lynnjkelly Feb 26 We learn less from what people tell us than we do from what we observe other people doing. If we’re interested in nurturing our generous tendencies, we would do well to observe others in the act of giving. It happens all the time, though we may not notice it unless we look for it. One person phones her mother overseas every day, not because she enjoys it, but because it keeps her mother mentally balanced. Another person regularly sends money for support to a family member who, in spite of doing their best, cannot make ends meet. Some will send postcards or make phone calls just to let others know they are not alone, that someone is thinking of them. Some people are such outstanding examples that they inspire others even after their deaths. One example was a relative of mine who welcomed victims of domestic violence into her home through a church-based service. The guests brought their children and pets and were often too traumatized to be gracious. And yet their host’s healing love was unstinting. She knew she was salving deep wounds and this was her calling. We can inspire ourselves by recalling people we’ve known who embodied generosity. The key feature is that they were uplifted by their own giving. Another way to look at generosity is to examine our assumptions. Do we believe that people are basically good, basically bad, or basically mixed? Quote from I May Be Wrong by Björn Natthiko Lindeblad (p. 228):…he told us about a BBC interview with the Thai king. The British journalist had asked the king what he thought of the western, Christian idea of original sin. And the king’s answer was lovely: “As Buddhists, we do not believe in original sin. We believe in original purity.” What do we believe? We know that everyone makes mistakes, but do we attribute them to bad intentions or do we see them as best efforts that fail sometimes? This question of original sin or original purity can change our perspective on everything. If we believed that everyone, without exception, has the potential to fully awaken, wouldn’t we treat others with a fundamental respect? Cultivating generosity is the start of looking at everyone with the eyes of love, of forgiveness, of acceptance, kindness, and care. Traditionally, gifts of the Dharma are the most valuable gifts of all. Every time we consciously choose to behave virtuously, to support the growth of the Buddha’s teachings, to cultivate our inner calm, we are giving gifts of the highest value.
In the book, Interbeing – The 14 Mindfulness Trainings of Engaged Buddhism (Fourth Edition) by Thich Nhat Hanh (c) 2020 by Parallax Press, Thay’ says:
“The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings were born in a sea of fire in 1966 in Vietnam. The situation of the war was extremely hot. And we know how hot the fire of fanaticism can be. That is why the very first precept is about nonattachment to views, openness, and tolerance, because we see that attachment to views, narrowness, and fanaticism is the ground of a lot of suffering.” p.30
The First Mindfulness Training – Openness
Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined to not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. We are committed to seeing the Buddhist teachings as a guiding means that help us learn to look deeply and develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill, or die for. We understand that fanaticism in its many forms is the result of perceiving things in a dualistic or discriminative manner. We will train ourselves to look at everything with openness and the insight of interbeing in order to transform dogmatism and violence in ourselves and the world.” p.29
Similarly, Richard Rohr speaks of “solidarity instead of judgment.”
In the book, The Universal Christ – How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe by Richard Rohr (c) 2019 by Center for Action and Contemplation, Inc., Richard says:
“A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail you, always demand more of you, and give you no reasons to fight, exclude, or reject anyone.
Isn’t that ironic? The point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the ungodly, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else. … Humans were fashioned to love people more than principles.” p.33
In the book, The Essential Rumi – Translations by Coleman Barks, New Expanded Edition (c) 2004 HarperOne, Rumi, 13th-Century Persian poet, Islamic scholar and Sufi mystic from Iran, says:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.” p.36
Here is my humble senryu to these great teachers:Nhat Hanh, Rohr and Rumi
It’s been many years since I attended parochial school or celebrated Lent for that matter. However, this year I have a poem to share that uses the word lent in perhaps a different way. May this Lent be a time of good reflection for all of us regardless of our faith tradition.
What We Are Lent
sometimes we think too much
sometimes not enough
sometimes it’s time to pause and breathe
I think that’s the “right stuff”
or is it right view, right action
or right effort
whatever it is
let’s recognize the common hurt
then embrace and smile
and enjoy this moment
it’s a short ride after all
and life is what we are lent
From my latest book of poetry, Natural Beauty and Other Poems, (c) 2021
Below are pictures and links for three dharma poets, three wise men, that inspire my spiritual and poetic path. Perhaps they will inspire you as well.
