spirited introduction to Christianity without all the baggage and hellfire that was going on in so many other sects. But there weren't a whole lot of kids enrolled in the Unitarian school at that time. And because of that, there weren't enough resources or enough children to have a separate Sunday school class for each grade. So we used to get combined together in different ways. And there was a curriculum that the Unitarians hanger was supposed to be for fifth graders, but it's called the church across the street. And what you did, when you were taking that class was you would study the other religions that were being practiced in the community. And then on a Saturday or Sunday, you'd go to the services and see what was going on there. And because of the way that the classes were combined different years, I actually had that curriculum three years in a row. So I went to a lot of churches, a lot of things, synagogues. And I found that a really interesting experience. My own parents, although they chose the Unitarian Church for us and attended as far as their own spiritual life was concerned. I think the best term for it would be they were like post religious, they had left Orthodox Judaism and strict Christianity. And that was liberating for them. They met when my father was teaching psychology at Wayne State University in Detroit and my mother was one of the students in his class that was also okay them. And their circle of friends was very left wing, intellectual, Jewish socialists, communist Freudians. They were Freudians, or at least they weren't behaviorist. I would say, if anything, their religion was psychology. And for them behaviors were like the Antichrist. And they didn't have kids after they're married for about eight years. So I think their lifestyle was kind of Bohemian, they moved to Boston, where my father was an adjunct professor at Harvard, and my mother worked as a social worker at the judge Baker guidance clinic clinic. But by the time I was born, I was the second child, they had moved to the suburbs, and settled down we lived in a suburb where there were a lot of professors, a lot of academic families. So they settled down there and and I guess they should have lived happily ever after. But that's not what happened. What happened actually, was that my father died. And he died when I was five years old, my older sister was nine, and my little brother was just too. And he died of colon cancer. So he was quite ill for about a year before he died and was in and out of the hospital. Mostly in at the end of that time. So people often ask me if I remember my father, and I do remember him. I mean, I suppose at this point, they're their memories of memories. But, but no, I really do remember him and I have very few memories of like anything we did together anything. We talked about anything like that, but I just remember him like, I remember what it felt like to sit in his lap, have my cheek against his tweed coat. I remember his scratchy face when he'd come over and work with five o'clock shadow. I remember the way his voice sounded the way smelled. So it's like him I remember. I'm sure if he walked in here and spoke. I know just what His voice sounded like. But one specific memory that I do have, which was just a horrible memory was as I said he was in the hospital that last year and kids weren't allowed to visit people on the hospital wards. children weren't allowed on the hospital wards. So a nurse had arranged that we could visit my father one day in the hospital lobby. So it's supposed to be a special event and we were all dressed up in our party clothes and we were taken to the hospital lobby to see him. He was brought down in a wheelchair. I seem to remember like there was a plaid blanket over his lap or he was wearing a plaid. bathrobe or something, there was something about plaid there. And we had a chance to visit with him in this lobby, it was a it was a public space, people were looking at us, I was just totally freaked out. We didn't know what to what to do or say. And in my mind, it didn't make any sense, because my father was going to get better and he was going to come home. That was the way I looked at it. That was what I had been told. But of course, I realized now that he never did come home after that, and that this had been arranged, because people knew that this was the last time we'd ever seen him. And even though I didn't know that, I think you know, I picked up on it. And that's why I have just this vivid, horrible memory of what what an awful, awful experience that was.
So after my father died, of course, there were many changes. My mother went back to work. And my grandmother and great aunt from my mother's side of the family, so that was the Icelandic side. They moved in with us, in order to help take care of the kids so that my mother could go back to work. But more important than those sort of external changes, was the internal change in me. At the age of five, I had really encountered the great Mater close hand seen death, up close, and no, I knew that it was a reality. And I felt like it was a secret that I had that the other children didn't have, like the other kids didn't know this. They seemed sort of simple to me in some way. And made me feel different. And I often felt embarrassed if people would find out that I didn't have a father, but also just different. I knew something that other kids didn't seem to know. There was another family in our church who had kids around the same age as us and their father also had died. So the mothers got friendly, and we used to go on vacations with them sometimes. And it was it was so good to be with those kids. It was like they were our compatriots. You know, you didn't have to explain anything. They understood what was going on. And I think it's really interesting that many years later, when I got married, my husband also lost his father when he was tiny. And I think that just gave us a baseline of understanding, you know, we were coming from the same place.
