Some Initial Thoughts on Going Beyond Homeleaving

I was in a conversation with several coworkers recently. An African American women, married to a Euro American man, was asked by an African American woman, “How are you going to raise your new baby – Black, White, or Mixed?”

“None of the above,” she said, “my kids are post-racial.”

Later the same day (note to reader: sorry for the rough transition), I was exchanging emails with another Zen teacher about “homeleaving” and priest/minister ordinations – clarifying some of our differences.

I realized in doing so that I’m now in a different place than I was. I value the times that I’ve left home physically – celibate and sober in monasteries. I also understand and appreciate homeleaving as a metaphor – leaving home in spirit, in the world but not of the world.

Still, I think we’re ready for a more fully developed post-homeleaving dharma paradigm. Most practitioners these days (probably a much higher ratio than ever in history) are practicing as homedwellers, many with partners, 401K’s (what’s left of ‘em), kids, jobs…. So how about if we honor all of that with a more fully developed, fitting and transformational mythos?

Here’s why it might be time for such in a few words:

Historically, Buddhism in India was characterized by a transcendent aim – the world’s impure so let’s break the cycle of samsara and escape rebirth. The notion of homeleaving fits with the transcendent perspective without jiggling. It’s easy to generate a lot of energy for escape.

When Zen moved into East Asia or was created there, depending on your preferred story, the immanent view was cutting edge – the enlightenment of trees, wall, and fence. And the perspective that Buddha nature was already present. Homeleaving can be jiggled in this perspective to suggest leaving the home of illusion (i.e., thinking the Buddha nature is somewhere else), or of separation, or of wandering in circles licking our tails until our tongues bleed like yak.

However, it’s easy from this perspective to slump into self-told stories about it all being perfect just the way it is without really realizing such. Imho, lots of the experiments with engaged Buddhism and people calling themselves homeleavers-in-spirit suffer from a sort of mild depression. This kind of Zen has a really weak handshake.

But maybe we are ready to leave the homeleaving of the transendent perspective and the attachment to things just as they are of the immanent perspective and instead take full responsibility for making our lives fully alive on this little planet together.

Dogen provides a post-homeleaving third option in the third sentence of Genjokoan:

Since the buddha way intrinsically leaps through abundance and deficiency, there is arising and perishing, delusion and realization, living beings and buddhas.

“Leaping through” has elements of both transcendent and immanent while energizing the whole living enterprise. And if our ideal is to leap through the 10,000 dharmas into the 10,000 dharmas (it’s intrinsic after all, seamless with no “outside”), who leaves home and where does such a one go?

That’s as far as I’ve thought this through. Like the post-racial perspective (note to reader: I’m hoping to hook this together now), this needs some development. Comments welcome.

Zen: The Authentic Gate
Doug Kaishin Phillips Ordination
Ducking the Quacking Koan: Soto Zen, Koan, and Kensho
The No of No No: Affirming the Great Heart Sutra