Dharma Talk by Rachel Koshin-yo

Today is an important day. Today, June 19, in 1865, enslaved African-Americans in  Texas were told that slavery had ended. This event happened two years after the  Emancipation Proclamation had been signed and 2 months after Robert E Lee had  surrendered at Appomattox. Today honors the day that the last enslaved African Americans were informed of their freedom. On this day, June 19, 2022 we celebrate the  second year that Juneteenth is being recognized as a federal holiday. All I want to say  about that is, it’s about damn time. 

African-American slavery in North America was not the first form of slavery on the planet  and sadly it was not the last. But it was a sweeping organization of oppression in  America for hundreds of years based solely on the color of people’s skin. It is a part of  American history just as much as The Declaration of Independence and The First and  Second World Wars. Yet we often learn about it as a footnote, something that  happened in our past, not something to worry about now. 

In the spring of 2020, when we were all consumed with the worry of the new and  confusing COVID pandemic, another horror happened. An African-American man  named George Floyd was killed at the hands of law enforcement. An officer knelt on Mr.  Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes, suffocating him. Why? Because Mr. Floyd resisted arrest  for using a counterfeit $20 bill. Was this the first time an African-American had been  murdered by white police officers? Certainly not. But this time the event caused a  worldwide protest of police brutality, police racism, and police accountability. There  were protests in many cities, including Salt Lake City. As a result of the local protests,  this city was put on lockdown. The day of the lockdown? My 57th birthday.  Initially, I was pissed off. It was my birthday. Even with the pandemic going on I was  planning a small lunch with my daughter, son, and a friend. Because of the lockdown  my son could not leave his house. So there I was, suffering. But something happened  as a result of this suffering. I became curious. I wanted to know what was going on in  the world that was causing so much unrest. Yes, I agreed with the protestors and yet I  did not understand the impact that hundreds of years of slavery had on the African American community of North America today. To learn what was going on for this  community I started reading. I started reading books like: “Hood Feminism” by Mikki  Kendall, “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson, “How the Word is Passed” by Clint Smith, “Heavy”  by Kiese Laymon, and “On Juneteenth” by Annette Gordon-Reed. I wanted to get an  understanding of what life was like for a community I wasn’t a part of. I thought, “The  slaves were freed but yet 155 years later there is still unrest. What’s going on?” I have so much more to learn. The dharma gates are endless. But today I want to  share some of what I have learned so far. 

Yes, on June 19th, 1865, the last African-American slaves were declared free. Yes we  should celebrate that and people have for the last 155 years. Also, I want to give  overwhelming thanks to these enslaved people for building our country. For while  people like John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson were busy writing  and signing the Declaration of Independence, enslaved African-Americans were building  the buildings they lived and worked in, farming the crops they ate, caring for their  livestock, cleaning their homes, and performing many other tasks that the founding  fathers saw free labor fit for. If you asked these founding fathers about the enslaved 

labor they would probably reply with some sort of statement like, “They aren’t free labor,  I paid for those slaves!” Indeed they did. Slaves were a commodity. Bought and sold  like clothing or wheat. When Thomas Jefferson was short on cash and needed to pay  off his debts, he thought nothing of selling off a slave or two. It didn’t matter if this  enslaved man or woman had a family they were leaving, or if the slave was a child. To  Jefferson, they were just an asset that could easily be turned into a liquid asset. Most of  these people were treated with less respect than livestock. Yet they were people,  exactly the same as Jefferson and Franklin. They were exactly the same as you and I.  I’m not asking you to hate Jefferson and Franklin or to turn them into complete villains.  But I would like you to take a moment and understand that the people we have idealized  from our past were most certainly fallible. 

On June 19th 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and  declared all enslaved people free. Texas was the last confederate state to abolish  slavery. In fact, Texas had written it’s own Declaration of Independence. This  document stated that all enslaved people in Texas and their descendants would forever  be slaves. Any freed slaves were not welcome in the state of Texas. So when General  Granger arrived in Galveston, what did his message mean? In theory, African Americans were now allowed to come and go as they pleased. But it wasn’t that  simple. After toiling, building, and caring for our country these freed slaves had nothing  to show for their efforts. They didn’t own homes. They didn’t have any material  possessions except for maybe the clothes on their backs. They didn’t own property.  Most importantly, they had no money and their jobs were just taken away. How could  they survive?  

In the meantime, the white people of Texas weren’t ready to accept that their free labor  would no longer be free. They were angry. To the whites, nothing had changed about  African-Americans except the law. They still saw them as second class citizens, if  citizens at all. There were riots against and assaults of the newly freed slaves. In  addition to their situation of lack, enslaved people were oppressed for hundreds of years  by horrific trauma. Their DNA carried experiences of rape, physical abuse, starvation,  emotional abuse, and disease. They were never taught to read, write, or learn  arithmetic. Some secretly were, but they numbered few and far between. Many ex slaves remained in a slave-like situation, just to be able to feed themselves and their  families. 

Still, many freed African-Americans were able to find work and build communities. In  New York City, Seneca Village was built. This town was built by freed slaves who were  landowners as early as 1825. At it’s height, the town was inhabited by over 200 African Americans. Unfortunately, it was torn down by the city of New York in 1857 when the  city declared eminent domain. The city used this property along with many other acres  to create Central Park. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Central Park. I was  eager to see the space where Seneca Village had existed. Sadly, that was all that was  there – a space. A grassy field with a plaque, marked the spaces for churches and  schools. Yet there were no buildings to commemorate the memory of this town. A lot of African-American history in the United States is like the town of Seneca Village.  It’s difficult if not impossible to find the history of African-American slaves in this country.  There are no marked graveyards. Birth records were only kept by slaveholders. These  labeled slaves by their statistics, not their names. Life histories could not be recorded 

by people who couldn’t write, nor had the time to write. A typical slave only had free  time in the dark. Their daylight hours were spent serving their slave owning master. So  many past lives remain a forgotten mystery. 

