Sitting zazen at 5:20AM in cabin, incense and candle, Rokpa and bird call. A mantra arrives:
Francis, Buddha, Dogen, Christ -- see us through this loving life!"
Carrying wooden stepladder to bird feeder, pouring wild seed into green metal holder, the words change into "lead us through this loving life." White dog has become good meditation companion in cabin, on trail, in yard. Three months with us, eight months old.
The great way of the buddhas is profound, wondrous, inconceivable; how could its practice be easy? Have you not seen how the ancients gave up their bodies and lives, abandoned their countries, cities, and families, looking upon them as shards of tile? After that they passed eons living alone in the mountains and forests, bodies and minds like dead trees; only then did they unite with the way. Then they could use the mountains and rivers for words, raise the wind and rain for a tongue, and explain the great void, turning the incomparable wheel.
- Dogen (1200-1253)
Practice is not easy, not hard. It is beyond easy and hard. Without practice we are the playthings of others.
How to Become a Buddhist
If one desires to become a Buddhist, there is no initiation ceremony (or baptism) which one has to undergo....If one understands the Buddha's teaching, and if one is convinced that this teaching is the right Path and if one tries to follow it, then one is a Buddhist.
But according to the unbroken age-old tradition in Buddhist countries, one is considered a Buddhist if one takes the Buddha, the Dhamma (the Teaching) and the Sangha (the community of Buddhists)--generally called "the Triple-Gem"--as one's refuges, and undertakes to observe the Five Precepts--the minimum moral obligations of a lay Buddhist:
(1) not to destroy life, (2) not to steal, (3) not to commit adultery, (4) not to tell lies, (5) not to take intoxicating drinks....
There are no external rites or ceremonies which a Buddhist has to perform. Buddhism is a way of life, and what is essential is following the Noble Eightfold Path.
(--Walpola Rahula in What the Buddha Taught, from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book)
To be Buddhist is to practice awareness. Everyone will be Buddhist soon. Christians need not worry. Awareness is the essence of Jesus Christ. There's no choice to be made here.
All religions are cultural overlays whose undergrowth is awareness. Meet at awareness and inter-religious dialogue sits in loving silence together.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you
(Poem: "Lost," by David Wagoner from Collected Poems 1956-1976, Indiana University Press.)
Standing or sitting in stillness we allow awareness to move freely within and around us. We drop our selfish desires to have the world the way we would construct it with our thought and ideology. God practices awareness. God looks for clearing to take place so that we begin dwelling in the open. No more secrets. No more unquestioning arrogance. No more dropping weapons on innocent victims.
To take refuge in the Buddha means acknowledging the seed of enlightenment that is within ourselves, the possibility of freedom. It also means taking refuge in those qualities which the Buddha embodies; qualities like fearlessness, wisdom, love and compassion.
Taking refuge in the Dharma means taking refuge in the law, in the way things are; it is acknowledging our surrender to the truth, allowing the Dharma to unfold within us.
Taking refuge in the Sangha means taking support in the community, in all of us helping one another towards enlightenment and freedom.
(--Joseph Goldstein, in The Experience of Insight, from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book)
The community is finally rubbing sleep out of its eyes. It didn't want to believe, not entirely, that dad was a bit altered in his thinking by (some say, substances), insubstantial thought and inexplicable belief that he was the man, the one and only, without peer or opposition. Dad, or our disturbed brother, tired his arms swinging punches at our laws and the men and women holding fast to them practicing a modern Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope submission that rounded these seven years of administration pugs cynical pounding and punditry. There is, one can only hope, a turn towards enlightenment and freedom. It's been a long and very difficult detour from good will and legal decency.
Among the anecdotes in "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story" is an arresting portrait of Bush after four contractors were killed in Fallujah in 2004, triggering a fierce U.S. response that was reportedly egged on by the president.
During a videoconference with his national security team and generals, Sanchez writes, Bush launched into what he described as a "confused" pep talk:
"Kick ass!" he quotes the president as saying. "If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal."
"There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!"
A White House spokesman had no comment.
( from: General Ricardo Sanchez's Book Slams Bush, Iraq Handling, Washington Post, June 2, 2008 10:51 AM)
Last Friday was the feast of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Authentic compassion is hard to find. I'm looking for it in myself. If my compassion is authentic it must work backwards from the innocent deaths and pain in Iraq, to the men and women who carried out orders to bomb, shoot, and kill, to the families of warriors who mourn their dead and stitch up their traumatized returnees. It should also stretch to the perpetrators of this ill-begotten carnage. It must include Mr. Bush and his band of confidants, the inept congress, and puffed up supporters of something known to be a lie and a travesty.
This consideration and practice of authentic compassion has to be my daily practice. I'm glad to see the backs of these people, and I long for some justice to grab them from their lucrative future -- but they are clever and mostly immune from prosecution for their crimes. For perpetrators of war it is a blip on their resume. For the rest of the victims of war it is lifelong pain and suffering.
If we are going to practice religion we are going to have to admit God into the practice. Belief and personal testimony are insufficient. We must allow God, as God is, into moment to moment practice.
God help us.
God help us.
See us through.