Can you rear your children to become Buddhists when they grow up? My immediate answer is probably not. And why? Because the dominant culture (Leitkultur) seems always to have a powerful influence on the minds of our children. And if you analyze this culture it is not too difficult to see how your children will likely end up.
I came from the generation of so-called ‘Traditionalists’ (born 1945 and before), born in the farming town of Stockton, California, noted for its famous asparagus which grew in peat soil that would often fill our sky on windy days during the summer. My dad was born in 1896, and my dear mother was born in 1918. Both of my parents, when they were young, never knew the wonders of electric lights. Life was getting more and more modern for them. It wasn’t that easy, especially, for my dad. Imagine my dad being scared to death when I drove his car faster than 40 mph, “Goddamn it slow down!”
My dad was once a professional boxer who knew Jack Dempsey quite well, in fact, they were friends. He was physically disciplined and what I would call a double alpha male because he had to dominate alpha males. That was a tough job and his countenance showed it.
He never used corporeal punishment on me or my younger sister. For some strange unexplained reason my sister and I just did what we were told. But what security we had. Our dad was a boxer!
My dad demanded the truth from me, also. Once, when around five, I was told to sweep the common driveway between our house and Mr. Brown’s. Well, I didn’t. My dad then came down the back stairs of the house and asked me, “Son, did you sweep the driveway—be careful how you answer.” I hesitated, but courageously responded with, “No I did not daddy.” At that moment my dad got on his knees laughed out loud and said, “Come here.” I did and he hugged and kissed me and told me never to lie. That was a big deal for me and my dad.
During my kindergarten period I was expected to walk eight blocks to my school and eight blocks back rain or shine. Even to this day I can still remember walking this route as a little boy. There were so many wonders along the way.
My life as a boy was a wonderful, happy life. The memories I have are a delight to reflect upon even to this day. Having to grow up and leave this life was the only painful part.
For some unexplained reason, this wonderful time only came back when I discovered Zen in college. It had an amazing appeal to me. But I couldn’t figure out what this Zen satori business was. I wanted to know this satori so I could be of one mind with these crazy Chinese guys. And then, eventually, the saddest event in all my life was when I knew I was too dumb to figure out what the mystery of Zen was about. The Great Doubt had struck me. But then satori came which I describe in this Zennist.
I was overwhelmed with this—how amazing. Then I gradually began to put it all together. I started to see the implications. I grew and matured in this light. After seven years, new and powerful wonders came into my life that allowed me to see just how cosmic Buddhism was which I have tried to explain in The Zennist.