Woke up this morning and noticed the bedside clock read 2:22. I deliberately set this clock five minutes fast but never to seem to remember that until I reach the kitchen and notice that clock also reads 2:22.
No, I wasn’t time traveling.
Hmmm? Should I purchase a lottery ticket? Should I go back to bed? Should I research numerology again to discover if there is any significance to this number?
(Side note: Today is Election Day in the “good ole U.S. of A.” I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been voting for exactly 50 years now. I will vote again later this morning. I vote because it’s my civic duty … because it gives me the right to complain when the government elected fails to follow through on their promises … because I’d rather participate than be an apathetic whiner who sits on the sidelines … because I was trained to vote.)
I first wrote about numerology on 7.7.22 and a, much younger, sister blogger I admire a lot responded to my topic header/question. This is what C.J. (Crystal) Grasso said:
“The number 2 in spirituality means it is a number ruled by the moon, which also marks it as feminine energy. Which is connected to the emotional and nurturing realm. The moon also is related to one’s hidden aspects, which others do not see. The number 2 also symbolizes partnership and coming together, bringing in harmony and balance It could be an energy that brings up emotional wounds to work through with love and compassion. Balancing one’s inner and outer world…bringing in balance according to an angel numbers website. Which would be great for the world right about now. Numerology and spirituality are such interesting topics, I myself do not know much about them yet, but based on the things I’ve read these are my personal conclusions, though I could be totally wrong. I’m an observer of all this and try to keep an open mind. Numerology and spirituality interlink a lot.”
FWIW: my Zen teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, said we “go as a river.” Individually we are a single drop of water which can quickly dry up when times are difficult. Collectively, however, we can make a difference. We can form a stronger, more dynamic, flow of energy that makes an impact.
I hope this proves true today both in the “good ole U.S. of A.” and across this beautiful blue marble.
Zen Master and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh, was born on this day in 1926. He died earlier this year, at the age of 95, January 22, 2022. Known mostly for his non-violent peace activism during the American/Vietnam War in the 1960s, he was lauded by such notables as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Father Thomas Merton.
As one of his thousands of students, I have taken comfort especially in his books: Living Buddha, Living Christ, No Death, No Fearand No Mud, No Lotus published in 1995, 2002 and 2014 respectively. See https://www.parallax.org/authors/thich-nhat-hanh/ An inspiring quote from the first book mentioned is “Because you are alive, everything is possible.”
Known as the “Father of the Nation” of India, Mohandas Gandhi was also called Mahatma (Great Soul) or Bapu (Papa). Gandhi’s birthday, 2 October, is celebrated in India as a national holiday, and worldwide as the International Day of Nonviolence.
“Gandhi grew up in a Hindu and Jain religious atmosphere … which were his primary influences, but he was also influenced by his personal reflections and literature of Hindu Bhakti saints, Advaita Vedanta, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and thinkers such as Tolstoy, Ruskin and Thoreau… At age 57 he declared himself to be Advaitist Hindu in his religious persuasion but added that he supported Dvaitist viewpoints and religious pluralism.” (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi)
There is an annual Japanese holiday which remembers deceased ancestors. The actual date varies by region but usually falls between mid-July to mid-August. It is not an official holiday, rather a religious and traditional holiday which includes using lanterns to guide the dead, making food offerings to temples and celebrating with dancing. See https://www.jrailpass.com/blog/obon-festival-in-japan
Here is today’s humble haiku which recognizes this holiday, past and future, yet also celebrates the life still happening on this side of existence.
My father was a carpenter who became a Skilled Trades Supervisor for a major US utility. He retired early to golf, fish and construct wood picture frames for fun.
My first father-in-law was a Welding Foreman for a global office furniture manufacturer who turned down a promotion to Production Superintendent to ensure he had time for the freshwater fishing and the golf that he loved.
My second father-in-law was a Production and Inventory Control Manager who went on to become CEO of the same global office furniture manufacturer. He retired and was recalled for a year before living another 25 years, many on the golf course and doing some occasional fishing.
So, what do these three men tell me; what can I learn from my “forefathers?” Is my life a journey from blue to white collar work and are my “golden years” to be spent enjoying fishing and golf?
My father told his four sons to retire earlier than he did at age 59 because retirement was the best time of life. My father died at age 77 and had only one regret that I know of which was agreeing to elective heart surgery to replace a pacemaker. He died one week after the surgery and told his sons at his hospital bedside what a mistake it was to agree to that final surgery.
My first father-in-law told me to get a couple of hobbies early in life to ensure I had a way to escape home life whenever I needed. He advised specifically joining him in fishing and golf, which I did for many years. He died at age 64 of medical complications from diabetes.
My second father-in-law advised world travel which was another hobby he had. Otherwise, he didn’t say that much to me as he was very active in his own pursuits and demonstrated his values more than spoke of them. He died at age 93 and unfortunately his last three years were using a walker and napping a lot. He had beaten colon cancer, multiple melanomas (from so much fishing and golf?), and finally the debilitation brought on from a stroke.
I gave up golf many years ago and haven’t fished in years. My full-time work life began as a spot welder and progressed to a Human Resources Director before moving on to my career as a Human Capital Consultant for the last 24 years. So, some similarities to my forefathers but some possible differences in my final life chapter.
I’m now focused on joining the Order of Interbeing as a Zen Christian practitioner and my goal this year is to begin an Animal Chaplaincy program, write a fourth book of poetry and become a Dharma Mentor in the next year or so.
Not sure how much longer I might live but want to live my “golden years” doing what I love. How about you?