As freed African-American slaves started to build their lives and grow their  independence they faced numerous obstacles. From 1890 to 1908, former confederate  states passed constitutions to disenfranchise African-American people, keeping them  from being able to vote and sit on juries. African-Americans could easily be convicted of  crimes and heinously treated without a jury of their own peers. When living in a  community of resentful white men who were angry about losing their free labor pool the  odds were stacked against freed slaves. How could African-Americans run for office or  be found not guilty of crimes they were convicted of when these laws were in place?  Clearly, just because slaves had been freed, whites did not recognize them as equals.  Jim Crow laws enacted “separate but equal” situations. African-Americans were entitled  to the same rights as whites (schools, medical facilities, and transportation) but they had  to be separate facilities. Most if not all of these facilities and services were inferior if  they existed at all. Offices, hotels, and restaurants were segregated. While many of  these laws were overturned and headed to the Supreme Court for decisions, these laws  weren’t officially repealed until the Civil Rights Act in 1964. By then, I was alive.  Americans were living 100 years after the first Juneteenth celebration. Yet, whites were  afraid to empower African-Americans for fear that whites would lose their own footing  and status in society. 

During the 20th century, African-Americans were depicted in the media. At first, they  were presented in black face, white performers wearing black makeup. Then they were  on products like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s. These products depicted African Americans as fun loving, and jolly people ready to serve their white masters. Books and  movies that depicted slaves showed foolish people who didn’t have the intelligence to  understand anything. While these people might not be able to read and write they  certainly learned to speak English effectively. Nothing stopped them from learning  English similar to the immigrants who come to our country today. Plus, slaves lived in  this country for generations. Thomas Jefferson’s slave Sally Hemings, gave birth to 6  children fathered by Jefferson. A number of these children had light enough skin to  pass as white in society and marry white partners. They certainly could not have  “passed” if they couldn’t speak English effectively. Many enslaved people came to  America with valuable skills. They knew how to produce indigo, weave, cook, quilt,  carpenter, and even cobble shoes. Yet they were depicted in our movies and books as  being useless until the white society taught them their skills. 

After the Civil war, the war was not taught in Texas school as a war about slavery, it was  taught as a war about states rights. When we hear about Texas history today, we hear  more about “cowboys and Indians” or the oil industry. Yet there were many slaves in  Texas. East Texas was developed by a man named Stephen Austin, known as the  “father of Texas.” Austin came to to Texas to create cotton fields for plantation owners.  No Anglo-American was going to work the land. Austin lobbied for slavery as way of  ensuring success in bringing colonists of the area to be successful. Austin is the  namesake of the currently liberal city of Austin,Texas. Are Texans aware of his slave related past? Texas was using African-American slave labor to tame the wild forests  and build their economy. Much like other parts of America, slave labor was used to 

build the wealth of the white population. Similar to fathers of our country, the father of  Texas had fallible side. It’s time to recognize and understand the history that made our  country what it is today. 

Learning all of these facts about the history of African-Americans I am in awe. In awe  that this community has had the resilience and tenacity to hang on through racism and  oppression. I feel shame for the anger I felt back in the spring of 2020 when I couldn’t  

celebrate my birthday. Yet I don’t want the issue to be about me at all. I want the issue  to be about acknowledging and removing my conscious and unconscious biases. This  acknowledgement and removal I believe is what will help me on a path to  enlightenment. Perhaps I will even become a Bodhisattva. I agree with Gloria Steinem  when she said, “When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses.” I can’t  take away what African-American slavery was in this country but I can fully  acknowledge what it was and what we have chosen to create with it. I can continue to  learn every day and have more compassion for the people who continue to fight for their  equality and freedom in this country. I can speak up and help others learn. We are all  one. When the African-American community hurts, it impacts us all. 

The term African-American was coined back in 18th century, but rarely used until in  1969 when the African-American Teachers Association used it to name their  organization. In 1988, Jesse Jackson popularized the term to identify people who were  labeled as “Blacks.” This term is a reminder that having African ancestry does not  separate one from being an American. While we don’t call whites “European Americans” or “Ukrainian-Americans” it is valuable for us to remember that once the  slaves hit American soil they and their descendants became Americans and should be  treated equally, and not separately. Yet this separateness remains a challenge today. 

To be an African-American man in the US today means many things. It means, no  wearing black hoodies in certain neighborhoods, no jogging at night, hands in plain sight  in public, never driving over the speed limit, and never rolling through a stop sign. For  all of these items African-American men have been persecuted and even killed. What  kind of freedom is that? 

When we forget our past we are doomed to repeat it. We need to learn and  acknowledge our past. The dharma gates are endless and we must enter them to learn  the truth of our past. When we carry the divisions of slavery and the hate of African Americans into our current environment then 9 people are murdered during a bible  study, a black man is suffocated by a white policeman, and people fear routine traffic  stops. Freedom doesn’t mean free for some. Freedom doesn’t mean freedom only if  you are white. The celebration of Juneteenth reminds us of that fact. So today, if you  are celebrating Juneteenth or just reminded of what the day represents, be sure to be  kind, fair, and equal. Remember that this day honors the end of a horrific practice and  also reminds us to treat everyone equally regardless of the color of their skin or their  country of origin. Specifically, this day reminds us that just like every human, those we  enslaved in this country deserve our thanks for what they built for us and that they 

deserved to be free and their descendants deserve to be free – free from persecution,  racism, and unfair practices. 

May all beings be peaceful. 

May all beings be happy. 

May all beings be safe. 

May all beings be free. 

Namu Amida Butsu

Good Medicine: Retreat Reflections

Good Medicine – Retreat Reflections

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by Lindsay Zaiyo Freed

Nostalgic reflections of our summer retreat in the Uinta mountains regularly tug at my memory. It was, in one word – bliss. A short but very sweet time to be fully present and deliciously silent; a time to savor the depths of awareness and enjoy the freedom found in living the practice, without day to day distractions. Together with our Sangha family, I spent the weekend chanting, meditating, bowing and breathing, alive and awake, witnessing the vastness of each present moment. Sure, the monkey enjoyed plenty of swings through my mind, begging for attention, but I found that the more silent and present I became, the more the monkey stayed still. And the more the monkey stayed still, then the more blissful I became. 

Every moment felt like a masterpiece, unfolding itself right before me. At a few points I remember thinking to myself – I could really live like this, imagining a simple life at some far-off monastery. And then Awareness kindly came to me whispering, “You don’t have to go to a monastery to live mindfully. That is what the practice is all about.”

Mindfulness practice and meditative experience don’t have to be far away dreams, something only grasped when we are away from the world and everyday realities. In fact, it’s much the opposite – mindfulness practice grows stronger when it has the chance to sink its roots into the soil of our day to day lives. Through awareness practice, we are invited to become the steward of our inner landscapes and the gardens of our lives. As we do this, sowing our mindfulness seeds and tending our awakening plants, we then receive the bounteous harvest, the fruits of our practice – our own medicine.

