(My father) He was a devout atheist and hated Zen and would not talk to me about it his entire life. He was upset that I left the life of an intellectual, my work as an anthropologist. All his life it was a bitter disappointment to him. I feel his profound disapproval every time I open my mouth to speak about the Dharma. I have to practice with all my might.
Master Bo Mun, Wild Geese
Master Bo Mun is my Zen teacher’s teacher. Like my teacher Dae An, Bo Mun is a guy that you just want to hang out with. His dedication to a life of Zen practice is evident in the stillness of his Zazen, his earnest chanting and his clear Dharma talks. Fortunately, I have had the chance to practice with Bo Mun a few times. I would like to see him more but he lives quietly in the mountains of Kentucky. Only occasionally does he leave his mountain retreat to take up the role of a Zen troublemaker.
I am grateful to Bo Mun for sharing his personal story. It’s an example of the courage needed to practice Zen in the middle of life’s challenges. To meet life, as it is, may be hard, but meeting it provides an opportunity for awakening. We practice Zen to encounter life directly and to realize our awakened nature. So practice includes the arduous dynamic of father-and-son relationships.
Even after many years, his father’s feelings about his lifestyle choices didn’t change. But Bo Mun’s willingness to abide with his father’s disappointment, not advancing or retreating from the vivid truth of his experience, is quite generous. Allowing ourselves to be ourselves and giving others to themselves, is the action of generosity.