Born and bred in basically a comfortable middle class situation, I went about my early life giving little thought to the existential suffering and discontentedness around me. Day by day, I cycled through the conflicting effects of deep sorrow and soaring joy, of truly seeing the good in others to recognizing the evil that people can do and I found myself starting to wonder how to make sense of all this chaos.
After a start with some personal mind expanding experiments in the early 70’s, I began to search for some framework, some basic scaffolding with which to hang a world view on. I needed to find one based on my experiences up until then and then reconcile that with what I had experienced down the rabbit hole. After 30 years of trying new age ideas, reading heavily about physics, a year as a devout Catholic and two years as a Hindu, I discovered Buddhism for the first time at the age of 54. The suggestion came from a friend who mentioned there was no creator god in Buddhism. I was very intrigued.
After responding to a notice in a local paper, I went to my first Buddhist Sangha service in January 2001 led by my soon-to-be good friend and teacher Seishin Fitterer. I never looked back. Buddhism, I excitedly thought, had all the answers to my 30 year quest, however it took me a couple of years of monk training to realize it didn’t, it had all the questions.
I began leading the Sangha after Seishin moved to the Adirondacks in 2005, several months before I reached the level of Betsuin (branch) priest, called Doshu. It takes 3 years of training to reach this level, and my ordination took place in the newly constructed Temple, the first of a small few who were lucky enough to be ordained in the brand new building just after its consecration ceremony. At this time, feeling imbued with the spirit of my path, I also had a radio program and a blog called The Diamond Path, and organized local peace walks and worked with community organizing.
After 2005 I spent three more years (and an additional two) to realize that the amount of attention and concentration needed for me to conclude my training and reach true priest, Soryo, was not a path I felt able or compelled to follow. So for now, I remain a Doshu, confident in my weekly duties at the Temple, and comfortable in the 17 years I spent rejecting the definitive answers and beliefs, instead continuing to hold close to my heart-mind the questions.
The Tendai Buddhist Institute will always remain a brilliant arch of light in my heaven. Abbot Monshin Naamon and Shuman Naamon have taken a rib from the backbone of Japanese Buddhism and made it flourish on American soil. My life, my views, the very fabric of who I am was transformed by my association with these sacred few acres in the town of Canaan, NY.
I live six miles from the Temple in a small cottage with my partner Annie, our two dogs and Wally the cat. I work with my hands, which have seen 40 years as a landscape artist, painter, mason and especially as a carpenter in rustic furniture and architectural work. Of late these hands have also found a home on the keyboard. I write short stories in fiction, the occasional poem and I intend to finish my novel, 20 chapters so far, later this year.