Celtic Buddhist Monks
"Celtic Buddhist monasticism is inspired and informed by the life of St. Francis, Mother Theresa and St. Brendan, to name a few, and seeks to create a strong religious Buddhist/Christian monastic community. Buddhism will never truly belong to the west until strong monastic communities are present. These communities will become the gathering place for practitioners, offer people the chance to the short and long term retreats and become living examples of what life can be when the focus is not on ourselves." an excerpt from Sister Gryphon's website: www.celticbuddhistmonks.org/
Sister Gryphon was empowered as a lineage holder in July,2011. Sister Gryphon is the Director of Shambhala teachings in the Celtic Buddhist Lineage.
Sister Gryphon trained and lived for 8 years at Zen Mountain Monastery where she took postulant and novice ordination vows. She then lived as a mendicant monk for several years taking various jobs and wandering, visiting other spiritual teachers and centers. In 2009 she met Seonaidh Perks and in 2010 received final monastic ordination vows in the Celtic Buddhist Lineage. Sister Gryphon also holds a degree in veterinary medicine and has trained and practiced holistic and herbal medicine. She has also trained with Tom Brown,Jr. in wilderness skills, living with the Earth, and has completed scout training. She is currently living in the woods of Howland, Maine and is in the process of creating an abbey and training temple there. Sister Gryphon was empowered as a lineage holder and abbess in the Celtic Buddhist tradition in July 2011 by H.H. Seoanaidh Perks. Prior to training with Seonaidh, she trained as a monastic for 8 years at Zen Mt Monastery and has spent time as a mendicant monk wandering and learning from other spiritual teachers including wilderness training with Tom Brown, Jr. Sister Gryphon also holds a degree in veterinary medicine.
Currently, Sister Gryphon lives gently on 40 acres in the wilds of northern Maine and runs the Island Falls Animal Health Clinic. IFAHC is a holistic centered veterinary clinic that is dedicated to manifesting the Dharma through compassion and nongreed. Sister Gryphon refuses no one treatment for lack of ability to pay. Despite her busy schedule, she is always open to guiding others on the dharma path. She may be reached at: email@example.com or at 207-267-5505. The veterinary clinic number is 207-249-8646.
I have been wearing robes for four years now. In the beginning it was those Gelupka clothes and colors which everyone seemed to know. When I started wearing blue for the ocean of wisdom and yellow for the Great Eastern Sun some people wondered if I was wearing a dress, universal bano opportunity clothing I guess. I was fortunate of being present in places where people got to know me beyond the uniform and it gave me the opportunity to talk about CB, Trungpa, Yeshe and compassionate calling so it became less of a "thing". The acceptance of our monastic attire and more importantly our monastic tradition has been the same both on this remote island in a third world country and in the neighborhood of Anadaire Celtic Buddhist Center. I have watched the reaction to our novice monk, Tinley Fechín (Elliot Cole Miller) by his peers and it has been a positive experience for both of us as there is great interest in someone other than an "old monk" following our monastic tradition. If you are ordained in our monastic tradition I feel you should wear your colors as much as possible as it gives the opportunity to open people up to our tradition and our lineage/heritage. Because of the tropical weather here I will also wear secular western clothing but wear the blue/yellow/saffron colors as it both identifies us and affirms our place on the CB Sangha. The short term ordination of Tinley has been an interesting experiment for me and I believe it is in the tradition of "rains retreat" ordination that has been common for many young men in the Theravada tradition. I look forward to the expansion of the monastic order in our tradition and I am dedicated to assisting any who wish to take the leap. As always I am grateful for and guided by the teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and the love from and for my teacher Yeshe Tungpa. A deep bow of gratitude for the opportunity to be part of this conversation. Bless you all, Lama...
Lama Tenzin Roisin Dubh (Doug “Ten” Rose to his readers) had fun attending eight different colleges and universities. The on-paper results were a degree in Comparative Religion and Ministerial ordination from the American College of Metaphysical Theology in Golden Valley, Minnesota, and TESOL Certification from the School For International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont.
Tenzin has also studied for several decades with many Tibetan Lamas, most of them of the Drikung Kagyu tradition.
Profits from his two books, Fearless Puppy on American Road and Reincarnation Through Common Sense, are donated to support an increase in the number of Wisdom Teachers on Earth (beginning with but not exclusive to Buddhist Nuns and Monks), and to other Dharma causes. Project details, newspaper articles about previous projects, interviews, etc. can be found at www.fearlesspuppy.info
Ten has spent 13 years working for each of two environmental groups (Greenpeace and the Citizen’s Awareness Network) and over 30 years as a hitchhiking yogi. He often describes himself as “the luckiest homeless person who ever lived.” The projects he invented and worked previous to the current Fearless Puppy effort to support wisdom teachers have included, among several others, a Massachusetts for Africa Project. This raised funds for famine relief and included the participation of the Celtics, Patriots, governor, both senators, and rock stars as well as the statewide participation of many businesses, public schools, and trade unions in Massachusetts. Among other efforts were a year-long fundraiser for an orphanage in Mexico, and a live-in-the-streets awareness raiser for homelessness that included keeping a reporter sleeping on the streets of Boston with him for several days.
He describes his half year living under very unusual circumstances in a Buddhist Temple in Thailand as one of his major influences. Ten was not studying Buddhism there. He was treating severe mental and substance abuse problems. He was spiritually adopted by the Monks and Nuns, and told by them (through a translating friend), “Remember! You are family here. Do with us what Buddhist stuff you would like to do, or none at all. Your only job is to make yourself comfortable.” The episode is described at length in the book Reincarnation Through Common Sense, which can be summed up very well, as can Ten himself, in this page from the book.
