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Home Sweet Home

June 26, 2011 by Yugen

Jim Lakey Rev. Jim Yugen Lakey
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center

Home Sweet Home

Mystery moth that we found

I got back last week from a 4 week vacation in sunny old England. I say that ironically, for those unfamiliar with the far from tropical climes of my humble home land. Weather aside, I was glad to step foot back on English soil and spend some time with my family and friends. It is hard being away from the country I grew up in and from my family. A few people joked with me as I left in May after the training period ended, 'hope you'll come back again!', or 'don't forget about us will you?!' To this sentiment, I thought to myself, I will peg up a provisional question mark. I intended to return to the Center and carry on regardless of how I felt emotionally as I've seen the effect of trips away on others and how unsettled they can be upon return, and temporary feelings of homesickness or dissatisfaction are often just that, temporary, albeit hard to allow in and experience. It is very easy to get caught up in the details of living, working and training here at Yokoji, and the question of whether I want to be here or somewhere else very rarely arises for me. During my time away, this matter didn't really come up - so I'm back, well rested, happy and rearing to go.

A lot of questions did come up for me, though, often in response to questions I was asked. In a nutshell, very few people had the slightest clue what it is I do here and why I do it. Some of the questions from friends I went to university with indicated that they were politely side stepping around the fact that they thought of me as a lost cause, sunken in to some strange cult-like activity which is so far removed from 'everyday' life that to ask any probing questions as to the nature of what occurs in such a place would lead to a revelation that the guy they went to college with has turned out to be a complete nut job. Not a great thing to have to say at the next reunion. What I realized is that I struggle to say something about why I am here doing this, rather than living in London making money or a name for myself like many of my contemporaries are doing. It must be a good reason, right? And it is, and I feel it on a deep level, but vocalizing it for others is difficult. I am setting myself the task of better explicating myself in this matter. I want to be able to tell people in a way they understand why I do this practice without sounding pretentious or ridiculous or obscure. It matters to me what my friends and family think. The 'who cares what other people think' mentality doesn't wash with me. Even basic questions like 'why, as a monk, do you shave your head?' leave me feeling like I just don't have good enough answers. Because it is part of the tradition to which I belong? Because it symbolizes renunciation of attachment to the individual self in favor of the community at large? Because it reduces head lice infection in remote rural communities? These still don't quite ring true for me, although there is definitely truth all of the above (especially the nits one).

I need to examine some of these aspects of what I do, and look at it from the perspective of those who don't live in a training center full time. To be able to account for my choices and communicate that will be of benefit to me and others, and clarity in this area will enable me to function as an ambassador for what I do, for the practice of Zen Buddhism, rather than a slightly sheepish apologist which is how I sometimes felt during conversations on my return home.

On a similar note, Jishin is currently packing up her car and will be off for the great wide world beyond any minute now. Graham is leaving on Tuesday. The nature of a training center is that people come and go. However, this doesn't make it easy to say goodbye. I'll miss both Jishin and Graham for who they are and what they did here, but I look forward to see how they both go on to manifest in the world. I believe that this practice is of the utmost value and I know both Graham and Jishin learned a lot about themselves while they were here, so I look on with interest to their future horizons to see if they lead lives in accord with what was learned. Au revoir, friends.

Graham and Jishin


  • Penny Braund:

    27 Jun 2011 05:28:08


    The mystery moth appears to be a Ceanothus Silk Moth. You can Google that name and see if you agree. It’s really a fascinating creature.

    Best Regards,


  • Yugen:

    27 Jun 2011 16:05:16

    Thanks for that Penny – it does look like the same fellow and sounds like it is a regular around these parts.

  • Doetsu:

    29 Jun 2011 04:56:12

    Beautiful column, Yugen. Very well put. I often wonder how to explain to others why we are Zen Buddhists. Like you, we both feel the worth of this practice deep down, but it is good to really ‘sit with it’ and be able to put it in a way that helps others understand better.

    You were greatly missed, Jim, but I’m so glad you got to spend that time with your family and your friends. I’m also very glad you returned. It’s hard to imagine Yokoji without you.

    I wish Graham and Jishin all the best in their futures.

    Ilene Doetsu Van Gossen

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