It saddens me sometimes to read biographical accounts of individuals who, upon discovering some life changing faith, leave their families in favor of monastic life. I know that some see it as a true calling and may not be leaving very much behind, but having difficulties with personal relationships is sometimes the disease and not just a symptom. Renouncing the world to live some sheltered pseudo life is not the answer.
There have been times in my life where I could see running off and joining the "circus" so to speak, but usually I was in a mostly happy relationship or pursuing other things that would have interfered. It did seem romantic and comforting to know such places existed. Since those times, I've seen what I really would have been missing out on.
That's where the sadness comes in. Just like everyone else, I've had some hard times, especially in interpersonal relationships. Things just seemed so awful that I wanted to give up. Not being a suicide enthusiast, it was going to take some rougher times to get me that extreme, but what is there between normal happy life and just ending it?
If Zen has any sort of analogue to the idea of Evil as opposing its ideals, that would probably be escapism. Every moment of our Zen existence is geared towards living fully in the moment. If you truly seek enlightenment, to see your true nature, then you have to live your life. Good times, bad times, it's your life and no one else can live it. Embrace it with attentiveness and gratitude. You can't just run off to leave your problems behind because they will follow you.
Do I have a problem with monastic life? Absolutely not, I think it can be a beautiful thing when chosen for the right reasons. I see it as a sacrifice for the benefit of others, one pointed devotion to becoming a living resource of wisdom and experience. It takes dedication and determination. I'm not saying it seems easy in comparison to normal life, just different.
To take vows to avoid the hassle of life is a little odd in this way, almost like a criminal becoming a police officer so he'll stop getting busted. They're after their own interest and they're still probably going to get busted. To see the problems of crime and becoming a police officer to reach out to others who were like you and help them, is a different matter.
Monotony is the reward for renouncing the world. Safe and predictable, it makes life easier. But so many opportunities for growth are thrown out with the variety of daily life. Pushing through the ordeals, we are rewarded with a sense of accomplishment.
If my life continues as it is, when the world relieves me of my commitments, monastic life would be a greater choice than golfing in Florida. But I'm still not ready for that. Until then I have family to provide me with meaning, struggles and rewards.
This past weekend was fun and all the reminder of that that I needed. My girlfriend does not share my practice, none of it: cooking, Zen, or Aikido. We're both fine with that. They're all a big part of my life and take a lot of my time, sometimes a little too much. So remember what's really important. Keep things in perspective. Do what I did and take a step back and observe the situation before you don't recognize yourself anymore.