Monday, July 25, 2011

The Meeting of the Buddha and the Goddess

The Very Short Sutra on the Meeting of the Buddha and the Goddess
by Rick Fields

We dedicate any merit that might come from reciting, posting, and spreading this sutra to Bonnie Johnson, who now bridges the worlds of both the seen and unseen. In your presence, Bonnie, we were so aware of who we were that we saw the possibility of being so much more--extending love's embrace. You showed us the way of Jesus through your kindness, gentleness, the care with which you treated us, all your friends, family, doctors, caregivers, yes, even the care with which you treated your disease. May your teaching go on and on thoughout all the worlds to come. May you be with the saints forever.

Thus I have made up:

Once the Buddha was walking along the
forest path in the Oak Grove at Ojai, walking without
arriving anywhere
or having any thought of arriving or not arriving

and lotuses shining with morning dew
miraculously appeared under every step
soft as silk beneath the toes of the Buddha

When suddenly, out of the turquoise sky,
dancing in front of his half-shut inward-looking
eyes, shimmering like a rainbow
or a spider's web
transparent as the dew on a lotus flower,

--the Goddess appeared quivering
like a hummingbird in the air before him

She, for she was surely a she
as the Buddha could clearly see
with his eye of discriminating awareness wisdom,

was mostly red in color
though when the light shifted
she flashed like a rainbow.

She was naked except
for the usual flower ornaments
Goddesses wear

Her long hair
was deep blue, her two eyes fathomless pits of space
and her third eye a bloodshot
ring of fire

The Buddha folded his hands together
and greeted the Goddess thus:

"O Goddess, why are you blocking my path.
Before I saw you I was happily going nowhere.
Now I'm not sure where to go."

"You can go around me,"
said the Goddess, twirling on her heels like a bird
darting away,
but just a little way away,
"or you can come after me.
This is my forest too,
you can't pretend I'm not here."

With that the Buddha sat
supple as a snake
solid as a rock
beneath a Bo tree
that sprang full-leaved
to shade him.

"Perhaps we should have a chat,"
he said.
"After years of arduous practice
at the time of the morning star
I penetrated reality, and now..."

"Not so fast, Buddha.
I am reality.

The Earth stood still,
the oceans paused,

the wind itself listened
--a thousand arhats, bodhisattvas, and dakinis
magically appeared to hear
what would happen in the conversation.

"I know I take my life in my hands."
said the Buddha.
"But I am known as the Fearless One
--so here goes."

And he and the Goddess
without further words
exchanged glances.

Light rays like sunbeams
shot forth
so bright that even
Sariputra, the All-Seeing One,
had to turn away.

And then they exchanged thoughts
and the illumination was as bright as a diamond candle.

And then they exchanged mind
And there was a great silence as vast as the universe
that contains everything

And then they exchanged bodies

And clothes

And the Buddha arose
as the Goddess
and the Goddess
arose as the Buddha

and so on back and forth
for a thousand hundred thousand kalpas.

If you meet the Buddha
you meet the Goddess.
If you meet the Goddess
you meet the Buddha.

Not only that. This:
The Buddha is the Goddess,
the Goddess is the Buddha.

And not only that. This:
The Buddha is emptiness
the Goddess is bliss,
the Goddess is emptiness
the Buddha is bliss.

And that is what
and what-not you are
It's true.

So here comes the mantra of the Goddess and the Buddha, the unsurpassed dual-mantra. Just to say this mantra, just to hear this mantra once, just to hear one word of this mantra once makes everything the way it truly is: OK.

So here it is:
Hey, silent one, Hey, great talker
Not two/Not one
Not separate/Not apart
This is the heart
Bliss is emptiness
Emptiness is bliss
Be your breath, Ah
Smile, Hey

And relax, Ho
And remember this: You can't miss.

from: Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism & Ecology

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Of Course Marriage Makes a Difference for Gays!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

To celebrate the first day that same sex couples can marry in New York, I am going to republish a piece I did when we were fighting against Prop 8 here in California. Next year San Francisco! It's a red letter day!

