Posts Tagged ‘Truth’

i wanted to like it

April 17th, 2011    -    28 Comments

If you wish to see the truth, then hold no opinions for or against anything.

Verses on the Faith Mind

I just finished reading a book. I wanted to like it.

Those last five words I wanted to like it are the tip-off to any author that her book is about to get trashed. I wanted to like it is an absolution before the executioner goes to work. I could write a wicked little bit on Goodreads, a quick dismissal, an eternal damnation, and a triumphant last word. One star. I thought so much about my clever condemnation while I was reading that I literally felt sick. I had to wonder what was more disagreeable: the book or me?

So I stopped myself.

Writers get trashed a lot. Is it more than chefs or dry cleaners or college professors or car detailers? Probably not. The web has made everyone a public critic of everything. Sometimes that’s all the interactive media seems to be: a shooting range. The whole world is erupting in opinions. We all have opinions. The problem starts when you cherish your opinions, when you elevate them, and, yes, even when you express them. Why express an opinion except to elevate yourself and demean others? Loft your opinion and it’s going to land somewhere it hurts. You might even shoot yourself. Look closely to see what you are sharing when you unleash poison and pain.

In my humble opinion, there’s no such thing as a humble opinion.

All this gives me pause about the way I glibly injure innocents and overlook the truth. What do I mean by the truth? The truth is what you don’t read in a book, and even less, what you think of it.

I just finished reading a book. I’d say more, but I’m finished.

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in the matter of mr. d

March 14th, 2011    -    12 Comments

I have written before about the peculiar scourge of jury service but that is nothing compared to the small matter of one Mr. D.

And I have wailed over yet another cruelly unjust summons, for which I cleared my calendar to no avail until the fourth of five days’ duty, when I was the last of 40 called in the final hour of an interminably inconvenient week.

And so I howled at the capriciousness of the judge who then made me and my fellows report downtown for a next day, and then a next day, all before seating the twelve who would take up the minuscule matter of one Mr. D.

And on this third day in proverbial chains to the justice system, reassured on each previous one that this was but a minor case, a slight disruption, a quick thing, a short suit, we commence to consider the foregone insignificance of one Mr. D. I was not, at last count, among the dozen who will determine his fate, but he has already determined mine.

Because on this day, I finally realize what has lain before me all this time, unseen in the impatient storm of my own self-pity.

I see Mr. D., a young black man in a jail jumpsuit, a garment itself so indicting that the judge has taken three days to reassure us that his apparel choice alone is meaningless and inconsequential. No one is dissuaded, because we know what befits the guilty.

I survey the court and see the absence of either friend or family, no one to piously pray or hopelessly hope for his redemption.

I have heard the jurors, on interview, bemoan their own victimhood, brag of their biases, defend their beliefs, all offered as but a clever strategy to be removed from the tenure of this test, and I am sadly aware that Mr. D has no peers among us.

It took these three self-righteous days, these tortuous 14 hours, these 120 angry miles, these six indignant hikes up and down seven city blocks, for me to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt:

The minor matter of Mr. D deserves more than it is going to get, and better than I’ve granted. The proper defense of Mr. D requires that I escape the shackles of my own self-importance. And in the glare of that revelation, I see my way clear, chastened and in debt to the matter of Mr. D.

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karma is justice

October 26th, 2010    -    23 Comments

I’m juggling two jury summons. Yes, that’s right, two different courts demanding either (a) one week, or (b) two weeks of my time.  It’s karmic injustice if you ask me, since I’ve already been judged either (a) too unqualified, or (b) too qualified to serve. It brings to mind this story from last year, and it reminds me of how often we misjudge the concept of karma as being either (a) good for us or (b) bad for us or (a) fair to us or (b) unfair to us. Karma is inescapable effect inseparable from cause.  I’m repeating this post from last November when I titled it “The Buddhist in the Jury Box” and reporting to the courts for double karmic duty. When it comes to karma, there’s no room for deliberation.

***

We’re sometimes told that one key to an ethical lifestyle is to not take anything personally. That sounds like a good idea but practically speaking, your honor, I object.

State your:
Area of Residence

Occupation

Marital Status

Spouse’s Occupation

Occupations of Adult Children

Previous Experience as a Juror

I studied the instructions posted on the courtroom wall. The judge said, “Pass the microphone to Juror Number 11.”

I told him where I lived, and then I said, “I’m a Buddhist priest.”

***

I like to think of myself as a good citizen, but let me come clean: I haven’t been upholding my civic duty for the last few years. When you are a full-time caregiver of children under school age, you are exempted from jury service. After that, you have to dodge and deceive to exempt yourself, and that’s what I’ve done for the last five years, vexed by the question of after-school childcare.

Then, as we expect of our civil society, the court came breathing down my neck with a high-dollar penalty. So I showed up at the criminal justice center downtown for a day of jury service. I hadn’t found a way to manage an unforeseen absence at home, but I did have an epiphany. I realized I could tell the truth about myself, and that alone might disqualify me from participation in our system of justice. Truth, you see, is the ultimate defense. It’s the defense of having no defense.

