We are pleased to post this series of articles written by our Sub-Prior, Shi Yao-Xin, on his experience of becoming a parent from a Zen’s priest perspective. Not all Zen monks are celibate either in the East or the West. This series is originally being published on the “Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun” website. The link is http://zatma.org/new-wp/?p=374. We are pleased to acknowledge their permission to use it on ours. Yao-Xin shares with us his memories, guts, and imagination as he learns what it means to balance the responsibilities of becoming a father with those of a Zen Priest.
A Father’s Birth
Part One : Grand-daddy owns a “Taverna” By: Shi Yao-Xin
The title may seem pedantic, and the subtitle a bit over-reaching; but my series will give you, I hope, a Zen look at giving birth and facing death in a very short life. Maybe these are just my views on “being and non-being” as seen through the astonishing image of giving birth from the “nothing important” act of just having sex.
It won’t be anything earth-shaking. I’ll try to present a series of small articles on moments shared with my wife and first boy.
This introduction will be a small episode in itself. It was inspired by an event I had in the Greek island of Crete in July 2014 when my wife was seven and a half months pregnant.
She puts more wood on the fire, and he serves me another glass of his home-made wine. “Kallo Krassi” (“the wine is good,” one the few things I know in Greek), I answered. Our hosts were the humble owners of a beautiful “Taverna,” a typical kind of cafe in the Cretan village of Rustika.
My wife and I chose the place for two reasons, first, it was recommended, second, it was the only one we could find. We were told the villages in the area were not that beautiful, but that the mountains were charming and very accessible. It looked fine to us. We didn’t want to spend our holiday in this part of the Mediterranean lying on beaches or sitting in night clubs.
No, we wanted to go high in the hills and visit monasteries and holy places. The atmosphere of Orthodox Easter coming a few days later was in the air, and in this very religious, spiritual region, we were absorbed into the atmosphere. Although it was late in her pregnancy, my wife was full of energy and looked forward to driving through the mountains to stop at holy places in our tiny rented car that seemed easily able to drive us anywhere. But this was, after all, our first baby, and despite the energy and the enthusiasm we felt visiting mountainous holy places, we both felt an increasing anxiety about the coming birth. Especially me. It’s scary when you know how many things can go wrong.
When we first entered the Taverna, a bearded old man was setting a fire in a big fireplace and his wife was cleaning tables. As the sun was setting, the place had a reddish and gold glow that made it feel cozy and friendly… and it was quite empty. We sat down and quickly understood that there was no menu and that couple’s English language skills were limited. But their words were said with simple and open smiling faces and we had no problems communicating. Continue reading