Insect Sangha

If you’ve been around Buddhist centers for a while you probably have heard of dharma names. The idea in times past was that a person who became a monk/nun left home and let go of their old life and family. Part of that process was shaving the head bare and part of it was receiving a new name. Generally the teacher gave the student a name reflecting something in their character that they were facing. For example, Sensei’s names Koun and Subhuti are his dharma names in the Soto Zen and Theravada traditions respectively. Koun means “drifting cloud”, and truly at that young age in Japan he was a drifting cloud…from the southern islands to the northern wilderness he wandered. Subhuti is a historical name — one of Buddha’s ten disciples who was particularly strong with lovingkindness.

So Sensei started giving out insect dharma names, and I’m sure there is a story behind each one; perhaps a funny story or perhaps a very personal story. He told us that Nature is the message. That all the words and conversations we experience are just reifications of the truth. The truth of experience-of-nature-itself. Nature in the wilderness, nature in daily life, nature deep inside each of us. Nature is everything. Nature is this moment. He explained that every part of nature conveys this message, even insects! and so we became “message bearers” with insect names. Expressing our nature in every moment.

“Then what is your insect name, Sensei?”
“I am Scorpion, or maybe Gokuraku-tonbo (Paradise Dragonfly).”

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