Am I terrorized?
That’s what the extremists want.
They want the “other”, the West, to be paralyzed by fear. My husband told me a quote from the
paper that the extremists said, paraphrased something like this: “The West is afraid of death. We are going to win because we are not
afraid of death.” This axiom is
demonstrated by the fact that most of these missions end with the perpetrators
being dead by suicide or the police.
They are going to the promised land and their families get a new refrigerator. I shouldn’t be sarcastic about
something so horrid. Forgive me.
In our practice, Life and Death is the great matter. So is it true that all the West is
afraid of death? Are we afraid of
death? Not in the sense that we
would go out in an aggressive manner and not care about the death of other
humans and ourselves, but what I’m interested in is - am I going to spend my
whole life afraid of death? This
fear of death in our psyche affects our whole life. This is one of our primary reasons for practice. To free ourselves from the fear of
death so that Life can really happen fully and on all levels. We are not blocked by our fear of
So there are several practices that I am contemplating as I
face the papers and the world scene as it is today with such horrible examples
One story that I remember Katagiri Roshi telling us but I
don’t remember where it can to be found in the literature, is this:
It was a warring time in Japan. The Zen monastery had been told that the opposing Samurai
group was marching towards the monastery.
Everyone in the zendo ran to hide except for the Zen teacher. When the head Samurai marched into the
zendo, the Zen teacher just sat still facing him.
The Samurai said:
Don’t you realize who I am?
I am a person who can slash through your body with a sword without a
blink of an eye.
And the Teacher responded: I am someone who can be slashed through without a blink of
The Samurai was shocked by this reaction, he had never
experienced anyone who wasn’t afraid of him in this way. It shocked him so much, that he became
a student of that Zen teacher, so the mythological story goes (and then he
becomes enlightened! As all the stories end).
My second contemplation is the Lojong Slogan that says:
When the world is
filled with evil,
Transform all mishaps
into the path of Bodhi.
I have loved and used this slogan for many years. It is such a great admonition for our
daily life practice. Things that
happen to us are the field for bringing forth our understanding of
practice. Each mishap or each
moment of evil is a moment that we can transform our reactions to bring
something good into the world.
Hatred never ceases by hatred,
by love alone is healed.
is the ancient and noble law.
In my practice, this does not mean that I am a doormat or a
wuss. It means to me that I meet “evil” with my practice. Just thinking of the Paramitas give me
great latitude on different reactions.
That I use my Wisdom to discern what I should do in the name of
Wholesomeness. What might be
Thich Nhat Hanh tell a story over and over. He says, that if one person in a
Vietnamese refugee boat kept their calm, that their centeredness could save the
whole boat. This implies to me
that an act of heroism is staying with the truth of the moment, calmly and
reacting the best I can.
There is always a question, “what is it that I can do?” I think one thing I know is that my practice
doesn’t want me to spend a lot of my time fantasizing about what I can do that
will save the world. Or what “others”
should be doing to save the world.
The question of what to do may be contemplated in your mind with
discernment, but then it needs to be acted on. Large or small. Usually, we can find something, probably on the
smaller side, to do. It is a rare
moment and a rare individual who is in a position to do something large on the
world scene to make a difference.
But my small action is what I can do.
But I can always practice with my mind. Developing my
character for the good is always something I can contribute to the world. Transforming
all situations into the path of awakening. Even if it is just contemplating my relationship to death.
That brings me to my last point. In the Paramita of Dana or Generosity, classically there are
three types of giving.
Giving material goods
Giving the Dharma
Giving the gift of fearlessness.
There are four kinds of fearlessness:
Fearlessness arising from the awareness of
something omnipresent in the world.
Fearlessness arising from the perfection of
Fearlessness arising from overcoming opposition,
which means to be free from the dualistic world while in the midst of it.
Fearlessness arising from the ending of
Katagiri Roshi wrote about this in Returning to Silence pages 145-147. He wrote:
can practice the giving of Dharma and fearlessness. We have to stand up straight continuously, in whatever realm
of existence, suffering, pain we find ourselves, and then, very naturally we
can see something omnipresent.
omnipresence is not absolute. In
Buddhism the absolute is absolute, but, at the same time, absolute is not
absolute, because the absolute is something changing constantly,
interconnected, dynamically working.
In Buddhism everything is interconnected, changing constantly, and
interpenetrating; it exists forever in this way from generation to generation
regardless of whether we live or die.
When we stand up straight continuously, no matter what circumstances we
are in, we can really feel, we can really understand something
omnipresent. This is the practice
of giving fearlessness.
I think it’s inevitable that we will be seeing more
terrorism in our lives. I’m hoping
that I can react through awareness of the teaching in a different way. I hope that we can share this strength
Labels: generosity, gift of fearlessness, Katagiri Roshi, life and death, Lojong Slogan, paramitas, practicing with evil, terrorism, Thich Nhat hanh