Thursday, October 9, 2014
Photo credit: hrustall from morguefile.com
I was on the bus this morning and I saw a woman hurrying across the street in front of us. She was clearly anxious and as she passed the large, wide front bus window, I noticed a ball of tension rising within me. Looking at her struggling, I felt a resistance, a not wanting to "deal" with her appearance in my life.
And it hit me - this was the confused mix of compassion and control I often respond to the human-filled environment with. I felt whatever she was experiencing trying to enter me, and I both wanted to heal it, and banish it at the same time. While desiring to heal or help someone is a compassionate feeling, it often tied to a self centered desire to significantly reduce the amount of time you have to spend witnessing another person's suffering. Wanting to banish suffering can also be a noble impulse, but too often this impulse is tied to violence and/or hatred.
"Turn around the light to shine within, then just return.
The vast inconceivable source can't be faced or turned away from.
Meet the ancestral teachers, be familiar with their instruction,
Bind grasses to build a hut, and don't give up."
We are called to learn how to see ourselves, and others, completely - moment after moment. That turning "the light o shine within" allows us to act in the world, as opposed to react to it.
Shitou (author of the above) , lived a lot of his life in intimacy with the planet as it was. The ancestral trees, grasses, medicine plants, waters, mountains - these were as much his teachers as any human, if not more. At the same time, familial and cultural human ancestors probably played a large role in his life. Another reason perhaps why it took only two poems to cement his place amongst the great Buddhist teachers. He didn't need a lot of words because he had taken everything in, and wasn't controlled by it, but could engage with it fully.
Things are probably more complicated for a lot of us living now, but at the same time, there are these lines from the Sandokai:
"In the light there is darkness, but don't take it as darkness;
In the dark there is light, but don't see it as light."
Bumping up against human stress and suffering might be more concentrated now, but still is not all that different from twelve hundred years ago. The stress and suffering of the planet is probably much more in our faces now, but decay and death have always been with us.
At the same time, we don't have the luxury to just copy what the various ancestors did. Or we can, but it won't bring the liberation we say we're seeking.
In responding to changing weather conditions, soil conditions, sunlight and moonlight conditions, each generation of trees grows somewhat differently from the previous ones. And yet, through the seeds, their ancestral lineage remains fully intact.
The basis for the bodhisattva work of non-violent intervention is being able to see ourselves, and others, completely - moment after moment. And then acting from that clear seeing.