19 May 2011

Leave No Dharma Orphans

I first came to formal practice when my twins were going on 4 and my youngest was just a few months old.  Their world has always contained things like sesshin, Vesak, zazen and bodhisattvas.

When I set out to ordain, I thought it was important to get their OK.  I included them in the name picking process.  When it came about that I would be moving into the center, we talked about what that would mean for them.

It has all worked out pretty well.  They had their friends over for a slumber party not long after I moved in.  Everyone got to hit the bell, strike the han, etc.  One of their friends wondered why every bathroom was named "rakusu."  When there are sittings, they know how and where to keep quiet.  No one in the sangha would ever know they were in the building during formal rounds.  They're good kids.

I sometimes think of what it would be like to ordain as a bhikkhu.  I've kicked around the idea of getting in touch with a Sinhalese bhikkhu in the area to discuss what prospects there might be for ordaining as a Theravādan but still practicing with a Zen sangha, jumpstarting something of a monastic practice in the lineage.

And then I think of the kids.  I think of meeting the prospective in-laws wearing the reddish robes of the Sinhalese sangha.  I think of not eating at a wedding reception because it would be after midday.  I think of potential grandkids and how that would or wouldn't play out.

But then I think of Pema Chödrön, and how she had two kids when she ordained.  I wonder how that went.  I'm sure it wasn't easy.  Her ex was a lawyer, so I'm sure money wasn't that much of a problem.  I hear her kids are good with it now, but I wonder if it doesn't hurt that she's pretty well-known, draws crowds of thousands, and has an impressive publication list. Would it make a difference if she were stitching robes in a back room of a monastery somewhere?

I have time before anything like this would become even a remotely live option, since I'm responsible for a good chunk of the kids' college tuition.  I guess I've always held to the idea that children should not be sacrificed on the altar of the parent's religion.  So for now, I think we're all in a good enough spot with things just as they are.

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