Some of the early results of the daojin program remain hard to identify clearly, like new threads in a web that give it more flexibility and strength but are barely visible. The ways in which the program is affecting the sangha at large may only become clear over time. In the short term, daojin have helped to fill the inevitable gaps that open up when non-monastic residents return to lay life, easing the demands on the monastic staff to maintain the Monastery and the Temple. In has also encouraged long-term lay students to recognize the value of their work contributions, whether as formal daojin or not, in the spirit of service to the community.

Projects which daojin have taken up during our work/service commitments include: managing correspondence for the National Buddhist Prison Sangha and the volunteers who are involved in the program; organizing an ongoing compost program for Fire Lotus Temple which now supplies city gardens as well as the expanded Monastery gardens; developing the flower gardens and the Zen gardens on the Monastery grounds; producing an audio compilation of Daido Roshi’s discourses on Master Dogen’s Three Hundred Koan Shobogenzo; completing much-needed carpentry and repair projects; overseeing the firewood supplies for the Monastery; and fundraising for the Sangha House. Daojin have also been involved in extending help and support to local sangha in need beyond what the monastic community can provide.

The time commitment for daojin providing service to the MRO is considerable. Many interested students who have significant family, work or personal commitments have recognized that they cannot make this commitment and have withdrawn from the program until their circumstances change. There are also lay students who are deeply engaged in their commitment to practice but who do not feel drawn to taking formal vows as daojin. Others have realized that they were called to the monastic path instead.

All in all, daojin have found that we receive far more than we feel we are giving, despite giving more than we thought possible. We feel deeply nourished by engaging daojin practice, and this has allowed us to continue even when we’re uncertain whether our life circumstances will allow us to.

For those wondering whether this path is for them, it might be helpful to remember Daido Roshi’s advice that if you want to find out if something works for you, the best way to do that is to step inside and explore how it feels. Your own experience is the best guide

Suzanne Taikyo Gilman has been an MRO student since 1994. She is in the fourth year of the daojin training program and lives in the Catksills.