25 April 2011


I just came across a wonderful Japanese word, wabizumai, which loosely translates to "living a secluded, solitary life in a humble, wretched dwelling."

As the reference points out, it was the life chosen by many Buddhist monks and layfolk over the last 13 centuries.  Of course it goes back much further than that historically, and it's not limited geographically or culturally to Japan or even Asia.  It's the life of Ryōkan and Francis, of Confucius' student Hui and Diogenes, of Chōmei and Thoreau.  And it's not about the state of the dwelling itself, either.  It's about contentment in the absence of finery, wealth, connections, status, prestige and control. 

I sometimes laugh at myself for where I've ended up.  The kind generosity of the sangha grants me the use of a couple rooms in the center, but even that use isn't exclusive.  I'm almost fifty, but I own no property, and I'm just fortunate enough to be able to manage a small car.  I can feed my kids, but I can't take them on vacation.  I can list all of my possessions on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper with room to spare.

I wish I could say I chose this life, because that would make it sound quite noble and praiseworthy.  As it is, I basically tumbled into it, so there's nothing at all meritorious going on here, nothing at all.

I know the relatives talk and the friends are concerned, but I don't care.  I wouldn't trade this life for anything.

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