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Buddhism, China, Zen, Japan, and California

One of the interesting things I noticed whIle I was at Tassajara is which of the conventions are from Zen itself, and what are just Japanese. Are all the robes and bowing really Zen or is that just Japanese culture? And what’s the difference between Buddhism and Zen anyway? How come we can’t walk directly in front of the Buddha? Is that a Zen thing? And what would be the difference between being in a monastery here in California versus in Japan? In search of some answers I requested a meeting with the head master of the forms, the “tanto,” or head of practice, of the monastery, Greg Fain, and was granted one. It was a beautiful meeting and I learned all kinds of things about the distinctions between these different disciplines. According to Greg, the goal of the monastery, or at least the reality, is that a Zen monk who spent time here would or should feel as comfortable and familiar as if he were in Japan. That said, there were many things that had evolved as a result of this version that we now enjoy being here that now have diverged or have been added from how things were or are in Japan. For example, a Pali chant is made at the end of the evening meditation. And of course women are allowed to be monks. So we really are in California. 

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Week at Tassajara

Although technically not in Asia, I in a sense was, as I just spent a week at the first Zen monastery established outside of Asia, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, or as it is formally called, Zenshinji (Zen Heart-Mind Temple). In addition to being a real monestery, it’s also a beautiful place. 


Friend of America

Here’s a guy I met in downtown Galle, Sri Lanka, who was very happy to meet me and help me out because I was an American, and US aid had helped him and his family after the tsunami of 2006. Even though it’s 6 years later, people here still talk about it as if it happened yesterday. And to realize what happened to this guy, compared to the stuff we usually have to complain about in our country, it kind of sets you straight.


Meeting with Sewalanka

I just had a very exciting and encouraging meeting with Sivapackiyan, the Field Director and District Program Coordinator for the Nuwaraeliya and Badulla Districts of Sri Lanka, and her team, comprised of social mobilizers and field and agriculture coordinators for Sewalanka. I had the honor of explaining the inner workings of my new startup, WhoElse, www.whoelse.net, to the people here, who work directly with local farmers and home gardeners. Sewalanka works to help keep small farmers strong. I am so happy to report that everybody in the room not only understood the idea, but liked it, and committed to going into the field and asking farmers what they would use the software for, and what their impressions of it would be. They will be getting back to me next week. Wijaya, who also works for Sewalanka and has been showing me around the country, came up with a great idea to use the existing Community Based Organization (CBO) Leaders to train the other farmers. And Venerable Manjushri, the monk who has been my helper, did an amazing job summarizing the value proposition and translating the whole meeting. Today was a very good day!



Had an amazing Safari at the largest national park in Sri Lanka, Wilpattu. Here are a couple highlights: a peacock showing off, and two deer playing/battling.