Maybe doing good would do me some good, I bargained.

It was 11:30 a.m. before I landed in a big courtroom with 40 other potential jurors, a charming judge, and two sides in a criminal case expected to last up to eight days. The judge warned us that with the late start, we might be required to come back an extra day before jury selection could be completed, and I began calculating the collateral impact at home.

Before anything could begin, we had to break for a 90-minute lunch. read more

swallowing seeds

August 8th, 2010    -    4 Comments

Did you ever swallow watermelon seeds as a kid and wait for the vine to creep up your throat?

Luckily for me, my teacher Nyogen Roshi keeps repeating the same thing over and over again. (I’m beginning to realize that’s what teachers do.) In nearly every one of his weekly dharma talks he ends up reciting a set of instructions given to him by his teacher Maezumi Roshi in the early days of his training.

Wisdom teachings are fascinating things. They may not appear to be special. They are never complicated. They can sound so ordinary that we don’t even hear them or grant them consideration. But like seeds, they burrow into us and one day surface in full bloom. Only then are we ready to appreciate them. Here are Maezumi’s Three Teachings, which you’re not likely to find elsewhere. read more

the hard truth

April 27th, 2010    -    26 Comments

If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions for or against anything. – Verses on the Faith Mind

Yesterday I saw my new book called “self-centered for someone who is all about detachment.” That was hard to let go of.

This morning I called in for an interview on a live radio show and the host said “Pardon my personal view, but for our society to be raised right it takes more than tree hugging.” That was hard to embrace.

As I backed out of the driveway to take my daughter to school, I spotted a ticket on the spare car we keep parked on the curb. The overnight parking permit had expired four months ago, an oversight that was hard to keep from citing someone else for.

This practice is hard, particularly when I don’t practice it. The truth can be hard to admit, although the truth is never hard to see. What truth am I talking about? The truth of what is. Some of us spend our whole lives in a search for truth, and yet the truth is always staring us in the face. We don’t need to do anything to find it, and even less to cover it up.

One of the things that helps me deal with the thorny business of competitiveness, authorship and ownership is my view of the truth. My view of the truth is that it’s not mine, or at least, not mine alone. Wisdom is not mine to manufacture. It’s not in a clever turn of words, a brand, or a trademarked slogan. It’s not even in my unique story. My story isn’t unique. My practice isn’t unique, and if I truly practice, I don’t have anything left to call my own. I don’t deal in anything original. None of us do. read more

I say/I mean

February 7th, 2010    -    No Comments

A fake conversation about fake conversations makes me realize who I’m talking to:

What I say/What I mean
I’m taking my time/I haven’t started
Take your time/Hurry up
I have too much to do/I have one thing to do that I’m avoiding
I’m too busy/I’m wasting too much time on the computer
I didn’t hear you/I’m not listening
Because I said so/Because I said so
I’m going to change/I’m not going to change
I love you/tralalalala
You’re terrific/You did what I wanted
No trouble/Trouble
No worries/Worries
Not a problem/Problem
It’s not your fault/It’s your fault
I’m doing this for you/I’m doing this for me
You/Me
[Insert word here]/Me

A late entry in the truth category

December 9th, 2009    -    2 Comments


When you’re as easily teased by Buddhist discourse as I am, you can see the same arguments over and over. Among the refrains I keep hearing are the ones I call The Biggest Lies in Buddhism.

I’m not a Buddha. You most certainly are; you may not yet realize it. “Buddha” does not equate to an imaginary celestial being but to an awakened one. When human beings live in their natural awakened state, undisturbed by delusive thoughts and emotions, they live as buddhas. Buddhahood is your birthright. You claim it every time you wake up to the present moment.

My ideas are as good as yours. That’s true, however, neither are any good at all. The practice of Buddhism is not intended to democratize personal views; it does not aim to equalize the worth of everyone’s self-reinforcing preferences; it simply transcends them. We practice Buddhism so we will no longer be blinded by what we think, and wake up instead to how things are.

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What I know to be untrue

October 19th, 2009    -    30 Comments

You’ll hear from me first thing Monday.

We’re in your neighborhood working and we’d like to give you a free estimate.
It’s all your fault.
No child will be left behind.
Drinking in moderation is good for you.
The kids are asleep.
It’s educational.
When it’s gone, it’s gone.
Only this once, I promise.
I’ll eat the leftovers.
I can’t live without you.
You forced my hand.
I understand.
I can’t take it a minute longer.
Guaranteed to keep the weight off.
I had no choice.
The world will never be the same.
Regulation destroys innovation.
We’re fighting for their freedom.
That’s why Canadians come here.
We will never sell your email address.
Limited time only.
We know you have a choice of carriers, and we thank you for choosing to fly with us.
I never go on Facebook.

Oh! And another one: I’m finished.

What about you? What do you know to be untrue?

