True north is due north

June 7th, 2009


The Buddha Way lies outside thinking, analysis, prophesy, introspection, knowledge and wise explanation. – Dogen Zenji

I’ve just come from two events: sitting a day at the Zen center, and performing the monthly memorial service for lost children. You might think I do these things for a reason. In a way, I do. They are acts of compassion. But in truth, I do them just to do them, because they appear due on my calendar to be done, and that is what true compassion is: the absence of a qualifying rationale. The absence of self-service. They are good, but not in a way I can know or identify. Not necessarily in a way I can see. They are good because they are not tied to the expectation of an outcome.

The first book I stumbled across when I started to look beyond hope and reason for spiritual salvation was that slender remedy, The Tao te Ching. All the verses struck me, sung me, rung me, but none more than one that went slightly like this (memory serves when memory fades):

In the absence of the Tao there is goodness
In the absence of goodness there is morality
In the absence of morality there is piety

Even in my faulty recollection you can begin to see the essence of the wisdom. You can see the erring ways we layer our value judgments onto reality, to the fundamental truth of what is, and propel ourselves farther into self-righteousness and intolerance.

Beyond the superficial clouds of reason, thinking, introspection and wise explanation is the clear blue sky of wisdom and the deep ocean of compassion.

All this is a delinquent announcement of a trip north I’m taking later this month to give a free talk at the South San Francisco Public Library on Saturday, June 27 at 2 p.m. I don’t know if anyone will be there. I don’t know many people in the area. There’s no particular reason I’m going, except that they asked me. Have compassion and come! I’ll meet you due north – true north – for no good reason at all. Perhaps good will come.

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6 Comments »

  1. the absence of a qualifying rationale.

    i have a task to do. i have so much fear of doing. one of my beautiful cousins died too young this week. i need to call his mother, my favorite aunt. i can think of so many qualifying reasons not to. i miss him. i hurt, as a mother, for her in so many ways.

    thank you for a bit of courage.

    Comment by latisha — June 8, 2009 @ 3:49 am

  2. Not knowing what to say is the best thing to say. If you've ever lost a loved one, you know that just the effort someone makes says it all.

    Even children that are no longer children go on my memorial roster, so keep that in mind.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — June 8, 2009 @ 4:04 am

  3. I recently read that kindness is being useful. I've been thinking about that a lot lately.

    Comment by Mama Zen — June 8, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

  4. I'd be there if I could. Please let us know if you come to the East Coast.

    Comment by J — June 8, 2009 @ 8:01 pm

  5. thanks, J. I always say and I always mean: I go wherever I'm asked. That means you know before I do!

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — June 8, 2009 @ 8:21 pm

  6. It's on our calendar!

    Thanks for coming back to our seasonless area.

    Comment by Chris Austin-Lane — June 10, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

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