Journeys: Don’t Get All Butt Hurt!

Illustration by Kim Scafuro

by Kiley Jon Clark

The five years I’ve been spreading the dharma among the homeless grew out of hitting rock bottom myself in a dingy apartment in Texas. Hung over after losing yet another battle with the bottle, I headed into San Antonio, intent on staying sober. There, in a used book store, I found a cheap Zen manual, and I couldn’t put it down. That was the start of my journey into building supportive sanghas among the homeless. Some of the folks on the street joined me to talk and practice in parks, alleys, and under bridges, and we started calling ourselves the HMP, for Homeless Meditation Practitioners. Soon we were granted access to two downtown interfaith chapels and attracted some media coverage, including an article in Buddhadharma (Summer 2011). And HMP Street Dharma groups keep on growing even though it’s obvious to me and everyone else that I have no idea what I’m doing. On top of all this, I’m with the love of my life, all our kids seem to be doing fine under one roof, and I’ve got a job at a homeless facility.

But I’ve found that I’m still very much stuck with me.

I get caught up in heated discussions with misinformed Christians who don’t understand our work with the homeless. I angrily defend myself against misinformed Buddhists who don’t understand, either. I’m pissed off when folks don’t answer my emails or at least not in the way I think they should. And many times I’ve been accused of being more compassionate with the homeless than with my own family.

Other times, I lose track of my purpose and act like a self-promoting, self-serving, egotistical ass. All of this from a guy who practices some form of meditation daily, listens to the Dhammapada on CD so much that I know it by rote, reads at least two Buddhist books a month, and gives two to three dharma talks a week.

And this brings me to Charley, my thirteenyear- old daughter. She’s the one who got all the curly, blonde hair when mine fell out. Once I said, “The way you act, Charley, you must have been some kind of princess in a past life.” She replied, “What do you mean, past life? I’m a princess now!” As you can see, self-esteem is not an issue for her.

Charley often sees me getting upset about the dishwasher not being unloaded, the sink being full of dirty dishes, and running around screaming at the kids to get the house cleaned up. She knows I’m just trying to get supper on the stove, get them fed so I can get to what are known in our house as my “precious” emails. So, Charley likes to stop me in my tracks by saying, “Calm down, Dad. Don’t get all butt hurt!”

Now I have no idea what “butt hurt” means, and I really don’t care. But there are three distinct things about it. First, it’s funny. Second, whatever it is, I don’t want to be that. And third, there is no good defense against it. Believe me, I have made myself look ridiculous by arguing for hours about how and why I am not butt hurt.

So here I am, a Ngakpa monk, a student of Buddhism being trained by Tulku Tsori Rinpoche, and an outreach organizer. But where does the best antidote to my manic behavior and temper tantrums come from? A thirteen-year-old girl.

And now it’s become such a part of my vocabulary, that it’s almost my mantra. I find myself even adding it to the Dhammapada. It’ll go something like this: “Look how he abused me and beat me (but don’t get all butt hurt), how he threw me down and robbed me (but don’t get all butt hurt),” and “Look at your own faults, what you have done and left undone (but don’t get all butt hurt).”

When I’m projecting that the reason a Buddhist teacher hasn’t responded to my emails is because “he’s got a problem with me” or I’m stuck on the side of the road with a clutch that’s gone out, or even when I find out that my daughter is pregnant at sixteen, I may not recall one word from the Buddha’s teachings, my lama’s training, or my practice. But I do have this nagging reminder floating around in my head: “To avoid embarrassment, it might be a good thing to not get all butt hurt!” 

Kiley Jon Clark leads meditation groups for the homeless in San Antonio, Texas, through his organization, Homeless Meditation Practitioners’ Street Dharma. He is a student of Lama Tulku Tsori Rinpoche.


  1. Melaney says

    Kiley, you've struggled up the mountain so many times, only to slide back to the bottom. I certainly think you've reached the summit and can finally see everything around you. I'm so proud of you! And you know how much I love you!

  2. Diane says

    Read this article in the magazine, anyone with kids know how much they can teach us if we can only stop long enough to listen. Awesome article, and keep up the good work, I enjoy reading your stories. You are an inspiration on how to live as a buddhist in the modern world.

