“We may spend much of our time unaware and unenlightened, yet the presence of Truth and God, like a deep and ancient friend, can shape our entire lives. So the inner task becomes how do we make a lasting friendship with the Unities that are larger than us? How do we keep their light in our heart when no stars appear in sight?” — Mark Nepo
These days are the toughest I can remember in a very long time. I remember thinking months ago when COVID19 surfaced, “Dear God, This and Cancer?” “When preoccupied with survival, we become pragmatists, pessimists, and even nihilists. When lost in the gears of existence, we’re always challenged to let in beauty while we’re suffering, to let in love while we’re struggling. What holds everything together, what releases resilience, and what renews us when we’re struggling is relationship. Relationship is the lifeblood of inner health.” Relationship is also the battleground for Enlightenment.
“To Marry One’s Soul, being true to who we are means carrying our spirit like a candle in the center of our darkness. If we are to live without silencing or numbing essential parts of who we are, a vow must be invoked and upheld within oneself.” I regularly must remind my eleven year old daughter, “Never be afraid to ask questions and, always Speak Your Truth.”
You and I are born into a culture of fear, which teaches us early on to be “seen and not heard.” Early on we loose our voice quickly, then proceed to spend a lifetime devotion, at least for some, to find it again and to set it free; In the process waisting what can never be returned to us. That was not the case for me, I resisted, I refused, but not without a price. A price I could not possibly understand at the time but learned quickly, a price to this day, worth paying.
The life of the contemplative for the truly spiritual becomes, “How do we make a lasting friendship with the Unities that are larger than ourselves? How do we keep the light in our heart when no stars appears in sight…Our constant challenge is to accept how life wears away what doesn’t matter until the miracle of life is revealed in everything.”
“The same commitments we pronounce when embarking on a marriage can be understood internally as a devotion to the care of one’s soul: to have and to hold … for better or for worse … in sickness and in health … to love and to cherish, till death do us part. This means staying committed to your inner path. This means not separating from yourself when things get tough or confusing…This means accepting and embracing your faults and limitations. It means loving yourself no matter how others see you. It means cherishing the unchangeable radiance that lives within you, no matter the cuts and bruises along the way. It means binding your life with a solemn pledge to the truth of your soul.”
In his book, “The Book of Soul — 52 Paths to Living What Matters.” Mark Nepo quotes the great Archimedes, “Give me a place to stand on and I will move the Earth.” The quintessential questions of life today as it was during the times of Archimedes remain the same, “What am I standing on, and What am I standing for?” “Stand on turns us back to a time of timeless foundation, to some sense of Source, to all that is larger than us, from which we’re renewed as integral beings.” I have repeatedly emphasized that we live in an integrated reality, an interconnected and interdependent reality and, only when we act as if the opposite were true we personally and globally suffer.
“Standing For leads us into the heart of what we value the ethics by which we live in the world. Standing on gives us a compass. Standing for gives us a direction to stay true, to remain true by following the compass.”
The two perennial questions need to be asked of ourselves more today than ever before and, If we are ever going to create a world of equanimity, justice, and real freedom. They have and remain generations since Archimedes the very foundation of a lasting and sustainable future without which nothing, I repeat, nothing is possible. They are the basis for honest relationships which is the basis for community’s, neighborhoods, cultures, societies, and nations. Until the two fundamental questions are resolved individually and globally, governing “for the people, by the people, and of all the people will not thrive.” You who chose to walk the walk, you who are on the road, must have a code that you live by. Without which we are easily distracted from here to there and back to here again. Driven by an ego which knows only survival and lives in a constant state of fear, sometime minutely subtle at other times profound.
“Life consists in learning to live on one’s own spontaneously freewheeling: to do this one must recognize what is one’s own — be familiar and at home with oneself. This means basically learning who one is, and learning what one has to offer the contemporary world, and then learning how to make that offering.” An offering which benefits the world, which promotes freedom, justice, and benevolent service. Any other offering proves always to be self-serving and rooted in an ego which knows only itself as separate from the rest, and is incapable of seeing other.
Most of our discontentment lies in the fact that most of us have no idea who and what we are. Thomas Merton says to us, “To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.” Here Merton provides the spiritual being a “place to stand,” “something to stand on,” and “something to stand for.”
Imagine if you can a squirrel deciding to live as a fish. It’s not difficult to understand the results, the squirrel would most certainly die. If “Love is the reason for my existence; Love is my true identity; Seflessness my true self; my true character, then at any time I live otherwise, it follows I will suffer and certainly will never find contentment in such a lifestyle.”
The place I stand is “on my own two feet,” “Love is the ground I stand on,” “Loving myself and other is what my life stands and exist for.” This is how “we keep the light in our heart when no stars appears in sight.” Love is the light we bring to the darkened corners of our world and, light our path in order that if we ever are led astray into any one of those corners. And if we were to be, Love is the light which guides us home.
Pine Wind Zen Community exists to be one of those lights in the darkened corners of the world. Pine Wind grounded in Love, Kindness, Compassion, Hospitality, and Benevolent Service exists to serve all who come to her doors or today reach out to her via the internet. Its monks and lay members stand on their own two feet together as witnesses to the possibilities of the Human Heart. Ordinary men and women working to live extraordinary lives in a difficult reality. We are meant for each other, all sentient beings exist for one another. To be there for each other as our motto teaches us:
“Community is the spirit, the guiding light, whereby people come together to fulfill a purpose, to help others fulfill their purpose, and to take care of one another.”
It is my hope and prayer that during these difficult and transitional times that the words of St. Benedict inspire us all to stand, to stand up, and to stand together.
I Love You,
“How important it is to dream together…. By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built Together.” — Pope Francis
“There is a power in each and every one of us that lives by turning to every other one of us, a thrust of the spirit to cherish and care and stand by others, and above all those most in need. It is called love, and its path is to give ever more of itself.”
We all are continuing to make our way through a long dark night, seeing only glimpses of The Light, as we continue toward the eventual dawn, which shines in the darkened corners of our world. These are not celestial bodies as we know them, but rather fellow human beings who dare to dream and whose words and actions invite us to dream together. Paraphrasing His Holiness Pope Francis, “It is only when we dream together that we are able to build together.” And build together we must. For we are in this together and always have been and, we can only rise out of the darkness together if that, “Light On A Shining Hill” is ever to burn brightly for all our fellow human beings here and abroad.
Fundamental to our Way-of-Life, The Monks of Pine Wind, hold to a common belief that, “Community is the Spirit, The Guiding Light.” We exist in a relational reality “called by us universe”. Whenever we forget this reality which guides and sustains life forms throughout the cosmos we suffer. The remnants of our forgetfulness can be found everywhere.
In Community we turn toward “every other one of us,” because we know for a fact that — “We are More Together Than Alone.” In Community we share with every other one of us a “shared purpose” together doing for every other one of us what we would hope would be done for us — “to help every other one of us to fulfill their purpose,” and “To take care of one another.”
I have been a dreamer all of my life. Since the time I was seven years old I dreamed of Love, Spirit, and Community. I have never doubted my dreams once. I have always been convinced that we most certainly are “spiritual beings immersed in a human experience,” to make a difference, which extends outward and fills the entire cosmo.
