Friday, March 29, 2013

Reflections: Compassion and Wisdom

Since the Winter Intensive I've read a few books and listened to several of Ajahn Brahm's dharma talks, which are easy to listen to in the background at work. My aim was to return to what I learned when I started sitting years ago because of a sense of uncertainty about what compassion and loving kindness actually are. The source of the uneasiness was, and still is, an internal conflict between what rings most true in what the Buddha taught and effectively responding to circumstances as they arise.

Speaking for myself, what rings most true in what the Buddha taught is that compassion, harmony and peace are more important than being right. I'm reminded of Rumi's lines: Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. 

Compassion, harmony and peace are more important than any agenda. It's a difficult lesson, but compassion -- being present for the suffering of others -- is different from compassionate action. It's difficult to determine what truly compassionate action is without wisdom, and wisdom is only possible to the extent that I have an accurate view of circumstances and let go of preconceptions and judgements. Not only my own judgements, but also my reactions to the judgements and attempts at compassionate action of other people.

What happened almost a year ago? I began listening to my own internal dialogue as well as several voices around that said something was wrong with the way I was living my life and the choices I was making (or not making). I'm reminded of one of Ajahn Brahm's stories in which someone offers him a small amount of money out of gratitude. After a frustrating night making a list of all the things he might spend the money on, Ajahn Brahm returns to say along the lines of: Please don't do that again. I'm happy with the way things are. At the same time, I'm sure Ajahn Brahm realized it was a wonderful learning experience.

Shunryu Suzuki once said: “Each of you is perfect the way you are ... and you can use a little improvement.” That's true for each of us. Part of what makes us perfect is our ability to recognize, accept and attempt to learn from our own imperfections. 

In that vein, this is my apology to Sweeping Zen, Brad Warner and especially Mike Cross for being a part of this phase of my learning. 

This is also my thanks to numerous unnamed individuals whose voices I've tried to listen to in these intervening months. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Poem: Resolve To Begin

Not knowing.
Not knowing what
To make of what she sees.
Not knowing what to think.
She wanders beaches
Of a thousand universes
Lost to the ghosts
Of ten thousand stories
And their untold histories,
Pausing to build shrines
To fears conquered by love.
Time will wash them away —
The ghosts, the stories,
The histories and the shrines
...Including her own.