This is my definition of a dharma bum:

Dharma: truth, virtue, sacred duty.  Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH) says “dharma is our conscious breath.” Dharma (when capitalized) means the collective teaching of the Buddha. In lower case it means the “way things are.”  Living your dharma means doing the greatest good you can at all times and embracing the essence of who you are in each moment.

Bum: a traveler who devotes a great deal of time to a specified activity with no attachment to a particular outcome. Outcome is what happens while enjoying the journey. “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” TNH

Dharma Bum: A public expression of one’s commitment to live a compassionate, contemplative and creative life (aka a “holy fool”).

A Dharma Bum Declaration:

1. I commit to finding moments each day for silence and solitude, to make time for the exploration of the interior world to balance and harmonize with the exterior world.

2. I commit to daily acts of kindness by welcoming the stranger both without and within. I recognize that when I authentically smile, I cultivate compassion and the ability to accept what is similar and different in myself and others.

3. I commit to cultivating community by finding kindred spirits along the path, spiritual friends with whom I can share my deepest longings, and mentors who can offer guidance and wisdom for the journey.

4. I commit to cultivating awareness of my kinship with creation, or as TNH says “interbeing” and a healthy asceticism by discerning my use of energy and things, letting go of what does not help nature to flourish.

5. I commit to bringing myself fully present to the work I do, whether paid or unpaid, holding a heart of gratitude for the ability to express my gifts in this world in meaningful ways.

6. I commit to rhythms of rest and renewal through the weekly practice of a Lazy Day (TNH) to relax from a culture of busyness that measures my worth by what I do instead of simply appreciating what I am.

7. I commit to a lifetime of ongoing learning and transformation, recognizing that I am always on a journey with both gifts and opportunities for further development.

8. I commit to being a dharma bum, cultivating creative joy and exploring the beauty of the universe and the Love that continuously creates us.

In summary, a dharma bum is someone who aspires to be “refreshingly simple with an unencumbered understanding of existence, an individual who admires and attempts to emulate non-conformity, simplicity, spontaneity, compassion, absurdity and pragmatism; not necessarily in that order!  An eclectic student of universal truth and love.” And I aspire to a life defined by a story “that makes you brave and kind and healthy and happy.”

With appreciation for the inspiration from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, a decent human being Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. for his “religion of Bokononism”, Paul Anka & Frank Sinatra for the song My Way and the Monk Manifesto of the Abbey of the Arts


Thich Nhat Hanh — Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation

Bokononism Analyzed – Cat’s Cradle (weebly.com)

My Way Lyrics

Monk Manifesto (abbeyofthearts.com)

This is me, a holy fool, demonstrating at a socially-distant, pandemic-respectful, anti-oppression witness event in St. Louis, MO the summer of 2020.