Killing the sangha

standoutI stopped going to the zendo after my last post, and my Thursday depressions instantly ceased. I felt better for the next few weeks than I had in many months.

It saddens and disappoints me that this sangha didn’t work out for me, but once the depression lifted, I realized that of course I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was intimidated in the beginning, and I never got through that. I’m sure my discomfort was evident to anyone who looked at me. It’s not anyone’s job, as far as I know, to help people who seem to be struggling; maybe that’s not the case in other sanghas. I would’ve liked it if someone had at least tried. These are not bad or insincere people by any means. No community is perfect, and I didn’t expect this one to be. We just never reached each other.

Though I could wish I had quit a bit sooner, I am glad I didn’t give up on them right away. Sometimes it’s hard to know how much effort to put into something. You have to trust a teacher, for example, and keep on doing the thing even when it’s hard, even when it doesn’t seem like there’s any point to what you’re doing. I tried really hard to make this group work for me, and to be a part of it, but I couldn’t do it, and that’s okay. It’s not the only one. And it’s not like I gave up quickly. I tend to put up with bad or uncomfortable situations for much longer than I should, but there have been times when I bailed out on something I probably should’ve stuck with. At least this way I know.

I had doubts about writing that post. I took a vow to esteem the Three Treasures, and not defame them, and I take vows seriously. And the last thing I want to do is discourage anyone else from trying a zendo. But I don’t think what I did was defaming, and I’m not splitting hairs here. Part of the reason you need to “kill the Buddha” is because slavish devotion to a guru hurts everyone involved, and the same is true of the community. We’re all just people, and it’s worth remembering that a group of people is not going to be any different from any other group of people, just because they’re engaged in a spiritual effort. This is true whether it’s a zendo, a church, a synagogue, an ashram, a mosque, or whatever. And while I found many articles about people having trouble with gurus, I didn’t find any about people having trouble with their sangha.

Could I have done anything differently? I can’t help being who I am, and part of that is being shy in certain situations, unfortunately. Maybe trying a sangha that is friendlier and more involved is the way to go. I don’t know. I just need to let it go for a while. Any advice is welcome.

And I still feel I need to see Roshi and talk about this with him. This is where it gets unpleasant; I would have no problem continuing to support the monastery and seeing Roshi occasionally, while not sitting zazen with the group, but my finances don’t really permit this since if I find another group, I’ll have to contribute financially to them. But in the zen tradition, the teacher-student relationship is paramount, and I knew that going in. I can’t just ditch him, and I don’t want to. Maybe we can work something out.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to get in the habit of sitting zazen at home. More on that as it develops.

This was a big deal to me. Both of these posts were very hard to write. I still believe zen is the right path for me; in fact, even without sitting for a few weeks, the changes are still there, just as strong. I know I’ll figure this out, and all will be well.

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