 Don’t get me wrong – finding a peaceful, mindful presence in the mundanity and routine activities of our daily lives is not always easy, sometimes hardly feeling like bliss. And so often we feel like the harvest is a long-ways off. I regularly find myself contemplating my unskillful patterns of behavior, wondering when I’ll be able to be fully free from reactivity and fear, free from my conditioning. I wonder, will I ever taste the sweet fruits of unfailing compassion and unmistakable wisdom? Then I remember to listen to the call of Amida and the Great Compassion, always embracing me in every moment on every step of the Path, saying, “Yes, you will. Keep going.” And I again find the courage to walk further through the Rivers of Fire and Water. 

This is the practice, one we must keep returning to over and over again, kindly returning home to the nembutsu, the present moment and the steady rhythm of the breath when we find ourselves wandering and confused. Sure, the simple monastic life may at times look idyllic but for me, I know that’s not where I belong right now. My story of escapism says otherwise, but I return my gaze to the garden I have grown in the “real world” and I smile, remembering that without the stories and sufferings of my life I wouldn’t be here now. And there is truly nowhere I’d rather be. I look at all my mud, and I see all my lotuses. 

There can be a harvest every day, there are good fruits and seeds and medicine all around. We just need to open our eyes to see them. We must be willing to do the work to find them. And oh, how delightful it is to find something that is ripe for the picking. During the retreat I discovered a handful of wild raspberries and strawberries growing on the hillside, reminding me of this exact lesson. How delightful indeed. 

After 4 years of Buddhist practice I made the decision to officially Go For Refuge, taking the Bodhisattva and Three Treasures vows in our fellowship’s Ti Sarana ceremony during our retreat, giving up the foundation of my old life for a new foundation – the Dharma. As my old name was called and my new name was given, I cried at the miracle of it all – this life, this beautiful rebirth, and the most perfect name I could have received as a mark of where I’ve been, where I stand now and where I’m headed.

Sensei Kakuyo gave me the Dharma name Zaiyo, which means Medicine Sun, or Awakening to Healing. I bow my head in deep gratitude for all I have learned and experienced on my path in the Way of Oneness, and I know that I have truly come home. I take refuge in the spirit of awakening, in the teachings found when I have my hands deep in the soil of my life, and in the community of fellow beings that I am blessed to be joined with on this Earth walk. I take refuge in the power of healing, and in the medicine that lives within, without and around me in every moment, always. 

Namu Amida Butsu

Attend to All & Each: A Dharma Talk

Dharma Talk
Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship 2020

I want to start our dharma talk with a poem I wrote, one that we recite each Sunday before we chant. Here is the poem,

Come as you are
Is the call of Buddha
Just as you are

Namu Amida Butsu
Is the invitation we give

To ourselves
To others
To all living beings
To the totality of our lives – just as we are.

So come, come as you are,
Attend to all and each
Namu Amida butsu

Stop torturing yourself
With all those made-up stories
Of who you think you are

and aren’t, regardless
of who you are or
are not

Of what you have done or
left undone

and enter the gate of boundless compassion
Namu Amida Butsu.

My writing of this poem was an attempt to convey what namu Amida butsu – or nembutsu means to our community. In it, I am trying to take something from a much different place and time, Medieval Japan, and infuse its meaning and healing power in a way that can speak to our lives right here and right now.

As with much of art – poetry is translation, an attempt to give words to the wordless, that which is beyond concept or language but is present in the heartbeat, the pulse, and breath.

Over the past months, we have spoken to some of the teachings in these verses. We will talk about them again and again from different angles and at different times. Just like an open field or a hidden canyon will reveal their secrets to those willing to be still in the changing light, so too with the Buddha’s teaching. We look at the same teachings repeatedly through the changing light of our lives, and new truths are revealed. As Gyomay Kubose Sensei has taught, “truth is forever revealing itself in all forms and phases of life.”

Today I want to focus mostly on one verse from the poem,

So, come as you are,
Attend to all and each
Namu Amida Butsu

Attend to all and each; this is what I want to talk about today.

The heart of these few lines is the answer to what we do after accepting the invitation to come as we are. We attend to ourselves as part of the whole; we attend to others as a part of the whole. This is the Buddha’s teaching that spiritual friendships are the whole of the way – that the refuge of the sangha, the third jewel of Buddhism – is the whole of the way. We need one another to be able to awaken.

Our fellowship is has found great inspiration in Pure Land Buddhism, but we are not a Pure Land sangha; we are trans-sectarian in nature. That being said, the Pure Land Buddhism of the Dobokai Movement in Shin Buddhism has had a significant influence. One thing that has attracted me to the traditional story of Amida Buddha – the archetypal Buddha – the mythic Buddha of boundless compassion is his and our interdependence.

The mythic Amida Buddha makes a series of vows as he starts his bodhisattva career to help all beings attain supreme enlightenment. His compassion is so boundless that he vows that if any living being is unable to awaken, then he will not attain enlightenment and become a Buddha.

I love this story because it shows how we are all interrelated and connected and interdependent. Now let me be more direct; we are dependent on one another to awaken. As Emerson has written,
“All are needed by each one.”

So what does it mean to attend to one another and ourselves? The English word attend comes from the 14th century, French atendre – to pay attention to stretch toward something or someone. To take care, to attend, and to be present with or for. At the heart of attending and tending is attention – presence.

When we answer the call of namu Amida butsu, come as you are, we respond with the very same invitation, and by this simple act, we are tending to one another. Still, the reciprocal invitation to come as we are needs to be more than just the words. We demonstrate it by our presence, in our courage to show up, again and again for our life, for others, willing to show front and back, to listen deeply to ourselves and others without judgment. Through this reciprocal invitation and our showing up, we show our aspiration to attend to give our attention to what life is right now in the flow of now and not waste energy on how life is supposed to be. It is attending to all of our lives, ourselves, each other, and our wounds that dance around one another. It is also attending to our joy, love, and our aspiration for healing and wholeness and the myriad ways these manifest. We tend to another person just as they are, just as we are, in the midst of the ever-changing and unimaginably unique locus of becoming we each are.

What makes this possible? There is something about this holding of space, this acceptance and compassion that we have so longed for, that unfolds the intricate origami of who we think we are. Such simple words – come as you are – just as you are. When we accept the invitation, there is an unfolding and opening up, a softening of boundaries, and a natural freedom that comes from learning to let go of the shame of thinking we need to be someone else than who we are to be loved. This opening, this attending, this tending to each other, is what I see as the naturalness of who we really are, our innate Buddha-selves born out of “come as you are” – Namu Amida Bustu. Here is where the healing energy of nembutsu is found. In this opening space, revealed by this invitation, we find the space to become who we really are from moment to moment – an awakening, a ripening. As Rilke, the poet has written,

“All becoming has needed me.
My looking ripens things, and they
come toward me to meet and be met.”

