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Thread: Tragedy

  1. #1

    Tragedy

    Tragedy is something we will all experience in our lives on larger or smaller scales. Tragedy is nothing more than change, radical change that is hard for us as humans to swallow all at once. I believe our practice teaches us that we should allow tragedy to change us, avoiding denial and a closed heart. We simply accept this change, whether we label it as tragedy or not, in its basic form what we call tragedy is just change that is very hard to accept and avoid the suffering that usually comes with it.

    We have a Sangha; we are shaped and changed by each other. Even our teacher is changed by us because we are here. We should be witnesses to tragedy whether it is in the world or in our personal life. Witness the tragedy and let yourself accept and be changed by it. Respond to it with wisdom and compassion. Find some way to do what may seem like a small thing to react and acknowledge the change that has occurred. By allowing ourselves to change with tragedy and reacting with wisdom and compassion then we are truly living in the present.

    Do not stick your head in the sand over tragedy. Do not let it bring you down or live in denial only to have to face some horror later in your life when that horror is in the past.

    Do not blame yourself for tragedy, but take some responsibility for our world. Forgive if you need to, have compassion for your neighbor if you need to.

    I witnessed a tragedy this week that was unlike any specific set of facts that I have ever had to deal with or be responsible for. Some of my initial inner thoughts were not wise or compassionate, but this changed and I am glad that I have my practice.

    From our Treeleaf Chant Book:

    All harmful acts, words and thoughts, ever committed by me since of old,
    On account of beginningless greed, anger and ignorance,
    Born of my body, mouth and mind,
    Now I atone for them all.

    (Reposted from my blog)

  2. #2
    Thank you for sharing this.

    Gassho,
    Jordan

  3. #3

    Re: Tragedy

    Quote Originally Posted by spd901
    Tragedy is something we will all experience in our lives on larger or smaller scales. Tragedy is nothing more than change, radical change that is hard for us as humans to swallow all at once. I believe our practice teaches us that we should allow tragedy to change us, avoiding denial and a closed heart. We simply accept this change, whether we label it as tragedy or not, in its basic form what we call tragedy is just change that is very hard to accept and avoid the suffering that usually comes with it.
    Thank you

  4. #4
    Thanks for sharing and thanks for working in a valuable profession that many of us would not have the fortitude to enter into.

    Gassho,
    Bill

  5. #5
    SPD-
    I appreciate an thank you for this wisdom, but it raised a concern... are you just sharing some wisdom, is something terribly wrong?

  6. #6
    Thank you very much for that. Well said and well thought out.

    Gassho
    Dirk

  7. #7
    Are you OK, Jim?

    Quote Originally Posted by spd901
    I believe our practice teaches us that we should allow tragedy to change us, avoiding denial and a closed heart.
    Thank you for this... I keep hearing that Zen practice is supposed to make us less affected by circumstances and events. But it's not happening that way for me.

  8. #8
    Yes, Jim ... Paige and others raise a crucial point I should mention:

    Even as a professional, seeing or experiencing a shocking event can leave you emotionally impacted, of course, sometimes in "shock" yourself. I was once in a car accident, walked away, felt cheery ... two days later, can't sleep, night sweats, etc.

    This is very important: Part of our Zen practice is that we learn to bring balance to our emotions. That means that, when the rest of the world might be emotionally upset about something (angry, fearful, jealous, greedy), we learn to regulate these emotions and bring balance. We stay cool and centered and accepting in circumstances where, before our Practice, we might not.

    HOWEVER, part of our Zen practice is to be embracing of our humanness, complete with all that the so-called "lizard mind" or "monkey mind" (the part of the brain we share we the reptiles or chimps) may do. ANYBODY, in a given situation, is going to react in certain ways because ... the brain just does that.

    (Side story: My first teacher, Ikuo Azuma Roshi of Sojiji, lost his wife after I had known him a few years. For many weeks, he was not himself and was easily a bit teary eyed. I was SHOCKED because, of course, Zen Masters are supposed to have surpassed life and death and all such petty human emotions. So, as I had known him so long and we talked about anything and everything, I asked him about this, "If life and death are states of mind, why are you upset?" He said to me, "Life and Death are nothing; I am sad because wife die."

    That shut me up. He looked at me like it was the most obvious thing!)

    So, sometimes our practice is accepting that we are feeling certain things and not trying to force ourselves to feel "Zen". If there is one thing we can do even then, it is that we might learn to say, not "I am sad and life is hopeless" but "my brain is temporarily feeling a sensation of sadness now because of events and conditions, and it colors how life is perceived for the moment". Still, we must not force ourselves not to feel what we feel.

    Pain, physical or mental, is not the same as "suffering" in the Buddhist meaning. "RESISTANCE" to pain is a cause of suffering.

    So, Jim, professional or not ... take care. Allow yourself to react like anyone would react.

    I hope I am not overstepping what you want to hear, cause advise can be welcome or unwelcome.

    Gassho, Jundo

  9. #9
    I’m sorry guys! I didn’t mean to get everyone so concerned about me, but I appreciate it. I think part of the concern is born from the fact that my circumstance is a little mysterious and I can’t just blab what happened.

    What I wrote was not meant to be dark, for me this experience, after having practiced for a while, was epiphanic. I was not just touched by a tragedy close to home, but realized more about tragedy on a larger scale in the world. I think one of the biggest problems I have in my crimes against children work is overcoming some other people’s denial. They don’t want to believe that certain things are happening so they don’t want to accept it and they don’t lift a finger to help or even protect their own children. We have a sign up at our children’s advocacy center it says, “Children should be seen, heard, and believed”.