So when I look back at those years, it always kind of fascinates me how what was going on in the outside world, what was going on in our country, really mirrored what was going on for me personally. Shortly after my father died, President Kennedy was assassinated. That ushered in a decade of assassinations. And for me, each one of those assassinations, it was like somebody's father is getting killed. And especially President Kennedy, the kids were so close to the age of me and my brother, and the little boy saluting at the coffin and all that. It just, it felt in some ways, like, like losing my father, again, it affected me a lot. When I was about 10 years old, I was the administration of Lyndon Johnson. So the war in Vietnam was heating up. So my mother gave a talk at at the church and showed a film to encourage people to join the anti war movement. And my mother had never allowed me to watch anything violent on TV or at the movies. And if anything violent did come up, I was extremely sensitive to that stuff. I have so many memories of being carried out of the movies in tears as a child with my mother saying, How can I call this a children's film? What is Disney thinking, you know, show this stuff to children. So but but she had me come to this talk that she was giving other kids were there too, and, and to watch this film, and it was just full of graphic images of what was going on in Vietnam at that time. And what I especially remember was the children, scenes of the children who had been napalmed they were in hospital wards, like with their skin, like coming off of them in sheets. And I was just sitting there thinking how can my mother be letting me see this, you know? But it was a real turning point for me. It was real, like loss of innocence and just recognition of, of the evil that's in our world and and also the evil being perpetrated by our own country. which I had always been told was a good country. You know, looking at those kids, it was like we had done that. And I couldn't understand that. Of course, I still can't understand it.
But as the 60s went on, was the time when I was a young teenager, and all sorts of internal chaos and rebellion that was going on with me seemed to just be mirrored by the external chaos of the war and the chaos that society seems to be spiraling into with riots in the streets and the anti war protests. I live near Harvard Square, and that was where I used to hang out and make pocket money by hacking alternative newspapers. And it was the the era of Timothy Leary, grows, smell the marijuana floating by on the breeze. And there were student riots there at Harvard Yard in Harvard Square. And I never was there during a riot, but one of my middle school friends was and he had his two front teeth knocked out by a brick in the riot, which is kind of a badge of honor for him, I guess. There were street people, mostly runaway teens, that fascinated me, I used to hang out with them when I could, and I would dream about running away from home. That was my fondest dream that I'd run away from home. I never did it. But you know, I couldn't stand the bourgeois values of my family, you know, which may seem strange since my mother was a social worker. She was an anti war activist. She was a civil rights activist. She was spearheading drugs for fair housing, even working for gay rights in Massachusetts, which wasn't even on most people's radar at that time. But on a personal level, we were just at loggerheads for years and years. Another thing that was happening there in Harvard Square was that there was a real influx of new religions at this point, things we hadn't heard about before. I remember buying a copy of the E Ching, one of the stores that was popping up. The Hari Krishna is where I was there in their orange robes, chanting, giving us magazines that had pictures of beautiful blue gods and love, love those. There was the Maharishi Transcendental Meditation had come in. Some of my friends took that up, and I was interested, but it was very expensive. So it wasn't something that I could afford. So the church across the street with the Unitarians had been one thing but you know, it turned out there was so much more. And around this time, I became more and more of a religious rebel as well. So again, in some ways, it's it's a challenge to rebel against the Unitarians. But
but when I was 12 years old, I announced to my mother that I was not going to Unitarian church anymore. I said, it is not even a religion, they don't believe anything. And I'm not going. So that was the end of that, at least for them. But I think a more important moment than that, that I remember was when I was 14, or 15. And I went to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts by myself. So my mother loved the museum. And she had taken us there frequently when we were kids. And so we had always gone and seen our favorite galleries, which were French impressionists, the early Americans, the Egyptians, but this day I went I took the subway there by the wandering into a gallery that I had never seen before. And it was the medieval gallery. It was full of crucifixes and angels and Madonna's and with paintings of the bright colors and covered in gold leaf. And I was just entranced. You know, it's like I had discovered a secret world as well. They're keeping secret for me, you know? And that began for me, a secret kind of flirtation with Catholicism, Catholicism that went on for many, many years. Maybe it's still going on to some extent, I don't know. But it was my secret. My family didn't know about it. And that was one of the ways I found to rebel against the Syrians.
