Yours in the Dharma:  Essays from a Buddhist perspective by Sandy Garson

This blog, Yours in the Dharma by Sandy Garson, is an effort to navigate life between the fast track and the breakdown lane, on the Buddhist path. It tries to use a heritage of precious, ancient teachings to steer clear of today's pain and confusion to clear the path to what's truly happening.

Friday, September 14, 2001

The Big Uneasy 911


During our spiritual emergency while Catholic Cardinals said mass, Jews listened to the sermons of Rosh Hashonah and those Muslims not in hiding showed their faces to President Bush, we Buddhists in the Tibetan style have been calling on Chenrezig. He is the Bodhisattva or Saint of unconditional loving compassion, also known as Lokeshvara and Avalokiteshvara.

Chenrezig bears arms: often four with two in prayer, but just as often 1,000 along with heads in four directions. These are responding to ALL the suffering of the world, meaning none escapes him.

He’s had a very hectic year. Added to disease, death, droughts, quakes and the disappointment that endlessly breaks hearts were the unnatural disasters of chads, hoof and mouth, inflamed intifada, maimed Buddha and towering twin infernos that still smolder in the gut. The three young adults I know afflicted by that atrocity want to sing to him a lyric by “bluegrass legend” Peter Rowan: “Save your tears for the living, weep not for the dead.”

But Chenrezig does. He is pure full moon white unstained by prejudice, the soul of equal opportunity. He embraces the firemen, bond traders and waitresses who perished, the survivors shell shocked by proximity and widows, even the hijackers and their support groups who live on, for he sees us all the same, our common denominator human suffering.

Chenrezig sees why we suffer, why it is our common detonator. What were we thinking? Where the mind goes, the body inevitably follows. As Heinrich Heine said before we knew of Nazis or Rushdie-rabid Ayatollahs: “Where they burn books they will eventually burn people.”
The Islamic perpetrators, certain we were blocking their reach for a good life, are said to have been sure God was on their side. Many Americans whose good life has certainly been blocked by their reach are equally sure God is more likely to be on ours. This thinking life a football game, Earth a stadium with cheerleaders and goal posts and a winner taking all is a mad zero sum attitude leading to the madness of Ground Zero, aka Auschwitz, Vietnam, Sarajevo, Rwanda and coming soon…

Our cross-country alarm is the blare of an alarm clock. Our beloved self-righteousness and belief that money can cure everything have been assassinated and our reverie of Neverneverland —never happen, never happen here—ended in rude wake up. John Wayne did not ride in to save the day. We’ve become refugees from our own virtual realities. Naked and dispossessed, we’ve been forced to the “unthinkable” Buddhists think every morning: my life is like a water bubble that can burst at any second.

In this Maalox moment when we’re exiled from certainty, see how thoughts become warplanes and vengeful macho posturing. Just the way those hijackers responded to their terrifying thoughts of Neverneverland—never a job, never a home—with jet planes and bravado suicide. It’s so easy to blame somebody else for what frightens or disturbs, for inadequacy and anguish. How easy to get rid of scary thoughts by hurling them out at an imagined bogeyman in a vomitous rage that becomes outrageous. And where it stops nobody knows.

Our fast food nation so short sighted on the short term, short tempered in its addiction to what’s Instant, has crash landed in the long run. This is where what goes round comes round to implicate, every happening revealing its provenance, and we have, as we have heard before, nothing to fear but fear itself. Terrorism is after all the eruption of a terror held deep in the human heart. It can not be vanquished by bombs.

Calling upon Chenrezig, we Buddhists are calling up unconditional compassion in ourselves for all beings whose thoughts cause them suffering. That means everyone including Mr. Bin Laden so blinded by a sandstorm of pointless fury he cannot see that killing children and janitors and civilians by the thousands can’t end happily ever after for anyone. What would our headlines be if all that money and manpower and time hellbent on destruction had carried out an Islamic Marshall Plan of humane creation? We pray the white light of Chenrezig purifies all negative thinking.

We call upon Chenrezig to become us because to change our thinking is to change the world. We reach out with many arms the way Americans have responded to apocalypse now by reaching toward each other. This is like remembering the Commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself or the Golden Rule to do unto others what you so anxiously want them to do unto you. In the end, these arms are the weapon that will win this war. ###

This first appeared in slightly different form in The Bath Brunswick Times Record in Sept. 2001.