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Remove, retread, repeat

May 13th, 2009    -    11 Comments


The other day I had to have a ginormous bolt removed from a tire and the hole plugged. It reminded me that retreads can have a lot of miles left on them, and so I plugged in this repeat post today:

From time to time I’m asked this question: What do Buddhists believe? I like to respond that Buddhism requires no beliefs, but that’s rather hard to believe. And so I offer this.

I believe in love. Not the love that is the enemy of hate, but the love that has no enemies or rivals, no end and no beginning, no justification and no reason at all. Love and hate are completely unrelated and incomparable. Hate is born of human fear. Love is never born, which is to say, it is eternal and absolutely fearless. This love does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in truth. Not the truth that is investigated or exposed, interpreted or debated. But the truth that is revealed, inevitably and without a doubt, right in front of my eyes. All truth is self-revealed; it just doesn’t always appear as quickly or emphatically as I’d like it to. This truth does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in freedom. Not the freedom that is confined or decreed by ideology, but the freedom that is free of all confining impositions, definitions, expectations and doctrines. Not the freedom in whose name we tremble and fight, but the freedom that needs no defense. This freedom does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in justice. Not the justice that is deliberated or prosecuted; not that is weighed or measured or meted by my own corruptible self-interest. I believe in the unfailing precision of cause and effect, the universal and inviolable law of interdependence. It shows itself to me in my own suffering every single time I act with a savage hand, a greedy mind or a selfish thought. It shows itself in the state of the world, and the state of the mind, we each inhabit. This justice does not require my belief; it requires my practice.

I believe in peace. Not the peace that is a prize. Not the peace that can be won. There is no peace in victory; there is only lasting resentment, recrimination and pain. The peace I seek is the peace that surpasses all understanding. It is the peace that is always at hand when I empty my hand. No matter what you believe, this peace does not require belief, it requires practice.

I believe in wisdom. Not the wisdom that is imparted or achieved; not the wisdom sought or the wisdom gained. But the wisdom that we each already own as our birthright. The wisdom that manifests in our own clear minds and selfless hearts, and that we embody as love, truth, freedom, justice and peace. The wisdom that is practice.

What do you believe?

The secret life of men

February 19th, 2009    -    11 Comments


I don’t have anything to wear.
Does this make me look fat?
You hurt my feelings.
I hate my hair.
Does my breath smell?
Does waxing hurt?
My boss doesn’t like me.
I’m beginning to look like my dad.
It’s my natural color.
I borrowed your moisturizer.

The secret life of men is the secret life of us all. So there are no secrets.
Now, can you keep it a secret?

Your girlfriend is a priest

February 11th, 2009    -    19 Comments


As much as it shocks me to realize it, sometimes as I cup my hand consolingly under someone’s elbow, I hear myself say, “I’m a priest.” And then I tell them something or other that they probably already know.

So here are some priestly items for now:

1. Never ask your husband if he remembered to feed the dog. He doesn’t like to be reminded that he always forgets to feed the dog. Just feed the dog no matter what.

2. Never ask your husband to pick up the dog poop, since you yourself are most likely responsible for it in the end analysis (See point 1). And face it, your husband doesn’t like to be reminded of that either.

3. Never buy underwear in the 75 percent off, free shipping, extra 20 percent off one-day-only sale at Victoria’s Secret online because underwear that costs .17 cents a pair looks like it costs even less. Just wear the old underwear for the sake of the economic crisis.

4. Plus, this saves you the embarrassment of having to go up to a larger size when you buy new underwear because of the unconscionable fact that they only come in three sizes. Well four, but on my mother’s side of the family we don’t consider S a size for adults.

5. Then you can tell yourself that you are still the same size as Jessica Simpson will soon be.

6. Never compare yourself to someone who probably doesn’t even wear underwear on a fairly consistent basis.

7. Never believe the words “self-cleaning oven.”

8. Never blow your nose.

9. Hey, I’m not a doctor; I’m just a priest.

10. Silence is the ultimate kindness.

Bearded lady

December 14th, 2008    -    3 Comments


Mom, you know what’s great?

What’s that?

Some people don’t think Santa Claus is real, but he is.

Who doesn’t think he’s real?

My friend Marjorie. But that’s just because she didn’t get a laptop last year.

(When you tug, it hurts.)

Goodbye to everything else

October 6th, 2008    -    19 Comments

This year,
My sister broke her fall
My dog broke her knee
And through it all, there was one good thing
My deal disappeared
My words dried up
And through it all, there was one good thing
My other sister lost her job
My hopes took a hit
And through it all, there was one good thing
My bank failed
My future all but vanished in a day
And through it all, there was one good thing
My country collapsed
My happy ending kaput
And through it all, there was one good thing
A good so good it cannot be called good.
A thing so vast it cannot be called a thing.
A one so many it can only be called one.

Life keeps proving it cannot be grasped.
May you be safe
May we all be safe here forever
as One.

Photo by Kevin Carden
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