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Compassion Can Be the Cure

By Dennis Sienko

Due to Covid-19, we are living in a heightened sense of unknowing that escalates nervousness in our society and ourselves. This in turn, affects our health almost as much as the virus itself and affects how we relate to others. We see people arguing and getting violent about social distancing precautions, whether to wear a facemask or even to attend a large church or spiritual gathering. How a person acts in relation to other people depends on one’s internal sense of well-being. If one is excited and nervous, they will tend to act irrationally and with judgement.

One of the best cures or remedies for this excited, nervous and irrational condition is zazen. Zazen allows the nervousness, worry and sorrow from these times to become more manageable by calming the mind. After regular periods of zazen, one begins to become more peaceful and poised. We begin to cultivate a deep, wonderful inner quiet from which compassion naturally arises. This compassion helps us to accept life’s experiences as they are. It helps us relate to others in a way that does not escalate into violence.

Yúnyán asked, “The bodhisattva of great compassion uses the many hands and eyes for what?” Dàowú said, “As if it’s night and a person gropes with their hand behind their body for the pillow.”

In other words, compassion flows naturally, without effort. It flows without expecting something in return. Compassion is always present. The secret is to allow it to flow.

You are by nature compassionate. Use your many hands and eyes and bring forth that compassion. First, start by using many of those hands to give yourself a hug. See the world through the eyes of others. Compassion is the cure to this virus. We need to show compassion to people we agree with and to those we disagree with. We need to show compassion to all sentient beings, small and large.

If we can become more compassionate, we as individuals can make the world a better, safer place. Start with daily zazen practice, trust the process and all will be as it should be.

Awakening in Time

By Karin Ryuku Kempe

Some weeks ago my watch stopped working. Because I wasn’t able to get it fixed, it’s been in the top drawer of my desk and I’ve had a chance to be without it. Actually, I find I don’t need it, although at first I did check my bare wrist from time to time. After all, time measured out minute by minute, hour by hour, is an external construct, and there are plenty of clocks about the house if I need to keep track.

The experience of time passing, especially the tyranny of time, is something else altogether. During these weeks at home, some of us have had the sensation of everything slowing down; more of our life is unscheduled. Those of us who work online may feel keenly the difference between the rigidity of the virtual landscape, or even face-to-face demands, and those unfilled stretches which seem to unfold and fill themselves. And those of us who make our own schedules notice the tendency to fill the spaces with plans or maybe a conscious decision to let the day unfold organically. It feels a bit like falling.

The Israeli historian philosopher Yuval Noah Harari wrote in 21 Lessons for the 21st Century that the Buddha “taught that the three basic realities of the universe are that everything is constantly changing, nothing has any enduring essence, and nothing is completely satisfying…You can explore the furthest reaches of the galaxy, of your body, or of your mind, but you will never encounter something that does not change, that has an eternal essence, and that completely satisfies you.”

True…and yet we find we can be satisfied, we can be at ease. What makes that ease possible is our capacity to come to awareness, to be attentive, awake in the midst of this stream we call time. We might call it mindfulness, but that word implies someone who is being mindful of something, a pulling apart of that organic mix into a subject-object relationship. Maybe whole-hearted awareness lives more like a verb; we experience ourselves as what we are experiencing. I seem to remember a quote about Chao-chou: “Most people are used by the twenty-four hours; I use the twenty-four hours.” More like, “I am the twenty-four hours.”

One monk asked his teacher, “What is the everlasting reality?”

“Moving.”

“When moving, what then?”

His teacher said: “Then you can’t see the everlasting reality.” (Book of Equanimity, Case 75)

Like diving into water without knowing its temperature, we are always jumping in. Remember learning to dive? You can’t hold on. Try taking off your watch for a bit. What then?

Spring

By Ken Tetsuzan Morgareidge

The gnarled and ancient silver maple has burst forth

with a thousand thousand leaves.

The lilac blossoms out in glowing royal purple

gems far too many to count.

Tulips emerge in colors from winter’s frozen crypt

and open to the risen sun.

The roses, roused at last from storm-caused dormancy,

send shoots among the dried out canes.

Pruning, trimming, mowing, planting, feeding, watering,

all the loving labors of spring.

Birds flit past in search of a branch on which to nest,

lay their eggs, transmit their dharma.

Just look!—every leaf, blossom, new blade of grass

is nothing but your own true being.