Among my Canadian gay friends, 100% are in stable, loving relationships; among my States-side gay friends, I used to be able to say somewhere in the range of 4-5% were married, but now, sadly, that figure is more like 2% as I recently heard of the divorce of some dear friends after 25 years as a couple.

As soon as marriage becomes a real possibility, apparently gay men—at least in greater numbers than one might have supposed—have simply said, "Of course. There is no reason to deny us any of the fundamental rights given to most other men and women."

Instead, here in "the land of the free," burdened (or should I say “cursed”) by the myth of humankind’s fallen state, we are left to throw stones at one another for being more or less sinful, for being hypocrites, for having an “essentially disoriented” nature. Living as an under class, we are susceptible to all the ills of having to make do, to prove ourselves, to justify our loves and our emotions.

Thanks to my friends Bruno and Josetxu from Spain for the great photograph. They will soon be married in a civil ceremony in that Catholic country, and have, obviously, created their own blessing for their relationship from On-High. We can, and, will create our own blessings. Please join me in sending this couple our best wishes. May the Blessings of All the Universe shower on them!


Anonymous said...
Has the Dalai Lama lost a few pounds? He's looking great.
LOL. I agree. We should all do so well when we're his age. :)
Hi, about gay marriage, it make a difference for gay guys. I am glad to see more and more gay couple to be accepted by the crowd and even could have welfare as a real couple, for instance, marriage, religion and law. The fact of getting a marry for gay guys should be put into a important position to discuss. Although I agree that, I know there are still some problems behind. although although ..., I am also glad to face and sovle them one bye one. However, this article is a good news for me. They both brave others by being a couple. They look sweet, and it touches me. With my blessing to them. :)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Zen comments on case 5 of the Gateless Gate

July 9th, 2011

Today I find myself totally swept up in the hanging man's dilemma as I begin to re-work Step 1 of the 12 Steps. The Big Book puts the first step in simple, straightforward language: "I admit that I am powerless over … [alcohol, drugs, food, sex]—that my life has become unmanageable."

It's just the first step on a journey, and in my case, there is a story connected with my personal surrender.

Here's the koan, "Hsiang-yen: Up a Tree," case 5 of the Mumonkan, as my teacher, John Tarrant Roshi, presented it during a retreat.

"Hsiang-yen: Up Tree"
The priest Hsiang-yen said, "It is as though you were up in a tree, hanging from a branch with your teeth. Your hands and feet can't touch any branch. Someone appears beneath the tree and asks, `What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West?' If you do not answer, you evade your responsibility. If you do answer, you lose your life. What do you do?"

It's been at least 6 years since I looked at the case. I told another story about Hsiang-yen (Kyogan), the teacher it is attributed to, in a piece I wrote about a difficult and wonderful conversation that I had with my mother a few months before she died ("The Gift of Tears"). Hsiang-yen must have been a immensely gifted teacher if he continues to inspire others to be honest and human more than a thousand years after his death.

Even if I'd never heard of Bodhidharma, there are questions in my life that I can't evade—my life depends on my answer. (It might not be entirely clear to a XXIst century reader that the question about Bodhidharma coming to the West carries an enormous weight for any monk or layperson practicing with a Zen Master. It is one of the keys that unlocks the wonder of the practice and the Buddha Way. He or she has to answer it.)

Mumon, Wu-men Hui-hai (無門慧開), the Chinese Ch’an Master (1183-1260) who complied this koan collection from earlier stories and “public cases” (Chinese: kung-an, 公案) comments: "If you can respond to this dilemma properly, you give life to those who have been dead and kill those who have been alive."

I was asked a question that carried the same weight. It actually looked like a simpler one, deceptively so. At my first 12 Step meeting, when I heard the question, "Are there other alcoholics/addicts present?" I automatically answered, "Yes." At the time I couldn't grasp that the question was a life or death issue—I only vaguely acknowledged that there were real human beings involved. I certainly didn't realize that it would turn my world upside down. I was about to learn that answering it truthfully meant that I was about to lose a life I'd become comfortable with, even loved in a weird, perverted way. It was a life of deception and I'd learned to talk my way around it so well that even I believed its lies.