    One of the first things I did after my experience was email Jundo and let him know I may drop off the face of the earth for several days. But, you know what, why should I? Reading and posting here is part of my practice. There should be no excuse for not living my life although I am changed. There has been a change.

    I came into my profession almost 21 years ago. I was taught how to stuff feelings and emotions deep down inside myself. Guess what, it’s not healthy. That garbage can gets full, to quote a friend. In Zen practice we get so much more in tune with ourselves that we see the garbage for what it is, just garbage. Like those people who hoard things, newspapers, cans, cat litter. A Zen practitioner ceases to be a hoarder. We see the garbage, accept it for what it is letting it pass for garbage, and then we take it out and dump it. Somehow, I don’t know how, the garbage ends up in its proper perspective. Bye garbage!

    I had some initial thoughts when I got on the scene. There could be some deep seeded guilt associated with those thoughts, but you know what, it was just thought. I didn’t attach to it. I didn’t base my long term judgments on those thoughts. I didn’t even articulate it. Guess what happened a few days later? Someone came to me and said, “I feel bad because I thought…”. I responded with, “I think that is normal, probably everyone did, I thought the same thing for a moment myself”.

    Humans can do horrible things to each other. You know how we do it? Because it is a process. First we dehumanize and demonize each other, and then we can do it. I heard somewhere that one of the worst things we do is teach our children that Hitler was a monster. In other words, Hitler was just an anomaly a demon come to earth. We should teach our children that Hitler was a human being and that people are capable of doing things as bad as Hitler if we dehumanize and demonize each other.

    There is no “us versus them”. We are all connected. Let your consciousness change and evolve by accepting what you witness happening to other people in the world. Accept what might happen to you, and yes Jundo, the emotions that come with it. If you become sensitive to a certain problem in the world or if you are touched by some issue and become aware of it, then do something, even if it is a small something.

    I hope this wasn’t too preachy, and I hope I hear from people to help me clarify my experience even more if that is possible. I think my experience speaks for itself. It was a significant event that happened after I began practicing. To me, it is like a before and after picture on a weight loss commercial.

  10. #10
    Hey Jundo...I'm rethinking your last post to this thread. Maybe a little concern about my posts was warranted. I'm kind of embarrassed. There is some truth to what I posted but then I think I got carried away, possibly looking for a stress outlet. Some of my posts are a little weird to me now. I'm trying to be honest because I think this is the only way I can learn a little more about Zen and myself.

    You were right, there was a little bit of a melt down that came just before about 1 AM last night. I just got really angry and stressed out. I had to leave the house for a while. I guess I was grasping or thinking I had attained something, which in a way I had but then I kind of got out of hand with it. I feel kind of dumb for getting all lofty and everything.

    I'd delete my posts but then maybe me or someone else wouldn't get anything out of it. I usually get a little stressed out after an event like this and get through it. I think I thought it wouldn't happen this time because I'm all Zen and everything now. I just prolonged the inevitable and got weirded out in the process.

    So, nevermind...I'm not enlightened or anything.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by spd901
    So, nevermind...I'm not enlightened or anything.
    Don't be so sure!

    Gassho,
    Jordan

  12. #12
    You were right, there was a little bit of a melt down that came just before about 1 AM last night. I just got really angry and stressed out. I had to leave the house for a while. I guess I was grasping or thinking I had attained something, which in a way I had but then I kind of got out of hand with it. I feel kind of dumb for getting all lofty and everything.
    And sit and sit and sit and.... I'll shut up.

    G,W

  13. #13
    Hi Jim,

    I did not find anything in your posts but honesty, and I thank you for sharing a difficult time. Nothing to take back. I hope you, and everyone, will continue to "vent" and share when "stuff happens".

    I think I thought it wouldn't happen this time because I'm all Zen and everything now.

    Now, that's the mistake that a lot of folks make. You know, not too many stories in the Sutras and other Buddhist story books about the Buddhas and Ancestors when they were having "off" or crappy days, or acted anything but "Buddha and Ancestor-like". That's a shame. We have stories about some recent teachers and masters who had bad times ... from "bad days" to long term depression, alcoholism, poor behavior. I think that we should not consider that those teacher's failed as Zen folks, as much as that they were Zen folk who were all too human sometimes.

    You know, part of this practice is learning that, instead of being a full time Buddha-Robot, we need to be truly human human beings ... and that means cutting ourselves some slack, and not overdoing the idealistic expectations.

    We may have times when we are "all Zen and everything" and other times when we are not very "all Zen and everything". Maybe an aspect of real "liberation" is liberation from the need to be perfect 24/7.

    Anyway, I will give a little talk on this tonight called something like "We are Buddha (Sometimes)"

    Gassho, Jundo (ALWAYS "all Zen and everything") Cohen

  14. #14
    "I was able to drop some words like "loss" "gain" "life" and "death" ... precisely as we do in our "just sitting" ... and the fear faded away." - Jundo

    When we see a mirage and realize it is a mirage, that is pretty much the end of it.

    I think sometimes in the past I wanted to analyze mirages. I looked at the mirage from different angles and vantage points. Left the mirage, then came back just to see if the mirage was still there and figure out what the mirage was trying to say.

    A contentless mirage doesn't require our inspection.

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