As the unbelievable pictures come in on our computer screens, our hearts are filled with sadness and prayers for those tens of thousands who have died, those who are injured and those who grieve.
An entire nation turned upside down. What can we say?
In ancient times, entire villages were wiped out by earthquake and tsunami. Maybe only the few people who survived could tell about it and remember it. But now we all can see it, the ferocious power of nature, of the sea. Those huge waves carrying away a vast jumble of tens of thousands of cars, houses, trucks, boats, greenhouses, human bodies, buses, all the accumulated human junk and treasures, grandmothers, babies, even an entire University. We will never forget.
And then, for the only nation of earth that has suffered attacks by nuclear weapons, to be under the threat of a nuclear disaster. It is unbelievable.
As Buddhists we cannot take refuge in this being part of God's inscrutable plan, or even in the notion of God's wrath for a planet not cared for. We take refuge in something that is hard for many to understand. We take refuge in the truth of impermanence. As the Buddha said to his weeping disciples as he lay dying, "All compounded things will fall apart and be gone." Over centuries, or in a flash. when our lives rest on that foundation, on the strange and strong foundation of constant change, then our lives are anchored in truth.
"Vast ocean of dazzling light, marked by the waves of coming and going, being born and dying."
We chant this in our memorial services. This week we have all seen it in action. We practice to be able to balance wisdom and compassion.
The wisdom eye sees constant change, even tsunami, as normal, as expected, as part of how IT IS. At the same time our tender hearts feel acutely the pain of human suffering on an unimaginable scale, and we are moved to do what little we can to help. The small blessing of a natural disaster is that there is no one to blame. The earth shrugged, a huge amount of water was displaced, and it flowed where it could. with no energy wasted on blame, everyone can work together to help.
exempted from Upaya Zen Center 3-21-2011 Newsletter