Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dharma, Talks

Another unexpected side effect to my repatriation is an oft-awkward re-immersion in my mother language. This has happened before. After fifteen months in Japan, I took my first trip abroad to New Zealand, and for some reason it took me a day to get used to hearing my native tongue again. (Some would argue that understanding Kiwis is difficult already, as theirs is a nation that has found it possible to get by with a mere three vowels.)

One place that this showed up repeatedly was during dharma talks at Upaya. Granted, mostly it was during a talk given by a non-native speaker. Once I mistook the words 'Go Ye Unto the World" for "Go Ye Undo the World." Another time Beatte-sensei was talking about having a "calm, abiding mind," and I was sat there thinking, what the hell is a karma-biting mind?

During dharma talks I always bring a pen and my moleskine, not to take notes, but to jot down all the weird ideas that pop into my mind. That mind was most busy during a talk by
Yamada Roshi, head of Sandai Kyodan. He kept mentioning that his lecture dias was illusion, an illusion from his glasses repeatedly fell when he'd set them there. If such matter is empty, is it not faith then that creates the illusion of material things? Is this similar to a Christian faith in God, form in emptiness and all that? As if to emphasize this, dust began to swirl in the air, in a still room seemingly devoid of any wind. Where then, did the dust in this sunbeam come from? More form in emptiness?

The most powerful talks are usually, no surprise, given by Roshi Joan Halifax. During the talk, "On Grief and Buddhism," she quoted us a poem by Issa:

Tsuyu no yo wa tsuyu no yo nagara sari nagara

The world of dew --
A world of dew it is indeed,
And yet, and yet . . .

And the bottom fell out of my world. A month earlier, during the film retreat, we saw "The Secret Life of Words," a film that floored quite a few people. After the viewing we had a brief discussion, then wrote poems. One woman, a friend, devout Buddhist, and radical feminist, read hers, angrily asking how men can keep talking (in the discussion) after being exposed to such violent acts against women? And I felt personally attacked at her words, questioning both her Buddhism (her blinding attachment to her own emotions) and her feminism (which was so exclusionary to men).

Yet here I was, in the midst of my own despair. And, as Roshi kept going on with her lecture, I too was thinking, "How can you keep talking!?" when my grief has stopped the world yet again? And as it passed, I thought about the mysterious nature of grief, and the many ways it reveals itself. As the years go on, the grief and sadness I sometimes feel seem detached from the actual loss of Ken,and are seemingly now connected mostly to my own feelings and memory .

On the turntable: Dire Straits, "Sultans of Swing"

1 comment:

  1. "is it not faith then that creates the illusion of material things?"

    In my own ponderings, faith seems to have quite an effect on the material world ... subconscious mindless faith and the kind we fuel with effort. After reading this sentence you wrote, I can't help but think of it as some puzzle. Is it the moment we think, speak, have faith that the world manifests with both its beauty and ugliness? If we don't speak is it OK? Very provocative post.


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