Monday, April 6, 2009

This Too, is My Life

In his commentary on Dogen's Genjokoan, Hakuun Yasutsani quotes his own teacher as saying that the Genjokoan means "everything in a person's life is the living Buddha way." Now, regardless of whether you are Buddhist or not, how often do you experience this sense that EVERYTHING in your life is sacred? If you're like me, you probably have extended bouts with picking and choosing, really loving some things in your life, and rejecting other things in your life in various ways.

We have minds that are set up to discriminate. To decide what is what, to label, to judge, to organize - the mind just does these things, and there isn't anything inherently wrong about that. But so often we (I for sure anyway) get in trouble because I believe too strongly in whatever story mind mind has created about something. It's tricky stuff, isn't it?

I was on the bus coming home this evening. Sitting across from me were two fairly drunk people, a middle aged white man and a middle aged African-American woman. They seemed to know each other, although they sat a seat apart so that at the next stop, someone gets on and sits between the two. The woman turns to the new passenger, a middle aged African-American man, and starts telling him how she's drunk and how her son gave her $100. At some point during the conversation, the white man sitting behind the other two tells the African-American guy to apologize to the woman. For what, he doesn't know, nor do I. It seemed to come out of nowhere. I started to feel tension rising up within me. Concerns that a fight might break out, and right next to me even. I wondered if maybe there wasn't also some underlying racial issue going on as well, seeing as there didn't seem to be any obviously reason for the white man's comment about apologizing. Anyway, the guy in the middle clearly assessed the situation - he was sitting between two heavily intoxicated people - and so, he just let the odd comments go and waited out what was going on. After the other two got off, he looks over at me and says "I'm just trying to get home." And he starts to laugh, and I do as well. And the driver does as well. It was a beautiful moment.

At the same time, the whole experience was so interesting - just paying attention to what was happening, feeling it in my body, and also the stories that came up in my mind. I often have found myself just wanting to be out of these kinds of situations, to ignore them, or get away as fast as possible. And yet, this too, is my life, so why turn my back on it? This is the question we all need to ask, whenever we forget that everything "is the living Buddha way."

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