I had been practicing meditation for decades, and still I didn't recognize the Zen-like immediacy in the language—right now, right here, are there people in this room who suffering real biological and psychological effects of drug and alcohol abuse? Yes, I talking to you. If I'd really been paying closer attention, it might have been easier to see the delusions I'd have to give up to admit that I'd lost control of my life (if I ever had any). That is the baseline for any real conversation about sobriety. Another question seems follow an honest "yes:" Am I even sober enough to examine my addiction clearly and envision the kind of life that might open up if I were willing to move beyond denial? Who can I rely on as I began to examine my life? There is an answer and I had it—my sponsor was very direct: “Cut the bullshit and get real.” We all need real friends we can talk with, men and women who leave any pretense at the door.

Both the spirituality of the Big Book and Zen, I think, start from the same place: what experience got me stuck? It’s my dilemma, not the person on the cushion next to me, or the homeless guy stinking of urine on the bus that I can’t move away from. [At some point, I figured out that his dilemma has lots of the same identifiers as mine, but that recognition is not where I began]. In Zen I am never asked to believe anything outside my own experience, not even for a split second.

What transformed this question for me from an intellectual consideration about the nature of addiction and alcoholism to one with all the force of Bodhidharma's coming to the west and facing the wall for 9 years in meditation? I found myself hanging from a branch by the skin of teeth. My roommate had committed suicide, and I started binging. Very quickly I began spinning out of control. A friend asked me if I knew that I needed "a break."

After the shock of discovering my roommate's body dead for at least three days, when the police and medical examiners suggested that I call a friend, he was the man I called. My friend dropped what he was doing, came right over, put an arm around my shoulder and listened without any judgment to whatever came out of my mouth as they carried Dean's body down the stairs. As I look back over those few days and weeks, he proved the depth of his friendship even more: he wouldn't allow me to play the victim, "Oh you poor guy, how horrible!" or indulge any self importance or fake heroism to let myself off the hook—he reminded me I was just a guy who happened to be standing by when a tragedy unfolded. Of course I had to clean up a mess not entirely of my own making before I could move on. I had no other choice if I was going to choose life. He encouraged me to face the circumstances without drama, and get it done. Friends don't get any better.

So when this friend asked me about my binge, I felt an obligation to examine my life and answer him truthfully. It took me a few days to give him an answer, but that moment might have saved my life.

A long meditation practice follows me into the 12-step work, not as baggage but as a friend. When I listen to some person in one of the rooms coming to terms with the concept of a Higher Power, having been told that his or her program depends on acknowledgment and surrender to Something greater than the self, I can only admire the struggle and right-mindedness of their effort. My own experience was, at one time, very similar, but at some point the practice of meditation, or maybe just growing older with more life experience, dismantled most of the conceptual notions I had believed and put my trust in. What replaced it was a far more intimate sense of how I am, at the core of my being, connected to the profound inner-working of the universe.

And even though my own inner experience started to become clear after long hours on the meditation cushion, I know that this path is open to anyone, even in blink of an eye. So meditate. Just do it.

The instructions to enter the koan’s world are really quite simple: Sit down, straighten out your spine so that you can stay awake and alert, focus on your breath, and pay attention. That is probably enough meditation instruction to get started. Then as I settle into my meditation, if I choose, I can get real about how I respond to Hsiang-yen’s question, What do you do when you're hanging from a branch by your teeth? I put myself in the place where my life depends on my answer, where really, no kidding, I'm going to fall into an abyss when I open my mouth. I don’t believe anything, not for even a split second, that I have not experienced myself, but I have also come to trust, thanks to my Zen teachers, especially John Tarrant, and my own experience, that the koan will grab me where it needs to in order to shake an honest answer loose.

Perhaps our answer allows us to simply fall into the unknown, perhaps follow the example of the trees own leaves in the Fall. Thank you, Lucille Clifton, for the capping verse:

The Lesson Of The Falling Leaves

the leaves believe
such letting go is love
such love is faith
such faith is grace
such grace is god
i agree with the leaves