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Tag Archives: Shunryu Suzuki

There was a time I would reject those

Ibn ‘Arabi wrote “My religion is love. Whichever the route love’s caravan shall take, That shall be the path of my faith.” He speaks of a journey and shared path.

I recalled the statement attributed to the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

When we reject others because of ethnicity, religion, skin colour, politics, gender, etc, we lose sight of what makes us human, our common humanity. This humanity is deeper than any of the markers we have that identify and group us.

Shunryu Suzuki compared mindfulness to a compassionate space that expands and contracts depending on the needs of the moment and the people we share that space. When we reach out to others, we acknowledge we are pilgrims on a shared journey where we speak for and on behalf of each other.

There was a time I would reject those
who were not my faith.
But now, my heart has grown capable
of taking on all forms.
It is a pasture for gazelles,
An abbey for monks.
A table for the Torah.
Kaaba for the pilgrim.
My religion is love.
Whichever the route love’s caravan shall take,
That shall be the path of my faith.

I took this picture in Jasper National Park. Kathy and I walked for several hours on this path just enjoying being there.

When the Mind Is at Peace

When we experience the world, we often do so through the traditions that have been passed down to us. Those traditions colour the world in a particular way that is hard to shake. Culture and its traditions are not easily overcome without questioning how we perceive the world.

Marcel Proust suggested to overcome the cultural biases we each have was to see the world through new eyes rather to seek new landscapes. This idea is shared by others in various ways. Shunryu Suzuki described the beginner’s mind, which involves an attitude of openness. As we study a subect, we seek to explore it as child might rather than limiting ourselves to a single “expert” view of the subject.

Layman P’ang’s proposes peace in the world is a result of having peace of mind. In this way, we are ordinary people exploring the world not through pre-conceived ways of knowing, but always emerging and fresh understandings. We remain open and question what we think is real.

When the mind is at peace,
the world too is at peace.
Nothing real, nothing absent.
Not holding on to reality,
not getting stuck in the void,
you are neither holy nor wise, just
an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.

Are You Okay, God?

I read Seven Lessons of Chaos by John Briggs and David Peat last summer. They used a koan about a ‘hole in the whole’ describing what we do when we analyze things and lose the mystery of the wholeness in life. We break life and its events down, analyze them, and forget to put all the pieces back and lose something vital in the connectedness to the world, leaving a “hole in the whole.” Humans attempt to explain the mystery of life and not embrace it and the richness of our existence. Mystery and spirituality work together. We cannot intellectually explain the fullness and mystery of life. Thomas Merton and Shunryu Suzuki spoke of this attempt as human arrogance.

A former student took this picture, again with pretty straightforward phone technology, and the beauty, the richness, and the wholeness it conveyed is powerful. It reminded me of the song we learned as children There is a Hole in My Bucket. The hole in the clouds or bucket could be there for a reason we do not understand. Despite the potential arrogance, I wrote a short poem that might explain the hole.

Sprinting, scrambling, scurrying

Hoping, praying

Feeling hard, cold raindrops

Burning through my clothes

Smelling rain and fear.

Suddenly, blue and gold in the blackness

A light shone

A candle gently flickering.

I whispered, “Thank God!”

I am startled by a voice

“Are you OK, Ivon?”

“I think so.”

“Is that you God?”

“Is the hole to find my way?”

“By the way, thanks for asking. Are you OK?”

A pause

I thought a heard a smile

A sigh for sure, before

“I am now.”

Silence returned

Not falling, just silent

Embracing, reassuring, supporting,

Opening my eyes,

I looked up

I was home

A light shone through the window,

A second haven

Warm, well-lit, welcoming

With voices asking, “Are you OK?”

Saying, “We were worried.”

I wonder if we ever wonder if God is OK?

We should ask every now, and

Listen quietly in the storm for an answer,

It is there.

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