I believe in an interconnected and interdependent world, I am convinced about it. All the myriad forms are manifestations of Tathagata, Buddha, God, Universe, including you and me. That when we “dream” we cannot dream alone. Our dreams extend beyond me toward “every other one of us,” connecting us to what is seen and what only the heart can see.
We continue to find ourselves today both in the Nation and around the world, in the most difficult of circumstances often leaving us with the experience of feeling separated, apart from other, even alone. These are all to be understood as “delusional manifestations of ego” and not reality. But to see and experience “reality” we must rely on the only means that can see what is real. For as Merton writes, “There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality, for life is maintained and nourished in us by our vital relation with realities outside and above us.”
If we ever expect to rise up out of the ashes of greed, hatred, and indifference which cover society today, we must realize that the only instrument that can effectively and skillfully support us is, “The Heart”.
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Our work (spiritual practice) is to focus on strengthening the weakest of all the energy chakras — “Your weakest chakra is the Fourth Chakra, or Heart Chakra, located in the center of the chest around the heart. This chakra is connected to unconditional love, empathy, compassion, self-love, and acceptance. When the Heart Chakra is imbalanced you may feel apathetic, hopeless, unworthy, and unwilling to forgive.”
The foundation or context for the work at hand is — “There is a power in each and every one of us that lives by turning to every other one of us, a thrust of the spirit to cherish and care and stand by others, and above all those most in need. It is called love, and its path is to give ever more of itself.”
Let me repeat, We exist in a “relational reality,” When we live and behave as if the opposite is real we suffer and our suffering is compounded in the world by our thoughts, words, and actions which promote and support what is not real. Whenever we live and act on what is not real we feel groundless, we feel pulled in multiple directions. Therefore our “healing” process begins by strengthening our “root chakra”.
The root chakra is located at the perineum and extends through your legs and feet. “The foundational energy is what enables us to feel secure and grounded into our birthing experience what it means to be a human being, right at that moment, it’s important to have that foundation because once that is stabilized, that energy is activated within us, then we can go on to the other developmental stages of our lives.”
Meditation and contemplation are two of the three tools we will use to reestablish and sustain our relationship with Reality. Each day we spend essential time in quiet and serene meditation focusing on that area of our bodies which is located at the very base of the spinal-chord, often referred to as the perineum.
Sitting upright yet comfortable, focusing on our breathing, we take a deep breath and imagine directing that breath deep in the perineum and allowing it to settle there. (We continue to follow this technique until we begin to feel,“settled” as in “settled-in”.) Relax there now for a while. The amount of time does not matter as much as the quality of attention you give to not being distracted by thoughts (mental formations) and the “narrative” forever calling you away from yourself.
How do I know my “root chakra” is opening and beginning to balance? You will begin to experience the force of feeling grounded. Choices for example become simpler and essential, not just reactionary and fleeting. Because the root chakra has a direct connection to the earth, your body may begin to feel heavier, as if planted to the ground. There may be the sensation of heat and tingling. Another side effect is sleeping or resting and dreaming come easier, more relaxed and less convoluted.
For many years I have warned students that, “Your ego got you here, but it will not keep you here.” Your feelings, and ideas, and desires brought you to this moment of considering a spiritual path for your life. But the problem with ego is that, “Ego” is fleeting, ever-changing, and easily distracted. Without grounding ourselves, or as I say, “Dropping Anchor” there are no possibilities for cessation and awakening.
“There is a power in each and every one of us that lives by turning to every other one of us…” Dharma, Love, is always moving toward us, we are the ones always walking away from it. Dharma is always calling us toward each other. The Buddha defined the Third Nobel Refuge necessary for cessation from suffering to be The Sangha, The Community. We are relational beings living in a relational reality. Our very existence depends on us, “Turning toward every other one of us…a thrust of the Spirit to cherish and care and stand by others.” As Thomas Merton reminds us, “Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.”
The more we focus on strengthening our “Root Chakra,” grounding ourselves in “Relational Reality,” the Heart Chakra can begin to open and we can begin to experience emotional, mental, and spiritual healing and growth.
When meditating we begin by directing our attention toward the Root Chakra setting our intention to heal and strengthen our groundedness in life and in our relationships with others including the whole of Nature. Try to take a walk as often as possible in the Natural World. Allow it to touch you and to be touched by you.
We need to stop running away, running around, toward every stimulus we are attracted to. We need to recognize that our happiness and our very salvation lies in our relationships with others, especially the Sangha, or that spiritual community we belong to. “We are More Together Than Alone.” The more I ground myself in my spiritual practices, my spiritual relationships, my responsibilities, I will not so easily be distracted and drawn away from what is essential.
Our third tool which strengthens and opens the Heart Chakra becomes evident once we are grounded. Our third tool being, “A thrust of the spirit to cherish and care and stand by others, and above all those most in need. It is called love, and its path is to give ever more of itself.” We need to stop taking other for granted, always assuming they will be there, always assuming they have no needs. If this pandemic has taught us anything it is “we need each other”. If we are ever going to change the future into the world of our dreams, we will not achieve it by, “Battling what we Hate, but only by saving what we Love.”
We begin to open the Heart Chakra by random and spontaneous, as well as planned, committed acts of love for ourselves and for others. Reciting affirmations or mantras which reinforce our worthiness to be loved; forgiving ourselves for our mistakes and shortcomings, accepting our brokenness; being mindful of our speech, the words we use to communicate love, as well as the thoughts we dwell on. Caring for ourselves, our bodies, the home we live in, and anything we have invested time and energy into. We can ask ourselves how do my words and/or actions communicate “I Love You”? And make the necessary changes.
Gratitude is another powerful tool to opening the Heart. Becoming mindful of the negative narrative and how it may be reinforcing the walls around our heart. Being and expressing daily as often as possible our gratitude for what we have, rather than complaining about what we don’t have.
The future and how it will be is entirely up to us. No one is coming to rescue us, we must be a Messiah, a Buddha, a Human-Being, for each other remembering always — “We are indeed, More Together Than Alone.”
I Love You,
A Song of Hope
By Charles Bertram Johnson
Day is at the gate,
I am risen late;
Clouds laze in the air,
Clouds sleep on the grass;
I have song to spare
Till the shadows pass.
Day is at the noon,
No thread of bow or moon;
Rain is in the air,
Drenched and limp the grass;
I have song to spare
Till the shadows pass.
Day is at the close,
Faith no logic knows;
Rain-clouds blur the air,
All the world is dun;
I have song to spare
Till to-morrow’s sun.
Our lives these days for at least the past few centuries but mostly the last year, have become so entangled with the day-to-day challenges we find ourselves willingly or perhaps not so willingly to have to meet. The dictionary defines “Missing the Forest For The Trees” : “to not understand or appreciate a larger situation, problem, etc., because one is considering only a few parts of it.” While having an awareness of the “details” in our daily lives attending to the mundane with full awareness, is part of the spiritual practices, balancing our awareness between the day-to-day challenges and the experience that leaves us with at times and “The Larger Reality” is the heart of the spiritual practices.
