Why I am a Unitarian Universalist Buddhist

This is not a reprint of my UUA pamphlet, although it hits some of the same themes, recuring constantly for me. This particular reflection comes out of my visit yesterday to the Chicago Zen Center. Long established, with a creative and dynamic abbot, I believe this center shows a lot about where Zen in the west is today.

Six of us from Meadville Lombard attended their early morning Sunday sit & teisho. I had the privilege of giving the talk.

It was after the talk as some of us were preparing for bagels & tea and others were getting ready to leave that I had an interesting conversation. One of the members of the group asked me about social engagement and Zen centers. I opined how I thought it was a good idea.

But after I left I had second thoughts.

The center has about ninety members. It has a nice facility, but I know the full time resident teacher is not paid what I’d call a living wage. And if I had to prioritize allocation of resources I’d say support of the teacher was pretty high on the list. And, if I had to continue, I’d say right up there would be formal educational opportunities for adults and children. Until those issues were addressed I’d counsel those wishing to be engaged in various issues of justice to do it, but not to draw directly upon the center’s resources to support those activities or any other activities not immediately related to practice and formation and support of community.

This reminded me why I am both a Unitarian Universalist and a Zen Buddhist. Zen provides my primary spiritual discipline. I sit, I attend retreats, I study and teach with others committed to this aspect of the Buddhadharma. And for the rest of my spiritual life, that commitment to lifespan spiritual education, opportunities for social engagement and similar activities, I find myself endlessly grateful for my Unitarian Universalist congregation.

I know this is a satisfactory arrangement for many western Buddhists. Most of us also like the secondary effects, both being challenged and invited by non-Buddhist Unitarian Universalists and providing challenge and invitation to them as my sisters and brothers on the great way.

Life is rich.

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