Our attention, intention, and presence are necessary for all becoming. It makes it possible for us to finally meet each other as we are and not through the myopia of the given and borrowed stories that have defined us.

Why the invitation from the Buddha to come as you are? We need the invitation for many of us; we need the Buddhas to say it’s ok to be ignorant, wounded, and beautifully broken because it’s in the midst of our ordinariness that we wake up. As Koyo Kubose Sensei writes, “Every spiritual journey begins in the dark. Responding to the call, we can let go of all the stories of who we are and are not, of who we think we are supposed to be, or the weight of all the things we have done or left undone. Underlying all things is the invitation. In a very practical way, everything can be a bodhisattva can be a teacher. Darkness and devils can be Buddhas helping us to wake up. Even our screwed-up lives can be a gift of awakening.

We have heard the call, and our first steps are tentative and maybe for a long time. The first step is accepting, tending to, embracing our lives, just as they are. But this is no passive acceptance, no giving up, quite the opposite. This acceptance is an acceptance that does not makes excuses for apathy, nihilism, or bad behavior. This is not the acceptance that gives an excuse to an abuser’s actions, but the acceptance that comes with, at times, a heart-crushing realization that my lover is an abuser and I need to leave or that I am a perpetrator and need to get help.

The hardest part is the acceptance of our wounded selves. Whatever it is inside us that we are running from, this is what needs our attention, intention, and presence. Our wounded selves need our compassion. The Buddha extends boundless compassion in the words namu Amida butsu. This phrase’s mythic purpose is to show us how what we have become and all the things we have experienced have brought us to this point, to the point of hearing the dharma. It tells us that we are already whole, one and not separate, isolated as we think. The invitation opens up in me space where I can begin to tend to the darker sides of myself, the wounded sides of myself. With the words Namu Amida Butsu, I know that I am embraced, never to be abandoned just as I am. Because of this, we can finally attend to that which needs attending. Because of this, we can begin to embrace our inner wholeness. As Jung said, “I would rather be whole than good.” This is the meeting, of gathering in an open field, in the Pure Land, out beyond good and evil.

When we attend to ourselves and others, we take the journey into all the places we have hidden our suffering and our woundedness from view and bring it as an offering to the Buddhas. This tending to one another is not so much a needing someone to go with you or of you needing to go with someone, but it is the knowledge that someone is there, without judgment, waiting for you to return with open arms.

This acceptance is in the spirit of moving towards – moving towards wholeness, healing, and awakening. As Gyomay Kubose Sensei has taught that, acceptance IS transcendence; it is our freedom. This moving toward is our pilgrimage. I love this from Philip Chircop,

“On our pilgrimage towards wholeness, in a gentle act of hospitality, we’re challenged and invited to name and welcome all the bruised and broken pieces of our marvelous and beautiful story. In the process, we will slowly integrate all the different voices within us, competing for attention, learning to love out of the unity of voices that we are.” [2]

Here I want to interject a word of caution for those raised by our families, either intentional or not, to be caretakers. We, caretakers, have to be vigilant because we have a habitual tendency of tending to others’ feelings while ignoring our own. Avoiding our feelings are a way to avoid responsibility for them, as Dr. Margaret Paul has taught, as we try to fill the void of our self-abandonment.

Coming as we are, is the first step on our pilgrimage toward wholeness; it is the invitation of Buddha – of all Buddhas. And hearing the call of Namu Amida Butsu, come as we are, we aspire to cultivate attention, presence. It is a call to be alive. That is what our regular meditation practice helps us do. Cultivating our intention, our capacity to be present, we stop living on the surface of things. Sometimes I am so on autopilot; I forget that I am actually living a life. As the essayist Maria Popov has written, “to fully feel life course through us, indeed, we ought to befriend our attention.”

To befriend our attention requires intention. But simple attention is not enough. Most of our habitual attention is not focused on that which needs healing. In general, our default attention is not intentional but habitual and unconscious, at that the service of some story we are telling in our heads. As Gregg Kretch writes in his book on Naikan, “How often is our attention wasted on judging, criticizing, and correcting others while we neglect the examination and lessons of our own life?” We tend to use our attention to justify or validate our script. We are talking about the kind of attention we are talking about is intentional, self-reflective, honest, humble, and simple but not self-centered or self-absorbed. As Gregg Kretch goes on to write, “Our attention is our life. Shifting our attention opens us to reality and reveals what has always been there.” It is shifting our habitual attention toward what attention, intention, and presence are the heart of this attending – this is the tending we are talking about.

Part of this tending is developing the capacity to hold space with paradoxes within ourselves and others. Andrew McAlister talks about this in one of his essays. It is the simultaneity of our woundedness / shame / self-loathing and our essential goodness. Coming as we are, gives us the space to hold these two at the same time. He writes,

“Something deep in us says we are not good, that we don’t deserve to be good. And yet, the more we practice attending to the depths of us, the more our already given goodness is lavished upon us.

As attention on the mantra (ours would be Namu Amida Butsu (added)) is deepened, clarified, and focused (thanks to a regular practice), the paradox that is woundedness and essential goodness experienced together becomes, over time, resolved.”

This quote reminds me of these lines from the poem,

…stop torturing yourself
with all those made-up stories
of who you think you are

and aren’t, regardless of who
you are or are not, regardless
of what you have done

or have left undone
and enter the gate of boundless compassion.

Come as you are is an invitation for us to tend the garden of our hearts in the refuge of the dharma and the sangha and the boundless compassion of Amida Buddha. I would like to close with these words from Jack Kornfield,

“You have in you the seeds of great compassion, the seeds of wisdom, and care for others. Meditation then is not to make some special experience, but it is to learn how to tend the garden of the heart and to water the seeds of kindness and presence in your own heart.”

Do let us attend to each other
To our lives, to all of life,
As it is, as you are

Right here
Right now.
Namu amida butsu

Christopher Kakuyo Sensei

‘Thank-you Cruel Adversity’ Dharma Glimpse

by Gretchen Seiyo Sensei

This summer and fall I’ve encountered cruel adversity. Due to a severe arthritis flare I’ve been dealing with pain, physical therapy, fatigue and confronting the inescapable reality of aging. 

