Peripatetic threesome, eight legs, Saturday Morning Practice walking meditation along Ragged Mountain after zazen
in lightly fired stove meditation cabin.
We discuss the circumference of Christ in the many minds the last few days at prison, in shop, within own thoughts. So many perceptions and projections, opinions and perambulations of curiosity. Who or what was this Christ? Do the "personal Lord and savior" articulators
mean the same thing as the "Christ consciousness" folks? Was, as some hold, Jesus not human but God in human form? Or was he fully human fully divine in an integrity refusing to be separated out? And is Jesus unique beyond all beings , or, is he one lovely manifestation of all that is held good and sacred -- there being others who attain same or near-same realization? Finally, is Jesus the only way, truth, and life? Or, are there myriad paths to the graced liberation of holy realization that we call God, Truth, Love, Salvation, Redemption, Nirvana, Satori, Clear Light, Great Spirit, Heaven, Awakening?
One size fits all. The shape or coloration
of the god or high heaven matters less
than that there is one, somehow, somewhere, hearing
the hasty prayer and chalking up the mite
the widow brings to the temple. A child
alone with horrid verities cries out
for there to be a limit, a warm wall
whose stones give back an answer, however faint.
Strange, the extravagance of it—who needs
those eighteen-armed black Kalis, those musty saints
whose bones and bleeding wounds appall good taste,
those joss sticks, houris, gilded Buddhas, books
Moroni etched in tedious detail?
We do; we need more worlds. This one will fail.
(--Poem "Religious Consolation" by John Updike from Americana and Other Poems. Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.)
Women and men we meet hold tight or cast away one or the other of set beliefs as to how the world of spiritual/religious truth is constituted. The daring or darling factor of personal preference often is a tripwire setting off a gotcha or get-thee-behind-me or God-bless-thee response. Of course we are diverse. Off course we don't know for sure. Still in all, it is the quality of our perceptions and preferences that influence or determine the way we conduct
ourselves in the presence of anyone and everyone -- whether we are gracious and kind, or judgmental and alienating.
As Mr. McKenzie wrote from California thirty six years ago, "This is the way we are." Or the poet Hugo, "We're seldom better than weather." Our dissatisfactions
Note that "suffering" is an inadequate translation of the word "Dukkha", but it is the one most commonly found, lacking a better word in English. "Dukkha" means "intolerable", "unsustainable", "difficult to endure", and can also mean "imperfect", "unsatisfying", or "incapable of providing perfect happiness". Interestingly enough, some people actually translate it as "stress".
Suffering is a big word in Buddhist thought. It is a key term and it should be thoroughly understood. The Pali word is dukkha, and it does not just mean the agony of the body. It means that deep, subtle sense of unsatisfactoriness which is a part of every mind moment and which results directly from the mental treadmill.
The essence of life is suffering, said the Buddha. At first glance this seems exceedingly morbid and pessimistic. It even seems untrue. After all, there are plenty of times when we are happy. Aren't there? No, there are not. It just seems that way. Take any moment when you feel really fulfilled and examine it closely. Down under the joy, you will find that subtle, all-pervasive undercurrent of tension, that no matter how great this moment is, it is going to end. No matter how much you just gained, you are either going to lose some of it or spend the rest of your days guarding what you have got and scheming how to get more. And in the end, you are going to die. In the end, you lose everything. It is all transitory.
(--Henepola Gunaratana, in Mindfulness in Plain English, from A View of Buddhism, The Four Noble Truths, /buddhism.kalachakranet.org/4_noble_truths.html)
Knowing the transitoriness
of the present, we try to fasten a future that is set in conceptual concrete. "This is the way it will be," we say about our square inch of control in our earthly households as well as in our heavenly speculative geography. Immigrants from other square inches or speculative real estate not welcome -- unless, or course, your investment portfolio is given over to our holdings.
The Buddha explained that we can use the Four Yardsticks to assess if we are practicing the correct way: one should feel happiness, compassion, love and joyous effort when practicing.
(--from A View of Buddhism, op cit)
Practice, it is said, makes perfect. Dogen Zenji
said that practice is enlightenment, enlightenment is practice. Nothing hard and fast; everything moving and quiet.
‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’
(--from Matthew 9:9-13)
Jesus must have wearied his listeners with his new mind. Nothing of the old mind was let alone. Stop killing and devastating for the pleasing or appeasement of God, he said. Will you please just be forgiving and merciful? Will you, for the sake of God, be loving and kind -- to everything and everyone?
Why does he do the things he does?
Why does he do these things?
Why does he march
Through that dream that he's in,
Covered with glory and rusty old tin?
Why does he live in a world that can't be,
And what does he want of me...
What does he want of me?
Why does he say the things he says?
Why does he say these things?
"Sweet Dulcinea" and "missive" and such,
"Nethermost hem of thy garment I touch,"
No one can be what he wants me to be,
Oh, what does he want of me...
What does he want of me?
Doesn't he know
He'll be laughed at wherever he'll go?
And why I'm not laughing myself...
I don't know.
Why does he want the things he wants?
Why does he want these things?
Why does he batter at walls that won't break?
Why does he give when it's natural to take?
Where does he see all the good he can see,
And what does he want of me?
What does he want of me?
(--lyrics of What Does He Want From Me, from musical Man of La Mancha)
To add a measure of grace to the world. That's what Don Quixote de La Mancha, responded to Aldonza
, his Dulcinea. Just a smidgen. Only a speck and fleck. An insy winsy tinsy
offering of holy spirit. Just this. Here. And now. No matter how absurd. Til death we do part.
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go...
To run where the brave dare not go,
Though the goal be forever too far.
To try, though you're wayworn and weary,
PADRE, ANTONIA, SANCHO, BARBER
To reach the unreachable star.
To reach the unreachable star,
Though you know it's impossibly high,
To live with your heart striving upward
To a far, unattainable sky!
(--"Finale" from Man of La Mancha)
How do we part death?
Death itself splits apart to make way for love.
The dying delusion marches into hell with a heavenly cause.
Entering heaven through it all. Spelling hell with love.
To part death see life through loving sight.
But that's only one way to see it.
How do you?