This darkness, this mystery of who we are, and how we are together, and how we are being influenced all the time, is to be honored and to be listened to, and is necessary for our wholeness.
In the way of the Buddha, karma is always in the background. It’s like the little key that unlocks all these teachings. When you kind of understand that, as I’m sure many of you do, when we understand that karma is such an important teaching, it unlocks all these teachings. This is the teaching of karma.
Practice is taking that step time and time again and slamming again and again into the reality that the world is not built for me, around me, by me alone. That my story is just that – a story. And that there is a reality that I am a part of, that other beings are a part of, and would not happen without all of us.
We are in a time where being able to take refuge in each other, being of service to each other, being a community that can rely on each other – this is something that we put forward, and that we understand that zazen is certainly important, our ritual practice is certainly important. But our sangha is the thing that will allow all of that to be. And that our deep service to each other will really be everything.
Sometimes that Buddha ancestral connection is represented between a teacher and a student – which Dogen talks a lot about – but it can be represented by our relationship to the Buddhas and ancestors we don’t see right in front of us, that we know came before us. And so we speak to them about what it is we wish to renounce and what is we wish to manifest, and we ask for their support.
This practice, this way of understanding, this way of knowing, is crafted in such a way that we have access to freedom in each and every moment of our waking hours. The freedom that I am speaking to is the freedom from the conditioning, the freedom from being reactivated in response to conditions or persons or circumstances. The freedom to be who we are, unafraid. The freedom to be able to meet whatever comes our way with a magnitude of heart and wisdom. To know in that moment what the action may be or not be. Where we want to direct our energy — not in reaction to something but because we want to be engaged in contributing in the lessening of suffering for all beings.
The ceremony of zazen is a ceremony of non-separation. It’s our intention to sit down and be with everything. This is how we start working with those many moments of painful separation, of harm enacted upon us, or that we have enacted upon another – all the vulnerability of our humanness.
We all, just like Siddhartha Gautama did, run back to the palace for a bit. We learn about the suffering of the world, we feel it, we run back to the palace. We come out again, we feel it, we run back to the palace. Until we come out enough that we decide: “Ok, I am not going back to the palace, I am staying here. I am going to understand what is going on, I am going to understand why we do this to each other.”
I have been thinking about waking up in the morning and going to sleep at night. It’s my first vow of the day to liberate all beings and it’s my last thought at the end of the day to vow to liberate all beings? And can I try to encourage that in myself? […] Because we know the suffering of the world and we are moved to respond to it.
So when we sit in zazen, our karmic patterns come up. And we have an opportunity to see them and to not act on them, to let them fall away. So in that sense we acknowledge them, we see them and in that moment of acknowledging we can take responsibility. So it is a two-part process. There is an acknowledgment of it, and a avowing, which is a take on responsibility and the possibility of space around that. We are able to own it, own our twisted karma. And in that moment, be free of it.
How can we become a community that fosters awakening to these systems of harm, in our bodies and between us? I want to understand how we can go beyond a fragile superficial harmony in our community to be a better community, to be truly anti-racist. To tear apart what we have to tear apart, to take responsibility for what we have to take responsibility – a loving responsibility, a loving accountability that listens and it’s humble and it’s disciplined and apologizes. And tries again, even though we don’t know what we are doing. Because we don’t know what we are doing.
I would like to mention a practice I learned from Dr. T. (a professor at Union Theological Seminary), that he termed the “hospitality of receiving.” […] In this practice, it is possible to meet one another with an attitude of openness and humility, as opposed to a colonialist mode of domination or appropriation. […] That act of receiving is also an act of hospitality – it is actually a gift.