So I never did run away but the closest I came to that was when I graduated from high school. I bought a $99 bus ticket that let you ride the Greyhound bus for three months, go wherever you wanted to go. So for three months, I went all around the country, sometimes staying with friends and relatives, sometimes, staying in youth hostels. Sometimes I joined up with other people, but mostly I traveled on my own and Um, as far as religious experiences did things that, you know, I was lucky to live through, like, taking LSD while I was hiking up a mountain in Colorado by myself. But since I did live through it, it was it was amazing. But one night, I was sitting next to a boy on the bus that I had chosen that seat because I thought you look kind of cute. And it turned out he was a Christian. And he spent the night trying to convert me to Christianity. And that began a theme in my life that I always seemed to have someone in my life that was trying to convert me to Christianity, one of my good friends in college and the best friends that my kids used to play with when they were little, you know, at every point, there was someone who was who was on that track with me. But you know, I remember him saying, if you just open your heart and let Jesus in, he'll come. And I knew that was true. But you know, I couldn't do it. So, now the thing, though, that I did do was, when I visited Santa Fe, I went to the oldest church in the United States, which is there was a Spanish Mission Church course. And I bought my first rosary, and a booklet about how to pray the rosary, and how to make no vinas. And I found out that, you know, if you pray a certain number of rosaries, and make a certain number of novena is you can make a request of Mary and it's going to be granted, it never fails. And I started doing that. And it actually never failed. But I didn't do it for very long, because I figured out that we don't know even though I had tapped into some power in the universe, I realized that I did not have the wisdom to know what to ask for. And some of the things that I requested did not turn out well. So I just realized that that wasn't, that wasn't the the way to go. That wasn't the way to pray.
Well, I did go to college, and I met my husband there. And at 24 years old, I got married. Nobody could have been more surprised about that than me. When he first asked me to marry him, I just laughed. I mean, I thought that was the most ridiculous thing. Up to that point, I was pretty much you know, in the sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle. And I didn't know anyone that was married, none of my friends were married. I'd never been to a wedding. My own wedding was actually the first wedding that ever went to. And yeah, I guess you must have been pretty persuasive because I did it. And it just felt like a break. It was just a new thing that we were setting off on together, and a whole new kind of commitment. So when I met my husband, he had been actually living for several years with the Trappists and living the monastic lifestyle, which fascinated me. He had also been in seminary for a time studying for the priesthood. He'd even been with Carthusian, briefly. And the Carthaginians are the ones that are completely enclosed in their cells. And they just come out to, to chant together and the food is shoved through the door for them. And once a week, they come out and go on a walk together. And that's the only time they talk. So he had tried that. But he had been a convert to Catholicism, and at the point that I met him, he had come out the other end and realized that he could not deal with the Catholic Church as an institution anymore. And I certainly never became a Catholic because of the same reasons. But we both love the ritual of Catholicism and especially Gregorian chant, which he introduced me to, we used to chant together. On Easter, we would chant the the Easter vigil and the nightmares together, rather than going to church. It was like we had the same religion and it's hard to say what that religion was. It wasn't Catholicism, but somehow we just really understood each other. And shortly after I was married, I started graduate school at Princeton, and Princeton, they have this thing called the chapel. And the chapel is actually an enormous faux medieval cathedral. It's huge, beautiful building. And I started singing in the chapel choir there. So you know, sort of, I guess, Episcopalian style services and the processional every Sunday wearing the robes with a white things over them. You know, I really love that. And at Princeton besides