Broken But Not Broke
“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,