The whole Buddhist canon is nothing but toilet
paper for wiping infected skin boils.
Realizing the Mystery is nothing
but breaking through to
grasp an ordinary
~ Chinese Zen Master Te Shan ~
I was in a long car ride once with a Christian friend of mine and he asked me "So what is it that attracts you to Buddhism, anyway?" I was taken aback by the question because I was not at all prepared to give an answer - not the real answer anyway - that I have loved the Dharma ever since I found it as a small boy - that it exactly maps to the winding folds of my brain - that it is like coming home. I mean I can tell you these things - because we've known each other for so long, but I don't as a rule go around blurting this stuff out. To him, I stammered some prattle about the fact that everyone becomes enlightened in the end and nobody is left behind... a fairly inarticulate rendition of my feelings..
Today, I found a pretty good answer (as answers like this go) to the question of what attracts me to the Dharma. In fact - it could be my Dharma elevator speech. It is written by Janwillem van de Wetering - a Dutch mystery/crime writer who also wrote some really great Dharma books. It's from his book "A Glimpse of Nothingness"
"Buddhism is negative. It will tell you what it is not. When you insist that it must be something it merely allows for an open space, which you can fill in as you like. It is only specific about its method. It tells you to meditate, to be conscious of what you are doing, to do your best. It tells you to earn your daily food in a decent manner. It prescribes kind speech and thought. It suggests that you should create your own situations, rather than being pushed around by yourself and others. It warns that you should not avoid your own doubts. It recommends trying things out for yourself. It abhors all dogma. It doesn't like you to impose your opinions on others. And it stresses that you should know yourself, your own laziness, pride and greed which, together, constitute the power which turns the wheel of life."It's not the whole story - not by a long shot - at least not for me, but it'll more than do for an answer the next time that question comes up...
Flowers offer their bodies to us and we (among other things) decorate our table settings and express our affection for one another with their genitalia.
We typically discard their body parts just before any real decay sets in. Sometimes though, a whole vase full of rotting plant flesh will be artfully displayed complete with filmy green water in the container. It is then that plants do us one last favor on their way to the compost heap. They remind us what is coming for each of us.
They recall the great teaching of the last verse of the Diamond Sutra:
“So I say to you –
“Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
“So is all conditioned existence to be seen.”
Thus spoke Buddha.
"In the end, when push comes to shove, we have to make a conscious and intentional choice, to serve the Lord who is Love, or to serve something else. To stay with Jesus or walk away.
And the choice is always costly.
You commit to your hole. You stay in your hole and keep fucking digging.
Time is short.
There is not enough of it left to straddle two traditions and dig through the Earth.
The (blessed) end of summer brings inexorably cooler weather and the high holy days for The Cathedral of the Great Wide World. Shorter days, longer nights, wilder weather. The landscape swept clean of the casual, leaving only the hardy, the steadfast.
Steadfast is hardly a word I could apply to my acquaintanceship with most traditional faith communities. Over the few decades I've been alive, I've stayed with some for a few years, some for a few months, some for a day.
The one community that has always been "it" for me is The Cathedral of the Great Wide World. Even as a small boy walking alone for miles and miles in the woods in all sorts of weather, I recognized it as a refuge. The silence. The solitude. The anonymity. The return to creatureliness.
All those gifts freely given with presence the only offering required in return..
Sometimes a voice - have you heard this? -
wants not to be voice any longer, wants something
whispering between the words, some
rumour of its former life. Sometimes, even
in the midst of making sense or conversation, it will
hearken back to breath, or even farther,
to the wind, and recognize itself
as troubled air, a flight path still
looking for its bird.
~ Don McKay ~
May all beings be happy and secure,
may they be happy-minded.
Whatever living beings there are -
feeble or strong, long, stout or medium,
short, small or large, seen or unseen
(ghosts, gods and hell-beings),
those dwelling far or near,
those who are born or those who await rebirth
may all beings,
Let none deceive another nor despise any person
whatever in any place;
in anger or ill-will let them not wish
any suffering to each other.
Just as a mother would protect
her only child at the risk of her own life,
let them cultivate a boundless heart
towards all beings.
