Saturday, January 19, 2008

30 hours in a DC jail

(This reflection was offered as part of the "messages of hope, wisdom, and worship" at the Palm Beach County meeting of the Spiritual Progressive Network Jan 19,08)

I hesitated when asked to participate in this service because time is precious and mine is not a message of hope or peace- i am here this morning to challenge you. As a zen student, my practice generally does not include prayer, but confrontation. This may seem a contradiction to those of you who know a bit about Buddhism, but it is not. Peace is not passivity and Peace is not necessarily calm. As a zen practitioner, i spend time in silence, left with only 2 questions -Who am i? What am i doing here? For one minute, i would like to sit with you in silence with this question. Who am i?

If you’ve come up with an answer, you’ll need to sit a bit longer!!!

I was asked to reflect on the environment, but last weekend i spent 15 minutes in the Supreme Court protesting the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and 30 hours in a DC jail, i’d like to reflect on that experience. 30 hrs in a DC jail is not very long, but it was long enough to know that places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are not aberrations but are the very fruit of our immorality. It was long enough to recognize the unequivocal failing of our criminal justice system. It was long enough to reaffirm my inaction is complicity.

On Sunday, after i was released from jail i passed a homeless woman on the street. She said her kids were hungry, could i help her? I mumbled “No” and i turned away, instinctively clutching the few dollars in my pocket. Again i failed to recognize who i am. Again i was face to face with the prison of my mind.

More and more often this message infuses my day-to-day living. Who am i? What am i doing? I drink tea with those called “terrorist”, and call them brother. i walk with those called “illegal” and call them sister. I sit on this earth and call it “mother”. I act or i don’t act, and this, in the end, is who i am. I may have many cherished ideas, but if my actions do not mirror these ideas, then they are just hollow, meaningless concepts. I am not talking ‘bout sacrifice here, i’m talking about revolution. i’m talking about dropping the self-serving myths of our lives, shredding our concepts, and returning to our brothers, our sisters, our mother and reclaiming our souls. This turning begins here and now in conversation. But conversation is not enough. Clarification is not enough. Recognition is simply not enough. We must act- and we must act wholeheartedly and in community. This revolution, this turning, this returning, is my responsibility, and mine alone. This revolution is your responsibility, and yours alone. No one can do it for you, but we can do it together.

Hakuin in his poem “Song of Zazen”, tells us:
And if we turn inward and prove our True Nature, that
True Self is no-self, our own self is no-self, we go beyond ego and past clever words.
Then the gate to the oneness of cause-and-effect is thrown open.
Not two and not three, straight ahead runs the Way…
How vast is the heaven of boundless Samadhi!
How bright and transparent the moonlight of wisdom!
What is there outside us? What is there we lack?
This earth where we stand is the pure lotus land!
And this very body, the body of Buddha.

In everything you do, may you know peace.