SITTING ROOM ONLY
My Chinese friend Mei says the pig is supposed to stand for wisdom, the power of truth. Perhaps that is because the pig can put its snout into a pile of garbage and pull out a truffle. Certainly the headlines this week have been an extraordinary pile of garbage. Here is one day’s worth:
Bush Promises New Afghan Offensive
Nevada Governor at center of bribe probe
Audit finds $10 billion in fuzzy spending
Beleaguered Air Passengers Want New Laws
Woman in affair with Mayor got $10,154 after leaving post
Dog who was shot defending owner put down
Slain woman was to be married
Stock-options backdating scandal escalating
Bumped Passengers taking off
Hershey cuts jobs, sends work to
HMO Kaiser earnings up 30%
And here are a few more from the first section of the newspaper the day before, which was post St. Valentine’s Day:
Homeless Woman’s dies in crime of exceptional depravity
Kids in US worse off than in other rich nations
Lawyers, lover, Mom, battle for Smith’s body
Anne Frank’s family’s visa pleas unanswered
Justice Scalia’s daughter charged with DUI with 3 kids in car
Judge says he was misled on Libby testifying
U.S. Prosecutor and Oil Lobbyist bought vacation home together
CIA’s former No. 3 pleads not guilty in corruption scandal
The profits of doom consume the news. Kaiser HMO, the human equivalent of factory farming, raises its health care premiums 15%, cuts its workforce and shows Wall Street the money just like the weapons makers show the lobbyists and spooks the money. We are no longer human beings but consumers and are thus being consumed. It is an ancient tactic of war to treat and call the "other" by a dehumanizing name. Ecci consumer, one way to connect the rots all those headlines represent. You know: Just give us the money, and everyone gets hurt.
Two weeks ago at a teaching, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche said that if we had all been dropped into the ocean, we'd be desperately trying to learn how to swim to a shore to get safely out. Yet we've all been dropped at birth into the vast ocean of samsara (suffering), and what are we doing to get the hell out of it? To get safely to the far shore, as the Buddha put it to describe nirvana or enlightenment, the absence of all suffering? What are we doing to change those headlines in any way?
Ke garne?, what to do?, as the long suffering Nepali people say. Get out with drugs and iPods and 100 mile bike rides? Get in? Get going? I have friends quick to rally to protest with shouts and placards and trespasses that merely show off their anger. That aggression meeting the aggressive is a mere drug-like momentary feel-good high that sinks back into depression, changing nothing in the end. It is, as folk wisdom has it, fighting fire with fire. You do not change other people's behavior by mirroring their own back at them, in their face.
My teacher says again and again what to do to change the balance of power is to pour back as much positive good heart energy into the world as we can, to never stop trying to put light in all the darkness. Odds are in our favor, for one candle can light the whole night. Think about that.
The key is skillful means, action with absolutely no negative reaction or echo in any direction --no anger, no nasty thought, no baring your teeth. Skillful means knowing what you can do peacefully and doing it to create peace. It is speaking power to truth.
I have my ticket to it. At midnight on the first day of the year of the female fire pig, I am lifting into the stratosphere of airline food to cross an ocean and sit in the Indian monastery of my teacher. This building deliberately overlooks the spot where Shakyamuni Buddha gave his first teaching 2500 years ago. “I teach the end of suffering,” he said and laid out the Four Noble Truths. They start with the observation that all the world is suffering. That is the first noble truth: the truth of suffering. It is followed by the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering and the truth of the way to bring that about. Simply put, the way is to bring peace forever to your own mind.
Peace is certainty and in the end, that's exactly what we are all searching for: certainty. Ask any risk manager, or teenager. As we all know, nothing of course is for sure but death, taxes and our culture groping further toward the bottom denominator. Except this: certainly no harm can come of the positive intention to calm and focus your mind. No headline either. So here is the news: for two weeks, at the start of the new lunar year, I will sit still, staring at my mind, and try in all the garbage of this world to find the truffle.
Tashi deleg. Namaste.
"Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"
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