We cannot help but encounter negatives in life; all those things we’d rather not experience. And even the most perfect life will ultimately end. For most of us there will be suffering along the way. Naturally we prefer the positives; the happy times and accomplishments. But we do not really have a choice except in how we respond. 

Recently I was reading Dharma Breeze by Nobuo Haneda. In one of the essays he contrasts human wisdom with the wisdom of Amida Buddha. The Bodhisattva who became Amida vowed to discover meaning in all things that exist in the world. His wisdom is called the “wisdom that transforms the negative into the positive.”

Dr Haneda notes that in having attachment to only positive values, we will see only superficial meaning in the events of our lives. However all things we encounter have deeper and undiscovered truths. 

The wisdom of Amida Buddha is to seek and discover new meaning in things that are usually rejected as meaningless by human wisdom; things like illness and loss, change and sorrow. It doesn’t discount or gloss over unpleasant events. This isn’t the cliché of all things happen for a reason. Or the karmic you get what you deserve. Neither of those makes a lot of sense to me. But it is possible for the limitless light of Amida’s wisdom to replace our dualistic thinking of good and bad, for such wisdom sees the totality of our lives as meaningful.   

This equanimity isn’t about having blinders on to the world or our lives. I can’t ignore the pain in my knee or back and it will keep coming. As you would expect I’m not happy about that. Someday worse events will come. I have the same fears about that as everyone else. Intellectually I know there is nothing to be done; it is the condition of all life. But that isn’t comforting.  

However when I finished reading this essay I had a fresh thought – one that up to this time had escaped personal formulation. The negatives which we cannot ignore or successfully compartmentalize (and we try so hard) – these too are life; this too is being fully alive. A simple phrase but as I repeated it to myself I felt something open. Of all the terrible things that might happen or will happen, they occur only because I am alive. Both the lovely and the unfortunate; all belong to this miraculous existence. 

Christopher Sensei is teaching this every time he urges us to say Come As You Are to the totality of our lives. Perhaps I need to hear something over and over before it finally sinks in. Every Sunday for months now you’ve heard me say thank-you cruel adversity. I cannot tell you I have liked or properly understood this. What I had was hope that someday this familiar phrase would feel true. For me this teaching on the wisdom of Amida is a start. 

Love and beauty, pain and age; all of it – this too is life. This too is being fully alive.

Namu Amida Butsu

The Problem with Deserving

From a Dharma talk delivered at the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship 7/8/2018

Let’s start our talk today with a few questions – how many of you have rationalized or justified something that you knew wasn’t good for you because your “deserved it”?

How did your thinking go? What logic did you use?

Have you ever watched in glee when someone you couldn’t stand “got what they deserve”?

How do you think our sense of deserving has contributed to our global environmental crisis?

If you think about it, we are addicted to reward and punishment – mostly our reward and others punishment.

For today’s Dharma talk, I want to continue on with the theme of my last talk a few Sundays ago regarding gratitude and some of the obstacles to experiencing deep and profound gratitude –

We talked about the problem with “entitlement” and how it cuts us off from experiencing a deep and profound gratitude and today I want to talk further about that but instead of using the word entitlement, I want to use the word deserve –  which Is a lot more common in our daily language and thinking.   I think with entitlement it is easy to say, I’m not really entitled, I don’t feel entitled, I’m too poor to be entitled, it’s really easy to see when someone else is being entitled a little more difficult when we are – But when it comes to deserving, that is  is different, because we all think we deserve a myriad of things or not deserve a myriad of things – both are true and many times both are not true.

But deserving is problematic. Often we get tangled in a tangle of words – I deserve this, I don’t deserve this on a spiritual level such words often distract. Deserving can be problematic because one the definitions and connotations’ of the word deserve “is to earn”  It is this kind of deserve that I want to address –

One of the problems of deserving is this: This is from Peter Schaller who runs the Tattooed Buddhist Website:

“Deserving implies, in a not so subtle way, that the world owes us something. If we work hard, play by the rules, and refrain from doing harm to others, then happiness should be our just reward. However, the world was here much before any of us, and will, despite the imminent threat of climate change, be here for much time after we’re gone.”

I think he makes a good point – the world is not ours, we are the world’s – I think that is important and I want you to remember that – I want to come back to this quote in a bit.

Being a martyr was my profession – I was good at it – it is based on the idea that if gave so much and was amazingly understanding and so boundless in love that I was left with nothing then I would not be abandoned.  I used poetry, tears and an abundance of patience and whatever manipulation I could muster to earn the love I so deserved because of my “sacrifices”  Here is a line from one of my poems,

I was watching you slowly disappear on the orange couch

next to the green chair, So I broke apart the wooden bookcase

a built a cross – a climbed up on it -and spread my arms wide.

See how much I love you.

When she left like the others, I wallowed in my “I don’t deserve this” I argued with reality for over a year.

The outcome wasn’t about deserve or not deserve  – it was all about my skillful and unskillful action, my perception of reality –   that love is earned.

We are bound to this idea that we must earn love, acceptance, compassion as if our connection to the world was simply an economic transaction, if I do X then I will get Y if I don’t get Y it is Xs fault or because the world is unjust.

Here is a great quote from Halldór Armand

“Life’s hard. Really hard. And here’s a fact. In nature there’s no such thing as deserving or not deserving something. There’s no fairness. The human myth of fairness is a beautiful one, though—probably one of our best. It was a step out of nature of sorts, a rejection of its chaos. We strive to make our world fair and to do this we constantly have to battle our own internal contradictions. We are both the goal and the enemy.

But when fairness is our goal it’s easy to start thinking that fairness is actually the world’s fundamental principle in every aspect rather than a distant, shining star we try to follow as best as we can. We’re all familiar with this. I believe I deserve to be with the love of my life. I’ve fought so fucking hard for it. Don’t you too? Don’t we all deserve love? Don’t we all deserve happiness? Why did she say no? Why did I fail? Why Lord?

Both the Buddhist from earlier and the Existentialist are making good points. That deserving an non-deserving do not exist as a moral formula in the natural world and that in reality.  “Life’s hard. Really hard. And here’s a fact. In nature, there’s no such thing as deserving or not deserving something. There’s no fairness. We understand that implicitly, as our children grow older we tell them, “who said life is fair” and yet we really do – at least we operate under some misguided notion, that it is,  so much so that when it doesn’t work out for someone that is should we start the victim blaming.