Let their thoughts of boundless lovingkindness
pervade the whole world:
above, below and across,
without any hatred,
without any enmity.
~ The Metta Sutra ~
Let me make this perfectly clear.
You suspect this is a posture or an act
You actually think I care if this
Do not think for one minute it is the Poem that matters.
~ Gwendolyn MacEwen ~
THE DISCOVERY OF DAILY EXPERIENCE
It is a whisper. You turn somewhere,
hall, street, some great even: the stars
or the lights hold; your next step waits you
and the firm world waits - but
there is a whisper. You always live so,
a being that receives, or partly receives, or
fails to receive each moment's touch.
You see the people around you - the honors
they bear - a crutch, a cane, eye patch,
or the subtler ones, that fixed look, a turn
aside, or even the brave bearing: all declare
our kind, who serve on the human front and earn
whatever disguise will take them home. (I saw
Frank last week with his crutch de guerre.)
When the world is like this - and it is -
whispers, honors or penalties disguised - no wonder
art thrives like a pulse wherever civilized people,
or any people, live long enough in a place to
build, and remember, and anticipate; for we are
such beings as interact elaborately with what
surrounds us. The limited actual world we successively
overcome by fictions and by the mind's inventions
that cannot be quite arbitrary (and hence do reflect
the actual), but can escape the actual (and hence
may become art).
~ William Stafford ~
I know I can be a tedious broken record about some topics, but I read William Stafford's poem early this morning and it felt like William had visited, maybe through time travel (he passed in 1993), a Monday 1:00 at the Cathedral Church of St Paul in Boston.
The 1:00 is where I turn time and again for whispers and signs. It's the place where I wade hip-deep into the arts that are practiced there in the sweltering closeness of Sproat Hall - the art of kindness, the art of kinship, the art of radical hospitality, the art of sweet communion bread and apple juice wine, the art of plastic parakeets and white, cross-topping pterodactyls -- the art of Great Mystery.
The one mis-remembering on the part of Mr Stafford is the phrase "escaping the actual." I think if he had reflected further or perhaps visited a few more times in his time machine, he would have seen quite clearly that instead of escaping the actual there is integration of the actual or, quite often, transformation of the actual.
And by the way: The irony is not lost on me, that a (precept-breaking, hardheaded, argumentative) Buddhist and agnostic (at best with a good tail wind), should have become so smitten with, so poleaxed by this tiny Christian community.
But, there you have it...
...transformation of the actual.
In my Buddhist tradition, Jizo Bodhisattva (or JiJang Bosal) sees everything that happens in all six realms of existence. He not only sees the manifold beautiful things of this world, he sees jagged red hunks of flayed flesh by way of IED's and drone strikes. He hears the cries of the abandoned and the lonely. He sees murder, rape, theft, and all manner of meanness and hardheartedness. He sees every single indignity we visit on those that walk this blue rock with us.
So why does Jizo smile?
Jizos smile because they are the archetype for joyful, indefatigable trying, and they are the bearer of the greatest vow ever - to save all sentient beings - no - matter - what.
Indefatigable trying means - try try try for ten thousand years nonstop. It means try try try for a billion billion kalpas, even. A kalpa is a very very very long time. One definition I read once: "A kalpa is the time it would take for the world's highest mountain to be worn down by being brushed with a silk scarf carried in the beak of a bird that flew over the mountaintop every 100 years."
The "greatest vow ever" means saving all beings - no matter what - not depending on their apparent virtue or who deserves what or who believes what - everyone gets saved.. E-ve-ry-one. Every single being - saved - returned to wholeness - healed - however you want to say it. The "greatest vow ever" casts a net wide enough to cover uncountable multiverses.
And - Jizo smiles too because he knows that he will accomplish what to us would be an impossible vow - and that - is a koan for another day...
You know what it feels like to hold
a burning piece of paper, maybe even
trying to read it as the flames get close
to your fingers until all you're holding
is a curl of ash by its white ear tip
yet the words still hover in the air?
That's how I feel now.
~ Dean Young - excerpted from Belief in Magic~