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.

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  • Rick

    If you can’t find the truth right in front of you, where do you expect to find it? – Dogen

  • nitin

    Buddha way is not an illusion but delusion, the non-illusive Buddha, self-deluded Buddha Capping PhraseAll in the homehere and therewhere to go.Illusion of leavingseems strongtill todaySome thoughts are perfectly manyfor most

  • Mike F

    We do need to “leave home,” leave the comfort of our personal opinions and biases, to see what is beyond opinions. Yet I have found that being a father and husband challenges me to do this every day. When I want to relax and read a book, a child comes and asks for me to make some food. When I think we should raise our children one way, my wife offers another possibility. In this sense, home can be a very powerful place to practice home leaving.

  • nitin

    Today I saw the latest update in physics about Large Hadron Collider experiment going on which is bent upon finding the reality of the universe by capturing the photographs on giants machine, 26 kilometer long in diameter and 6billion dollar worth equipment. Truly, leaving home is not sufficient for scientists, they are really belive on blasting the home in a playful manner. Going beyond homeleaving now ishome-blasting. Regards

  • nitin

    Going Beyond Homeleaving is likeasking a train to not to use railway-tracks for daily movement and service for others. Asking the bird to leave the sky and try ocean world for flying. Asking the motion to practice stillness, sort of oxymoron and yet truely the buddha way.

  • Dhyan

    “Its easy to generate a lot of energy for escape.”This is true. And escaping can look like a lot of energy happening but nothing is really happening at all. The same old pattern is just repeating itself in a different moment.I am glad this conversation about homeleaving, house dwelling, etc is happening. And also the question “Where, really, do we think we are going when we leave home?”As a home dweller, I am glad of the Pang family and of Anathapindika – who sheltered the Buddha and his sangha through many rainy seasons, and asked so many good questions about spiritual life in the midst of everyday life.This is a deep koan for me … how to live each moment, no matter where I am, as if I am always in practice.

  • Anonymous

    Dosho, could you perhaps clarify what is meant by “abundance and deficiency?” I have been tripping over that line a lot lately. Thanks,Alex

  • Dosho Port

    Alex:Abundancy refers to all the 10,000 things as the truth. Lack refers to the 10,000 things lacking a self.Dosho

  • BuddhaFrog

    Dosho writes: who leaves home and where does such a one go?4.70 It covers heaven, it covers earth.4.73 No room to twist away.

  • Harriet

    how to leave home, when you’ve never really been home?We are constantly leaving/arriving home. How could it be else?

  • Taigu

    Indeed, Severino42. The blabla of home leaving is extra.

  • Monk in the world

    If the Way is “just this”, right here, right now, this place, this moment…where is there to “leave to”?Alan

  • BuddhaFrog

    Always home, always leaving. When is there not home-leaving? Only when there is no home.What is leaving the comfortable nest of attachments and preconceptions? On always leaving home…..(from Cheech & Chong, Sister Mary Elephant, on Class Clown)Student: Okay. The first day on my vacation, what I did on my summer vacation, the first day on my vacation, I woke up. Then, I went downtown to look for a job. Then I hung out in front of the drugstore. The second day on my summer vacation, I woke up, then I went downtown to look for a job. Then I hung out in front of the drugstore. The third day on my summer vacation, I woke up…..

  • Seigen

    Here is an essay on post-black identity.There is post-feminism, too, the artist Vanessa Beecroft poses gorgeous high-heeled models nude in the museum. Beecroft is herself an anorexic, and this leaves much to think about concerning post-feminism. Similarly, Marylin Minter is known for her glamorous photo-realist paintings of high-heeled women in the gutter. Post-feminism seems to me at times like an excuse to hawk women’s bodies to the same marketplace that has always had a special place for them.Which brings me to Jenny Holzer’s famous truism: “The abuse of power comes as no surprise.” It used to be that transgression was a model for “leaping through,” and feminism and the civil rights movements would not exist without their transgressions. So one thing that post-black and post-feminist identities need to convey, it seems to me, is a model of relating to power that acknowledges Jenny Holzer’s statement without allowing abuses to have their hold upon the world. What kind of leaping through are we talking about, then, if it is a matter of fully inhabiting what Glenn Ligon describes in the essay above: “The ‘one’ that I am is composed of narratives that overlap, run parallel to, and often contradict one another.” No inside, no outside.5.259 Stretch out your arms and lie down in the vast sky.

  • Dosho Port

    James has a nice summary of homeleaving, priests, monks, nuns, laypeople over at

  • brendan

    Having moved around a bit, the sense of home has diminished. Places once familiar have become distant, places once alien have become well-tread. There are locations for certain periods of time, a place where I was born, I place where I sleep. Those places of the past will never again be the way that they exist in these memories. When you develop attachments and preconceptions about a once-new place, does it become home?

  • James

    my goodness, Dosho, you have a bunch of high class commentators! (particularly worth noting if you visit some blogs, such as Brad Warner, who frequently is worth reading, but the commentary section is a cess pool…) you attract real people of Zen, really trying to walk the thanks to you all!particularly as this is an important discussion, one with no facile answers, but with consequences for all of us walking the way.with your holding up the complexity along with a commitment to not turn away, demonstrates why you really are one of my teachers!bows!

  • Tetsugan

    “…you attract real people of Zen…”That is a trap if I ever saw one!

  • do jhana

    There is one who already fall in it.

  • Will Simpson

    “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?”What would this post-homeleaving dharma look like? Would it transcend both homeleaving and householder dharma? If there is a post-homeleaving dharma could there also be post householder dharma? What would that look like? This is an intriguing notion.