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a more committed lay practice
Answer
12/10/19 5:54 PM
Greetings,

This is a two-part query. Part one:

I'm a 78 yo widower in reasonably good health. I have a modest but adequate income. I have been practicing since 1989 and in the last 8 years exclusively Mahasi Vipassana. For the last 3 years, I have spent every third month on silent retreat at Tathagata Meditation Center mostly interviewing with Ven. U Thuzana, the abbot and past meditation master for ten years at the Malaysian Buddhist Meditation Centre in Penang, Malaysia.

That's enough to add some direction to whatever answers are offered. My feelings are not at stake here. I will say that practice is the most important thing in this life--if that is not clear.

I have experimented with living Eight Precepts in between formal retreats. I have the recurring thought that this would be a positive enhancement to my practice. Does anyone know of or is anyone reading this following such a lifestyle (for want of a better word)? If so, do you have any advice or comments?

Part two: I am a great admirer of Ven. Bhikkhu Analayo. I read somewhere the schedule he follows melding his scholarly efforts and his practice efforts. I have a vague recollection that his usual (when not on or leading a retreat) routine is one half-day scholarly work and one half-day formal practice.

If I was younger I would seriously consider ordination but monasteries do not want people in the last few years of their lives. Comments regarding this are solicited.

I would appreciate anything constructive anyone would like to offer. With much metta and the hope that this finds you well and content.

RE: a more committed lay practice
Answer
12/11/19 1:42 AM as a reply to Steve Katona.
Hi Steve,

Why do you think that a monestary or practice center wouldn't want someone older as a resident? I'm most familiar with SFZC and they have lots of older residents. Some of them are only part time, like they come to Tassaraja for the summer as students. SFZC is also working on opening a "Zen-themed" (yes, I know, sounds like an amusement park emoticon) retirement community in Healdsburg, partially as a place for the monks who have lived there since they were in their 20's to retire to, but also for lay practitioners who want to have a more dedicated practice in their retirement. It's called Enso Village. They'll have a meditation hall, but also a memory care facility and assisted living. They've partnered with the Kendell Corporation, a nonprofit coming out of the Quaker tradition that runs a collection of retirement centers east of the Mississippi.

RE: a more committed lay practice
Answer
12/11/19 7:03 AM as a reply to svmonk.
Gratitude for your comments. 

I know about the age limits because I have researched this more than a little. The oldest maximum age to apply for ordination that I found is Plum Village (TNHahn) and their cutoff is 70. I don't think this age limit is unreasonable. Yes, I can 'pay my way' but many older serious Dhamma seekers would love to turn over their financial responsibilities to a monastery or retreat center and be cared for 'hand and foot' when they can no longer care for themselves. The ramifications of such a scenario seem obvious.

The option of finding a monastery or retreat center (with a full residency option) that would welcome an elder who was also able to pay their own expenses is probably the best I will find--if I do find such a place.

I know the SFZC does have a number of residents that fit this model. I am going to be somewhat picky on this as after about 15 years of Zen practice (Joshu Sasaki Roshi) I made the change to Theravada and would rather go my own way than leave this tradition because I believe in its efficacy.

with much metta

RE: a more committed lay practice
Answer
12/11/19 8:04 AM as a reply to Steve Katona.
I would appreciate anything constructive anyone would like to offer. With much metta and the hope that this finds you well and content.


Hi, Steve.

I'll comment on your situation from a practical angle because I'm in full agreement and understanding of the dharma angle.

1. If I were responsible for a dharma center or a retreat center having folks permanently on-site that are approaching end-of-life scenarios due to illness or age is a burdensome thing from many perspectives; legal, medical, expense, and so on. While it's easy to say "I want to do this and someone should be willing to accommodate me" I can also see a dharma center wondering how to deal with the practical realities as these people age, have medical problems, require extra help and incur all the associated expenses and in particular their need for attention or to be attended to.

2. So, approaching a dharma or retreat center with this in mind and offering them a financial and medically-based way to get "out" of the arrangement would be a good idea to my way of thinking. It seems to me that being willing to relocate away from the center when appropriate due to illness or age-related issues, and doing so up-front, would be the way to make what you're looking for more likely to happen for you. Also, presenting the center with your end-of-life plans, your family circumstances and contacts, who has power of attorney over your end of life decisions, and so on, is probably a good idea, too.

I hope you find success!



RE: a more committed lay practice
Answer
12/11/19 11:01 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Excellent perspective. With gratitude...

RE: a more committed lay practice
Answer
12/11/19 6:27 PM as a reply to Steve Katona.
And I'll just add... there is nothing magical about a monastery. Good practice is good practice and only good practice matters. Consider using this amazing internet to video call with teachers and make your home monastery and practice well!

RE: a more committed lay practice
Answer
12/11/19 8:15 PM as a reply to shargrol.
In 30 mins I will be on silent retreat until 12/30/19. I will catch up with this thread then. May this find u well & content. With much metta...

RE: a more committed lay practice
Answer
12/12/19 12:46 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Hi Chris,

I think that was the point of Enso Village, to provide a place where monks but also lay people could go in old age and practice until their death. While a monestary or practice center won't have the facilities to care for someone, for example, with Alziheimers, Enso Village will.

That said, there will be a buy-in cost, I expect it would be a little more expensive than somewhere not in California, but nevertheless not out of the range of someone with a lifetime of asset accumulation in their home, and of course a monthly fee, like a condo association fee. For that, the monks will get a subsidized cost, something that I find really great. I would be perfectly happy to know I was supporting someone who has made practicing Dharma their life's mission.

RE: a more committed lay practice
Answer
12/12/19 12:56 AM as a reply to Steve Katona.
Hi Steve,

I've heard mixed reports about Sasaki Roshi. He was Shinzen's teacher and Shinzen praises him highly, but others are not so positive. I've found that many Japanese teachers confuse Japanese culture, which was totally shaped by Buddhism from the 800's and Zen from the 1100's, with Buddhist practice. If you can sort through the confusion, it can work, but sometimes its hard.

W.r.t. practice technique, FWIW, I practiced as an ordained Zen priest with Yvonne Rand, who was one of the co-founders of SFZC, for 8 years and never did shikantaza. I always practiced with the Theravada anapansati technique. The technique I found most powerful, however, was Shinzen's noting "gone".

From my experience, the teachers at SFZC are not so picky about technique. If you're making progress, they're usually happy. But it requires a bit of self-direction. Then the teacher is there if some issue comes up.

RE: a more committed lay practice
Answer
12/12/19 8:14 AM as a reply to svmonk.
I think that was the point of Enso Village...

Yes, I can see that now from their website - thanks for the info.