In my own practice, I am committed to transcending this very notion of “earning”. anything, because beyond the egoic need to control my environment, that is where true compassion and understanding; where the ground of true being lies.

I have come to realize that, in many profound ways, the dynamic flow of life is a “gift economy”, where there is what is given with no implicit return or reward in the future. The ego, on the other hand, looks to earn love, the reward is of what we do or say, the expectation is to receive love, acceptance, compassion, and meaning.   I have learned from the insight of the Buddha, that love is not an object to be purchased, love is not transactional, love is the way of living in the world in love with all beings.

Gyomay M. Kubose has taught,

“We must find the way of love rather than that of being loved.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I know that a lot of us struggle with feeling that we don’t deserve love, or that we don’t deserve compassion.  A lot of this feeling undeserving comes from what is implied by deserving, the earning or meriting love.”  I don’t deserve to be happy, I don’t deserve to be loved because I am incapable of doing the things to earn love, or I am so defective, so filled with darkness, depression – I am unworthy of love. let me say that it is healthy to begin to feel like you DO deserve to be loved, but I challenge you to keep going, to go beyond deserve and not deserve.

I think this is the role of the myth of Amida Buddha in a modern context.  Amida Buddha represents at its core the inherent gift of love, of accepting one’s self as one is,  the gift of life, of simply being you, of being alive- because the archetype of Amida doesn’t love you because you are good – or you have earned it because of all the good you have done –what is funny about the Pureland tradition of Shinran, is that you deserve love in spite of any good you can do or any bad that you do.   It is all these attempts to earn love that bind love to outcome forced by will – In an absolute sense, the Amida archetype tells us that we are loved simply by the miracle of our existing – from this perspective everything, all things are loved – it’s nothing that you earn – it is nothing that you are entitled to – it is a natural inherent grace.

amida zu
Amida Buddha accepts you even when you do not. This is a drawing showing the Amida and the Bodhisattvas dragging those who feel unworthy to the Pure Land.

We love our concepts of deserving, it gives us a sense of controlling our worlds., I am not saying that we do not need to “earn” a living or do the things that we need to do to be responsible for our families, what I am saying is that our sense of “deserving” is skewed.

Life is more complicated than some formula – how many things happen every day that people don’t deserve, who many things have you received in your life, that you did nothing to merit but still have in abundance?

How many times have we held back compassion because, “they got themselves in that mess, it is their own fault”? As we pray every Sunday,

We want to remember that,

In compassion do not look for cause and blame

we give no thought to effort

Compassion transcends “deserving”

it is only concerned with the suffering that is there.

A digression.  I would like to share a story I once heard and it has stayed with me ever since.

” There once was a Christan preacher, preaching on the street near a temple. A young novice monk was walking by the preacher when the preacher asked him if he believed that Jesus died for his sins?  The young monk just shrugged.  The preacher then told the young monk that if he didn’t accept Jesus as his savior he would go to hell. The young monk stopped and thought for awhile and then asked the missionary, “are they a lot of suffering people in your Christian Hell, OH YES! said the missionary excitedly – The young monk all of sudden smiled a big smile and said,   “Good! That seems like a good place for a Buddhist Monk.”

So why this talk about deserving and not deserving – because it creates a view of the world  that cuts us off from experiencing life as it really is  – it can separate us from one another and because it is almost impossible for us to enter into a profound gratitude, a transformative gratitude while we are stuck in the cycle of reward and punishment – we are only marginal grateful for the thing we earn and unable to accept the gift that is unearned which is most of your life.

Lastly,  because it can be delusional – because of our time here on earth so little of what we do is earned by ourselves but by the support of the earth and the processes that give us life, our ancestors that brought us into this world, our fellow beings, and lastly the dharma. All the countless others that have made your life possible, as Gyomay sensei teaches,

“There is no I apart from others.”

I want to leave you with this

Let’s aspire together to transcend deserved and undeserved to live in Oneness, come as we are and appreciate and be grateful for all the gifts we have been given especially the ability to come together today and to learn from one another.

Namu Amida Butsu

Listen to the Podcast

Vesak Day – 2018 Dharma Talk

by Kakuyo Sensei,

I would like to welcome everyone to our Hanamatsuri festival today, which is also called Vesak day – where Buddhist of many traditions celebrate the Buddhas appearance into the world – but not just his appearance –

The Buddha was once asked: Are you a god?” “No,” he replied. “Are you a reincarnation of god?” “No,” he replied. “Are you a wizard, then?” “No.” “Well, are you just a man?” “No.” “So what are you?” They asked, being very perplexed at answers. The Buddha simply replied: “I am awake.”

Today we are not only celebrating his birth but also celebrating his awakening and not just his awakening but also his passing away – indeed we are celebrating the whole life of the man we call Buddha – the awakened one.

Together we celebrate the amazing birth of the Buddha, and we are also celebrating our own miraculous birth – the very fact that we are alive is a precious gift – in a meaningful way Vesak day is also a celebration of our miraculous birth -we celebrate the fact of being alive – We celebrate knowing that the Buddha’s birth, and our birth and our awakenings are mutually dependent.

Some may wonder why we celebrate when we do – And I don’t think that it is by accident that Vesak is in the spring – I love the spring –

So -in our front yard is this stick of a peach tree – We planted it late in the season last year, and I was wondering just a week ago if it was even alive, just standing there in its naked stick-ness and then on Wednesday Linnea pointed out its new shy dress of flowers!  Then after that, I started noticing all the flowering trees at the end of our street – how did I not notice them before –

Now no one has any idea of when Shakyamuni was actually born– April or August is unimportant – Vesak is celebrated during Spring allowing nature to be a teacher – to be a poet – During Spring the natural world awakens from its winter sleeping – and the Buddha coming into the world is like the world waking up – many of us understand this, we who were sleepwalking before we found the teachings of the Buddha –  the first exuberant blossoms of spring waking from within the peach tree remind  us of the possibility of our awakening.

This day is also a day to reflect on the miracle of birth itself – we are grateful for the birth of the Buddha and our precious birth – Each of our individual  lives are utterly unique and unrepeatable, and today we can reflect on this fact how precious life is and not just a life to endure, but through the Buddha’s example and teaching  – an “awakened” life be lived in gratitude and joy.

