BUDDHISM FOR BEGINNERS -3 Paradox in Buddhist Thought
After you came to the dharma, what were the early steps leading you into peace work? Oh, and a third pivotal event was the Peace Pagoda unexpectedly entering my life. Could this be a coincidence? Or was this some amazing karma? It is a wonderful story. The town was divided. It was a very agitated and strident town meeting. Kato Shonin, the head monk, stood in front of the room and listened to what seemed to be thinly veiled racist comments.
The anger just went right through him. There was no point where he got caught in responding to any of the aggression. Afterwards I went over to him, bowed , thanked him and told him that I lived close by and would happily welcome him and his group to Leverett. Little did I know how that remark would change my life.
We wonder if one or two of us could stay on your floor while we clear the land and build a temporary structure.
A Beautiful Paradox
Then, of course, 30 or 40 of them moved in for four months! They slept on the floor: monk, nun, layperson, monk, nun, layperson, all over the house. They built the pagoda, which was inaugurated in , and then they built the temple. The temple went up in smoke just six weeks after they inaugurated it—a possible case of arson. That fire broke our hearts. Kato Shonin walked around the perimeter, around the ashes, like a ghost, circumambulating and barely beating his drum.
He moved so slowly; he looked so broken and so stooped. We all followed him, round and around, mourning this temple that had been created with so much love. So even then, the monks and nuns were coming into your neighborhood to do what you are now doing in Asia—silently bearing witness and absorbing the anger?
They never wanted to investigate who might have caused the fire. They were not into blame or retribution—only grieving and healing. It was a very Buddhist approach, and they have been wonderful models for me. It was just after the student uprising and military crackdown in Burma in , and the ensuing oppression of the Burmese military was almost completely unknown to the international community.
We crossed the Thai border into the jungles of Burma and began to meet with students, professors and monks who had fled Rangoon and were seeking shelter in the jungle. They were living in the most appalling conditions. I walked into this refugee camp and found beautiful young university students lying on the ground dying of malaria. That was the beginning of the end of my life as a psychotherapist. I felt very compelled to bear witness on behalf of these Burmese students and monks trapped in the jungle.
I began taking groups of journalists and activists on the same steps I had taken into Burma to witness, every year for about five years, working with Sulak and the engaged Buddhists in Bangkok. I brought the BPF into concern for Burma as well, and it is still part of their work. It was a wonderful experience—again, very formative for me.
That was the marker year for me of terminating my psychotherapy practice. They were so gracious. We ended that year in Japan visiting the Nipponzan Myohoji temples, hosted and honored for our work with the Peace Pagoda. Thus we experienced a stunning and transformative year. It pulled together all the different pieces of my dharma life and my activist life.
- The Buddha;
- Books similar to Zen: The Path of Paradox?
- Buddhism in the West by Jay L. Garfield.
We also had many Gandhian friends in India and bonded with that movement also, staying in their ashrams. It stays with me as a very pivotal and important experience in my life. Can you say more about this? So why do we hold to the split between the inner and the outer? The purpose of developing myself is not for myself, but for all beings.