“AriBouse helps you breathe fresh air into your soul so you may then exhale the dead air of old ways that no longer serve you. … Something to Chew On serves as a walking meditation that will help you align with nature as it unfolds during the spirit of the season to enable you to rekindle a sense of magic, mystery, and adventure in your life.” https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45290399-something-to-chew-on
“The experience of reading a poem is a meditative experience in and of itself. As author John Brehm writes in The Dharma of Poetry, to enter a poem is to ‘shift out of everyday consciousness. . . to step out of the ongoing flow of experience and look at it.’ A poem inspires a moment of pause in which we can ‘engage in an imaginative activity that has no practical value.’” https://tricycle.org/article/meditative-poems/
Brehm adds “a poet may be defined as one who stops, one who is inclined by temperament and training to step out of the ongoing flow of experience and look at it, and to help us do the same.”https://tricycle.org/article/poetry-meditation/
Lemmings have become the subject of a widely popular misconception that they are driven to commit mass suicide when they migrate by jumping off cliffs. It is not a deliberate mass suicide, in which animals voluntarily choose to die, but rather a result of their migratory behavior.
Driven by strong biological urges, some species of lemmings may migrate in large groups when population density becomes too great. They can swim and may choose to cross a body of water in search of a new habitat. In such cases, many drown if the body of water is an ocean or is so wide as to exceed their physical capabilities. Thus, the unexplained fluctuations in the population of Norwegian lemmings, and perhaps a small amount of semantic confusion (suicide not being limited to voluntary deliberation, but also the result of foolishness), helped give rise to the popular stereotype of the suicidal lemmings.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemming
“Free will as an illusion
Spinoza thought that there is no free will. “Experience teaches us no less clearly than reason, that men believe themselves free, simply because they are conscious of their actions, and unconscious of the causes whereby those actions are determined.” Baruch Spinoza, Ethics
David Hume discussed the possibility that the entire debate about free will is nothing more than a merely “verbal” issue. He suggested that it might be accounted for by “a false sensation or seeming experience” (a velleity), which is associated with many of our actions when we perform them. On reflection, we realize that they were necessary and determined all along….
Buddhists believe in neither absolute free will, nor determinism. It preaches a middle doctrine, ‘dependent origination’, ‘dependent arising’ or ‘conditioned genesis’. It teaches that every volition is a conditioned action as a result of ignorance. In part, it states that free will is inherently conditioned and not “free” to begin with.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will
Assuming you, the reader, are human, do you think you have free will?
If your black, indigenous, or another person of color (BIPOC) and are looking for a place to learn more about building a Beloved Community and/or the Plum Village Tradition of Zen Buddhism then check out ARISE at https://arisesangha.org.
If you’re not BIPOC but are interested in learning more about being an ally, like I am, then we can check out, join and support ARISE as well.
Dr. Larry Ward is a senior dharma teacher in the Thich Nhat Hanh Plum Village Tradition. He is a noted author and co-founder with his wife, Dr. Peggy Ward, of The Lotus Institute (http://www.thelotusinstitute.org).
A beautiful writer and poet, Dr. Ward has a strong physical and metaphysical voice which informs us of our opportunities for learning and sharing a deep, fierce love.
Our teacher, Thay’, Thich Nhat Hanh, died one year ago. Below are two links for more information on this fierce and gentle Zen Master.
I especially appreciate his poem displayed below which includes the phrase: “birth and death are a game of hide-and-seek”
May you experience his continued presence of peace and joy.
Contemplation on No-Coming and No-Going
by Thich Nhat Hanh
This body is not me.
I am not limited by this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born,
and I have never died.
Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars,
manifestations from my wondrous true mind.
Since before time, I have been free.
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass,
sacred thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are a game of hide-and-seek.
So laugh with me,
hold my hand,
let us say good-bye,
say good-bye, to meet again soon.
We meet today.
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life.
One last post on the excellent book by Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, (c) 2004.
Centering Prayer (CP) might better be called the “path to your most interior self” or the “abiding prayer of silence.” The name itself is not important it is the practice of meditation that makes a difference.
CP is the creation of inter-religious and interspiritual dialogue. Based on Hindu, Zen Buddhism, Jain, Christian (Catholic, Protestant, Quaker), 12 Step Program for Recovery to Addiction, Transcendental Meditation and Ken Wilbur’s 9-Level Fallacy.
Ultimately, committed daily sitting in silence will encourage you to:
Renew your own tradition (e.g., Buddhist meditation)
Be of service to others in the community
Engage in and appreciate interspiritual dialogue
I highly recommend reading or listening to the audiobook for Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening and/or watching the 1hr/17-minute YouTube video linked above with special attention on the last 17 minutes.
As Thomas Keating said, the nothingness (of sitting in silence) leads to infinite possibilities.