I will be celebrating this new moon at a meditation retreat center that includes monastic and lay people sharing observations on the state of our four-fold sangha practice. Previous retreats with this group have generated surprises and new insights. We shall see what this day brings.
First, the Tricycle article, Where to Find Joy and How to Cultivate It, (August 27, 2021) is co-authored by Christina Feldman and Jaya Rudgard, both mindfulness teachers in the Insight Meditation community. One of their main points is: the best way to find joy is to create it. Their 1,500 wordcount article can be found in its entirety here: https://tricycle.org/article/cultivating-joyfulness/
Second, the authors make a reference to The Dhammapada; specifically, verses 197 – 198 on Happiness. My copy of this book, see translation mentioned above, says:
“Ah, so happily we live, without hate among those with hate. Among people who hate we live without hate.
Ah, so happily we live, without misery among those in misery. Among people in misery we live without misery.” p.53
The point of the article, the quote and this post is that we are very unlikely to find ourselves in a perfect place, with perfect people all enjoying perfect joy. More likely we will need to work with ourselves and with a small group of kindred spirits to cultivate joy for one another.
I welcome your thoughts and your translations on how you find joy …. individually and together with others.
One day after a Saturday lecture, my Buddhist teacher Shunryu Suzuki opened the floor to questions. This was in 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War. I was in my early twenties at the time, working as an antiwar activist by day and learning about Buddhist meditation at Suzuki’s temple on weekends. I raised my hand and asked the question that was troubling me and so many of us in the room. “Suzuki Roshi,” I said, “What is war?”
He pointed to the goza mat in front of him, a six-by-three-foot thin rush mat on which two people were seated, and said, “When two people sit down on one mat, each person smooths the wrinkles on his side of the mat. When the wrinkles meet in the middle, that’s war.”
What a strange response, was my first thought. Then I remembered that Suzuki had lived through World War II as a temple priest in Japan. It was never clear why he wasn’t drafted into the Japanese army. Some people said it was because he was too short. Others said it was because temple priests were needed at home. Though he never talked about what he had experienced during the war, we all knew that it had been a traumatic and searing time for him. He once told us, “You Americans have seen the worst of my country. I came here to show you the best.” By that he meant Buddhism and Zen meditation. In any case, Suzuki’s answer to my question had to be taken seriously. He knew far more about war than any of us young Americans did.
At the time, his answer triggered a vigorous discussion in the whole group about the war in Vietnam and the fact that on this same day there was a big antiwar demonstration in the park—many of us had been conflicted about whether to go to the demonstration or come to Suzuki’s temple. Suzuki listened patiently to the back-and-forth of our discussion without saying anything. I’m sure that he appreciated our sincerity, but at the same time, given his own war experience, we probably struck him as young and naive.
His answer taught us that war was not just some vast, abstract governmental action happening out there in the world, against which we had to demonstrate and protest.
I’ve had decades since then to ponder his answer, and on deeper reflection I have realized that the story has many nuances and implications. Clearly the notion that each person wants their side of the mat to be smooth is an observation about a certain aspect of human nature. We tend to take care of our own needs first, or the needs of our family, community, or tribe, before we include the needs of anyone outside those circles. Only an unusually perceptive and aware person would take into account the needs of others when it causes inconvenience or suffering to themselves or their own group. There is a theory of moral stages created by the American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg that maps a person’s ethical development from infancy through childhood and adulthood. According to this representation, to act from an awareness of “the greatest good for the greatest number,” to quote the famous dictum of philosopher John Locke, demonstrates a high level of moral development. Such principles form the basis of modern liberal democracies, including our own.
The highest moral stage, according to Kohlberg, is “transcendent morality,” in which a person’s awareness of the common good is so broad and evolved that it includes sacrificing one’s own well-being, or even one’s life, in the service of the universal welfare of all beings. This is the moral stance of such heroes as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as of Buddhism itself. Suzuki Roshi’s comment about the wrinkles in the mat, I believe, emanated from that kind of Buddhist understanding. Given that understanding, it must have been horrific for Suzuki to watch helplessly as his entire country was swept up in a terrible war which it lost at the cost of more than two million young men. I once saw a photograph of the young Suzuki presiding over a ceremony at his temple to send the temple bell off to a factory to be melted down into bullets. He looked so sad in the photograph. I have often wondered how many funerals of young men Suzuki presided over during those war years. Assuredly, there were many.
In today’s world, one war that we are all facing is an internal war—some say a “cold civil war”—between political factions, red and blue, right and left. His answer might apply to that war too. There are so many ways in which Suzuki Roshi could have responded to my question, so many philosophical or religious doctrines that might have framed and explained the subject of war. But he did not do that. Instead, he just pointed to what was right in front of him: two people sitting on a straw mat. His answer taught us that war was not just some vast, abstract governmental action happening out there in the world, against which we had to demonstrate and protest. The real war starts right here, within each of us, and the first challenge is to face the conflict that lives within our own hearts. He didn’t directly say whether we should have gone to the antiwar demonstration or come to his temple for meditation, but his response to that was implicit in the answer he did give. If you want to truly know what war is, he was saying, sit down on a straw mat with one other person and don’t try to smooth out just your side. Be willing to accept the wrinkles that are always there, for everyone.
Thank you to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, they depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available. Lewis Richmond is a Buddhist priest, meditation teacher, and a transmitted disciple of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. He is the author of five books, including the award-winning Aging as a Spiritual Practice: A Contemplative Guide to Growing Older and Wiser, and his essays have appeared in Tricycle, Buddhadharma, Turning Wheel, and Lion’s Roar. He currently writes a weekly column for The Good Men Project.