In the Buddhist tradition, our human birth is seen as precious, more valuable than any treasure.   In the Chiggala Sutra, the Buddha speaks of the chances of being born a human being. Those chances, he observes, are infinitesimally small. They are comparable to those of a blind tortoise swimming in an ocean as large as the planet, where an ox’s yoke is afloat on the waves. Every one hundred years, the tortoise surfaces. The chances of being born human are no better than those of the tortoise surfacing with his head in the yoke. Human birth is extremely rare and therefore most precious.

So to put into modern terms instead of an Ox Yoke, let’s say a life preserver – so what are the chances –that our turtle could do just that? Actually, someone has figured that one out – a Dr.  Ali Banazir took the size of all the oceans and the size of the opening of a life preserver and calculated the odds and calculate that they would be about 1 in 7 trillion – and this scenario the ocean is still as glass and there are no winds blowing our life preserver.

Dr. Benazir did not stop there. He wondered about each of us; what were the odds of just our parent’s meeting (I will post the math on our FB page).  To be concise, he found that the odds of your parents just meeting was 1 / 20,000.  Talking to one another is another 1 in 10 and wanting to talk again is also 1 in 10. So the probability of them liking each other enough to have children is about 1 in 400 million – not stopping there, the chance that one sperm carrying ½ of your DNA and that one egg carrying the other half meeting and go to full term…that number is 1 in 400 quadrillions!  But hold on – if we go back in time to all of your ancestors which are about 150,000 generations all with about the same odds that you had to be born – the number works out to be about the 400 Quadrillion number raised to the 150,000 power – that number is a ten followed by 2,640,000 zeros. Think about that for a moment.  All that has happened for us to be here- and we complain about traffic or our neighbor, we worry needlessly about this or that – we try hard to seem special.  You already are. Ten followed by 2,600.00 zeros!

From this simple example of probability, we can see the Buddha’s teachings of interdependence, of all the causes and conditions that have conspired to make you and I – we can see from this what a rare and wonderful gift our births are.  When this really sinks in then we may even ask ourselves the same question Mary Oliver asks in her poem

The Summer Day,” when she writes,

“what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”

Vesak Day is a good day to ask ourselves this very question –  “what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”

Rev. Shelley Fisher of the Reno Buddhist Temple has written:

“Realizing this we can see that our birth is truly a rare and wonderful gift. We have a deep obligation to live this life in mindfulness and Joy and compassion.

So what has finding the dharma mean to you and your life?

All of the events that we contemplate on Vesak day – the Buddha’s birth, awakening, and death all of these events are linked to the Buddha’s message, they are all connected to the result of Shakyamuni Buddha’s search to know himself, and by so doing know each of us.  Tara Brach writes that we learn from each of these events that   “We each have the potential to realize and live from an awakened heart and mind.”  –

And when this happens; we all become Buddha, when we are awakened to our own Buddha nature.

We all become Buddhas – a good question could be what does that mean in an everyday sense?  I want to share a quote that I shared at our last Vesak celebration. That gives us one possible answer that might just ring true for you.  It was written by one of the head priests at the Stone Creek Zen Center = Dojin – she writes the following,

“And today is as good a day as any to deeply thank this person for what he brought to the world. But, today of all days is also a great day to really think about what a Buddha is because what a Buddha is, is not limited to one person.  What Buddha really is, is a moment whenever great wisdom and compassion come together in this world in a thought, or action, in-kind word, a moment of selfless generosity, and helps to free up this world. That’s what Buddha is. What Buddha showing up in this world really is, is when any one of us, or anyone else in this world suddenly remembers how precious we are, and how important all the beings and things around us are, and how we are all so closely connected, and we act or speak or even think from that place.”


Washing the Buddha

We are now going to participate in the washing of the Buddha – a tradition practiced on Hanamatsuri – on Vesak day for over a thousand years by Buddhists all over the world. Those who would like to are welcome – there is no expectation that you do. We wash the baby Buddha as a welcoming into our lives and as a representation of the washing away the dust from our eyes, washing away our ignorance to reveal our innate Buddha-nature to give birth to the Buddha within each of us – and to turn our hearts to all sentient beings.

 How to wash the Buddha

How is it done?  First, we approach the table and bow. Then we take the ladle and pour the water over the Buddha three times – representing the washing away of all that which obscures our awareness of our innate Buddha-nature. The first time we say to ourselves, May I eliminate harmful thoughts – the second, may I practice kindness to all beings – and then lastly, may I help awaken all living beings.  Then bow and silently say Namu Amida Butsu.

I will ring the bell three times once – after the last ring you may stand a walk slowly to the table with the water and the Infant Buddha and begin – the rest of us will recite THE Hanamatsuri Aspiration handed out earlier –

Ring the bell three times


I want to close with the words of Rev Fisher again,

“We celebrate the Buddha’s birthday today.  We remember to be grateful for all that he has taught us – grateful to be born human – this wonderful unrepeatable life, grateful for showing us that we are all connected to each other, grateful to know that we all are born with Buddha nature, and grateful for Amida’s Vow reaching out to all of us, no matter how troubled, no matter how happy – that we may find Joy in life.


Namu Amida Butsu.

Driving Dharma

I would like to start our my dharma glimpse with a poem from the Venerable Robina Curtin; she is a Tibetan Buddhist nun in Australia, I love its matter-of-factness of her lines.

“We’re all mentally ill.
We’re all delusional.
We’re all junkies.
It’s just a matter of degree. “

I like how she embraces specific negative labels and says, “wait, hold on, you think that is not you…come on!” These are the labels we use for other people, not for ourselves, we can discount them, dismiss their experience because they are not like us, it’s all a way for us to avoid looking at ourselves. She calls it as it is, “You are delusional!” I think most of us would agree that we are delusional in a “not yet awakened way” but not “actually delusional” or in a “literally delusional” way but is that true?
In our sangha manual, we have this adapted line from Shinran as part of our liturgy,
Blinded by our delusion, anger, and greed we cannot see the brilliant light that embraces us – The Great compassion never tires, always casting its boundless light upon us, just as we are, always.
Sometimes for our dharma talk, we will use the prayers and affirmations in our practice manual as a starting point. We used the one above for a recent discussion. I asked the gathering what they would call someone who is out of touch with reality or in other words a person who doesn’t accept reality as it is and they responded with delusional. So I followed up by asking them how they were delusional. Not something they are usually asked. It was great to see their eyes light up as they started to slowly understand how they are actually delusional in a real everyday sort of way. It was then that the words of our dharma brother Noah San came into my head, it was a line from his book on Secular Buddhism which I really liked. In the chapter about Dukkha, he distills the cause of suffering into to a very simple and profound way. He writes that “We suffer because we want reality to be different than it is.” I offered this teaching to the gathering. It is that simple. We are delusional because of we. “we want reality to be different than it is.” It’s even more than want, we scheme, invent strategies, create convoluted stories all, so we do not have to accept reality as it is. Let me share an everyday experience that helped me see this.

