This week I got three emails from people in places far away from where I live asking if they could be my student and two emails asking how to become a monk. This is about my weekly average. So I thought I’d take some time to write a blog about it.
As far as training to be a monk… what can I say? I never really trained formally. I was kind of talked into ordaining as a monk when I really didn’t want to. It was all very informal. You can read my book Hardcore Zen to find out how I did it. It’s available in the store section of this website in both print and audiobook format. The ebook version is available at a number of on-line outlets.
The San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC) has a fairly straight-forward formal training program for monks — quite unlike what I did. There is a specific set of requirements one must meet. You have to live at one of their centers for a certain number of years and do certain specified things, like attend a set number of 90-day practice periods and so forth. I believe the temple founded by John Daido Loori in NY State has a similar program. There are probably others I’m not aware of. Or you could go to Japan and enroll in one of the monk training programs there. But I know nothing at all about that stuff.
One of the people who asked about this said she’d heard that one training center she looked into was said to be bureaucratic, culty and fishy by its detractors on the Internets. But really, for every place you might find that does formal Zen training like this you will be able to find someone saying it’s culty or fishy or bureaucratic. Formally training to be a Zen monk involves a certain degree of getting involved with religious bureaucracy, which is, by it’s very nature, a bit culty. You’re gonna be in a cloistered space surrounded by shaven-headed Buddhist nerds in black robes administered by a hierarchically structured organization that attempts to turn spiritual training into something that can be done in more or less the same way with the same results by anyone who happens to sign up. You really can’t expect anything other than a somewhat culty bureaucracy that lots of people would find fishy.
That is not to say that places like SFZC and others who offer formal Zen training are all fishy and culty. I don’t think they all are (some are, but not all of them). I’ve spent a lot of time at SFZC’s monastic training center Tassajara and it’s definitely not a cult. But you’re always going to be able to find plenty of people who will say these kinds of places are.
Or you could try the video game Zen Training. They say it’s a “relaxing, yet challenging puzzle game with a Tetris-like feeling of urgency.”
But seriously, folks, Muho over at Antaiji has a very detailed article about what it takes to meet the Soto-shu’s standards of becoming a Zen monk. It’s pretty good, so take a look if you want to know what Soto-shu’s standards are.
As far as becoming my student by proxy from far away, I just don’t have any means by which to do that. If you send me emails I’ll probably lose half of them, or forget who you are and what I’ve already said to you. It would be a mess. I’m too hard to reach by telephone or Skype since I travel constantly. It’s just not something I feel like I can do, at least not now.
But if you want to do some short term training with me, I am on tour right this very minute and offering a butt-load of opportunities to do that. Here they are:
• Oct. 2-6. 5-day retreat in Benediktushof. There is still time to sign up. Go to their website for details. The topic of discussion will be the Zen classic Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi. I will do dokusan (personal interviews/discussion) with all members who want to.
• October 7th I’m speaking in Frankfurt on at Dogen Zendo. Info is here. Please stop by for a chat about Zen!
• October 9th I’ll be speaking at Dharma Buchladen in Berlin
• On October 11th, I’ll be speaking in Amsterdam.
• On October 12th, I’ll be speaking at Groningen University in the Netherlands.I think the details are somewhere on this page. But it’s in Dutch so I’m not sure.
• On Oct. 13 and 14th I’ll be in Bonn, Germany. The details about that are on this page. The 13th will be an all-day sitting and on the 14th I’ll do a talk in the evening.
• Thursday 17th October
In Conversation with Brad Warner and Jon Robb – The Punk meets the Monk
• 18-19 October Zen Retreat / 20th October Public Talk in Hebden Bridge, England
• 23 October 7pm, I’ll be speaking in London.
Caledonian Road Centre
486 Caledonian Road
London N7 9RP
• 24 October, 8pm, I’ll be speaking in Oxford
Merton College, Oxford
Hosted the Neave Society (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2203213006/)
**Oxford University students only**
• 25 Oct In Conversation 7pm-9pm / 26 October Zazen Day
Merchant City Yoga Centre Glasgow, Scotland
• November 8-10 Zen and Yoga Retreat at Mount Baldy Zen Center in Southern California (1 & 1/2 hours east of Los Angeles)
* * *
I’m self-financing all of these, so please feel free to help out a little by sending a donation! Thanks!