having a chapel and many other things, they have a lot of money. And one of the things things that they would do is they would send the choir on a trip every couple years. So my second year in choir was announced that we would be going on an Asian tour. And we were going to spend six weeks in Asia. And the deal was that if you could get your plane fare together, the college was going to cover everything else. And, and a lot of that was through their alumni network. And because we were staying with families in the different countries. So it was three weeks in Japan a week in Thailand, we can Hong Kong, some time in Hawaii. But the three weeks in Japan, you know, were quite amazing. It was enough to sort of get to know what it felt like to live in Japan, and especially as I said, because we were staying with families, which I understand is unusual there. But even more remarkable than that was that they arranged various cultural experiences for us. And one of them was that we would visit a Zen temple, a famous Zen temple in Kyoto Rangi, where there's famous rock garden, and not just visited, but stay there for three days. And that temple, they had never let anybody come to train or to stay there that didn't have some kind of Zen background, but somebody from Princeton, tuck them into this. And so they had these 50 American college kids descend on them. And they gave us no training, we were blue robes. That was their color for lay robes. They taught us how to sit, they use the stick. We worked, we swept the pass clean the Zen those we learned how to do our Yoki meals. It was like a little mini 16 For three days slept on futons. I mean, I was so blown away by this whole experience. The Sensei was wonderful. He gave us teachings. I mean, I had studied Buddhism a little bit in terms of college coursework, but you know, as we know, reading about it is not the same as actually doing it. And so it was a really dramatic experience. One thing I remember is that during the question and answer period that we had, there was an altar there that had like, it didn't have a figure on it. It had a rope. I don't know if people have ever seen an altar like that it was it was like a rope tied in a certain kind of a knot. Like I remember it is an orange and golden rope. And one of the students asked, asked the Sensei, what does that rope symbolize? And he said nothing. And the other trainees, the Japanese trainees burst out laughing, I thought that was the funniest thing they'd ever heard. And we were going like what didn't get the joke, but I always remembered. I thought of that again, when I started on Mu. So that was, you know, a really important experience. It wasn't one that I did anything with any more than I signed up for any church, or, you know, any, any religion that I had been exposed to up to that time, I had been exposed to a lot of religions, but none of them were mine. And just around that time, I had a good friend, she was actually an old friend from middle school, who happened to be living in Princeton, during the years that I was there. So we reconnected and we were spending quite a lot of time together. And during those three or four years of our renewed friendship, she she was Jewish, but she became more and more seriously Jewish as those years went by. And at the end of the time, she finally converted to a Hasidic sect. She had a resume and eventually she had a marriage arraigned arranged in that group. And I guess to this day, if you call the home, the answering machine is still in Yiddish. So she just completely turned her life around. And I was watching this happen and was kind of disturbed by it in a lot of ways, because a lot of the things that this Rebby was teaching were completely irrational from my point of view. And she was keeping kosher more and more seriously. So eventually, when she came to my place, she wouldn't accept anything for me except water. And it had to be in a paper cup. And she was spending time trying to convince me that the Jews in general and her Rebby in particular, had a special corner on the truth. And I sent her out, you know, I don't I don't believe that. And she said to me, Well, what do you believe? And I said, Well, I believe that here we go with the cliche. I said, I believe that All religions are like different parents, but they're all leading up the same mountain. And she said to me, Well, that might be true. But if you don't get on a path, you're never gonna get up the mountain. I was like, oh