A lot of my examples of late have to do with driving. I think I need to start a blog called Dharma Highways: How Driving Teaches us the Way……or maybe not. Every morning when I drive to work, as it does every day, the flow of traffic continually changes, slows down, speeds up, always in a state of flux because of a myriad of cause and conditions. This is the very nature traffic. When traffic stops moving it ceases to be traffic and becomes parking. That aside, here I am driving to work like I do every day and the reality that I want, the reality that I expect is the following:

no red lights,
goodly speeds,
graceful lane changes,
blinkers, yes blinkers.

I expect traffic to be light and if heavy still to move efficiently. But what happens when these expectations are dashed after the first right-hand turn? Anger? Rage? We, I mean I – become frustrated, my pulse races, my vision narrows. I am assigning all kinds of character traits to people I don’t know, transforming them into an enemy. The chanting I was just doing moments ago, forgotten and now I am driving aggressively and tailgate the car in front all because she moved into my lane and caused me to touch my breaks. Of course, I do not notice the bumper sticker placed loving on the driver’s side of the bumper, by her special needs granddaughter, that reads, “World’s Greatest Grandma.” Then in a flash, I realize, “Holy crap I’m delusional!” In a very real way, I do not see reality as it is. I am suffering because I want “reality to be different than it is.” It really is lunacy to suffer so significantly in the ebb and flow of traffic; it is traffic, it ebbs and flows.
The incident made me think of how many other places in our lives that we are delusional? Our relationships, our jobs, our expectations of ourselves. One of the most significant teachings that I have found in the dharma and from Gyomay Kubose Sensei is that acceptance IS transcendence. We suffer because we are unwilling to accept reality as it is and are so willing to dive right into depths of dukkha because we want so badly to believe we have some control over life. I would rather suffer and stay deluded than to accept how little control I actually have. And yet to be free, I have to acknowledge there nothing I can do to change reality. That reminds me of what Hiroyuki Itsuki writes in his book Tariki, his mantra that keeps him sane, “there is nothing I can do.” I too realize that there is next to nothing that I can do about the natural ebb and flow of life itself. This is a great mantra when stuck in traffic, “there is nothing I can do about the natural ebb and flow of traffic.” I guess I have found something that I can do. I can accept the ebb and flow of traffic. I can directly observe how it works and by doing so become more aware of the unnoticed kindness of strangers that let me in, the person in the car next to me crying, or the kids in the back seat laughing and making faces, all manifestations of the light of the great compassion.
Yes, I am delusional, and I am working on by degrees accepting reality a little more each day, even when I am stuck driving 47 in 70 miles an hour zone.


Dharma Glimpses from Bright Dawn.

Dharma Glimpses are short dharma teachings  from Bright Dawn Lay Ministers.

Here are some podcasts from Bright Dawn Way of Oneness podcast page.

Faust my Dharma Teacher.

Listening to the Dharma 

Buddhism and Gender Equality

Who are you?

And here are some more Dharma Glimpses in written format on our Bright Dawn Blog.



Bodhisattvas and Buddhas

Peaceful Heart

Invisible Cemetery

No matter how much I would like to, I will not punch a Nazi

Though the title is trite, what I want to say is not. Since what happened this weekend in Charlottesville Virginia, I have been thinking of the young woman who was murdered standing up against hatred. Personally I think there should be more coverage of her. Do you know her name? What do you know about her? I am ashamed that I know more about what the president didn’t say then about her. I want to stand up against hate because of what happened to her, not because of what the president did or did not say. She is a victim of home grown terrorism and the manifestation of hatred here at home. Our hearts and compassion go out to her friends and family and to the other victims harmed that day. We stand untied with them. I want to share something with you that I wrote earlier about this event.

Today I have been seeing a lot of fury filled posts and posts with the popular meme of Punching a Nazi, meme’s for your page and T Shirts if you want. I can understand why after this weekend. Punching a Nazi meme has been popular for a while among some of my more “progressive” friends and seems so tame considering what happened.

It is at times like this, overwhelmed with the horror of events like what happened in Charlottesville, that we need to be mindful. No matter how good it would feel, personally right now, to punch a Nazi…I would not nor would I tell another to punch a Nazi. This is not a skillful response to hatred. That doesn’t mean we don’t put our very bodies on the line to protect our brothers and sisters. We will.

The Buddha taught that hate cannot overcome hate. That doesn’t mean we can’t be angry. Anger in the face of injustice can motivate us to action. But what kind of action? Punching Nazis, spitting in their faces, spraying pepper spray at them is not skillful action and it can lead us to swallow the same poison of blind hatred. It is important to know anger and hatred are not the same. Melvin McLeod has taught that, “Anger is the power to say no. This is our natural reaction whenever we see someone suffer—we want to stop it.” We can and must stand up to the poison of hatred in our society, and in ourselves. Is our anger the kind of “wise anger” that motivates us our of love for our brother and sisters or is it the passionate volatile anger that does not come from love but from our own fear and suffering? Can we recognize this reality in ourselves? Do we know the difference?

The Buddha taught that “Hatred ceases by love”. It would be naïve to think the Buddha was teaching that by simply loving a Nazi you’re going to transform them.(though it can). But on a larger scale, hatred fuels hatred regardless if it is righteous or not. It is true though that in time only love can remove the fuel from the fire. Punching a Nazi only adds fuel to the fire, Even if you shut him or her up it doesn’t change anything, they will rise again more convinced of the righteousness of their hatred.

We see now see the attempt to use a moral equivalence by the President and the “Right” media machine to somehow diminish their complicity in sowing seeds of hatred and fear for short term political and financial gain. There is no such moral equivalency. Period.

At the same time some progressives on the left are allowing themselves to be co-opted by the right with their “Antifa” aggression and hatred. I understand this being of Jewish ancestry and being human. But trying to shut down free speech and taunting the haters only feeding the beast they are trying to slay with “righteous anger” and indignation.

In our fellowship we follow the saying, “Do no harm but take no shit.” Let us help one another in our practice of compassionate yet bold action to say “NO” to suffering and social injustice and to manifest “wise anger” in our efforts to effect change.

Kakuyo Leibow Sensei.