By Daniel Scharpenburg
I guess I’m changing things a bit around here.
When I started writing a column here I was an ambitious zen mystic. I thought I’d write about crazy obscure Buddhist teachings all the time. I thought I’d become known as a master—maybe even start my own zen order.
The truth is that the world needs another zen order like I need a hole in my head.
I’ve said from the beginning that I’m on the Bodhisattva path, not on the monk/priest path. My purpose isn’t to be a role model or to establish a temple. I don’t want students to come to me in a temple, I want to meet them where they are. I don’t want students to look up to me on a stage or raised platform, I want to go down to where they are instead.
My mission is to spread the teachings of wisdom and compassion. That’s all.
I’ve studied with and been “empowered” by various teachers over the years and I think I’ve learned a thing or two that I’d like to share. But I don’t want to be anyone’s master. I’m not trying to shake things up or change the face of Buddhism. I’m just sharing what I have and hoping it can be of some benefit to others. As such, I’m changing the name of this column.
The name of my column is Striding Through The Universe, which is a cool name. It sounds like something on an album cover for a hipster band, or a book of esoteric poetry. And that’s just not what I’m going for these days. I’ve been writing on the internet for many years now. And I’ve been teaching online through The Open Heart Project for a couple years. It has been really really good. I think I’ve really learned what teachings people want.
I’m changing the name of my column to Awake in the City.
Now, I do live in a city—Kansas City, Missouri; the city of fountains, royals baseball and the best barbecue in the world. But that’s not what I mean by “In the City.” It means outside of the temple. There’s a zen story that gets told of going up to the mountains, studying with a teacher, then coming back to the city and back to society.
Teaching in a temple is good, but you just reach the people that go to temples when you do that. I want to reach people that don’t like temples, people that aren’t attracted to all the robes and bells. I don’t believe we have to cling to the way things were done in the past and I don’t think we have to play dress up.
I want to teach people how to work with their minds. I’ve learned that the more our minds are engaged in the present moment, the less we are distracted by all our anxiety and emotional baggage. I’ve learned that training ourselves to be more compassionate and tear down the walls we put up between ourselves and others helps us to have better relationships. These are the things I want people to get out of reading and listening to me.
I’m also not interested in having followers. Even using the word followers feels weird. A lot of teachers feel a sense of responsibility for their students and that’s not how I want to be. I want people to feel responsible for themselves.
I’m just here to point the way.
Photo: Adam Jones
Model: Niels Alpert
Editor: Dana Gornall