Tag Archives: dharma

In Relationship With the Truth

“The dharma — understanding, peering into the nature of reality — is not specific to Buddhism. The dharma is truth. And the only choice we really have is whether to try to be in relationship with the truth or to live in ignorance. There are no other choices. You have to actively engage. How did I come to be? How do I think of myself? How did I get what I have? (I don’t mean your degrees.) Where did I come from? What land are we on?If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. All of us, in some way, have profited from our wrong knowing.”

— angel Kyodo williams, Your Liberation is on the Line

Taking Stock

“Dharma practice is founded on resolve. This is not an emotional conversion, a devastating realization of the error of our ways, a desperate urge to be good, but an ongoing, heartfelt reflection on priorities, values, and purpose. We need to keep taking stock of our life in an unsentimental, uncompromising way.”

— Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism without Beliefs

A Living Continuation

“The day my mother died I wrote in my journal, “A serious misfortune of my life has arrived.” I suffered for more than one year after the passing away of my mother. But one night, in the highlands of Vietnam, I was sleeping in the hut in my hermitage.

I dreamed of my mother. I saw myself sitting with her, and we were having a wonderful talk. She looked young and beautiful, her hair flowing down. It was so pleasant to sit there and talk to her as if she had never died.

When I woke up it was about two in the morning, and I felt very strongly that I had never lost my mother. The impression that my mother was still with me was very clear. I understood then that the idea of having lost my mother was just an idea. It was obvious in that moment that my mother is always alive in me.

I opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. It was a hill covered with tea plants, and my hut was set behind the temple halfway up. Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet… wonderful! Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me.

I knew this body was not mine but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. Those feet that I saw as “my” feet were actually “our” feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.

From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.”

–Thích Nhat Hanh, No Death, No Fear

We Are Not the Designers

“But we do neither: we never fail, and we never succeed. We are not the designers of our lives. Life is the designer of us. Life is vast and grand, intelligent, clever, and completely unknowable. It always has the last word. It is the last word. Life interrupts us when we are at our most self-assured. Life diverts us when we are hellbent on going elsewhere. Life arrives in a precise and yet unplanned sequence to deliver exactly what we need in order to realize our greatest potential. The delivery is not often what we would choose, and almost never how we intend to satisfy ourselves, because our potential is well beyond our limited, ego-bound choices and self serving intentions.”

–Karen Maezen Miller, Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life

Brief Notes of an Adventure

I just returned from my first sesshin at Hazy Moon Zen Center. It was fruitful. I’m tired and glad to be home. All that I experienced is settling, so I hesitate to write extensively about it. Here are some brief reflections. The first one is from my drive down, when I stopped at San Luis Reservoir for a break. The entire drive leads through two mountain ranges (the Diablo Mountains with the Pacheco Pass and the Tehachapi Mountains with the Tejon Pass) and the central valley; it’s beautiful country. It’s a six hour drive (one way) — which is just right.
—–

Brief Notes of an Adventure

The lake — a bowl of glitter!
Winds whisper to water,
waves murmur replies.
A crow flies, snail snared
in its beak.
—–

Rooster crows, broom sweeps.
A car growls to life.
Helicopters thump the sky.
Pigeon wings slap air.
Sirens keen, dogs bark.
Zazen in L.A.
—–

My food – Advil.
My nectar – water.
My balm – sleep.
—–

Now the cushion
Now the breath
Now the work.
Samadhi does not
come in a box or book.
It cannot be imagined
or conjured.
Bells, incense, bows, chants
bring dignity and form
to the formless.
But above all,
it is about the work.
Breath.
Samadhi.
—–

Cresting the mountain,
valley a blanket spread low;
slices of miles served –
feast towards home.

–Kathryn Harper

There Is No Place Too Small

I’m healthy. My daughter thrives. My marriage is happy. The weather is sunny and mild. We’re not in the middle of a mortgage crisis. We can pay our bills. I have a good social network.

So why have I grown tired, sad, and teary over the course of the day? I was prepared to chide myself for ingratitude, but then I remembered. Tomorrow is an anniversary. It’s been three years, but time doesn’t erase the mark completely. I feel fragile right now. (And my daughter has changed –yet again — these past few days; the cues that used to communicate hunger and exhaustion have changed, she’s eating just about every 90 minutes, and I feel off-kilter in my competence.)

I wrote the following poem a couple of years ago regarding the event.

No Place Too Small

It is easy to know how to meld with so much grief.
With joy there is blindness, rose-colored ignorance,
No body to tend, to anchor one to the earth.
When the world remains intact, you move nimbly,
Caressing the surface of things, noticing little.

But grief burrows in.
It needs only the exposed, wounded soul
To dig in as a tick under skin.
Grief bangs around the cellar, shrieking,
behaves unpredictably, hijacking your eyes
When the store clerk asks how you are. Clutching your
throat when you call the dentist’s office for a cleaning.

You walk now among oblivious humans,
an emotional leper
With lesions rotting your heart.
All of existence has its own death,
It too could slip into a tumor-ridden coma
Adorned with catheter tubes,
And gasp last breaths to the sterile beat
Of a monitor, attended by loved ones.

Since there is no place too small
For grief to infiltrate,
You lie down, surrender, pull it
to every cell of your being.
You take orders, as a dog obeys commands
From an owner; you honor and bear it,
And in this way, endure.

–Kathryn Harper

A Visit With Mother

A Visit With Mother

Playing with the ocean is a high contact sport.
Wrestle a wave, expect
to be tackled, lifted up, tossed aside,
waves sprinting and jockeying each other to shore,
cresting, swapping twelve-foot high fives.

Boys tag icy waves; cries of surprise
compete with seagulls. A toddler in pink totters toward
starlings holding their convention on the sand.
Her face beams as she waves to each bird.

You cross dry sand and it swallows your toes.
The wind slaps and pushes,
scrubs your face, bleaches your mind.
Your eyes sting and weep in the salt air.

You do not come to the beach for tranquility.
You do not come here for shelter,
but to absorb ancient energy,
feel the rhythm of waves in your blood,

swing on the tidal pendulum,
submit to the scrutiny of the bald sun,
gaze at the horizon melting into thousands
of miles of nothingness and possibility.

You come to release your illusions.

–Kathryn Harper