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Buddhadharma : Summer 2017
60 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2 0 1 7 a certain convention, or act appropriately for group norms that often are not explicitly articulated. Failing to accomplish these things has usually rein- forced the narrative that I am unworthy. This is not to say that living an ordained life was easy. I remember getting dressed in monastic robes as one of the most difficult initial challenges that I encountered in my ordination. On other monastics, the robes seemed to drape in a natural visual flow, cascading elegantly from shoulder to heel. On me, it was as if I had wedged my body into some kind of complicated architectural construction made out of fabric. I was both unsuccessful, at least at first, in managing to arrange all the folds as they should be and compulsive in my attempts to get it correct. Not having a steam iron, every night I would paper clip the folds of my robes together so they would stay in place when I put them on in the morning; it sometimes took me an hour to dress in the early hours before sunrise. In one of my overly vigor- ous attempts to keep the robes properly aligned, I tied my waistband so tightly that the friction of the bound cloth gave me a serious blister on my back. During those first weeks after my ordination, other monks—whether or not I had met them, whether or not they were senior to me, and whether or not they were my teachers—would walk up to me without so much as a greeting and simply adjust my robes. I didn’t feel any particular sense of judg- ment from them; many times, they didn’t even make any comment. Rather than feeling judged about having done something poorly, I felt like the other monastics were lending me their support so I could look like an experienced monastic and be the best monastic I could be. It felt like an affectionate ges- ture, like your mom stopping you as a kid before you dashed out the door to straighten your hair or adjust your collar. It felt intimate. We were sup- porting each other—communicating that we could mutually depend on one another. By the end of my time in Thailand, I felt it one of the highest compli- ments when a Thai lay practitioner in a community ceremony commented to my teacher that I “wore my robes well.” That sense of community grew deeper and more expansive for me in the relationship between the monastic community and the lay practitioner com- munity in the village. As with many religious orders, monastics in Southeast Asia provide lay communi- ties with spiritual guidance, teachings, and role models; in return, the lay communities completely support the monastic communities in material ways. The Buddha structured the sangha in such a way that monastic and lay Buddhist communities func- tion interdependently. As he says in a Pali scripture called Itivuttaka, “Householders and the homeless [monastics] in mutual dependence both reach the true dhamma.” Every morning after the predawn chanting, we would engage in the practice of alms rounds, collect- ing the food we would eat for that day. The monas- tics walk with their eyes looking down to the ground lARRY YAnG is a member of the spirit Rock Teachers Council and a core teacher at the east Bay Meditation Center in oakland, California. This article is adapted from his new book, Awakening Together: The Spiritual Practice of Inclusivity and Community, forthcoming from Wisdom in october and available for preorder at wisdompubs.org. Many of our Western dharma communities, largely focused on European American values, have yet to examine how the dharma has been changed in its transmission from interdependent cultures to independent cultures. kathleenharrison