Billy Meegan dropped by today. I had never heard of or met him before, but he was in Northampton as he deposited his son at the nearby University of Massachusetts campus and was snooping the Buddhist landscape. My name popped up on his machine, he called and the upshot was an hour or so of pleasant conversation.
Meegan looked to be in his late 50's or early 60's and is a homebuilder on Martha's Vinyard, an island off Cape Cod and a watering hole for the well-heeled. Meegan was wiry and fit. He has a small group of Zen students and hopes to implant a version of Robert Aitken's Diamond Sangha (Hawai'i) on the East Coast... something devoted to lay people rather than the stylizations of monastic life. He quoted Aitken as saying that monastic life was a non-starter in the U.S.
The two of us knew some of the same people or knew their names, so the conversation was easy enough to maintain: Aitken, Maurine Stewart, Sherry and Lou Nordstrom, Eido Shimano, Daido Loori, Trungpa Rinpoche, Kyudo Nakagawa ... names out of a past in which each of us, in different ways, had pursued a spiritual adventure. Meegan's wife and kids could give two hoots and a holler about Buddhism and the same is pretty much the same in my house.
So we chatted and visited the zendo and gossiped a little about Zen Studies Society and its listing in the winds of Eido Shimano's past sexual and financial depredations.
As I say, it was pleasant enough and I certainly wish Meegan well, but the whole delightfully unexpected get-together felt to me about like a tofu-burger trying to be a Big Mac. Zen practice is so important to people who think it is important, but ... well ... where's the beef? Do it, don't do it, love it, don't love it ... I just couldn't quite find the flavor and savor of a big, greasy, artery-clogging, and scrumptious fast-food burger.
It was a good lesson for me and I certainly was grateful that such a teacher should appear.
Now ... about that Big Mac....