When I was diagnosed with cancer in January 2018, my “experience” of myself and my place in the universe shrank almost immediately. Part of my own spiritual work I had ahead of me and continue to have everyday, compounded by the arrival of COVID19, was to learn to “see through” the immediate experience in order see the “View” I had most of my life which kept me connected with “What Really Matters”. I was caught up then and need to be really mindful of it even now with the conundrum of — “Missing the Forest For The Trees”.
While every tree in the forest matters, our work is to learn to balance the time we give to the mundane and that quality of that time and, what I refer to as the “Greater Reality”
What Matters, Really Matters?
Tragedy has a way of waking us up to the answer to the question, “What Matters?” but often time proves inadequate in sustaining our realization. This is where the “spiritual practices” are vital along with, “a code for living” “that you must live by”.
Most of the time when you ask people how they are doing, the first thing they refer to is, “How they are feeling”. While feelings play an important role of our daily living as well as the bodies survival, I personally feel we have elevated there importance in modern society and a culture marked by hyper-individualism to dangerous levels.
When you have cancer you learn that feelings are important to the degree that they help you in knowing what the body needs to protect itself. It is to this degree I feel that, “Personal feelings” are to be understood and acted on skillfully and appropriately. Or like my first primary medical doctor use to always remind me, “Finish the prescription.” As a “general barometer” of “how my life is” they can often prove to be both unreliable and an impediment.
His Holiness The Dalai Lama teaches that, “Pain is inevitable, Suffering is optional.” As a form of matter our bodies like everything else in the Universe are always in flux. When we feel something odd or different then the way we think we should be feeling, we immediately think, “There is something wrong with our lives.” Like a small child running and playing then suddenly tripping and falling scraping the knees and elbows, our mind immediately thinks, “Our world is coming to an end.” When all that is needed is immediately shown to us, which happens to also be “What Matters”. As a child we turned to someone we trusted, perhaps a parent or an older sibling or friend; we reached out, then suddenly the world felt like it was coming back together again.
Connection, matters! More than ever before in my life, these past three years and still counting, battling cancer crystalizes the for me 24/7. Gratitude for another day, not just another day, but a day again to spend with those I love and cherish; my Daughter; my remaining Family; my Fellow Monks and Community, and all the friends and supporters who surround me with their unique perfections and imperfections, which feed and help me heal day-by-day. Some of whom I may never see, yet I know that in a moment of “tripping and falling” they will be there.
Connection or relationship with others is primary for human-beings and spiritual beings. Science again and again presents the evidence of how the power of “Right Relationship,” “Loving Relationships,” “Committed Relationships,” rooted in “Right Intention” and a genuine desire for the happiness and well-being of others, go farther than any medication ever can. And, as my first primary medical doctor reminded me often, take and “Finish the Prescription”.
A skillful life is one of a “Set of Priorities”.
You’ve heard the saying, “If you have you health, you have everything.” That’s about 99.9% correct. It’s alway that tiny subtle percentage which makes the difference. “If you have your health and people to share it with, you have everything.
Take care of your body.
Get plenty of rest.
Exercise when possible.
Expose yourself to as many opportunities to be as helpful as possible.
Laugh a lot.
Don’t underestimate the power of tears. Hopefully they will be happy tears as much as possible.
Say I Love You.
Say I Love You.
Say I Love you.
Never stop saying I love you.
Take nothing for granted.
When you fall, look up, and reach out. NEVER be embarrassed to fall. It’s a gateway to succeeding.
Ask for Help.
Mop the floors.
Cut the carrots.
Be quiet when eating.
You will hear their hearts beating.
La Familia. Whomever they are. All present at the dinner table are family.
Connect with someone, or someone’s, every day.
Make time to be alone and contemplate, meditate, pray.
This is where the ground for both gratitude which leads to strength and a reliable sense of connection is cultivated and nurtured.
What you think, the thought suddenly there, does not matter, not as much as on what thoughts you dwell on. The world you perceive and experience in your body-mind will always be a reflection of what you dwell on. This is why I mentioned earlier that, “Feelings” often prove unreliable and an impediment. Except sometimes…
Always remember the rule, — “Except Sometimes!”
Life is in continual flux, and infinite process, without an end.
Never make any conclusions.
Just Live Your Life, that’s the one in front of you.
Stop running away.
Lend a hand.
Share your heart.
Forget if it’s safe or not. Just do it. A Life Worth Living is One Always Risking.
A Prayer for You
A Golden Day
By Paul Laurence Dunbar
I found you and I lost you,
All on a gleaming day.
The day was filled with sunshine,
And the land was full of May.
A golden bird was singing
Its melody divine,
I found you and I loved you,
And all the world was mine.
I found you and I lost you,
All on a golden day,
But when I dream of you, dear,
It is always brimming May.
I Love You,
In Hebrew the word “Jedi” means “Beloved of God”. What the world needs now is “The Return of The Beloved of God.”
One of the least known interpretations of the term “Beloved by God” refers to “one human beings love for another human being.” What the world needs so much more than anything, “Is love expressed and shared regularly, randomly, unconditionally, with one another.”
Thomas Merton writes, “Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another…You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope….Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”
“Worthy” of what? Of Creation? Of a planet which the Japanese often refer to, to describe our Mother Earth, “The Great Benefactor,” Who withholds her gifts from no one?
During this time of prayer, often offered on high in the form of a petition, there should be only one request, one that is powerful enough to meet all petitions, “Dear Lord help me find where love is needed, where love is the cure for what is needed, and give me the courage to be that planter of the Seed which Created the Universe and sustained it long before we forgotten it…make me a Jedi oh Lord.” As Einstein once said, “…The rest is simply details.”
At the very heart of all Buddhist teachings is that, “Understanding is love’s other name” — that to love another means to fully understand his or her suffering. (“Suffering” may sound rather dramatic, certainly not during these days for so many as well as in history, but in Buddhism it refers to any source of profound dissatisfaction — be it physical or psycho-emotional or spiritual.) “Understanding,” requires both on each individuals part, to be open to “intimacy” and “experience”. How can I understand anything I have no intimate experience of? In “The Kingdom of God,” and in “The Pure-land of Buddhism,” there are no strangers, there can be no strangers, all ARE Children of God, ALL are Buddha’s.
Often in practicing spirituality we make the mistake that practice or training is closing ourselves off to the “dark side,” protecting ourselves; while the opposite is true. Our work is to open our hearts and minds to the “suffering which exists in the world.” To welcome it, to receive it with courage and faith, and with our hearts transform it.
We begin with our own “suffering,” our own “discontentment”. We must stop trying to be what we are not. There are times when I, Seijaku Roshi, am filled with “fear and even worriment”. Having grown up in a family of Sicilians and Germans it has taken many, many years to balance the strong from the weak. I had to learn to “be strong” and when afraid, reach out and ask for what I needed. Most especially it has only been recently, since I was diagnosed with cancer, that I have learned the wondrous, miraculous, infinite power of the words, “I Love You.” What followed was a sense of deep connection with “other” which always lead to the words, “Please, please, take care of yourself.” I now know more than ever that the “interconnectedness” we share is truly “interconnected”. “Other’s” well-being is so essential for my own.
