Maybe what I need to do this summer is be a monk for a month.

Monk for a Month is actually a cultural immersion and spiritual development program in India and Tibet.

Okay, I know that living in a traditional Tibetan monastery high in the majestic Himalayan mountains along the India-Tibet border and studying Tibetan (Vajrayāna) Buddhism with native scholars isn’t the secret path to knowing or peace. But it’s a plan.

I know the basics. I have done weekend retreats to a monastery. I got badmouthed by other novices because I snored.

I learned the 4 Noble Truths:

1. They start with this bummer: Life brings suffering. Pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, depression and death are all a part of living; life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete.

2. Since the origin of suffering is craving and desire and clinging to impermanent objects and ideas that causes suffering,

3. then the cessation of suffering is attainable by releasing ourselves from sensual craving and conceptual attachment and to reach the state of Nirvana.

4. The path to the cessation of suffering is to follow the ‘middle way’ between self-indulgence and self-denial.

And so we reach the Eightfold Path. Just 8. Not even a twelve step program to end suffering.

  1. Right view – to see and to understand things as they really are
  2. Right intention – the volitional commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement
  3. Right speech – to tell the truth and speak with kindness and gentleness
  4. Right action – do no harm, act honorably and with compassion
  5. Right livelihood – to earn one’s living in a righteous way
  6. Right effort – to exercise constant vigilance in attaining wholesome states
  7. Right mindfulness – clear perception, clear consciousness
  8. Right concentration – single mindedness on wholesome thoughts and actions

Only 8, but not so easy.

Like the writer, Dinty Moore, I was an “accidental Buddhist:.” He “failed” at being a Buddhist on one of those weekends too. But he got something from it. So did I.

Of course, I didn’t get a few books out of it like he did – The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life and The Accidental Buddhist: Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Still, American Style

Dinty Moore’s bio is one I can identify with very easily. Born and raised in Pennsylvania he spent his formative years “fishing for bluegill, riding a bike with a banana seat, and dodging the Sisters of St. Joseph.” He earned a BA in writing from the University of Pittsburgh, did all the odd jobs that are required of the writer, got the MFA in fiction writing so that he can teach creative nonfiction seminars and edit the internet journal,, and teach at Ohio University.

Is he on the path?

I’m not on the path.  If I was, I would better understand the koans.

If you meet the Buddha, kill him. — Linji

This koan probably surprises people more than all the others.  Kill the Buddha?  Wow. What if the statement was “If you meet Jesus, kill him?”

Not Always So: Practicing the True Spirit of ZenI read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind when I started contemplating the path. It’s a book by the late Shunryu Suzuki that many people encounter when they first study Buddhism. The book is a collection of non-academic talks given at a California Zen center.

Suzuki says during an introduction to Zazen: “Kill the Buddha if the Buddha exists somewhere else. Kill the Buddha, because you should resume your own Buddha nature.”

Thinking about the Buddha is a delusion. It is not awakening. One must destroy preconceptions of the Buddha.

I can handle this one:  When I hear, I see. When I see, I hear.

Monk for a weekend? Just another weekend in Paradelle.

Sitting with Koans: Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Koan Study

Sitting with Koans: Essential Writings on the Zen Practice of Koan Study