doing what is ours to do

Posted by on 01.16.10 | 4 Comments
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This past week, many of us have had sleepless nights over the horrors in Haiti. This poem by Gary Snyder has arisen in my mind as I’ve considered personal and communal responses. For the past 15 years, I have lived my life to the rhythm of this poem; do my spiritual tune-ups to the calibration of it.

For those who are familiar with Buddhism, I sit in a middle place between Theravadan and Mahayanan perspective on what a bodhisattva is. What my experience has taught me is that being one bound for enlightenment means that it is our choices in each moment that bring us closer to the point where we are in the world, but not of it. From that place, we are then here not because we are afraid to leave or for any reason other than we choose to be here so that we may relieve some small suffering. We all go home together. That’s the deal.

“May I attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.”

We are all baby bodhisattvas.

Liao Dynasty - Guan Yin statue.jpg

Kuan Yin
by Gary Snyder
Dharma Bum

Of the many buddhas I love best the girl
who will not leave the cycles of pain before anyone else.

She is not the captain declining to be saved on the sinking ship
who may just want to ride her shame
out of sight.

She is at the brink of never being hurt again
but she pauses to say, ‘All of us. Every blade of grass.’

She chooses to live in the tumble of souls through time.
Perhaps she sees spring in every country,
talks quietly with farm women while helping lay seed.

Our hearts are a storm she trembles at.

I picture her leaning on a tree or humming or joining
a volleyball game on Santa Monica beach. Her skin shines with sweat.

The other may not (yet) know how to notice what she does to them.

She is not a fish or a bee; it not pity or thirst; she could go,
but here she is.

Italics mine.

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timeline

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