Monday, July 30, 2012

We never give up on anyone! by Haeja Sunim

Have you ever made a mistake, known it was mistake, and vowed never to repeat it, only to make the same mistake yet again? I know that I have made mistake after mistake seemly without end. When do we throw in the towel and accept defeat?

“We never give up on anyone!” I want to thank Wonji Sunim for saying those words to me. I have no idea what we were talking about at the time. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention or I forgot.
Nevertheless, those words have had a profound impact on me. There are times when everything can look bleak and one feels like giving up. But can we really give up and spend our lives sitting in a corner sucking our thumbs? As the old Chinese proverb says, “Six times knocked down, seven times get up.”

Perhaps you teach others and someone you work with seems to waste your time. Over and over you have offered a solution to their “problem”.  After a while it starts to feel like you are wasting your time.  Recently after a friend had committed to begin kong’an practice with me for the umpteenth time, he did not even bother to show up for the first phone appointment.  I had the thought, ‘If this guy wants to start in the future, I’ll tell him that I don’t have an opening.’

Right after that thought went through my head the next thought was “We don’t give up on anyone!”  In this case the second thought was the antidote to the first.  I am not always that lucky.  If I had let that thought loop around unchecked I would have unleashed a mountain of misery upon myself.  Here is a taste of the mistakes that would have compounded quickly.  I would be guilty of claiming supernatural powers like foreseeing the future.  The first precept against lying or to affirm the truth would have been broken. 
In the future if I were to carry out my thought, I would have been holding on to my idea of my friend and not be willing to see him for who he is in the present.  We are currently in the month of Ramadan, the month that Muslims all over the world commit to letting go of attachments and habits and focus on the One.  They would call my mistake “shirk”, which means making partners with the One. Oneness with reality is called “tawhid”. Shirk is the greatest sin in Islam.  In Zen we may call it “making separation” which pops us directly into duality and suffering.  I hope the pattern is obvious without belaboring the point.

In Zen we brashly vow to save all sentient beings.  For me that would include my friend, my wife, myself, and my cats for starters.  The list continues with every being in Illinois, the Midwest, America, the world, and finally the whole universe or universes.  I will save no less then all beings everywhere.  How is this possible?

From the perspective of the individual, it is not possible.  We can’t even save ourselves. No matter how hard we try the next mistake is right around the corner.  What can we do?  The problem isn’t the action that we label a mistake. If you think about it, mistakes are necessary.  Without taking an action and noticing the effects, how could we learn and grow?

We are supposed to make mistakes.  How can we know that?  Because we do; it’s reality.  Reality is always true.  Reality is not the problem.  The problem is our interpretation of reality.  We create or make an opinion, holding on to it and using it to judge ourselves and others. 

The reason that we do that is because we believe that we are separate and special.  Making and holding on to an idea of I, me, and mine is our original mistake.  All desire and hatred comes from this fundamental delusion. One meaning of saving all beings is to let go of this idea of self in each moment that we notice it.  This letting go returns us to the One.  In the One, all beings are already saved because there are no separate beings.  This is the theme of the Diamond Sutra.

When do we accept defeat for ourselves or cut off our love from others?  Isn’t this now an empty question? Even if we believe that we are separate we aren’t.  We can only cut ourselves off from ourselves.  It would be like our left hand being angry at our right hand and cutting it off.  The reason doesn’t matter because whatever the reason, the action is insane!

Then what do we do? Please consider giving yourself and everyone else a pass. No one is the same from one moment to the next. First we become clear by letting go of our thinking and paying attention to what we see, hear, taste, smell and touch in the present without interpretation. Then if our mind is clear we can sincerely ask, “How may I help you?” This is great love and compassion in action.

 Letting go is the essence of forgiveness. We forgive for ourselves as much as for the other because making separation is painful to everyone. When Jesus was asked, “How many times should we forgive our brothers? Seven?” He said, “No, seventy times seven.” In Buddhist terms we might say “84,000 times, or 10,000”. They all mean infinity. In the words of a modern Zen master, “We never give up on anyone!”

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gregorian Chants & Buddistic Shómyó

I want to thank both Karima and Bob Ebert for bringing this lovely video to my attention. A dialogue of two spiritual cultures based on the musical repertoire of the Buddhist and the Christian tradition - Schola Gregoriana Pragensis & Gjosan-rjú Tendai Sómjó(Buddhist Monks from Japan).

Meaningful dialogue between religions is no doubt one of the most pressing challenges of the modern world. Developments over the past few years clearly confirm what a significant role this aspect of human communication represents. Despite breathtaking technological breakthroughs and the related trend of rational scepticism, man still remains a religious creature. Ignoring this sphere of human personality not only leads to an impoverishment of the spiritual culture of a nation, but also to mutual estrangement of nations. And so what a wonderfully enriching experience it is then two cultures meet in mutual dialogue rather than confrontation.

View, listen & order the CD at
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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Gaelic Guerrilla

Our New Student Karima Wicks sent me this link, it is interesting that I could be related to Che Guevara through my Irish roots....