My Zen Path Story Part 3: Vajrapani
PediCab Driver – 1994
After returning to the Dharma Rain Zen Center from Tassajara as a ‘failed monk’, and being told by the Abbot Kyogen to see if there is another training center that I could go to, and that I needed more ‘life experience’; I did inquire with a few Zen Centers that did run monasteries – I got no reply to my letters of inquiry.
My friend Pam, who I meet at Tassajara invited me to stay with her in San Francisco, and that she had a camper and wanted to travel around the USA and visit Zen Centers and the monasteries too.
So, I left the Dharma Rain Zen Center for the final time, never to return.
When I got to San Francisco, my friend Pam informed me that the camper needed repairs, and well it needed lots of repairs, and I had no money to fix it. So, I took up a job driving a PediCap on the San Francisco wharf during the spring and summer of 1994. So it turns out that the camper was not workable, and Pam decided to not travel after all.
One of the monks that I liked at Tassajara, Diagon, was at the Santa Cruz Zen Center. So I hitched hiked to Santa Cruz to visit him.
Diagon – 1995
When I got to Santa Cruz, Diagon he said I could stay as long as I like, and we talked alot about Tassajara. He told me that he was aware of how I was ostracized and left out of training, but he choose to not say anything then.
Well, a few days goes by and Diagon gets a phone call then tells me I cannot stay any longer.
So, fortunately I find an ad in Tricycle magazine for needing a caretaker for a place called Vajrapani, and it’s located in the Santa Cruz mountains – Perfect. I call them and they invite me for an interview. I get a ride to the place and they hire me on the spot.
So in the fall 1995 I end up as the caretaker at this Tibetan retreat center called Vajrapani. They have a Stupa and a retreat center, meditation halls and lots of cabins all over the property. About 15 residents live there, along with two ordained nuns.
Vajrapani was quite busy with many Tibetan dignitaries staying, visiting teachers, groups renting the place for retreats, and other uses. I was always busy with repairs, cleaning, and clearing the land for new uses. Of course, I was invited to all the events, all of the activities that took place there, but the residents saw the Zen in me and started calling me – The Roshi.
Though I meet some amazing people there, and learned alot about the Tibetan path, it was not for me.
I left Vajrapani one year after I came, and went back up to Oregon.
Dark Zen – 1996
So, when I came back I lived with my mother for a while, not long though. I then got a job at a One-hour Photo processing lab, and found an apartment with a roommate. Later, I got a job at a phone support center for Microsoft to do support for windows 95.
The Internet was just blooming, and I was able to reach out and see what was going on with Zen. After many interesting chats and emails with many zen seekers, I found the Georgia Mystic Zenmar, who gave me plenty of things to read, but also help me realize that the Zen that these Zen Centers teach is not real Zen at all, for its just Ancient Japanese cultural fanaticism that goes on, LARPing, and not even the Japanese take it seriously as I found out by talking to real Japanese Zen monks. The criticism of Western Zen become known as Dark Zen. I’ll have another video about that.
Though deep in my heart I already knew that the Zen I was seeking was not in the Zen Centers, Zenmar helped me put into words, to formulate thoughts and a language I could express myself in, furthermore, Zenmar provided me with materials that I could dig out the True Zen teachings with.
Zenmar called me ‘The Otomo’ meaning friend to Dharma.
The silent years
In 2000 I got married to a Chinese girl and planned to make a family with her. My Chinese wife was involved with a group called Falun Gong (I knew very little about that group then), and she made it clear to me that Zenmar cannot be part of our family anymore after we visited him in Georgia in August 2003. So, I had to choose – Chinese wife or Zenmar.
In 2005 my son was born, and in 2008 my daughter was born.
2017 my Chinese wife and I divorced.
I have not spoken about Zen till now, 2021.
Once one starts down the Zen Path,
one never really leaves it,
for the Zen Path becomes everything you do and see.
Kyogen sent me on the challenge (the Koan) to find my True Teacher.
I can only chuckle now and wonder if he really knew what he was doing back then
As his wife, Gyokuko would often like to say, “Sometimes you blink the eyes of a Buddha, and sometimes you don’t”