Wednesday April 18, 2007
(The following was written and spoken by me in response to the many sad stories currently in the news. Please pardon me for being dour and formal ... as it all breaks my heart) .
Here are three ways to view tragedy in this world:
First, this world can appear ugly - and is ugly
- so many times. War and violence, poverty, hunger, disease and painful death ... If I had the power, if I were king, there's so much I would change. Abused children, lonely elders, the fearful and forsaken would be abused, lonely, fearful and forsaken no more.
Of course, I do not have such power, I am not king. I can write a check, perhaps, or volunteer hours ... yet the problems remain. Many will never go away, appear the inevitable state of things, and it sometimes drives me toward frustration and despair. When viewed by human eyes, both nature and human society are so cruel.
But, second, we can abandon all human judgments:
For, when we drop all thought of "good" and "bad" , "right" , "wrong" , "just" and "unjust" , we experience a world that just is-what-it-is
. It goes-the-way-it-goes
, even if that way is not the way we personally might desire. Letting aside both "cruel" and "gentle" , "ugly" and "kind" , we no longer resist, do not judge, and embrace it all ... even the most terrible.
By such perspective, sometimes there is war in the world, sometimes there is peace. Sometimes there is health, sometimes disease. Same for all the rest. In Zen Buddhism, we may embrace the world as-it-is
, with all its seeming imperfections. The world is just the world. We are free of disappointment at a world, at its people or a society failing to meet our ideals and expectations. In this stance, our minds are still, our hearts tranquil, our attitude soft and yielding. We merely observe it all, accept it all ... war, peace or whatever comes.
And dropping all divisions, we see this too: There is no separate person to be killed, no separate person to do the killing. There's nothing taken away and nothing to lose, as nothing is ever lacking. Without thought of birth and death, what birth and what death? It is like the water of a sea that is always wet, whole and complete, while waves go up and down. We can experience the world in that way too. More than a sad resignation to life (do not think that Zen practice is mere resignation), it is the subtle taste of no loss no gain.
Yet. should we simply stop there? In that self-satisfied tranquility, ignoring the daily pain of others, are we not left uncaring, blind, apathetic, cold-hearted?
Is there, perhaps, a third way to be? (I know there is
For ours can be a path of acceptance sans
acceptance - precisely blending both views. It is much the same in the case of a man or woman who, facing an illness, perhaps some cancer, accepts the condition fully - yet fights the good fight for a cure. We need not feel anger within
at the natural state which is the disease, we can accept within
that all life is impermanent and that death and sickness are just the reality ... but still we might search for the healing medicine, struggling without
for health and life. We can know that within
are not two.
War, fire, flood, death and disease, humanity and nature's most horrible turns can all be observed dispassionately and from an unshakable inner peace, fully accepted ... all while we choose to resist what we can, to extend comfort and compassion as we can, to make the world better when and where we can.