Made it official: I am now a Buddhist. Not just philosophically, but with a teacher, and a lineage, and a dharma name, and everything.
John Cloud Gate Stoner. I asked for an English dharma name, just because I like the idea of participating in the larger encounter of Buddhism with the West, and I thought it would be appropriately symbolic. As Buddhism has moved from India, to China, to Japan, and other places, it has changed those cultures, and in turn been changed.
That’s what makes being a Buddhist now so exciting: the substance of that process is working itself out in this moment in the West. We are seeing new ideas emerge, spiritual innovations like Big Mind, the integral stuff, and so forth.
That’s not the whole reason I did it, but it’s one reason. Mostly I just wanted to put myself on a path of spiritual mastery in a committed way.
When I got home from the ceremony, one of my neighbors said he would have to start calling me ‘Bean.’ Cloud Gate is also the official name of ‘The Bean,‘ the sculpture in Millennium Park here in Chicago. We had a good laugh.
When he gave me the name, my teacher did not have that in mind. In the ceremony, called jukai, he spoke at length on the significance of the name. My memory is not clear, but here’s how I’d say it:
In Zen, clouds are symbolic of reality, or manifestation. They are boundaryless: it’s hard to say where they begin and end. They arise as a result of unseen processes. And they lack solidity; there is nothing to cling to in a cloud. So the world is.
Gates are also symbolic of awakening, or a choice to awaken. In the bodhisattva vow, we say ‘Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to open them.’ So at every moment we are faced with the choice to open the gate or not, and in taking the Bodhisattva Vow I am committed to opening it at every moment.
So a cloud gate would be a gate of formless form, leading continually into awakening. Well, that’s about the best I can do with it now. Perhaps Joshin will post to the comments.