The Buddhist word for love is, “Maitrī (Sanskrit; Pali: mettā) means benevolence, loving-kindness, friendliness, amity, good will, and active interest in others.” We cannot truly love one-another apart from an active interest in other’s happiness and well-being. There are days in which it feels so impossible to consider others suffering while I, feel lonely, painful, and fearful. It is then that, always by some great mystery, someone calls me, someone emails me, they share their suffering, and in that moment my own is resolved, at least for the moment.
I realize that I am speaking of a generations old idea —“Love One another.” Perhaps we keep “speaking about it” because we need to stop speaking about it and consciously and deliberately, with audacity, with courage, and with faith, begin to act on it now, “as if our lives depend on it as well as the life of the Great Benefactor, our Mother Earth.” Because it Does!
We can no longer put off to tomorrow what must be attended to today if there will be a tomorrow for any one of us.
Start with yourself. May your words and actions you think and speak when you are speaking to your lifelong “secret friend,” be benevolent, loving, kind, gentle, always forgiving, friendly, always with good will, and patiently interested. Once you have achieved this for yourself, extend it outward to your spouse or partner, then to your sibling; children; grandchildren, your entire family. The your neighbor and finally the stranger you meet everyday everywhere. Do this deliberately and with commitment every single day and as often as possible throughout the day. You and I know when we put down our “sabers” we can never get enough of it — neither can they!
Let’s make a promise to each other. Let’s promise we will do just this. We can start with one another — “I Love You!” “Please, Please take care of yourself!”
I really Do Love You!
“A Human-Being is part of a Whole called by us Universe…” — Albert Einstein
“May the sound of this bell penetrate deep into the cosmos
Even in the darkest spots
Living beings are able to hear it clearly
So that all suffering in them cease
Understanding comes to their heart
And they transcend the path of sorrow and death.
The universal dharma door is already open
The sound of the rising tide is heard clearly
The miracle happens
A beautiful child appears in the heart of a lotus flower
One single drop of this compassionate water
Is enough to bring back the refreshing spring to our mountains and rivers.
Listening to the bell
I feel the afflictions in me begin to dissolve
My mind calm
My body relaxed
A smile is born on my lips
Following the sound of the bell
My breath brings me back to the safe island of mindfulness
In the garden of my heart
The flowers of peace bloom beautifully.”
I am often asked, “Do you believe in God?” “I do but not the way my words may leave you to believe and, I do not believe what people say about God.”
As a Buddhist I believe there exists realms of consciousness “rarely experienced” larger than this “self I call myself,” this small self which feels, and thinks, has emotions, and concepts and; certainly larger than the mundanities of daily living. A reality or consciousness if you prefer, larger than ourselves — Call it God, Buddha, Dharma, Universe. Whatever name we may choose to, “Point to It,” we are to understand that whatever term we use can be often misleading more than helpful. In my lifetime born into the Catholic faith, I have called It “God,” I have called It by many names. Whatever I call It in the moment has more to do with my “experience,” in the moment than any belief I may or may not have. Dharma is seamless and timeless, boundless, not dependent on either the spoken or written word.
Buddhism teaches us that, our “Ignorance” of this Reality and, that our lifestyles which often expresses itself as something “separated” from this Reality, is the real and true cause of our discontentment and suffering.
Faith (Saddha) in Zen-Buddhism focuses on the “Triple Gem,” that is, “Buddha-Nature; The Dharma (Teachings); and finally, the Community of spiritually developed followers, specifically the Monastic Community or The Saṅgha. The Lay members of the Sangha (The Community of Monks and Nuns) are understood to be part of this “Triple Gem”. The role of the Lay-Community has always been a “supportive” role. Because the layperson may not leave family and home to train day and night, they support the Monks and Nuns to “dedicate” their training and living the Dharma in the world, for the benefit of “all sentient beings”. Therefore, Layperson and Monk or Nun — “Not Two” — we are part of a “Whole” called by many names.
Faith is not meant to be a devotion to any particular person, such as the historical Buddha-Shakyamuni, but exists in relation to Buddhist concepts like — “All beings possess Buddha-Nature, all beings are Buddha.” To personally realize this “Faith” is to realize the “cause” of what the Second Noble Truth calls, “Cessation from Suffering”. To “Realize this Faith,” is to live it. Belief in it alone has no place in Buddhist ideology except to serve as a first step toward “awakening” from the dream of ”separation”. Faith can only be lived and not just believed.
Where there is “Faith,” realized or in the process of being realized, always is followed by “Hope”. Once again we are not to perceive “Hope” as just some sentimental or desperate wish for salvation, but rather a “living” expression or, “context,” for Love, Kindness, Compassion, and Benevolent Service (Charity) to surface.
Hope is the foundation of the Buddhist path. “The Buddha’s teaching is fundamentally hopeful. It affirms that there is a reliable way to release ourselves from suffering, to protect other beings, mitigate harm, and build a better world…Dharma practice or training channels our longing for happiness, harmony, and equity in a skillful way. This begins with ‘Saddha,’ most frequently translated as “Faith” or “Conviction.” Saddha refers to one’s aspiration and confidence in the path. It is the intuitive sense that there is something worthwhile about being alive, that inner freedom is available for each of us.”
Hope and the Path of Loving-kindness, Compassion, and Benevolent Service are — “Not Two”. The fruit of the true path always results in Love. Love for oneself, Love for Life, Love for all sentient beings.
On the Buddhist path “Love” is not just a sentimental or romantic experience or notion; Love manifests itself as “action” as “community”.
“Community is the spirit, the guiding light, whereby people come together to fulfill a purpose,
to help others fulfill their purpose, and to take care of one another.”
Love is and must be the ground for any authentic spiritual life, in a world marked by “hyper-individualism” and which increasingly devalues “loving thy neighbor as thyself”.
Love is always realized as action. Community (Love) is the spirit which underlines and informs all actions, it guides us through the darkest moments of life. The Sangha, the Community, join together to fulfill a “shared purpose” — “Liberating all sentient begins from suffering and its causes.” The Community meets and supports each other to fulfill their individual expressions and talents which informs the actions of the whole toward meeting that, “Shared Purpose”.
Finally and certainly not least of all, The Community comes together to “take care of one another.” Authentic Spirituality is “Relational”. Community does not happen in a vacuum. It is inclusive, it is compassionate, it is by nature benevolent. “This is the true-joy in life,” being called to live one’s life as a “Force in Nature”. Committed toward a vision of an ever evolving reality which is always directing us toward Love; toward acts of Kindness which heal rather than harm; toward Compassion for oneself and others in an existence so often marked by pain and suffering; and toward endless Benevolent Service which benefits, acting with Wisdom and a sense of real necessity.
“Let True Dharma Continue…”
I Love You,
America mourns for the Indian
figure who knelt like a supplicant before dairy,
fatly blessed our milks, our cheeses,
anointed our lands & shores.
The Google tutorials surface—
the “boob trick:” score the box & fold to make
a window for her knees to jut through.
O our butter maiden
brought all the boys to the yard.
Twittersphere so prostrate with grief
petitions are launched for the Dairy Princess:
O our pat O Americana,
O our dab O Disneyesque,
O our dollop O Heritage.
