“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete”. – Jack Kornfield
When we feel vulnerable, troubled, when there are any kind of difficulties, pain and sorrow, fear or anger, compassion is the natural arising of our aware heart and mind. It is a natural response. When we see another in pain or anguish, we naturally want to help in some way. We feel ourselves in them and there is an empathetic connection. In Buddhism, the response to suffering is called “the trembling or quivering of the heart in the face of suffering”. This is a universal experience. It was compassion for others that caused the Buddha to teach.
“To learn to live with sympathy for others without hesitation” – The Buddha
The first step in developing true compassion is to recognize, acknowledge and be open to the fact that pain and sorrow exist – that suffering is present. Then one must have the courage to feel what they feel and the tenderness to be open and to be vulnerable rather than hide from suffering, avoid it, run away, and bury ourselves in distractions.
Protection, Jizo, Mothers and Children
Recently my husband and I went to visit my son and daughter-in-law who are expecting their first child shortly. The energy in their home is alive with making way for the new baby girl. The Baby shower has brought them gifts to supply them with all the necessities and more, for the arrival of this special being. It feels as if the world is narrowing around them to support mother, father and child as she makes her journey from the safety of the womb to the outside world.
When I was walking in Kyoto, Japan in 2006, I saw small stone statues shaped like children or depictions of Buddha. These are depictions of Jizo (地蔵/womb of the earth) and made in the image of Jizo Bosatsu, guardian deity of children and travelers; they are also known as the ‘earth bearer’. We also see them depicted holding a baby in their arms.
While many of these may seem like mischievous forest sprites, moss-covered and popping up from between trees, wearing a red hat, at the most unusual locations, their real identity tells a different story. Jizo Bosatsu is a kind and patient deity, and so the statues do fine with standing under rainwater, sometimes being eroded and covered in moss. Jizo statues are made out of stone, which is said to have a spiritual power for protection and longevity that predates Buddhist beliefs. These jizo statues come from the Zen Buddhist tradition.
Buddhism, Science and Climate Change
“At the heart of good science training is cultivating a disciplined mind with astute capacities for observing the world outside the self. At the heart of Buddhist training is cultivating an attentive mind with astute capacities for self-observation.” Stephanie Kaza, Green Buddhism.
Recently the Dalai Lama said that if science shows something to be scientifically true then Buddhism will find a way to integrate it. More and more there is a co-joining of the facts of scientific findings and the early teachings of the Buddha. It is both useful and important to see how they cross over and can support one another and the ways they may be similar and different.
As we walk into 2022 it becomes more essential to see with an honest and clear mind the many co-relationships that are literally breaking, burning, flooding down the door, displacing us from our homes and causing unnecessary stress, hardship, and suffering until we find a new dwelling place. The destruction is in billions of dollars. The latest devastation being the tornado that whipped through six states and demolished valuable resources, flora and fauna. Do we really have to wait till all the government fact checkers analyze the cause of this “act of God” before we accept and affirm it is another manifestation of a rapidly changing earth climate?
Remembering Gratefulness and Generosity
“I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
Emotions and Mindfulness
Here I will repeat a dialogue which took place between King Kosala and his Queen, Malika. Once the king asked the queen: “Is there now Malika, anyone dearer to you than you?” “There is no one, Sire, dearer to me than myself. To you, Sire, is there anyone dearer than you?,” asked the queen. “Nor to me either, Malika, is there anyone dearer than myself.” Then the king went to Buddha and told him of this conversation. The Master uttered a stanza which may be translated like this:
“We traverse the whole wide world with our thoughts, but find nothing in it dearer to man/woman than themselves. Since to everyone self is so dear, let not the self-lover harm others.”
Autumn Awareness and Seasonal Impermanence
Many of the spiritual arts in Japan such as calligraphy, tea ceremony, archery, aikido, pottery, and lacquerware are associated with autumn, this time of the year when ‘letting go’ pervades the air. In Japan, this season rolls around with a color and intensity that is rare to see, especially in urban settings where air pollutants have diminished the brilliance of the hues. And fall is represented by the turning colors of maple trees. Bright green maple leaves slowly transform into a golden, then bright red. In Japanese, this stunning red foliage is called momoji.
But in this transitional period, as days shorten and temperatures cool (slowly in the southwest US) we are also fortunate to experience the abundance of the summer’s child : the fall harvest! How interesting that in the process of decline we first fill up.
Art Inspired Mindfulness
What secrets beckon this deep
Solitude indulges the hidden recesses
stored in my mind.
Contemplative nature among the spaces,
between the old growth standing upright
Curiosity enchants this gift of time and place.
The invitation to enter beckons…
In the spiritual traditions of Zen Buddhism, we find many forms of artistic expression. Beginning with the Rinzai lineage of the koan, a form of asking a question that goes beyond ordinary discursive thinking and invites one to be with the ‘riddle-like’ thought put before them. Wikipedia provides this description: Kōan (公案) is a story, dialogue, question, or statement which is used in Zen practice to provoke the “great doubt” and to practice or test a student’s progress in Zen.
Opening to the Mystery
Drapes of Wisteria
Hanging from the heavens
Betrothed in a dusk sky
Highlight the ancient temple
In respect I bow to the
Mystery of life.
— By Lhasha
Climate Change and Mindfulness in 2021
As President Biden recently inferred, climate change left unchanged and free to wreak havoc on our lives, is one of the most dangerous forces we face. As deadly as the pandemic, and over time more completely destructive of quality of life, more consuming of wealth, and used as a force of international terrorism, it portends mass ruination on a global scale. The planet heating up and the effects on the oceans, are problems we have ignored for way too long.
We are all suffering and being overwhelmed by nature’s reactions. From the melting of the Polar ice caps, some of the land sinking and the oceans rising; to the floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes that are stronger and fiercer than ever before; to the raging fires in the Western US and the gigantic bushfires in Australia, “what you sow, ye shall reap”. Our continued indulging and overuse of carbon intensive processes promises more trouble and deaths. This state of fact can be depressing but yet calls us to action.
The Way to Peace of Mind : Buddhist Ethics
Sila, is the Pali word for “moral discipline”. Although it appears to have some overlapping meanings, it primarily refers to right conduct and practicing a moral mind state. It often includes adherence to right speech, right action, and right livelihood as part of the Noble Eight Fold Path which are guidelines for establishing noble character through inner and outer behaviors.
Today, we are exposed to an abundance of reckless and violent behavior emanating from certain individuals and groups who adhere to views and opinions that reflect the beliefs and bias of domestic terrorists, and engender socially destructive actions and harm. Examples of this harm are the recent murders of eight Asian massage therapists, and of the ten people shot to death at a King Soopers Grocery in Boulder, CO.
What does the Buddha say about this?