‘A lot of people I meet in America seem turned off by the idea of Buddhist practice because it’s mostly hard. If it doesn’t make me happy, why should I do it! And I’ve heard more than one person say, “If it’s not fun, I don’t want to do it.”
This seems to be the pop consensus about Buddhism, at least in California, where I live. But “fun” has never been a part of my Zen practice. I wouldn’t even go so far as to say that “enjoyment” figures in at all. That will sound depressing to 98 percent of people reading this, but I think about 2 percent will understand what I mean.
Enjoyment comes and goes. Fun comes and goes. The only think I know how to do anymore is let go. Letting go is the only thing that feels truly and deeply good to me. Letting go is how I enjoy things.’ (Bow First, Ask Questions Later)
I sometimes say these days that one thing monastic training taught me is that getting to do what you want all the time is overrated. Because Tassajara is a quite magical place to live, I did derive an enormous amount of enjoyment from being there, though this did not extend to getting up very very early every morning, or spending hours staring at a wall every day. But I could feel the transformative value of those things, which is why I kept doing them. They are the kind of things that few people choose to put themselves through, and this is what I think Gesshin means by her two per cent comment – it can be easy to add a flavour of elitism to that, the idea that most people ‘don’t get it’ or ‘won’t work hard enough’, but it mostly is a lesson of letting go, of personal preference along with other ideas. And of course having the life circumstances that enables you to make those kind of choices. Without being one myself, I can imagine that any parent knows all to well about not getting to do what you want to do a lot of the time.
I am still adjusting to how to keep this training in my life without the discipline of residential practice; it may be that it is impossible for me to do. I am still working that part out, three years on.