06 January 2014

Sic Transit Festis

I put up the tree on or about December 8, in conjunction with Rohatsu. I take it down on our about January 6, in conjunction with Epiphany. Today it came down, and so another holiday season comes to an end.

By nature I'm one of those folks that just eats this time up – the imagery, the wonder, the stillness, the acts of kindness large and small that surface all over the place. From the realization of someone like you and I who saw with utmost clarity the true nature of this world and our lives, to the manifestation of the seamless union of the absolute and the relative in flesh-and-blood no different at all from our own, I have no shortage of occasions to ponder and marvel at this life of ours. I'm almost embarrassed to count the number of times I've been moved to tears over the last month or so.

And why?

Celebrated is Shakyamuni's enlightenment, of course, but celebrated is ours as well. Celebrated is theophany in the baby of Bethlehem, but celebrated is the same in us as well.

I don't know, but I find that spending a little time with all of that makes me just that much more inclined to smile at our finitude, our all-too-humanness, our quirks and our missteps. Somehow, through the decorating and the baking and the gifting and the eating and the drinking and the family-ing and all the rest I'm reminded yet again of how wondrous each and every one of us is, warts and all.

It's bitter cold here tonight, and there's hurt of all kinds all over the place. May all be as warm as they can be. May all be at ease.

30 December 2013

2013 Closeout

If there's one thing that's really settled into my bones of late, it is the realization that there really is nothing at all to say about this life and this practice.

When they ask, I just keep saying to people, "Just keep living your life, every last bit of it, full-on, without fear or anxiety or remainder. And above all, don't ever think you know what any of that even means."

That's all.

29 November 2013

Why Black Friday is So Important

Ever since Gmail decided to sort the Inbox into "Primary," "Social," and "Promotions" categories it's become easy to see just how much of what comes my way is advertising.  This morning, "Promotions" was chock full of ads and offers, a windfall of Black Friday specials of one kind or another.

Here's the thing: I look at them.   Yep, 50% off this, 40% off that with free shipping, buy one at 25% off get the next at 50% off – the list goes on. And I look at them.

I have to own that I'm as tempted as anyone to pick up another of my favorite things when some retailer is taking a good chunk of the price off and throwing in free shipping, too.  In this, I am no different from the door busting, wee hours of the morning purchasing, major artery jamming hordes that were out and underway as early as yesterday evening.  No different at all.  Even if I should like to think otherwise.

Just as Thanksgiving gives me occasion to exercise gratitude, Black Friday reminds me just how much work I still have to do.

16 November 2013

The Pressure to Say or Do Something

Two nights ago I was involved in a residence hall activity where I, the Buddhist, along with two of my colleagues, both Christian, but one from India so he spoke on Hinduism, had an hour with the students. We were each invited to talk for about 15 mins about the respective traditions, and then a Q&A followed.

It was fine enough, but I always leave such events with a bad taste in my mouth.  "If you say, 'Buddha, wash you mouth out three times" makes such increasing sense to me.  "Buddha" indeed…!

Would that I never had to talk about this practice again.  Would that henceforth and forever I could just say, "Look!" and let that be enough and more than enough.  Even better: to just smile Mahākāshyapa's smile and leave it at that!

15 November 2013

What if No One's in Charge?

Some people look at the relative order of the universe and are drawn to the conclusion that it must be the work of one single agent.

If I look at something like the city of Chicago, for instance, with its complexity and relative orderliness, I can be astounded that the whole thing functions just as well as it does (food comes in, waste is processed, there's water sent to every floor in the downtown skyscrapers, and on and on), but I don't jump to the conclusion that there must have been, and continue to be, some one mind, one agent behind it.

Why?

Because I know better.  I get that when you put a bunch of trifling decisions, personal goals, some group think and some time together you get a functioning metropolis.  I also get that when you put a bunch of trifling decisions, personal goals, some group think and some time together you get all the social ills associated with this kind of metropolis.

This works from the other direction as well, and I find that there is no captain to this ship I call me, either.  Sure, I can order coffee instead of tea or choose Star Trek over Dancing with the Stars, but I know that those choices do not come out of nowhere.  They are themselves conditioned by conditioned conditions, stretching beyond the grasp of comprehension. Some of my actions go on to become the context for other actions; some of my actions go nowhere, just gestures that appear and disappear without much trace at all.

Best part is, it really doesn't matter.  Whether all of this is the flowering of one single directing mind or not, my morning coffee is just as satisfying. My gratitude for making it alive and well to another day is not diminished in the least because I have no particular someone to thank.  And whether or not there is or is not a central command to this business I call me, I'll muddle along just as I've always done, sometimes skillfully, sometimes not.  

21 October 2013

Mu Rising

In the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to speak with several people one-on-one about their practice.  In each case, the person in question was finding renewed aspiration and renewed resolve to enter into the fray of seeing into what there is to see into.

What none of them understand is what their grit and pluck and wonder does for my practice.

It takes me back to my first halting attempts at the koan, to that initial sense that I was embarking on the task of a lifetime, to the fear and awe and frustration and strange sense of comfort that walking the same path as all Buddhas and bodhisattvas brought with it.

It brings me back to the present, to all the ways in which I still get stuck in the well-worn habit tracks laid down by greed, anger and confusion.

It bids me press on, knowing that the Dharma does not disappoint and that countless ages will not suffice to plumb it completely.

What a gift, this koan practice – so unlike anything else and yet so absolutely straightforward and plain at the same time!

20 October 2013

How Out of It am I?

I know someone who has it in his head that the bank around the corner is First Nations, not First National, Bank.  No amount of correction has been successful in getting him to come up with the right name on his own.

In getting my students ready for their first exam I drive home the point that it's an essay exam, and paragraph ≠ essay.  I will bet my last dollar that tomorrow when the exams come in, there will be at least one, and likely more than one, paragraph passing itself off as an essay.  I will have them rewrite the exam, and of the rewrites at least one (such is the track record) will still come back as paragraph.

These are somewhat extreme cases, of course, and I'm sure even more extreme cases likely exist. I could go on about "people these days..." or "some folks are so...;" but I won't.  What I find myself puzzling about is, well, myself: what am I missing?  getting wrong all the time?  calling y instead of x?

People don't correct me too often, but maybe they are just being kind – or merely reticent.  I've been told I can be intimidating, and enough people have said that in enough different times and places that it must be somewhat true.  Maybe I've built up a wall of intimidation that keeps my foibles and stupidities from being addressed.

Help me out, folks, and don't withhold spiritual and material aid.  Kick my ass!