LUCK IN ALL THAT MUCK
Yesterday came word from my dharma sister down on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala that having painlessly survived the ravages of Hurricane Stan, she is giving thanks by finding money to buy water filters for the thousands not so lucky, native Mayan villagers whose lives were viciously uprooted and hurled aside. “I figure this is the most basic need,” she said. “Villagers counted on the lake for water,” she reported, but it had suddenly become a reservoir of a different sort: a cemetery of floating corpses, animal and human—and sewage.
Her aspiration to provide clean water sounded as simple, practical and honest as the natives we'd met while buying embroideries or art, nibbling and swimming, especially when she emphasized that she, a Swiss, trusted the people from whom she would acquire the equipment.
Bang! Into the cyberkaya (realm), or onto the cyber yana (vehicle), I unleashed a request to Buddhist and charitable acquaintances around the world to help. We would join a dharma sister in anonymous real person to person aid beyond bureaucracy, bylines and tax brakes. The response deadline would be October 31, eve of the Day of the Dead.
Then started a day of dread. These folks had been privately beseeched to help monks and nuns locked in prayer, Tibetans without a home, Nepali children caught in endless guerilla warfare, save fish and sea creatures from dying. They had been publicly implored to help the bewildered, bedraggled survivors of one tsunami, two earthquakes, now three killer hurricanes and unspeakable manmade disasters beyond counting.
One of them raised funds to take to the orphanages of Afghanistan to buy medicine, one raised funds and went to help survivors of Agent Orange in Vietnam, one took tons of clothing to Mongolia. Everyone was already doing so much with the little that they had. Many in fact had little because they did so much. How could I have rushed to ask brazenly for more?
Today I remembered the story of the wandering yogi who enraged and mystified the people of the plains by always begging at the tent of the shabbiest nomads and always demanding second helpings. I recalled how enraged and mystified I got when asked to contribute to a Long Life ceremony because I was an honoree. How unfair was that to make those being rewarded for their hard work pay while the others didn’t have to? Like whaaaaaaaaaaaa? Didn’t I turn into a volcano ready to explode?
Confronted at last, the yogi explained that by inviting generosity he was simply trying to boost the merit of the ones with the obviously worst karma so that life could improve for them. Being asked to contribute, yet again after everything I had done, was also to help my merit exponentially increase. It was offered as a reward to help me pass Go again on my way out of suffering.
True generosity, we are supposed to learn, is giving even when or because it hurts. Years back I watched a Bodhisattva vow ceremony in which participants were told to give the teacher whatever they really treasured and out of trembling hands came heirloom rings, framed photographs and silver pieces. Then I was horrified. Now those people are still alive and well and functioning fine.
Maybe you could say we are all alive and well and functioning out of harm’s way when harm is everywhere because of past life generosity. Maybe merit earned from virtue like that bought us this excellent karma to shop and go to football games and be frequent flyers with garbage disposals when so much of the planet is smothered in misery. If so, we have to keep up the good work.
Putting the squeeze on people besieged by calls for help could thus be offering them life insurance. Money freely given to purify the water at Lake Atitlan could purify their being, getting them one step closer O Buddha to thee. Out of all that muck could come a pure unstained lotus, just like the ideal Dharma image. Some people have all the luck. Perhaps there really is a cause for that effect.
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