In my early 20’s, I took Bodhisattva vows with my dad at Furnace Mountain.
I was given a dharma name Satya Bama (sanskrit) or Myo Shen (Korean). It means bright truth, which I suppose is a little weird because apart from yoga postures, I don’t really study sanskrit or Korean. There was a certain amount of cultural appropriation to be viewed.
Cultural appropriation is basically the taking on of other culture’s customs, religions, etc. for our own purpose without an even give and take.
This happens all the time.
From New Age, pseudo Native American spirituality to Caucasian monks talking with fragmented English, it has become ok to play dress up in whatever cultural customs that strike our fancy. This is fine for short periods of time and if done with innocence.
I, however, think that there is a time and place where you have to drop it all and make your own customs, rituals, myths, beliefs and meanings.
I sat with one of my favorite Zen Masters, the late Daido Lori, in Boulder, Colorado. He talked about practice as a weaving of one’s own ritual and experience into something that brings clarity and peace.
His story was of a young man who was in conflict with his father. The young man desperately wanted to share his blossoming zazen practice and heal a wound, but the man’s father had passed.
It was hard to find peace because the worlds seemed so far apart.
Daido Lori asked him what his father liked to do. The young man replied that he drank. Daido Lori suggested that he buy two beers, sit at his altar, place one beer on the altar and begin a conversation with his deceased father.
I think there is a point when spiritual beliefs and practice need to start being inclusive vs. exclusive. This is an example of that merging.
How can we relate to everyone and share our practice in a way that meets them where they are?
So what does this have to do with the title Buddha Dharma and My Hair?
Recently, I have been looking at becoming a Buddhist Nun. I feel like it is part of my familial lineage to have this kind of seeking in my life. My Dad is a Zen teacher and my mom is a practitioner. I was born into this nest of Buddhahood.
While this may be too much information for you, I am going to share anyway. I was conceived at a Zen meditation retreat on a horse farm in Kentucky.
The biggest restriction I have in the process of this research is:
1) Where are all the strong and vibrant female Buddhist leaders?
2) What does shaving my head have anything to do with understanding my Buddha nature, i.e. the true nature of self (all of ourselves).
So many centers want you to shave your head, and I don’t have anything against women who want to do this. I, however, feel like it is completely unnecessary to show devotion to a practice. Buddha had a purpose when he cut off the privilege of his hair; it was something of personal significance.
I like my hair. It is a symbol of femininity. Why would I want to cut that off?
While I know this is going to trigger some people, I am going to say that it’s an outdated ritual that has nothing to do with enlightenment. It is more about submission and control.
If I would do that, then I suppose I would also do other things I am told to do. Am I right?
While I think we must have real reverence for the teachers who are willing to open their hearts wide to the masses and share spiritual practices and wisdom traditions, I am ultimately looking for a radical shift in these ancient wisdom traditions as they merge with the west. I am looking for teachers to stop making it about preferences, and rigid paths.
The Dalai Lama himself recently said in a talk, “Even I have to be non-attached to Buddhism.”
It is not working. It is creating more separation and confusion when so many hearts could be opened by these wisdom practices.
I think the worthiness of receiving life-changing teachings has more to do with a sincere heart, a good state of mind, and less to do with our willingness to sacrifice and live outside of our cultural scope. If it feels good and we feel called, that is another story, but it never makes one better because we are willing to shave our head and wear monk robes.
I have resolved to be a nun in the world—only in the sense that I bring light to places, honor my reverence to practice and to being kind to myself and others—not allowing my mind to be controlled, being able to think for myself, and always listening to my heart.
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Assistant Ed. Kerrie Shebiel/Ed. Bryonie Wise