The mourning procession bears witness:
Jolly Green Giant & Chicken of the Sea Mermaid,
Uncle Ben & Aunt Jemimah,
magically delicious leprechaun & Peter Pan—
even the Argo Cornstarch Maiden & Mazola
Margarine “you call it corn, we call it maize”
spokes-Indian raise stalks in solidarity.
Mia, aptly named, our butter girl mascot,
the only Indian woman gone missing
that anyone notices, anyone cares about.
“Distracted from COVID-19, Attention Shifts to MIA Maiden from Land O’Lakes Butter Box”
— Tiffany Midge
I wake up each morning filled with fear that this may be the beginning of my last days here with my Sweetpea, my Sisters and Brothers, and you who honor me, you who are reading this. I weigh myself, “Ah Thank You Pappa, still holding.” I say to myself, “Someday, but not today and not for long while.”
“The mourning procession bears witness,” “I’m not hungry, does this mean something, am I losing my appetite.” “Oh No, there it is.” I make myself a cup of Matcha Tea and take my time to enjoy its flavor and savor its promise, “This is good for you.” Eventually I will make that breakfast and savor it, for it is not just hunger for food, it is hunger for longevity. I remind myself of the mystery, “A thousand years is one day, one-day a thousand years.”
I hear my oncologist words, “As long as you can handle the chemo.” “I can and I will.” I’m not finished here.” “I will see my daughter become a young women, I will see my mission to completion.” “Take that science, you emotionless feelingless — “Shadow of the dark side.” You have no idea what Loving really can do.” I see her smile in the corners of my mind, I hear her voice, “Daddy, will you hold me.” I will see this through, we have, God and I, a mutual agreement that’s older than birth and death itself. I sit before a lifeless statue, a statue of “Infinite Potential”. I have nothing to say, “Just Sitting,” “Gift” more than plenty, whenever I consider “This could be the beginning of my last days.”
There’s a lot of talk these days in homes and streets, in bars and restaurants, in churches and synagogues, and I suspect in Zendo’s too — “How are we going to get through this?” “Will we?” And then, “What’s next?”
“Too many mind’s,” I hear the ancient Zen Masters say. The secret is to know the right question. “Daddy, will you hold me?” Ah yes, there it is. The secret is to have eyes that can see, to notice “What is really missing?” A lot of “ego” these days, smelling of survival – Reason enough! But is it enough? I think not.
We can’t just keep dreaming of a better world, a more inclusive world, a more Loving-kind world, a more Compassionate world. We created the one we’ve got, with its darkness and light, its monsters and heroes; we can, and we must create the one we want. We’ve delayed too long and built our cities and streets, and roads from here to there, over bodies and cemeteries of too many of our family and friends, too many strangers who only wanted to share.
“Faith” Ha! Yeah I hear you — “Love is the most powerful force in the Universe.” Really? Do you really believe that? Someone once said, “If we believed that with as much faith as small as a mustered seed, we could move these damn mountains we keep building between us.” And then there’s the never ending tendency to put it all off, until it gets really bad. Bad enough? 14,041,46 COVID-19 cases as of today. 275,386 deaths. If not now, when?
“Where oh where is love? Does it fall from Skys above? Is it underneath, the willow tree, that I’ve been dreaming of? Where is she, who I close my eyes to see? Will I ever know, the sweet “Hello” that’s meant for only me? Who can say where she may hide? Must I travel far and wide? Till I am beside the someone who, I can mean something to. Where oh Where is Love? (From the Broadway Show – Oliver)
“Oliver” is everywhere, singing the same old tune. In fields and forests; In streets and homes; in bars and restaurants; in statehouses and federal buildings, in schools and in hospitals. “Must I travel far and wide?” No! “Who can say where she/he may hide?” They were never hidden! If you listen inside, and stop chattering outside, you will hear his tune, and you will not be able to help yourself. “Daddy can you hold me?” YES! NOW! ANYTIME YOU ASK? And that will be the beginning of “Creating Heaven on Earth”. And that will be the end of the old-world where no-one saw anyone, or heard anyones voice. Where everyone is familiar and no “Inn is too full” ever again.
Bad Enough? Yet? I think so — “Let’s Begin!”
I Love you,
“Not going, Not Coming
Rooted Deep and Still
Not Reaching Out
Not Reaching In
Just Resting at The Center
A Single Jewel
The Flawless Crystal Drop
In the Blaze of Its Brilliance
The Way Beyond”
— Shih Te —
“I would like to give you something, But what would help?”
— Ikkyu, Fifteenth Century Zen Master —
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion.” Is the “present moment” here — now? Is the “present moment” over there — then? Do we need to go to the mountain? Do we need to go anywhere in particular? Do we need to be here, in this place right where we are?
The True Way is more Mystery than we would like to admit. Left with our own thoughts, “We’d never admit it.” The “Here and Now” is neither a “place” or “time”. It is neither “here” or “there”. If so, and it is so, then what is this “Present Moment, the only time over which we have dominion?”
People say we are living in uncertain times, for most it feels like we are living in uncharted waters. But was there ever a time this was not so? I don’t think so. Zen Master Ikkyu asks, “What would help?” His koan challenges us to enter into The True Way, where life is what it really is — Uncertain and Hopeless. Where “Living Spiritually” is what it truly is — “Not going, Not Coming. Rooted Deep and Still. Not Reaching Out, Not Reaching In…”
What is evident, and we cannot deny this if we have the courage to look — is that we live in, and have for centuries lived in, a “consumer oriented” culture and society. We do nothing unless there is something in it for us, including “Living Spiritually”. Yet, there is no evidence that this is The True Way. In fact the opposite proves to be The True Way.
Once again Ikkyu says to us, “We’re lost where the mind can’t find us, utterly lost.” Our coming and going, our reaching out and reaching in, has taken us to where we find ourselves today — certainly feeling at least — “utterly lost”.
The True Way neither “reaches out” or “reaches in”. It does not “reach out” and go searching for the solution to our discontentment in the world of people, places, and things. Neither does it “reach in” for the solution to our discontentment, in the world of our thoughts about, the world of people, places, and things — “Just Resting at The Center, A Single Jewel — The Flawless Crystal Drop, In the Blaze of Its Brilliance —The Way Beyond.”
When all “thinking about life” ceases or, when we cultivate a deeper awareness of how our thinking so informs our experience and not the people, places, and things, this is when and this how we — “Have Dominion.” “Just Resting at The Center,” just breathing in, just breathing out, just taking care of business, we find the “Single Jewel —The Flawless Crystal Drop, In the Blaze of Its Brilliance…” We find we are able to Live; to Love, free of what leaves us utterly lost in our thoughts and our emotions — where True—Mind, True—Self, Original—Self, “cannot find us”.
The True Way is truly — “The Way Beyond”. Beyond all our thinking about life, beyond all our efforts, our coming and going, to find the solution to our discontentment. The “hopelessness” Ikkyu points to, ceases, when we stop coming and going. When we finally “drop anchor” and “just take care of business”. What business? We can begin with, we must begin with, “Just Loving Ourselves,” practicing “Self-Compassion”. Without needing or wanting any proof or reason why to, “Just Love Our—Self”. When there is nothing to gain from it, no reason to do it, then we will know who we truly are for “Love” is the ground for Self-Discovery. We cannot and will not ever discover who we truly are, or for that matter, who other truly is, until we step out of this “consumer oriented” approach. When there is “Nothing to Gain,” then there is “Everything to Gain”. Once we have committed to Self-Compassion, we then extend to everyone we meet, everywhere we go.
