The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The new zendo, a former Christian chapel that still retains the lingering vibration of God's name and  those spoken or silent petitions for salvation, petitions for mercy, is somehow beginning to undergo a
transformation.  It is a process I would sometimes like to rush in my typical manner.  Not to erase what has gone before our incense offerings at the Butsudan, Shakyamuni looking on with that lovely smile, or to slight in any way the pure intention and longing behind those prayers that existed before ours did.  No, not to slight what is purely considered, at the heart of the action of speaking, the open hope of subtle answers.
Is all prayer equal?  Is all prayer heard?  Is prayer non denominational?
I light lanterns in the large windows, a beacon for anyone who would like to enter.

I robe up in a quiet, private room, waiting for the sense of a general settling in the zendo and in my heart. I enter from the back of the space, the Butsudan greeting me like an old friend.  Last week, the sight of all the shoes, jackets, backpacks, and boots scattered outside the zendo brought me up short.  What rush of emotions is this, the unexpectedly intense flow of gratitude and love. I could only pause to honor the moment, to offer Metta. Does anyone know I was moved to take a photograph?
Would anyone even understand?
The wonderful mess prompted a swell of emotion--a bittersweet reminder that my own children have grown up and left home, and no longer dump their possessions as soon as they walk in the front door, the knowledge that these 18-22 year olds  now in my life are beautifully curious and thrill to experiences that perhaps they never imagined, a certain trust that the row of shows lined up beneath the coat rack belonged to adults who have been coming to sit for some time now, who perhaps gauge their own prayers through the weightless stick of incense in their hand.
How much does an offerings weigh? 
Chaos and order, two side of action.

And the emptiness of the zendo, before anyone arrives for Thursday Night Meditation--an illusion of emptiness, and an illusion of fullness.  On some plane of existence the evening has begun and ended, and begun again, if only my iphone could record it.

And what, finally, are we to make of Shakyamuni's punk-spiked hair, so modern and so timeless.  What are we to make of the impression left in the incense plate sand? The design somehow resembles a prehistoric winged insect from the Jurassic period, but was left by plastic wrap....  
People come to sit and some do not raise their eyes to look at me.  Others close their eyes as soon as they sit, and I watch as the dharma, mysterious and indestructible, washes over their own Shakyamuni heads.  Some folks leave everything thrown on the floor outside the zendo, and then they throw more on the floor at our feet.
All is a form of Metta, and then when Metta is gone, there isn't much there, or anywhere.
Can we abide here?
I extinguish the Butsudan's flame, someone else extinguishes the lantern flames.
What remains lit?

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