but the way he had been raised and the academic study that I was involved in, and all of that really made it difficult for me to value any one path over another. And at the same time, my tendency for critical thinking, made it hard for me not to see the faults and the flaws and every path. I mean, water in a paper cup, you know, I mean, it was just like, but if I wasn't going to work with some of those faults and flaws, you know, I, it made me realize, Well, how was it gonna get up that mountain? So eventually, it was a question I was gonna have to face, but not yet. This was right around the time that my daughter was born, and my son was born a couple of years after that. And, you know, I can't, having children and raising children is just an irreplaceable experience, but it was samsara. That's what I would like to say about that. It was, you know, finishing my dissertation with babies at home dealing with kids, daycare, kids, schools, money issues, we could never find a place to live that we could afford, we were moving all the time, we bought a house that we couldn't afford, we were foreclosed on, we were sued twice, I got a job as a professor and then worry about getting tenure, and then about getting a book published about not getting to. So there was always something that just had to be done today. And it was something that had to be dealt with, I was some obstacle, career wise or financial. That you know, the feeling was if we could just get through that, you know, then we could maybe take a breath. And then suddenly, it seemed like we didn't get through that. So now we're at the year 2000. And my children were teenagers now young teen teenager. So anyway, not needing the kind of constant hands on care that little ones do. And we had finally gotten our financial situation together. So we were able to buy a house. It was a wonderful house, some of you might remember it, because that was where I was living when I first came to the Zen Center is actually the old caretakers house for the Mount Hope cemetery. So it's almost in the cemetery and the view out the window is over the graves there. And so that was her dream house. It was walking distance to my work, I loved my job, I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. And, and we often hear that people come to the Dharma, because of some loss in their life or some tragedy that sort of brings them up short. But then for some of it, it's just for some of us, it's just the opposite. For me, it really was like I had that whole samsaric thing down. You know, I had the right job, the right house, the right family, everything I'd wanted. So then, you know, why am I still so unhappy? So dissatisfied? How can I be unhappy when I'm so fortunate?
There were some little things that came up around that time, like, I thought, if one of us in the family dies, I'm not gonna have any idea what to do about the funeral that really started haunting me. My daughter asked me, Why doesn't our family have a religion, you know, other families that you knew how to religion? And I didn't really have an answer, except that I knew the the flaws and the problems with every religion. I was singing in a choir, I was usually singing in a choir. But there was someone in that choir who was a friend trying to convert me to Christianity at that time. And at one point, I just said to her, Oh, I'm a Buddhist. And I don't know how not exactly where that came from, but it did. And the conversation she just said, Oh, dear.
So it all sort of came to a head for me. In a row, night of angst, dark night of the soul. I didn't sleep all night. I just was wrapped in a blanket looking out over the gravestones. And just trying to figure it out. You know, like, what is this all about? What is this life mean? I just didn't know what to do. The Tibetans have what they call the preliminary contemplations, or the thoughts that turn the mind to dharma. And those thoughts are the unsatisfactoriness of samsara. The certainty Death, the uncertainty of the time of death, and the importance of wisely using whatever time we have. So I didn't have any that dharma vocabulary that night, but that's what was going on. For me, it was like I had discovered those contemplations that are supposed to give energy to your practice. So in the morning, I said to my husband, the most important thing in life is religion, and we have to get a religion. And it says, In the Bible, by their fruit by their fruits, you shall know them. And the only people I see putting out good fruits in this country are the Quakers and the Buddhists. So you have to choose one of those. And if you don't really want to go with either those are considered the Episcopalians.
