Where do we turn?

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  • AlanLa
    Member
    • Mar 2008
    • 1405

    Where do we turn?

    I was having a great day.
    I had slept well and felt refreshed.
    I got some work done.
    All my sports teams had won.
    And by chance I flipped channels over to the Newtown memorial service and just lost it. Tears and sorrow flowed. The relativity of my day compared to the subject of that service was crushing. That the service was so beautiful is why I lost it. That service was as nice as I have ever seen of a multi-denominational event. So many faiths were represented; there were many variations of Christianity, but there were also Jews and B'Hai, and even Muslim, etc. But I did not see Buddhism. Each faith's representative took to the lectern to offer prayers to God, and those that sang their prayers I found especially moving. It was wonderful and there was nothing in any way wrong with it.

    All those faiths had one thing in common: an entreaty to another, God, to alleviate their suffering. God was not alone in this task, but He was in charge. I am a firm believer in God because of some very powerful experiences in my life, so I have no real issue with all those faiths' entreaties. But my question is if a Buddhist priest were invited to that service (surely there are Buddhists in that community, right?), what could they offer as comfort?

    We, as a natural human reaction in times like this, want that hug from another, and maybe especially The Other. It is quite normal that we feel a need for that external comfort, but providing this is not a strength of Buddhism, and maybe partly an explanation of why it is not more popular. Buddhism requires harder work, more internal reflection, and also because of my experience I embrace this heartily. But acceptance of emptiness can seem very heartless to those of other faiths in the context of such a terrible tragedy. We have Avalokitesvara, but it is so easy to make her/him a saint, just another external source of comfort instead of internalizing those actions.

    I know this is an old debate, an old question, usually one I now avoid here, but this new context brings it to mind, and it seems worthy enough to reintroduce in a slightly different way:

    If one had the chance, what would a Buddhist (priest) say to comfort those at Newtown?
    What can one of us say to comfort without calling on the Other?
    Last edited by AlanLa; 12-17-2012, 03:10 AM.
    AL (Jigen) in:
    Faith/Trust
    Courage/Love
    Awareness/Action!

    I sat today
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39392

    #2
    Originally posted by AlanLa

    All those faiths had one thing in common: an entreaty to another, God, to alleviate their suffering. God was not alone in this task, but He was in charge. I am a firm believer in God because of some very powerful experiences in my life, so I have no real issue with all those faiths' entreaties. But my question is if a Buddhist priest were invited to that service (surely there are Buddhists in that community, right?), what could they offer as comfort?

    We, as a natural human reaction in times like this, want that hug from another, and maybe especially The Other. It is quite normal that we feel a need for that external comfort, but providing this is not a strength of Buddhism, and maybe partly an explanation of why it is not more popular. Buddhism requires harder work, more internal reflection, and also because of my experience I embrace this heartily. But acceptance of emptiness can seem very heartless to those of other faiths in the context of such a terrible tragedy. We have Avalokitesvara, but it is so easy to make her/him a saint, just another external source of comfort instead of internalizing those actions.

    I know this is an old debate, an old question, usually one I now avoid here, but this new context brings it to mind, and it seems worthy enough to reintroduce in a slightly different way:

    If one had the chance, what would a Buddhist (priest) say to comfort those at Newtown?
    What can one of us say to comfort without calling on the Other?
    Hi Al,

    I cannot concur with many of the premises written here.

    A Buddhist experience of this life-world-self is not of something cold and empty, but rather an Embrace and Peace that holds all beyond and right between "inside" or "outside". Our message is no less hopeful, our Salvation complete.

    Some folks need an image of Jesus or Mary or Amida or Kannon, an outward Savior or Saint or Buddha or Bodhisattva, who takes all in hand and shines a light. That is fine for those who need or are helped by such, but I would say that the real Light shines through "within" or "without".

    It is not that we reject that "Other Power", by the way, but just that we find "Other Power" and "Self Power" is just "Power", no great divide of "Self vs. Other".

    Our way is simply to span both sides of that bridge of "here and there" "me and you" "what is and what is not" "beautiful and ugly", and the barriers that break this world into a billion pieces of our little human wishes and dreams and selfish views. Suffering is alleviated, our True Face and True Home found ... the Beautiful Pure Land washing away small human views of the beautiful and ugly, pure and impure, this place and that.

    Yes, we believe in total "Salvation" (big "S") because there is never a sentient being in need of saving from the first, no flaw although countless flaws and cracks and imperfections, and all things flowing vibrantly as they are. We do not find the universe an unfriendly place, but the one place to be or where we need be.

    I dare say that, for those who can pierce this fact, our Light shines brighter than for those who can never understand why their God fails to make this world into the world that men would want it to be, why their prayers often seem to go unanswered, why such evil and ugliness seems to appear in the "reality" that is actually a passing dream and theatre show (for that is ultimately what it is) of a world.

    So, I cannot accept the major premises of what you say. But yes, Buddhism (except the kinds which offer an external hearer of prayers) is not more popular because our Zen way is subtle and hard to fathom for the masses, and always has been. We teach that all our "prayers are answered" and always heard because our "Zen prayers" are songs of gratitude for all of life ... which is just who we are all along.

    What would I say to comfort those at Newtown?

    Our children have returned to that Peace and Wholeness which was never left, beyond and holding birth and death. Though lives appear to our eyes to be lost too early, please find that which is Timeless and never bound by "long or short". Though our hearts are broken, there is a Heart which can never be broken in its Wholeness. And though this life is like a dream, sometimes beautiful and somtimes ugly, it is our dream. May we go forth and make a world free of violence.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-17-2012, 05:05 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    Comment

    • Taigu
      Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
      • Aug 2008
      • 2710

      #3
      Gassho to Jundo for putting down to words so eloquently what I cannot express with words.