The Cherry on Top of the Fruitcake
Many tourists act a little wilder while on vacation in a foreign country than they do at home. This is even more pronounced here in Thailand where there are so very many opportunities to do the wild-and-crazy.
The locals around here are usually very tolerant of tourist behavior, but they talk about you. This is true anywhere. It doesn’t matter whether you are in Thailand, Brooklyn, or at the North Pole. If you are a little different, at least a few of the locals are going to bust your chops—especially if you’re from out of town. Gossip of this type can happen whether you are wild and crazy or not. There may also be some finger pointing and giggling. Most of the finger pointing is just good-natured amazement, especially in a place like rural Southeast Asia where the locals find a zoom lens camera about as miraculous as we would find a working intergalactic starship with transporter beam. Mild shock and innocent confusion about foreign customs, or bafflement with advanced technologies, is harmless.
But those are not the topics here. The topics here are staying in your own canoe, and letting bad stuff that flies in one ear fly as quickly out the other. These can be support beams for perseverance in the face of adversity, insult, or even danger.
In spite of heavy competition from my fellow travelers for the position as cherry on top of the international fruitcake, I have become known in southern Thailand as “THE Crazy Alien.” None of my fellow non-locals have earned the title “Duongdao” ("From Outer Space”). Those foreigners who get any special attention from the locals are simply drunk and bizarre. The natives expect this. But when the locals see an American person who is a bit older, they suppose that he is like the Americans they see on TV.
So when they look at me, they see something that falls very far away from their usual frames of reference. Here is a person they cannot explain. He is not at all “normal.” He is living in a Buddhist Temple on a foreign continent without studying Buddhism. He cannot even communicate in or understand the native language, is surrounded by people who don’t speak his language, has no money at all, and no home to get to as well as no way to get home. He is writing a book about a culture and religion that he is slowly learning very little about. When the book is finished, he plans to get back to America–somehow, and with absolutely no business connections and no related experience at all, sell novice writing for lots of money. He will then give all the money away to build combination educational and spiritual resorts that are entertaining destinations for guests. The purpose of these resorts will be to perpetually return profits that will be used to fund an increase in the number of Wisdom Professionals in the world, beginning with the sponsorship of resources for Buddhist Nuns and Monks. The purpose of that is to help alleviate suffering in human beings, and in all other living creatures affected by human beings, to the greatest degree possible. The theory is that more wisdom equals less damage.
His long-term goal is to build enough of these resorts through which he can gain enough profits to make it financially possible to increase the total number of Wisdom Professionals in the world by one percent. Logic dictates that his odds of success may be roughly the same as the odds of one person winning a multi-million dollar lottery jackpot prize twice in the same week.
The Head Monk (who is also the Head Teacher and most respected member of this community) has given all the compassion of Mother Teresa to the foreign lunatic including hospitality and privileges usually afforded only to Monks. The foreigner works at his writing while tucked away in his isolated cabin with the intensity and introspection of a lone Monk, stopping only now and then to completely fall very far off the other end of life’s pendulum by mysteriously acquiring massive expense-free doses of alcohol, ganja, and lodging at fancy tourist places along the beach. Even the folks living and working in that resort town, miles away from their village and Temple, are not used to seeing behavior like this—not even from the most certifiably loony and highly medicated tourists. I must seem even more bizarre to those of my neighbors who have rarely been out of this hundred-resident, isolated hamlet and have never seen those tourists. It is very lucky for me that Thai folks respect crazy more than Americans do!
Once in a while I wonder exactly what they think of me—but not often. Every moment spent thinking about what other people are thinking about me is a moment I’m not thinking about what I actually need to be thinking about. It would suck to be on my deathbed and have to watch someone else’s life flash before my eyes. A life steered by concern for what other people think of it is a life un-lived. I don’t have the time to worry and wonder if other people think I’m strange. I have books to write and Wisdom Teachers to sponsor.
But I do have a sense of logic. It is easy to see how what I’m doing might look strange to others, and just as easy to understand why some folks might think me a lunatic. Maybe I am one.
But if you are reading this, maybe I’m not.
Tinley Fechin also known as Elliot Miller
Grew up in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. I am an Artist exploring Modern Abstract Urban Expressionism. Studied art history and aesthetics under Nick Vukmanovich. I wandered for years where I crossed paths with Lama Naomh Tomas at a wedding in Turks and Caicos. I was at the height of self indulgence and sought some sort of change.
What brought me to Celtic Buddhism was meeting Lama. After the wedding, Lama gave me the offer to come to Bocas Del Toro to study Buddhism and work alongside him if I could prove sobriety and commitment to the practice for 3 months before traveling. During that 3 month clean Lama jokingly said "don't worry, I won't turn you into a monk or anything", but that didn't last long because Yeshe recommended Lama to Ordain me.
Now ordained, there is a visible change in my daily perspective, as well as my peers' perspective. Whether I have known them for years or are just meeting them, people are generally curious as to what brought me to being a Buddhist monk, to Bocas, and how I could possibly handle my vows as a 25 year old on this island of desire. So I talk about my years of donating my memory, having no true path, how I wasn't happy, and so committing to my vows for 3 months is very much worth it to figure out happiness. I have found that the friends I've made are able to step away from certain troubles and indulgences when they talk with me, which is all I could ask for.
After my 3 month ordination I will be traveling to Europe, starting in Scotland. Scotland has continued to pop up in dreams, conversations with family, during meditation, and now my sister will be at the University of Glasgow. So I am going to listen to those signs and move there to continue my practice, with Art and Service. As Henry Thoreau said " the definition of Art, is that which affects the quality of the day" and I will go to focus on that affectation.