On becoming a monk 3. Keith

Some personal thoughts on Tokudo

Andy recently asked me to write something about my path to Tokudo. It’s difficult to say when that process began. How can you know when something like that begins? For me the whole process of Zen practice was very much a gradual, step by step process of trial and error and I suppose it still is. I was a reluctant practitioner at first and just dipped my toe in the water because I was unsure if Zen was for me. All I knew was that I was in need of something; that I felt a sense of lack and unease. I’ve felt this sense of lack for most of my life and still do to some extent only now I know, because of practice that, from an absolute perspective there is no lack; I don’t lack anything and neither does anyone else. However I still need to practice and work on myself. Practice has become an important part of my life and now it’s something I just do.

I feel that for me, taking Tokudo  is the challenge of exploring how I can best serve others; to make that a koan for myself and to really explore and clarify that. And so again this is a process, something that will continue for the rest of my life; that will change and reveal itself as I meet the challenge that being a monk brings. It means honouring and respecting this path in how I can best serve the Sangha. It also means letting go of any preconceived ideas of what being a monk means. I’m all too aware of how easily this small self of mine can obscure things and lose sight of the bigger picture.

Recently my own energy was at a  low ebb and the knowledge of how the Sangha can really help at such times kept me going; I’m sure all of us have experienced such situations. I’ve noticed this in the work place when a way of life and how people experience each other people comes to an end; how the kind of help and support people offer each other occurs naturally without asking. It’s amazing how that natural wisdom and compassion manifests in people. The way I see it that is a manifestation of people’s Buddha nature naturally working without them realising it is Buddha nature and not needing to because to doesn’t need to be named, it just is. So I hope that is how my becoming a monk will manifest itself on a moment to moment basis, supporting and being supported by the Sangha in a way that arises naturally out of my own practice and the shared practice of others.

Keith Shingo Parr