Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Glimpsing the stars

Here is a poem about Passover by Lynn Ungar. It is a beautiful warning about all our hopes for ease and protection. Essentially, all the choices open to us, to stay where it is safe or to plow ahead into unknown territory, bring with them the same results: the angel of death comes for us all, but perhaps we will be able to glimpse the stars along the way.

And by the way: this drawing contains a hidden image. Everything we encounter reveals something unexpected, if we see it fully. Once you see it, you won't be able to not see it.


Then you shall take some of the blood, and put it on the door posts and the lintels of the houses . . .
and when I see the blood, I shall pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
-Exodus 12: 7 & 13

They thought they were safe
that spring night; when they daubed
the doorways with sacrificial blood.
To be sure, the angel of death
passed them over, but for what?
Forty years in the desert
without a home, without a bed,
following new laws to an unknown land.
Easier to have died in Egypt
or stayed there a slave, pretending
there was safety in the old familiar.

But the promise, from those first
naked days outside the garden,
is that there is no safety,
only the terrible blessing
of the journey. You were born
through a doorway marked in blood.
We are, all of us, passed over,
brushed in the night by terrible wings.

Ask that fierce presence,
whose imagination you hold.
God did not promise that we shall live,
but that we might, at last, glimpse the stars,
brilliant in the desert sky.

~ Lynn Ungar ~

(Blessing the Bread)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

another view on not knowing

There is a verse in the Gateless Gate, by Wumen, that begins: "Zen students do not know the truth. They only know their consciousness up until now."

We spend so much of our lives speculating about what the future will bring, and for those of us who practice meditation, what our future mental states will be like. We imagine we know what enlightenment is, based on our reading and our fantasies. How could we know something not yet known? When will we recognize that everything we are looking for is already here, but not seen?

Here is a koan response from T.S. Eliot, taken from his poem East Coker:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope for hope
Would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Monday, March 22, 2010

life turning

"When I look inside and see that I am nothing, that is wisdom. When I look outside and see that I am everything, that is love. Between these two, my life turns."

A quote from Nisargadatta/photo by David Rynick

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

all beings rejoice together

This weekend I ordained two wonderful people, a husband and wife, as Soto Zen Buddhist priests. And gave 16 people in their sangha the 16 Bodhisattva precepts (jukai.) It was a beautiful and moving ceremony, full of serious depth and humor and spaciousness. It seemed that, in the middle of this burning world, where suffering awaits us and surrounds us, we can still celebrate lives devoted to service and the energy of devoted meditation practice. With joy! Their young daughter (picture in front of us) took the first 6 precepts, and received the traditional short bib, or rakusu, in hot pink (rather than the more usual black.) Tears, laughter, community -- all beings everywhere rejoice together!