In meditation, contemplation, and benevolent service, the Three Pillars of Living Spiritually, one seeks to gain nothing. There is a “natural” increase in contentment and peace of mind. When we look closely at what it really means to “live spiritually,” “What have you gained?”, the answer would be: “It is not what I have gained that is important but rather what I have diminished, namely, Greed, Hatred, and Delusion.” Then, suddenly, “A Single Jewel, The Flawless Crystal Drop — In the Blaze of Its Brilliance.”
If we are ever going to eliminate our fear of “uncertainty and hopelessness,” which informs our experience and every choice and decision we make, we cannot continue to do it the way we have done it up and until now. Einstein wrote, “Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them.” We need a new approach, an ancient approach, where the solution to our problems have already been resolved.
Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Nun, calls us to, “Make an unflinching commitment to act with Integrity — out of the fullness of our being — not simply our pragmatic, comfortable, or fearful selves.” The dictionary’s definition for “integrity” is, “A strict adherence to a particular way-of-being.” To live with integrity is to live with uncertainty, hopelessness, and fear, and to live “Upright, with Courage and Audacity.” To say what we mean, and to mean what we say. Our “yes” is really “yes,” our “no” is really “no” and — our Love is Really Unconditional. To be reliable, faithful, and trustworthy. To show up, not just “intending” or “promising” to show up — to really “show up”. To be driven by a commitment to “something larger than ourselves,” rather than just “our pragmatic, comfortable, or fearful selves.” To be, “A force in Nature, rather than just a clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world is not devoting itself to making me happy.”
Our World is not going to change just by the actions of a few. This time it’s going to take all of us. This time it’s going to take a “community”. We Are More Together Than Alone — each of us with our own unique talent and inherent capability to meet the current and future challenges, bringing to the whole our — “Piece of Ourselves” to complete the whole.
I believe what Zen masters have been predicting for centuries — the next Buddha or Messiah will have the name of “Maitreya”. Maitreya is a bodhisattva who will appear on Earth in the future, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma — The Dharma of Loving-Kindness, Infinite Compassion, and Benevolent Service. Maitreya, will not appear in the form of a person, but as “Community”. The Buddha, Shakyamuni, predicted that the next Buddha would be Maitreya, the Buddha of love. We desperately need love. We Desperately Need You!
I Love You,
O! my heart now feels so cheerful as I go with footsteps light
In the daily toil of my dear home;
And I’ll tell to you the secret that now makes my life so bright—
There’s a flower at my window in full bloom.
It is radiant in the sunshine, and so cheerful after rain;
And it wafts upon the air its sweet perfume.
It is very, very lovely! May its beauties never wane—
This dear flower at my window in full bloom.
Nature has so clothed it in such glorious array,
And it does so cheer our home, and hearts illume;
Its dear memory I will cherish though the flower fade away—
This dear flower at my window in full bloom.
Oft I gaze upon this flower with its blossoms pure and white.
And I think as I behold its gay costume,
While through life we all are passing may our lives be always bright
Like this flower at my window in full bloom.
— Lucian B. Watkins
Spirituality can be defined broadly as a sense of connection to something higher than ourselves, something larger than simply the mundanities of everyday life. This is not to be understood as something separate from the mundane, quite the contrary. We are called to live and find that divine connection in the everyday mundane activities and challenges, in our world as it is, and not as we might expect it to be.
Watkins poem begins, “O! my heart now feels so cheerful as I go with footsteps light In the daily toil of my dear home; And I’ll tell to you the secret that now makes my life so bright—There’s a flower at my window in full bloom.” It points to the presence of “the flower at my window in full bloom,” as the source of joy for the observer. However what it does not consider is that it is the “observer” in the poem who is “able” to notice the flower in all its glory — “As I go with footsteps light In the daily toil of my dear home.”
The sense of transcendence, experienced in spirituality is a universal experience, but one which requires much more than imagination, (which so often can be misleading), or chance. Thomas Merton reminds his brother and sister Christians, “The fact remains that our task is to seek and find Christ in our world as it is…”. The saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” speaks to the fundamental “practice” of living spiritually in the world. “The secret that now makes my life so bright,” is that I have developed a way of seeing the world that allows for joy, for faith, for confidence, for steadfastness, for love and for personal fulfillment. My sense of fulfillment is not a function of what is in the world but, of “how I see what is in the world”. “The Secret,” is in how I approach “the daily toil of my dear home”. It’s never about “how the world is,” it’s always about “how I am approaching the daily toil of my dear home.”
Living Spiritually is a shift from depending on the world to be this way or that way for my happiness to, realizing that my happiness is completely dependent on how I live in the world. Beauty is everywhere, but do we have the eyes to see it. Love pervades the entire Universe, “Revealing right here right now.”
Developing the “Eyes to See, and the Ears to Hear”
“It is almost impossible to overestimate the value of true humility and its power in the spiritual life. For the beginning of humility is the beginning of blessedness and the consummation of humility is the perfection of all joy. Humility contains in itself the answer to all the great problems of the life of the soul. It is the only key to faith, with which the spiritual life begins: for faith and humility are inseparable. In perfect humility all selfishness disappears and your soul no longer lives for itself or in itself…In humility is the greatest freedom. As long as you have to defend the imaginary self that you think is important, you lose your piece of heart. As soon as you compare that shadow with the shadows of other people, you lose all joy, because you have begun to trade in unrealities and there is no joy in things that do not exist…In humility is the greatest and only true freedom.” — Thomas Merton
“One has to be alone, under the sky, Before everything falls into place and one finds his or her own place in the midst of it all. We have to have the humility to realize ourselves as part of nature, as part of something larger than ourselves.”
The late Charlotte Joko Beck once wrote that, “Enlightenment is growing up.” Living Spiritually, living authentically, demands the most heroic labor; it demands an unyielding faithfulness to what is true, to what is essential, and an unprecedented purity of consciousness. One enters into a new sphere — a new way-of-being in the world. One which is grounded in a sense of one’s personal place in the universe and how one’s singular responsibility is authenticity which inevitably leads to benevolent service, compassion for oneself and others, and love as a force of nature and not just some sentimental or romantic notion.
Back to The Future
There is a great deal of chatter about “getting back to normal”. I ask, “What normal?”
“Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack.”
The present moment is a function of individual and collective ways-of-being which includes our priorities, choices, and actions in the past. We did not just show up here. We’ve been heading here for decades. The only course of action which will lead us “through the valley of the shadow of death” and to the “promise land,” is to change our current course of action.
If we are ever going to recover, if we are ever going to successfully create a more enlightened, loving, compassionate, and inclusive society, we need to stop lying about the past, we need to own our mistakes and then; Forget the past, especially the one you think existed. Let it all go! This is how we begin to heal from this pandemic and all the pre-existing suffering it brought out into the light.
“We have been given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and the whole of nature.”
