Thursday, July 21, 2011

Awakening Grandmother's Heart

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Wrote to Rev. James Ford with a trivial question and got a nice reply.  Simply attentive.  Pausing to ask how I am. I'd doubt that he remembers me, having met once years ago. But he invites e-mail and responds to it as if each one of us is important. The Teachers I have met are so kind it makes me want to be like them, to have that quality.

It tickled me last night to find a Sweeping Zen tee-shirt online - it's pretty, too.  Yo, I thought, I could make a DG t-shirt.  It could be about Grandmother's Heart:  "Grandma Loves You" or, for the little ones,  "Grandma loves me."  Or among the flowers on the front, an arrow pointing to a soft, plushy heart, and the words, "Grandmother's Heart." This was what Dogen cautioned his dharma heir to cultivate. Here's a good koan: What is that heart?

Or come up with a picture of a Grandmother Buddha. I don't see her sitting meditating, more like stirring something in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon, wearing a homemade half-apron, a kitchen window behind her. All relics of old times, things that are gone - cooking from scratch for love; wooden spoons; half-aprons; family loyalty; Grandma's that are there for the kids and grandkids, not out reinventing themselves, running marathons and seeing the world. And it implies something we surely don't have in this culture, respect for elders. No, our elders are seen as a tax burden.

I don't think this society ever had much respect for the old, sick, different - it was grabbed and founded by people who were all for themselves, who left family and culture behind. It remains all about individual happiness. Somewhere I read recently that this is the American pathology, and we don't benefit from imitating the family-leaving that traditional Japanese Zen was about. That enabled people to break away from a rigid culture. Americans need enabled to break away from our restless, driven selves.

So it's me, like the American I am, trying to figure out how to change the biggest BS (see yesterday's post) of all, the ethic of individual gratification, the glorification of greed and attainment. It is this attitude that allows the greedy to tear violently through the world exploiting the poor, making money on war, weapons, illegal drugs. Think about it.  Maybe the tee-shirt should say "It's not all about me."

Or maybe just "Be kind." I'd like to recommend a book called Awakening Kindness.   Khechong tells of a young couple who each morning hold hands and, looking into each other's eyes, say his mantra:  "May all be kind to each other."  There's a simple, intimate practice anyone can do.

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