I hesitate. I seem like a Buddhist when I quote professing Buddhists like Jack Kornfield. This is like if I post Randy Newman’s lyrics about short people it would seem that I agree with them. If I post so many Buddhists, I must be a Buddhist. The truth is more diffuse. I have these quotes appear in my email box because there is so much of Buddhist thought that I do agree with, that fits my experience. However, there is much that I find difficult too. I have several books on my shelf – well, strewn around my house is more like it – on Buddhism. I try to read them and cannot. I can only take my Buddhism in small doses.
I find it much easier to chant Sanskrit to Parameshwari, to Parabhrama, to Shivaya, to Ganapatiye, to Vasudevaya, than to sit in Buddhist silence. I even find it easier to invoke the Divinities than to chant with the Tibetan Buddhists, “Om mani padme hum.”
I need Gods and Goddesses or my insides parch.
On the other hand, I am not fair to myself if I don’t also add in the years of listening to Christian radio that I did on the way back and forth to work, listening intently to make sure I was true to myself in separating from the church of my youth. I listened to gather the arguments and apologies, postures and analyses of the Christian life. I had my favorites then, a certain local Foursquare preacher from Beaverton, Ron Mell, who taught me the most about Christian compassion, Jimmy Swaggert (he on TV) for his true passion for his work (he is as rock and roll as his cousin Jerry Lee Lewis), Charles Swindoll for his suavity, his avuncular approach to the message, Pastor John MacArthur for his austerity. All these men for a variety of reasons avoid many of the parts of the Christian message that stop me in so far as this is possible. That made it possible for me to look forward to their sermons.
Still, there are times when Buddhist messages delivered in well chosen small doses cut to the quick of things and center in my heart. The mix of serenity and compassion in them is beyond compare. This next message, as I wrote at the beginning of this post, is a perfect counterpart to my last post about Dread People.
Challenge Your Whole Identity
True dharma practice is a revolutionary activity, and you can't do it in a comfortable way. You really have to challenge the whole identity of your life. But the strength that's asked for is not necessarily the strength of eliminating the impurities of body and mind, or fighting against the defilements of greed, hatred, and delusion, the inner corruptions, though this language is very common in Theravadin, Tibetan, and Zen Buddhism. The strength that's needed is the courage of heart to remain undefended and open, a willingness to touch the ten-thousand joys and the ten-thousand sorrows from our compassion, the deepest place of our being. This is a different kind of fearlessness, which requires as much or more passion and fire.
-Jack Kornfield, "The Sure Hearts Release"
Living in your shade
gives me a smaller vista
than I thought I'd have.
The sunny part works
while the rest of me takes naps,
wishes for a wrap.
I hear munching near
and begin to worry some
that my edges soon
will be food for thought.
May 16, 2009 8:54 AM