But he wasn't really interested in any organized religion yet. So it was left to my daughter and me, she had gotten more and more interested in Buddhism and wanted to find a Buddhist youth group to join. And when I called the Zen Center, lo and behold, they were just starting. So I was finally ready to get on the path. And for me, at least it was, I was an example of what they say, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. I knew that I was looking for religion in a community. But I didn't know I was looking for a teacher. I mean, I don't know that I'd ever really heard of, or that or knew anything about it. But when I arrived here, my teacher who was not a teacher at that time, Amala Roshi was leading the youth group that we had come for. And shortly after that time, Bowden Roshi went on sabbatical for a year. And so she was leaving the Zen Center. And, let's see, I've been talking for a long time already. So that's the common. And let me see if I can find a few minutes to say something about the listing. Mostly, it was just really, really hard. I made a really strong connection with Amala Roshi right away. But two years after I got here, she and her husband went back to New Zealand. I had already told her that I wanted to ordained as a priest. It wasn't until 20 years later that I actually did ordained as a priest. So there, it wasn't until 10 years later that I was in a position to be able to leave my job and ordained as a novice priest. But after three years of training as a novice, I just felt so overwhelmed by by obstacles, there were logistical obstacles that my family was in, in this country. We actually were just moving to Massachusetts at that time. The center that I was trying to train at and the teacher I was trying to train with was 9000 miles away from my family just didn't seem to be any solution to that. And, and they were just spiritual obstacles to I just felt so discouraged about my practice. And so I told my teacher that I couldn't ordain, after all, and I stepped down from that. How can I sum this up in a couple minutes here, the point I'm trying to make is that I reached that point, but at the same time that I reached that point, something else was going on, which was that both my teacher and I were realizing that I needed to find some different ways to practice than what I was doing. And I had already at that point, been learning to get involved with Alan Wallace, who's a visionary and a teacher and teaches shamatha, calm abiding meditation. And I was doing that and I was doing solo retreat. And then later, later on, I discovered centering prayer, which is a Christian form of meditation, with strong influences from Zen. And so just to read what I wrote here, each of these paths gave me something that I needed shamatha an emphasis on calming, rather than striving or questioning, centering prayer and emphasis on surrender, over control and intention over attention. Of course, calming surrender and intention are all vitally important parts of the Zen path as well. But these supplemental paths I call them supplemental pairs, not alternate paths, not necessarily have really enabled me to bring those aspects front and center to get them in my body as we say hands in. So yeah, I still believe with my whole heart, but all pads are going up the same mountain. And at the same time, we have to find the right paths. We have to be willing to wander onto another path at times if that's what we need. And we start to realize that there really isn't a path because we're already there. So I was going to end with a verse from Dogan, which I guess we barely have time for. So treading along in this dreamlike, illusory realm, without looking for the traces, I may have left, a cuckoo song beckons me to return home. Hearing this, I tilt my head to see who has told me to turn back. But do not ask me where I'm going. As I travel in this limitless world, where every step I take is my home
think we have time for questions a little bit
of time so Joe's gonna do a little bit tech setup. And we're going to try something different today to
be paid. Joe will be setting this up for people ask him questions and want to make space for people who are going to make some comments or suggestions. Or just talk a little bit just for the sake of people on Zoom. I'm actually going to move around with a microphone
like they do on some daytime television. Yeah,
Jerry Springer without the chaos and violence imagine
Well, actually, it's a slippery, long draw, you can ask her a question. Just speak up. Yeah, yeah. kanji, you're you're recounting of the movie you saw of when your mother brought you to? Yeah, war, that really struck me because I have vivid memories of in eighth grade our history teachers showing us graphic images of the Holocaust and concentration camps. And in one sense, you know, it was it was traumatizing. It was it was yeah, it was it was intense. But at the same time, it very much informed me informed my education, I think, and, and the way I saw the world, and I realized that you're in a in a unique position that you can have the perspective as a mother, grandmother, former college professor, and someone who had that experience, and I'm wondering what your what your thoughts are, as far as, you know, nowadays, every class or something needs to have a trigger warning or something to protect. So called, or seemingly protect somebody from, you know, these types of what could be difficult emotions, and I'm wondering, you know, what is the, you know, see what I'm getting at? What are the pros and cons and how, what are we protecting people from or what is lost from from that from them? excu experiencing those types of emotions early on, I think, Rob, I'm not gonna say my perspective, but I just wanted to throw it out there and see if you had any.
Well, I mean, I don't want to get political, but I think the trigger warnings in the stuff that's out there are used for it's a political ploy. You know, it's used, it's being used in a political way. And I think actually nowadays could see much more violence much earlier. Much more regularly than then we certainly did. So, I think what they're, what what you're talking about what they're putting a limitation on is certain political points of view more than seeing things that are violent are actually true. monetising. So yeah, I think that it's all you know, of course, I have raised kids, I have a granddaughter right now who's at a Jewish school which is an absolutely wonderful school and my daughter and her family's conversion to Judaism has been just a wonderful blessing and a great thing for them, but to see the stuff that our school is putting out at this moment. It's not Yeah. So So I think that things have to be age appropriate, as much as you can. And then at some point, yeah, we all have to find out some of what actually is has gone on and is going on.
