Glad you could make to the Blogosphere...
I have received numerous requests and suggestions to elaborate on the questions from my Way-Seeing Mind talk on October 3rd. This was a good idea, since I was trying to answer you within the context of my limited Sign Language skills. You can't practice for the spontaneous dialog of the Q&A period.
The first question was:
Why did you delay ordination by not taking ordination with Shasta Abbey? What changed to make you say yes, later on?
A: I described the more strict and ascetic practice that was a part of Shasta, and was trying to state that even though it was that way, the base reason was my interest in Engaged Buddhism. The strict form was secondary, in that I liked it for that part of my life!
Having grown up choosing my own religious paths, there was no one in real authority over me, as a child, telling me what was doctrinally "correct". I did that myself. This gave rise to inquisitiveness with a flavor of personal power, and minimal bias. This was a gift to me as a child, because I would later see my peers fighting for years to overcome the familial and cultural religious bias that was causing so much drag on their quest. For me it was "on me" what I chose to incorporate. The drawback was that a child is not very disciplined.
Shasta was my first Zen Practice place, and was a wonderful 6 years of discipline that I could not get as a child making his own religious decisions. So, even though my peers were fighting for their personal freedom, they had the discipline of being a youth in the religious system.
So, something did change. Externally. "Nothing" changed for what was driving me! I was still on my path. Externally, I was now better equipped to investigate Engaged Buddhism. But I do Shasta a disservice if I do not state that they too, embrace Engaged Buddhism. It comes down to how you define it, and how you integrate it into the practice form of a given lineage.
So, I would have to say I fell in love with the incredible harmony between Zen Center, the student, the teacher, and the larger sangha - all working to tease out an ideal path for the student. It's a fascinating thing to watch the incredible diversity of each student. What I really found most rare and impressive was Zen Center's refusal to mold people into an ideal Zennie. No, it more closely resembles carving wood in a way that the final shape is determined solely by the sculptor, but is heavily influenced by the grain and knots in the wood.
Gee that was a bit of writing... what say I tackle the next question tomorrow? I think the question about religion would follow this one nicely...