My name is Carl Abbott, born in Arizona in 1943. I never really felt connected to the mainstream culture (music, sports, dating, etc.) around me during my childhood, which was in all respect otherwise normal. The Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 60’s was a major turning point that changed my destiny. I was plugging away at night college and working full time at an electronics firm when I was called up. My National Guard unit was to be sent to Germany (It was said that the National Guard was ‘cannon fodder’). I had to drop out of college and ‘pack my bags’. When the situation cooled the mission was called off and I was left without a ‘vacation’ to Germany or my college. My life was up in the air; I just had to go somewhere. Older friends at work talked up Australia as the great place, and so I emigrated there at age 19.
Soon though I was drawn to Asia where I spent most of the next 15 years wandering, working and wondering, i.e., growing up. (See sketchy map below.) I actually settled down in Thailand and opened a bakery in the Thai countryside (Yasothon, Thailand). Going broke from eating up all my profits, I went to Vietnam again, this time to work for a year as a surveyor. They fired me for being a little too ‘outside the box’. Just as well, for I felt I needed to go to Japan before making any life-long commitments in Thailand.
I lived in Japan twice during this period, teaching English to support myself. I first went in 1968 to learn Karate. It was at that time that I also began my life-long practice of Tai Chi. As it turns out, Tai Chi became for me like a physical form of blowing Zen. The next time was in 1972, with the intention to continue Karate, but I soon found I wished to ‘return’, so to speak, to yoga — the vigor of Iyengar Yoga to be exact. I stubbled across the shakuhachi while dinning at a friends house, fell in love immediately, and sought out a teacher.
I am indebted to Kawase (Kansuke then, Junsuke III now) for teaching me San Kyoku. I must also thank him and his father, Junsuke II, for all the help they gave me learning Shakuhachi construction. I am grateful to Goro Yamaguchi for giving me a solid foundation in Hon Kyoku.
In 1976 I went on to India again, this time to study yoga at Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune. By the way, I found blowing Zen to be a better form of Pranayama. Then, finally weary of always being ‘the foreigner’ I returned to America to find a comfortable level of anonymity. I settled here in Santa Cruz, married and had a family.
My innate orangutan-like nature along with many years of other-culture experience left me profoundly ecumenical and non-partisan. This turned out to be an asset for understanding the Tao Te Ching. In 1982, I opened the Center for Taoist Thought and Fellowship to provide a church-like place for like-minded—Taoist minded—folks to meet, contemplate the Tao Te Ching, and share how a Taoist world-view relates to their personal life.
The Taoist / Buddhist Connection
The Buddhist view and the Taoist view complement each other. Buddhism is as rational in approach as Taoism is non-logical and mysterious. These two paradigms being complementary, gave rise to Zen (Chán). I find it effective to recognize each contribution separately. This helps make Zen more than the sum of its parts. I take from each what appeals most and make my own Zen. For that turns out to be Buddha’s Four Noble Truths and the Tao Te Ching.