No matter who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come January 2021, if we return to the normalization of greed, hatred, and indifference — the only thing that will change are the actors and we will see suffering far greater than what we are witnessing today. Not only do we need new actors we need a new script, a new direction, a new way-of-being in the world. One which reflects “our place in the universe,” “our designed purpose for existence,” “our true-nature,” which reflects Nature’s way-of-being.
The first step toward recovery and reconciliation is to own the problem and the source of the problem. While I wholeheartedly agree it is necessary to VOTE so much more of us is required toward bringing about personal and global recovery and healing. We cannot just expect the actors on the stage to bring about this recovery. “We the People,” each and every one of us must own the vision for the future.
We must say, “No” to “Greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack,” as an acceptable way-of-being in the world. We begin by taking inventory and recognizing how these behaviors have defined our own lives or way-of-being in the world.
“Living Spiritually, Living Authentically, demands the most heroic labor; it demands an unyielding faithfulness to what is true, to what is essential, and an unprecedented purity of consciousness.”
We begin right where we are. Without criticism or judgement, we merely make necessary corrections in the way we think of ourselves and others; the way we communicate love for ourselves and others, and the way we behave, especially during the most difficult and challenging times.
The Buddha taught, “We become what we dwell on.” (Para) If we are always dwelling on “how bad the world is,” we become fearful, suspicious, and mistrusting. If we are only focused on what needs to be done to correct the world, we become judgmental and critical. If we are focused on thinking and communicating what is needed to heal ourselves and others, we become Bodhisattvas.
The Way of The Bodhisattva
“You who see that experience has no coming or going, Yet pour your energy solely into helping beings, My excellent teachers and Lord All Seeing, I humbly and constantly honor with my body, speech, and mind. The fully awake, the buddhas, source of joy and well-being,
All come from integrating the noble Way.”
“Right now, you have a good boat, fully equipped and available — hard to find. To free others and you from the sea of samsara, Day and night, fully alert and present, Study, Reflect, and Meditate — this is the practice of a Bodhisattva.”
“Don’t engage disturbances and reactive emotions gradually fade away; Don’t engage distractions and spiritual practice naturally grows; Keep awareness clear and vivid and confidence in the way arises. Rely on silence — this is the practice of a Bodhisattva.”
Living a Meaningful and Purposeful Life is the Only Life Worth Living
“While the understanding of spirituality differs across religions and belief systems, it can be described by finding meaning and purpose in life…Seeking a meaningful connection with something larger than yourself can result in increased positive emotions. Transcendent moments are filled with peace, awe, and contentment—emotional and spiritual wellbeing overlap, like most aspects of wellbeing.”
Shall we begin?
I Love You,
“We do not want you to copy or imitate us. We want to be like a ship that has crossed the ocean, leaving a wake of foam, which soon fades away. We want you to follow the Spirit, which we have sought to follow, but which must be sought anew in every generation.” — 1st Generation Quakers
“Community is The Spirit, The Guiding Light…” — St. Benedict
Zen, Authentic Spirituality, is characterized by an emphasis of abundant simplicity—Simplicity grounded in the absence of the pursuit of any person, place, experience, thing, desire, or ideal, as the source of our joy. There exists for the Zen Contemplative a simple and profound yearning for complete union with “not knowing” or life as it is recognized in Zen which is fundamentally “Empty” and “Mystery,” removing all obstacles to the deepening of this relationship with one’s true-self, with this moment, and ones immediate environment.
As Rumi once wrote, “Our true work is not to go in pursuit of Love, chasing after it in people, places, objects, and experiences, but to inquire within ourselves as to the emotional, psychological, and spiritual obstacles we have built up in our lifetime preventing us from seeing Love where it always has been — within us and all around us.” (Para)
Thus, we find the Buddha’s emphasis on — “Right Point-of-View; Right Thought and Intention; Right Speech and Action; Right Effort and Concentration, and so on.” All designed to cultivate the ground for helpful attitudes and motives, with the emphasis of avoiding unwholesome and habitual ways-of-being learned in ones lifetime, which prove to be obstacles toward liberating oneself from a life driven by fear, emotional and sentimental ties, that only complicate the inner journey.
For the ancient Zen masters and their students, relationships were “non-attachment”: They cared for others without any expectation of reciprocity. Concern for personal gain or self-aggrandizing was discarded. While feelings or emotions were acknowledged, with an emphasis on fully experiencing them, they were subjected to the discipline of the heart’s goal to awaken and to liberate oneself from the false-self and egocentric self which operated from a place of fear and craving.
Integrity was utmost, followed by an unrelenting devotion to prayer, contemplation, meditation, and benevolent service. Sacrifice was expected and understood to be essential. Ones vocation was to sacrifice this small self, this egocentric self, so that, “The person we were always meant to be,” could surface and get on with the real business of the spiritual life — “The liberation of all sentient beings from suffering and its causes.”
One of the tools used by the contemplative is a deep inquiry into the meaning of what The Buddha called, “Right Point-of-View,” which included how one viewed himself or herself and, his or her place in the world. One cannot endeavor to achieve this without eventually arriving at the realization of our’s and all sentient beings “interconnected and interdependent” relationship. We are not born for ourselves alone, we are born for each others benefit. Our place in the Universe is defined by the level of true-self realization — that the real meaning and purpose of my life was and is to live my life as a benefit for all other sentient beings and the whole of Nature. This could not and cannot be achieved apart from living morally and with a mindful awareness of not only my needs but the needs of my brothers and sisters with whom I coexist and co-create the world around me with. The solution to which is what followed or more accurately, which was embedded in the contemplative life — “Community”.
“Life in community is no less than a necessity for us — it is an inescapable “must” that determines everything we do and think. Yet it is not our good intention or efforts that have been decisive in our choosing this way of life. Rather, we have been overwhelmed by a certainty — a certainty that has its origin and power in the source of everything that exists…We must live in community because all life exists in a communal order and works toward community.” (Para)
The truly spiritual, the true contemplative, lives his or her life deeply committed to the “belief in the overwhelming power of life, the power of love to overcome, and the ultimate triumph of truth…This deeply committed belief is not a theory; neither is it a dogma, a system of ideas, or a fabric of words…We must live in community for only in such a positive venture can it become clear how incapable of living life fully the individual is and that community is that life-giving force which makes all things possible.” (Para)
Community answers the social-political crises our Nation and the World finds itself in today. While millions of individuals, religious and political organizations, are engaged in the battle against tyranny and injustice, the contemplative cannot fight their battles in their way.
“With them we stand side-by-side with those who have little or nothing, with the underprivileged and marginalized, and with the degraded and depressed. And yet we must avoid the kind of class struggle that employs violent means to avenge lives taken through exploitation. We reject the defensive war of the suppressed just as much as the defensive war of nations…We live in community because we take our stand in the spiritual fight on the side of all those who fight for freedom, unity, peace, and social justice.” (Para)
While the contemplative remains committed to living a life benefitting all sentient beings and to laboring for the liberation of all sentient beings from suffering and its causes, he or she realizes that they can “only give what they have achieved for themselves”. All that, restricts and limits human consciousness and humanity, all that possesses the minds and hearts of millions, their attachments and compulsions, and which must be healed and reconciled, must first be achieved by the monk, the nun, or student of Zen, themselves. Before I can be of any benefit to others I must move toward inner freedom and detachment from those thoughts and cravings which bind me. The cultivation of the individuals inner freedom was and remains vital to the deepening of their experience of suffering and its causes in the world. “As they deepened their interior freedom, all aspects of their false self were removed and a clearer understanding of their truest self emerged.” It is this “true-self” that dwells deeply within the minds and hearts of all beings, and hungers to be realized and manifested in the world. Whenever and wherever we find tyranny and suffering, we find that this Self is restricted or limited in one form or another. For it is in the liberation of all sentient beings and the elevation toward Full-True-Self expression, we will finally realize personal and global freedom and experience our deepest joy.
