Clowns and Dharma Teachers

Dear Bobbie,

I've just written to the Dharma Teacher Association to ask for a leave of absence as a Dharma Teacher. This is a confusing and difficult step for me.

I have not been practicing (sitting, bowing) for a while now. I'm not being a Dharma Teacher, and I'm not sure what relationship to have to the Zen centers.

My life is full and I feel that I'm meant to live in the world. I also need the Dharma, and love and respect Soen Sa Nim and my friends in the sangha of the Zen centers. I don't know what the balance is or just how to find it. I feel that perhaps I need just to have a freer relationship to the Zen centers.

I would love to hear any thoughts or advice you might have for this confused being.

I hope you and Linc and Annie are all well. When will you be out here again?

I am going to school in Theology (!?) and the Arts, and my art is clowning. The main reason for the theology part is that I get a PhD, but I also want to integrate my spirituality with my clowning.

I am also in love and feel that I've found a real and good mate.

Please do write! I hope you're not too busy. Please give my love to everyone.



Dear Jeanne,

Thanks for writing. I'm glad that you are happy and feeling fulfilled with your mate and your schooling. I'm also pleased that you wrote to me and trusted me enough to ask such a meaningful question.

You said that your life is full and you feel that you're meant to live in the world. Then you said you also need the Dharma, love and respect Soen Sa Nim and your friends in the sangha of the Zen centers.

I have some questions for you. I know you want me to ask them, or else you never would have written to me, knowing what a crusty and dyed-in-the-wool Dharma Teacher I am.

What is most important? What is the purpose of your life? Is living in the world and teaching about the Dharma the same or different?

What is a perfect clown? A low class clown can only make people who are already happy laugh. A middle class clown can make people who are sad laugh. A high class clown can teach all people how to make each other laugh.

A high class Dharma Teacher can be a high class clown. A high class clown is already a high class Dharma Teacher.

I feel that Soen Sa Nim has given me the most precious gift that can be given - so I feel a tremendous obligation to him and to his School. Not an obligation formed from "shoulds" or guilt. But a very deep heart-felt obligation to support and try to transmit the teaching that he is so generously giving to me. So that is where I am being a "Dharma Teacher." I pay my dues and try to keep my practice (life) alive without feeling any distinction between Zen centers, Dharma teaching, and "living in the world."

So I guess I feel that nothing is free - especially my teacher's teaching. Paying for that teaching in some clear way is very important. To me, the best payment is making my relationship to the Three Jewels as clear as I can.

So being or not being a Dharma Teacher isn't important. Being anything isn't important. What is important is having a big question -"What am I?" and "going straight - don't know." Then your mind will become clear and a high class clown following a compassionate heart will appear.

I hope you always keep a big question and try your hardest to understand.

Much love,

Bobby Rhodes

? The Kwan Um School of Zen