Raise your hand if you have something to say.
When were you able to make that make that commitment to being a priest last year? That kind of freedom saying that?
Well, I had stepped down from my notice period, as I said, and then gradually kind of changed my mind. And thought, Well, I really made a mistake there. I really blew it. And so I started trying to get back on the path, but I'm the priesthood path. But then it was my teacher who wasn't so convinced. And so then I decided, that's okay, I'm going to do the lay ordination. So I did the lay the lay investiture in 2018. That part I was reading from the end was actually something I wrote for that occasion. And she say, and I both did the lay ordination. And, you know, she was there at mine, and we supported each other and yeah, so then you could have knocked me over with the feather when, you know, I always kept doing ducks on with mother Roshi all these years and never stopped. So either I would be in New Zealand or we do it long distance. And, yeah, one day, she just said, Well, I'd like to ordain you. And I was just completely flabbergasted because I thought I had given all that up, you know? So that's how that happened. Yeah.
I just want to see before Luca asked a question there question. I just watch. I can't zoom, see if anyone has any questions or comments.
Okay, true minute looks like it's back to the Zendo. Alright, welcome. Funding, thank you so much for your beautiful talk. I really appreciated how you discussed just the the messiness and complexity of spiritual life and practice. Because I think the prevailing cultural narrative is that it's very cut and dry, it's very uncomplicated. It's kind of all or nothing. And in my own, like, tiny spiritual journey, I've been greatly helped by the so called supplemental practices and paths and things. And that's actually enabled me to keep going. Right. And so hearing, you know, your long experience with that complexity, like embracing that complexity, and taking what helps you from different sources is really inspiring. So thank you for articulating so beautifully.
Oh, I think he articulated better than I managed to because I was running out of time. But no, that's really exactly what I was, was trying to say and, and also just gratitude for, to my teacher for, for understanding that and for actually encouraging me on some of those paths and even exploring with me sometimes, you know, and I think there's, there's a lot of people here at the center who have something out of this, you know, 12 steps or you know, synagogue or whatever, something else that gives them you know, a kind of heart community that that that they need in order to keep going.
Maybe one more question.
Could you say something about how things are in New Zealand? Some good
things are much as they have been Amala Roshi is on a three month sabbatical right now. So she's in retreat. Oh, hi now who's preached there has been able to, you know, manage the center in her absence and things during the pandemic or tricky. Last long term trustee and member because he was an anti Vaxxer. And quite a few people left because the center was requiring that and then some people left because they didn't think that the center's guidelines were strict enough. So yeah. Got in the middle of that anything specifically that you're wondering about
general concern about how their welfare
Yeah, you know, they're plugging along. And yeah, I mean, I guess everybody knows that Amalia Roshi has been diagnosed with Parkinson's. And so it's really a challenge. But I think ever since I've known her she's had one physical challenge or another, and she just doesn't stop.
kanji, what do things like? Anti racism, anti releases? Or what does that how does that make you feel? As far as as far as opening up, opening up into this? World of truth? And especially what the Zen Center is doing, since we're exploring that current times and trying to make a connection with
community? Well, thank you, you know, for doing it. In this iteration of my stay at the Zen Center, I haven't been involved. So you know, I'm as guilty as anyone, while at the same time realizing that it's not something we can avoid, you know, and, and we have to do the work. So, yeah, I just have to keep trying. I don't know what else to say.
One of many things to pass gates. You talked about gates and things. obstruction.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah,
it's good to climb over them.
Yeah. And one of the things that that did, you know, bring me to the center into my teacher at the beginning was that they as well as a youth group, they just regenerated the Buddhist Peace Fellowship at that time. And so there was a fair amount of political activity and social activity and you Yeah, and then another times in my life has just been I just want to do my practice. No. White privilege. Take advantage. It's terrible. Yeah, yeah. Well, you're right. You're right. Yeah. It is practice.
Do we have time for Jonathan?
Oh, did someone else okay. All right. After after, during brunch.