Monday, January 26, 2009

What An Order

I am breaking training on this one. I was reading a "Daily Dharma" I subscribe to. It is one of the sources occasionally of my poetry. Today I was struck by a statement or two written there, taken from the writings of John Snelling on The Elements Of Buddhism. Here is the quote:
Nothing in fact falls outside the sphere of our moral responsibility. For instance, according to the Huayen school of Buddhist philosophy, which developed in medieval China, our every action affects the whole of the Universe.

He was referring to the Hindu principle of ahimsa: not harming.

This got me to writing, that what we do to the planet affects everything born and unborn, the whole of creation, that we have this responsibility handed to us and we do not, cannot possibly measure up. In our daily lives, in our law courts, we will claim that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Nature is a sterner judge than man, though rarely so capricious. But it really isn't about law, but about causes and conditions leading to other causes and conditions.

The smallest behavior can lead to unimaginable consequences. Long ago I discovered this in other contexts than the environmental ones, or the wars we wage. I decided not only that life was not fair, and it isn't, but that I couldn't possibly really belong in such a harsh world. It is very much my life's work to somehow make peace with this bitter truth, to be okay anyway, even happy if possible, to walk my walk with ahimsa if I can.

So here is a poem, hot off the keyboard, written about ahimsa.

What An Order

You tell me to give,
Give away all the wrong stuff,
The stuff that kills worlds,
Whole worlds, galaxies.
You say they snuff out from this.

I remember once
I was told to quit
Killing myself and it took
Two whole weeks to make
That one decision.

What amazes me
Is how rational that whole
Process of choosing
Life over sure death
And taking two weeks whining
In mourning, pleading
For pardon, way off
My feed and so desparate,
So picked on that I
Should have to do this,
How rational that all seemed.

How long will this take?


  1. ye might try an easier softer way, matey.... but i wouldn't recommend it....

  2. What is it, that tonight everything baffles me?
    If i understand one bit of it all(your post). It is this; our every action affects the whole of the Universe.
    To me that is so awesome and so very scary. Which part does your poem reflect on? maybe both? Or something entirly different?

  3. Hi Christopher, thanks for the comment on my blog, and yes, I have been wandering around reading all you have suggested (and more). There are so many great posts and great poems out there.

    I really like this piece. I think I understand the concept of ahimsa from what you have written. I certainly understand the interconnectedness of all things in this world and how much impact even a small decision we may make has. And yes, that is a scary thought.

    Your poem makes me think of how hard it is to make the decisions. I was thinking the other day how choosing to live can be like choosing a piece of cake after dinner. I don't know why that thought came into my is much more complex, of course. But it is choice and each day we make so many. Each day I choose to get out of bed and move forward.

    I guess choosing to live means choosing to hold life sacred somehow and finding a way to not harm one's self is also finding a way to ahimsa, I think.

    You have given me a lot to think about. Thank you.

  4. Jozien, thanks for visiting and being thoughtful. You indeed picked the relevant part. Cain replies, "Am I my brother's keeper?" The truth is no, because he must be his own keeper, but yes, because I must do all I can to help him with his responsibility, and he to help me with mine. Because we truly cannot even adequately serve ourselves. I cannot be fully me without "your" (whoever you may be) help.

    That is the lesson, the deepest truest lesson I ever got about living on the planet, and I got it among the drunks of AA. Not only do I not know what I really need, not only can I not give it to myself, but I don't even know enough to choose who is the one who gives me what I need today. That is where serendipity comes in.

    There was a period of my life where it was so unsafe for me I couldn't live at home. I had to rely on the generosity of others and it worked out but beforehand I could not have told you who would give me places to stay. It's a long story and it didn't really have a happy end, but at least I had real places, safe places to live while conditions changed and I could return home. My responsibility at that time was to accept offers from people I knew like you might know them from church, or AA if you know AA.

  5. Faith, doctors take the Hippocratic Oath. That oath is an expression of humility in at least this: that doctors vow whatever they do that they will not knowingly cause harm to the people they treat. That is my primary vision of ahimsa, that I am capable of great harm in ignorance as well as deliberate harm, that I have the responsibility to do all I can to become wise and to act such that at least I cause small harm.

    There is no possibility of avoiding damage. Life preys on life. That is the nature of life. The prey will seldom willingly sacrifice itself. When I walk down the street, when I breathe, every step, every breath affects someone (microbes count at this level and my immune system is highly effective). And it works the other way of course, when I am harmed by others, including the little ones.

    Thus gracefulness takes on for me a new meaning. To walk with grace is to make art out of necessity. "No harm" is an art form.

    It is not ridiculous to concern oneself at this level, but neither can one stop eating, or try to avoid bugs at every step, or any of the other absurdities you can dream up. But if you are a hunter as the First Nation peoples were, you can certainly offer up ritual cleansing and offer amends before and after the fact of a good kill, in all sincerity hoping to redress the balance in the universe, own your need and also that it is you that has thrown the balance out this time.

    To me that attitude is ahimsa.

  6. black bean tortilla chips?

    consumption sans destruction?



  7. Ghost, that bean is made of the same stuff recycled that we all are and in some small way objects to having life interrupted. Evey living unit is an intersection of mundane and sacred, time and eternity, immanence and transcendance, personal and universal, why the cross is in one or another way sacred, why the numbers 2 and 4 take the qualities of tension and energy, challenge and irritation, movement and change, are representative of balance in motion.

    If you eat the bean, you have taken on a miniscule bean's burden, the burden of life preying on life. You must eat...

    Nah....this is all crap. Wipe your butt. I will tend to mine.

  8. i was following you up until the "butt" thing....

  9. I have no reason for some of what I do. Maybe it's not crap. I just felt I was getting to serious and maybe intrusive.

  10. I would not want to have the ghost raw and bleeding over something I wrote in this puling worm of a blog.

  11. That ain't bean dip....thats a cuppa lava. You can tell.

  12. it looks like it has goat cheese in it or something..... i was going to get you to try it first.... see what happens....

    i never heard a worm pule, so that is an interesting metaphor requiring further speculation....

  13. Puling is what happens when you make the worm realize you actually like the taste of dirt and it's getting fried next.

  14. child's song

    nobody likes me
    everybody hates me
    i'm going to eat some worrrrms
    big fat juicy ones
    slip slop sloppy ones
    i'm going to eat some worms

    then there was the diet of worms

    1521, the object of which was to check the Reformation and which condemned Luther as a heretic; D. of Spires, or Speyer , 1529, which had the same object and issued an edict against the further dissemination of the new doctrines, against which edict Lutheran princes and deputies protested (hence Protestants): D. of Augsburg , 1530, the object of which was the settlement of religious disputes, and at which the Augsburg Confession was presented but was denounced by the emperor, who put its adherents under the imperial ban.

  15. This blog goes all over the place.

    Rumor has it that Luther was dyspeptic and spent time on the john, that that was where he came up with his ninety one points or whatever. That would be his points of order against the Catholic hierarchy. He wasn't actually against the church per se.

    Now we know he was a precognitive dyspeptic. The Diet of Worms upset him such that he wrote his manifesto, hammered it to the door of that church for all to read, which led to ... the Diet of Worms.

    Another Ground Hog Day strange loop.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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