      Taigu

      Comment

      • Jinyo
        Member
        • Jan 2012
        • 1957

        #4
        Beautifully expressed Jundo.

        When I fist came to Buddhism (quite recently) it was with a sense of relief that I had finally found a spiritual practice that was not defined by a belief in God.

        What I came to realise was that it was an entrapment of a notion of God within a particular religious upbringing that I couldn't gell with.

        Zen lacks nothing - it seems to me - in words of comfort and deeply held spiritual belief - and hope for the future that we as free, creative human beings can shape the world we live in.

        Gassho

        Willow

        Comment

        • Rich
          Member
          • Apr 2009
          • 2600

          #5
          Thanks Jundo and AMEN.
          _/_
          Rich
          MUHYO
          無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

          https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

          Comment

          • Myozan Kodo
            Friend of Treeleaf
            • May 2010
            • 1901

            #6
            Thanks Jundo for that. Spot on.

            We have the precepts. These Bodhisattva precepts are not optional in this practice. They are central. We do not sit on our Zafus only. But when we do, the precepts are fully realised. When we stand up, we must carry that into conventional reality ... our lived and daily lives first, as we encounter them. Or when children are murdered by a gunman, by a bomb in Gaza or southern Israel, by a drone or a disease or all the countless terrible things that happen everyday, when press cameras are there or when they are not. Each tragedy is real and all the dead deserve dignity.

            ... I am speachless now. Time to stop my foolish blather.

            Gassho,
            Myozan

            Comment

            • Hoyu
              Member
              • Nov 2010
              • 2020

              #7
              Thank you Jigen for asking such questions and to Jundo for a most heartwarming reply to them!

              Gassho,
              Hoyu
              Ho (Dharma)
              Yu (Hot Water)

              Comment

              • KellyRok
                Member
                • Jul 2008
                • 1374

                #8
                Hello all,

                I can't say that I haven't asked this question before...so thank you Al for your post. But I'm also grateful to be reminded why I have chosen this path. Thank you Jundo for such heartfelt words! As I wipe my eyes for the hundreth time in the last few days, I'm printing this question and response so that I may share it with my family.

                Gassho,
                Kelly/Jinmei

                Comment

                • Mp

                  #9
                  Beautiful, thank you Jundo.

                  Gassho
                  Michael

                  Comment

                  • Kyotai

                    #10
                    Id like to thank Alan for an honest and sincere post.

                    And I agree, there was nothing whatsoever wrong with the service....even with a representative of Buddhism missing from the podium. I live in a community (nearby) of roughly the same size as Newtown. You could not find Buddhism if you tried. Of course, there is a small yoga studio with some meditation classes, all and all...Buddhism is absent from the community, so naturally, it would not be included in a service in a community where tragedy took place.

                    I personally, do not believe in any sort of god or higher power, which is why I am typing on a forum within this community (although as I understand it, all faiths are welcome). I think it is a natural CONDITIONED human response to look to a creator in times like this for comfort. I respect those that do, It is something that I cannot.

                    I do feel that what you said.."acceptance of emptiness can seem very heartless to those of other faiths in the context of such a terrible tragedy" may have some serious truth to it, from those who do not understand buddhism.

                    I saw footage of a man speaking to media, the day after his daughter was killled, he spoke with great compassion towards both the Killer, and his family..he even said he was not angry. Ultimately his faith in a higher power is what is getting him through this difficult time. I seriously admire his compassion and love given what has happened to his family.

                    Just my ramblings.

                    Gassho

                    Shawn

                    Comment

                    • Kyotai

                      #11
                      I would like to add one small point. Other faiths use the term evil, as if some supernatural event is at work. I have an issue with the use of that word. It gives the suggestion that there is evil which can be fought, or repelled, instead of addressing real issues like mental health and gun control. I personally do not believe evil can really exist.

                      No disrespect intended to anyone here.

                      Gassho

                      Shawn

                      Comment

                      • Dosho
                        Member
                        • Jun 2008
                        • 5784

                        #12
                        Shawn,

                        I tend to agree with you about the word "evil" because, as someone who did not grow up religious, the word simply seems silly. I can see the point where people would say the acts themselves are evil, but I refuse to believe that killers are evil...they are sick from that which we all suffer from and in many cases were never shown love or empathy. Calling someone or their acts evil, in my view, only clouds the investigation into what happened and only by finding that out can we truly address these horrorible acts.

                        Gassho,
                        Dosho

                        Originally posted by zen_rook
                        I would like to add one small point. Other faiths use the term evil, as if some supernatural event is at work. I have an issue with the use of that word. It gives the suggestion that there is evil which can be fought, or repelled, instead of addressing real issues like mental health and gun control. I personally do not believe evil can really exist.

                        Comment

                        • Risho
                          Member
                          • May 2010
                          • 3179

                          #13
                          Gassho Jundo, that is awesome!
                          Email: risho.treeleaf@gmail.com

                          Comment

                          • Myozan Kodo
                            Friend of Treeleaf
                            • May 2010
                            • 1901

                            #14
                            All "evil" karma ever committed by me since of old ... ?

                            We do use the word, but do we mean it in the same sense? Or, is it a translation issue?

                            Gassho
                            Myozan
                            Last edited by Myozan Kodo; 12-17-2012, 07:59 PM.

                            Comment

                            • Jinyo
                              Member
                              • Jan 2012
                              • 1957

                              #15
                              Good point Myozan - perhaps it needs to be translated as 'negative'.

                              Gassho

                              Willow

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