Together Under One Roof: Making a Home of the Buddha’s Household
(Wisdom Publications, 2008, 288 pp., $16.95 paper)
Bad Dog! A Memoir of Love, Beauty, and Redemption in Dark Places
(Wisdom Publications, 2005, 288 pp., $15.95 paper)
I’ve been listening to myself telling friends and colleagues about the Zen teacher Lin Jensen—I read his book Together Under One Roof: Making a Home of the Buddha’s Household before its publication last year, and I’ve just finished Bad Dog! A Memoir of Love, Beauty, and Redemption in Dark Places—and I sound like an adolescent schoolgirl describing a crush. “I love Lin Jensen!” I keep saying. What I mean is that I not only admire his writing skill and find him a brilliant storyteller but also am stunned by the simplicity of his wisdom, which seems to erase all the complications in any situation. And he is incredibly, resolutely kind. We’ve never met, but already he is dear to me. I experience his writing as an act of kindness.
Bad Dog! begins with a description of a whipping that Jensen and his younger brother received from their father—a punishment for some offense, clearly one of many such events. The next chapters add other examples of a harsh and difficult childhood. And yet he begins his account of who his parents were, and where they came from, with the sentence “Neither of them had ever lived in a functional household under the care and guidance of their own parents, and so they had no model for what they were setting out to do.” It’s an explanation, not a justification. Nothing needs to be justified. Things happen because of causes; resentment is extra. As he writes at the end of the book, “What redeems life is kindness, the simple offering of consideration for others.”
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