  3. Michel says

    This article is great! It shows us how we can all stumble around on our 'Path' and yet with a great Teacher such as Tsori Rinpoche, we can pick ourselves up and keep going forward.
    Rinpoche's actions speak loud and clear: be kind, compassionate, be in the moment, always think of others and reach out and help them to be a success. He leads everyone he meets, by example. Rinpoche's tireless efforts to help build the orphanage and monastery in Mainpat India are amazing!
    Thank you Kiley for writing this article and for giving each of us the opportunity to see our own reflection!

  4. Carlos says

    Kiley is the classic example of how the Dharma can serve as the turnaround force in today's complicated world. Tulku Tsori Rinpoche's love and kindness has not only brought Kiley out of rock bottom, but continually nurtures the minds and hearts of all his monks and monks in training in his Tibetan Children's Monastery.
    Tulku Tsori Rinpoche has the power to transform American distressed souls into adamant spokespersons of the Dharma and to transform orphan children into monks.
    His legacy is already making the world a better place.

  5. Deepa Prakash says

    At the outset dear Kiley, you are a Bodhisattva whom the entire world needs. Thank you for being alive, for doing what you do and being such a wonderful person.

    Tulku Tsori Rinpoche is a the ultimate Jedi Knight. There is this thing he does, he realigns our paths towards dharma with just loving words, his kind heart and his infectious laughter. His unilateral compassion, care and love helps so many people; I think we are all just so blessed to be under his umbrella of care.

    Often in my tradition at home, we hear "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam"; I've heard it being chanted a million ways and the only person I saw living it as an example is Tulku Tsori.

    Live long and prosper my dear Kiley, may the Force be with you 🙂

    Best wishes, loves and hugs from India,


  6. Katherine says

    Tulku Tsori took on quite a challenge when he agreed to be Kiley's teacher! But look at the amazing results: a sweet, humble article by true spiritual warrior. Thank you Tulku Tsori and thank you,my dear friend Kiley. May your work continue to be of benefit to all beings.


  7. BJ Gallagher says

    Wonderful personal testament to the healing power of a spiritual path. Loved it!

  8. Della Severtson says

    The first and only time I met Kiley was when my Lama and beloved Rinpoche said to me "Della, I must go to San Antonio to see my student". How does one refuse their teacher? You don't. So, off we went from Lubbock, TX to San Antonio. It was a wonderful adventure with Rinpoche and his father Lama Samteng. Kiley was and continues to be gracious, loyal, dilligent and one of the most compassionate beings I have ever met. Thank you Kiley, you are in my heart. I am so blessed to have been in your presence. Tulku Tsori Rinpoche is the embodiment of compassion and love for all beings. May each of you have the opportunity to one day sit with him and come to know his beauty and wonderous gifts he gives unconditionally.

  9. Steve McGaw says

    Kyley's honesty is so refreshing! We need more people like him. He has the intestinal fortitude to dive into a desperate situation like the plight of the homeless. He has not averted his eyes from the suffering of people in desperate life circunstances. He has been taught well by his and my spiritual friend Yogi Tsori Rinpoche, who is an inspiration to all.

  10. Rev Ann @ Haven for Hope says

    Haven for Hope would not be Haven for Hope without you, Kiley! What sweetness & compassion, what sense of what is real & in the moment that you bring to us! Your Teacher teaches well – and you teach us well. Namaste, Joy, Love, and Peace continue to fill your heart and life…

  11. Walt Hudson says

    I work with Kiley and the work he does with the homeless here in San Antonio is honest and genuine. He comes from a place of caring for others and not a place of ego or self centeredness. I've known Kiley quite a long time and his compassion for the homeless is in no way contrived. He truly "walks the walk".

    I love this article because it is written in Kiley's authentic voice. It takes a special person to allow their true self to permeate through such work. If you sat down with Kiley, this is what you'd get. In my opinion, such writing is truly rare.

  12. says

    You got it, Kiley! Sobriety, authentic voice, humility, honesty. All principles from which to live a full, present life. It is refreshing to read your voice. Courage pilgrim!