Thursday, August 20, 2009
Time for a break from the health care debates, and back to another lojong slogan. Even though I am a Soto Zen guy, I find myself landing back with the Tibetans from time to time for a shift in perspective. It's definitely true that I have always been an ecclectic, so this hopping isn't all that surprising. My dharma name, Tokugo, means "devoted to enlightenment" and the way I see it, everything can be a dharma gate. Dogen texts, lojong slogans, watching squirrels, eating nettles, health care debates, people that like you, people that don't like you: everything.
So the title of the post is pretty obvious, although much harder to actually do. How do you be grateful to people who harm you, for example? Or people who would like to kill you? Those are big, tricky questions.
And what about the more mundane. Can you show gratitude to the dust that fills your closets? Or the junk mail that fills your mailbox?
What about the boredom you feel on a rainy day? The cloudy states of mind you have when all you want is to be clear about something in your life?
Chogyam Trungpa writes about this slogan, "without this world we cannot attain enlightenment ... by rejecting the world we would be rejecting the ground and the path."
I think we're pretty effective as humans at rejecting our lives. It's probably a science by now, so well ingrained in each of us that we pass the skills onto the next generation without even knowing it, so well developed are they.
Somehow, it's essential to flip around the idea that the things we experience as obstacles are obstacles. The definition of obstacle is something that impedes progress or achievement, stands in front of, blocks the way. But I think the Buddha way is to flip that over, to learn to embrace what comes, and fold it within our lives on the path. To see everything as a dharma gate.
I've been discussing with another practitioner on-line about what he sees as the prevalence of anti-Christian sentiment amongst some of the on-line Buddhist community. I'm at a loss about how best to address this issue - I do agree with him to some degree - and yet I also understand some of the sources of the anger and upset that drive western Buddhists to make such blanket statements.
How can we show our gratitude to the evangelical Christian who says we are going to hell? That everything we practice is the devil's teachings? What does that look like without becoming a doormat in the process?
During the last three years of the Bush Administration, I took a vow to stop making personal attacks on the President, and I included him in my loving-kindness meditations. I actually upset some of my friends and family when I started saying things like "I don't believe the President is stupid." Some people had no idea how to respond. This didn't at all change the fact that I wanted him out of office, and believed that his policy decisions were destructive and created massive amounts of suffering. But I felt that continuing to make personal attacks opened the door to personal attacks on anyone, including myself.
I can actually say that President Bush, and those who worked with him, gave me the opportunity to see how fruitless personal attacks are - or maybe more correctly, how much negative fruit is created from personal attacks.
I don't think this fully answers the question above. Maybe it's a start. Every situation is different, and calls for a different approach, even if only slightly different.
So, there it is - Be Grateful to Everyone. Or, everything as I see it. Now on to actually doing it! There's the work of our lives.
Posted by Nathan at 1:25 PM