We must live in community because when all obstacles are removed we will, as those before us have, find that same Spirit that has led mankind toward community since the beginning of time.
Shall we begin?
I Love You,
“We had a kettle; we let it leak:
Our not repairing it made it worse.
We haven’t had any tea for a week…
The bottom is out of the Universe.”
― Rudyard Kipling,
I never imagined that all the years I have trained as a monk would be tested in the crucible of the last twenty-eight months. Living with cancer is an invitation to pay attention to the life given us, life before cancer, and life as I learn to live with cancer. At its best and most useful, it forces us to look inside ourselves and confront the essential questions of birth and death, to see wherever we have dropped the ball, and in whatever time we have left, to fix what is broken in us and, in our world.
“The truth about one’s mortality challenges us to reach down into the muck of our hurtful, broken past, broken relationships, broken promises, and our broken selves, where we hide so much, and promise we will blister our hands in the heat and the cold and fix what needs to be fixed — not simply throw him, her, or it, or ourselves away, shrug, and move on.”
Most people don’t fix much of anything anymore. We have become a “throw away society”. (I also know that not everything that is broken can be fixed.) When you are challenged however with the choice to either get on with living or to get on with dying, for some the choice is clear while others hope that someone or something will come along and make that choice for them. Unfortunately even if it is made for us, in the end — we must do the living or the dying.
“Tibetan Buddhists say that a person should never get rid of their negative energy, that negative energy transformed is the energy of enlightenment, and that the only difference between neurosis and wisdom is struggle. If we stop struggling and open up and accept what is, that neurotic energy naturally arises as wisdom, naturally informs us and becomes our teacher.”
We find our salvation not in some ideal but rather, right in, the world we have; in both our personal suffering and the suffering of the world. We are called to “bear witness” to our suffering and others. To hold that suffering within our hearts and through applying the principles of loving-kindness, compassion, and benevolence, transform it into the energy that will heal and transform our world.
In Buddhism as in Judaism and Christianity there is an anticipation of a future coming of a Messiah or in Buddhism the next Buddha.
“Where shall we look for the Messiah?” Asked the ancient sages. “Shall the Messiah come to us on clouds of glory, robed in majesty and crowned with light?” One sage imagines this question posed to no less an authority than the prophet Elijah himself. “Where,” the sage asks Elijah, “shall I find the Messiah?” “At the gate of the city,” Elijah replies. “How shall I recognize him?” “He sits among the lepers.” “Among the lepers?” Cries the sage. “What is he doing there?” “He changes their bandages,” Elijah answers. “He changes them one by one.”
For Mahayana Buddhist a long held belief by some (myself included) but not all, has been that the next Buddha will not necessarily be any one individual. The next Buddha will appear in the world as “Sangha” or “Community” —
“It is possible the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and lovingkindness, a community practicing mindful living. And the practice can be carried out as a group, as a city, as a nation.”
It is important to recognize that both prophecies point to “behavior” as the force behind the arrival of the new Messiah or Messianic Era or The Enlightened Era of the Buddha. Here we understand that the Messianic Era or the Enlightened Era as in Buddhism, will be a function of first the individual and then, the masses becoming the full embodiment of both the Messiah and or Buddha —
“At the gate of the city,” Elijah replies. “How shall I recognize him?” Asks the sage. “He sits among the lepers.” “Among the lepers?” cries the sage. “What is he doing there?” “He changes their bandages,” Elijah answers. “He changes them one by one.”
“The Buddha body is in us. Using the energy of mindfulness, meditation, and living virtuously, living community for each other, we can touch the body of the Buddha within us and around us at any time. And I know the sangha body is in me and around me. The trees, the grass, the blue sky, the flowers are all elements of the sangha. And you, are my sangha body. You take care of me.” I take care of you.
“Community is the Spirit, the Guiding Light…” In a genuine community of deeply devoted people, the individual finds his or her true-freedom in the free decision of the united — All for One — One for All. Spirit, “Working from within each member as the will for the good of humanity and the whole of Nature, freedom becomes unanimity and concord.” Liberated by the Spirit of Community, Guided by the Light of loving-kindness, compassion, and benevolence, which is the Heart and Soul of Community, each person naturally moves toward the realization and actualization of the good of humanity and the benefit of the whole of Nature.
We must live in Community because the eternal struggle against the destructive and enslaving powers of Greed, Hatred, and a Culture of Indifference toward global suffering and injustice, “Against all the wrong and injustice people do to each other,” cannot be met alone by any one individual, it can only be eventually conquered by the ranks of souls and bodies mobilized to meet this struggle wherever it is found and whenever it is before us.
Today it is clear that,
“The challenge of liberation for unity and the fullness of love is being fought on many different fronts with many different means. So too, the work of community finds expression in many different ways because the Spirit of Community is rich, boundless, seamless and timeless, and inclusive. But no matter the expression there is a common certainty of purpose…and when we possess this certainty we will be given the strength for loyalty and unerring clarity, even in small things, to the very end.”
Perhaps here we need to reflect on what is at the root of what so often seems to be an impossible task. What is missing for so many is I believe to be a “lack of certainty”. A “certainty” that can only be nurtured and reinforced by a singular view of ones self and ones place in the world, and a purposeful approach born and sustained out of that view.
The solution has always been for me, what I call “The Principle of Identity”. In his teachings, “The Art of Peace” Morihei Ueshiba writes,
“You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your inner enlightenment. Foster peace in your own life and then apply the Art to all that you encounter.”
This is the ground for achieving the impossible. No matter how long and how difficult and, how impossible it may seem. Each of us, ordinary beings, called to live extraordinary lives. We are called to meet hatred with love. We are called to meet indifference with benevolence. We are called to meet polarization and the delusion of separation with community. We are called to the impossible task of healing ourselves, our world, the last, the present, and the future. I believe that if we were not capable, the dream of a more loving, kind, and compassionate world would not have ever found its life within us.
I will leave you for the moment with the words of Morihei Ueshiba once again —
“There is no place in The Art of Peace for pettiness and selfish thoughts. Rather than being captivated by the notion of “winning or losing,” seek the true-nature of things. Your thoughts (your words, your actions) should reflect the grandeur of the universe, a realm beyond birth and death. If your thoughts are antagonistic toward the cosmos, this thoughts will destroy you and wreak havoc on the environment… Always try to be in communion with heaven and earth; then the world will appear in its true light. Self-conceit will naturally vanish, and you can blend with any challenge.” (Para)
Act Accordingly…Shall we Begin?
“For as long as space endures, and for as long as living beings remain, until then may I too abide to dispel the misery of the world.” — Shantideva
I Love You,