I'm turning Japanese...
Through a weird turn of events, I appear to be turning Japanese, in a Buddhist manner.
I’ve been speaking to Father Jordan of the Johannite Apostolic Church off and on for a while now. I read his blog and he’s a cool guy. I mentioned in conversation that I had a very hard time seeing myself as a Gnostic (even though Jordan seems to feel that I am in some sense) since I’m a Buddhist more than most other things. Jordan told me that the bisop that ordained him and did much of the program work for the JAC had recently returned to his Buddhist roots. He then said “Oh, and he has a podcast too” and pointed me towards it. I added it to my list in itunes and promptly forgot about it for a while with my dad’s death, school, etc.
Recently, I started listening to the podcast and reading the background of the guy who does it. I’d forgotten how I’d found it since I look for Buddhist podcasts on the itunes music store from time to time. I thought to myself, “this guy seems to know what he’s doing and he’s also a longterm kagyu ngakpa practitioner in addition to being a mikkyo buddhist.” He runs a local, small kagyu group as well.
For those that don’t know, vajrayana has existed in Japan for 1,200 years but it is a certain cross-section of the tantric vehicles. For example, they have generation stage deity yoga but not completion stage and they don’t have atiyoga (dzogchen).
This guy seemed to really speak to the experience of a Westerner dealing with integrating a tradition from another culture into the U.S. I then had the realization that this was the guy that Jordan had told me about. On looking through his website, I realized that he’s a web designer and he designed a site for an Ogdoadic order that I knew about (the Friary). I realized that this fellow had been on a Western Esoteric e-mail list (a private one) years ago and we’d spoken back then. Wow, small f’ing world!
I wound up e-mailing him this last weekend and we had a massive series of back and forth discussions about Buddhism, esotericism, practice in the West, etc. This culminated in an hour plus long phone conversation a couple of days ago. We seem to be on the same wavelength on many things and get along well on a personal level. I didn’t feel awkward talking to him about my thoughts, doubts, etc. and he’s a former western esoteric practitioner along with the Tibetan Buddhism so he understands where I’m coming from.
I’ve agreed to affiliate with his group and work with him on mikkyo (specifically Tendai) study and practice. This makes me his student and I’m going out to Ohio in July to take the Tendai lay ordination (Jukai). Because of culturual differences, there are not monks per se in mikkyo practice. There are lay practitioners (who mostly chant and maybe do some sitting meditation) and there are priests. If you do the vajrayana practices, you need to be ordained as a priest even if you are not working with a group and are practicing alone. Priests are householders in this tradition (non-celibate, allowed to work, etc). If I continue through with this (and I expect to), I will probably be ordained as a Tendai priest during the next year at some point.
How’s that grab you? :-)
The group itself is the Cincinnati Blue Lotus Assembly. The teacher is James Foster.
Update: It has been pointed out to me that Jim ordained the bishop who ordained Jordan so he’s his “grandfather” not his “father.” :-)