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Buddhist Monk Cycles Across the US to Pursue the Spirit of America


Update, 27 November 2019: Since filing this report, Buddhistdoor Global has learned that Gregory Filson has decided not to continue his journey for the time being after encountering mechanical problems. Filson states:

I regret to say that the ride is over. The bike has survived close to 10,000 miles, but mechanical failures (specifically the wheels) and the rapid approach of winter have put an end to this effort. The upside is that I have had the unexpected opportunity to take shelter with my relatives. Fear not!! The Monk will ride again!!

Zen Buddhist monk Gregory Filson is riding across the United States in a combined effort to connect with the land of his birth and to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease. The monk took off on 10 September from the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC, and his journey is predicted to come to a close in San Francisco. He has so far traveled as far as  Springfield, Illinois, where he is staying with relatives while he manages equipment issues and considers his next moves.

It marks the second cross-country bicycle journey the monk has embarked on. “Last year, I rode from San Francisco to Washington, DC, via the famous Route 50,” Filson told Buddhistdoor Global. “I had a lot of time to work through my feelings as I crossed the high desert through Nevada and Utah, over the Rocky Mountains via Trail Ridge Road, and on through the Heartland to the steps of the US Capitol Reflecting Pool.”

Having recently lost his father to Alzheimer’s disease, Filson decided to complete the journey he had begun the previous year, naming his endeavor “Completing the Circle.” Part of his aim is to raise awareness for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. He is taking a southern route across the country and plans to cycle from Illinois through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California.


“I’ve been an avid cyclist for more than four decades; my father having given me a road bike on my 13th birthday,” said Filson, sharing that his grandfather is the late Floyd V. Filson (1896–1980), author of several books and essays, including God in the Eternal Present. “The concept of ‘eternal present’ is very much in line with Zen Buddhist thought,” the monk explained. Having ordained as a Soto Zen monk in 2010, Filson currently lives in Joman-ji, a temple in Tokushima, Japan.

“During the years after my ordainment, I struggled to find the so-called Zen path, but managed to put a foot on it at Gotanjo-ji temple in Fukui Prefecture, Japan. My feeling that it is not enough for monks to simply isolate themselves in remote temples—though this is the most efficacious path in the early days of training—in conjunction with my decades of cycling, led me to the idea of ‘Monk on a Bike.’”

“I came out here to pursue the spirit of America, to see and feel how people are living their lives, and to get a sense of how the country of my birth has changed . . . and remained the same. For me, as a monk, this is very important, in terms of aligning my spiritual trajectory with ‘everyday people,’ whose lives, though removed by thousands of miles, are nonetheless part of my practice.”


Regular updates and pictures of Filson’s journey can be found on his Facebook page, Monk on a Bike. In order to carry out his endeavor to the end, he has also set up a GoFundMe page. While donations do not go directly to the Alzheimer’s Foundation, they help fund the monk’s Alzheimer’s and Zen outreach campaign, which he hopes will be a source of inspiration to others.

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Monk on a Bike (Facebook)

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