Tesshin opened his talk this week by sharing a few thoughts from this past turbulent week in the United States. A quick read of the newspapers recounted the president being stricken by Covid, the death of a supreme court judge, continuing economic turmoil, protests, and so on. How are we to react when events seem to come at us faster and faster?
Tesshin first noted that the Buddha constantly reminded students of the simple fact that all beings want to be safe, happy, and secure. This is always a good touch base to come back to – even when there is so much conflict in the world. It reminds us that we are all the same “thing.” This is our common ground!! We all suffer as events batter us. We may express the suffering in different ways and have different opinions on the cause – but it is important to remember that we all suffer. Nobody gets a pass!
People on the path can serve as a stabilizing force, however. We understand that attachments to emotions, fears and expectations are what “amps” everything up. Tesshin wondered where people can go in the “secular world” to find relief from pain. One can’t go to the media, or the community, or institutions. It appears that everywhere we turn there is “an agenda.” Tesshin exhorted us to be a source of compassion in the chaotic world. Even if you don’t agree with people on the issues, we must be mindful that people are simply clinging to their ideas like a drowning person clinging to a life ring. We can be the force of compassion and equinity in the world. We take vows to save ALL beings – not ones we like or agree with. We make no conditions on our vows! Even the most “horrible” person in the world must be saved. Do you take that seriously or is it just words?
Tesshin also reminded us that one of the beings we must save is ourselves!! We must be conscious of our pain and suffering. This is why we practice. If we have no compassion for ourselves, how can we help others? “Compassion starts at home.” This is a fact that many of us forget.
These are hard times, but it is only in hard times where we learn and grow. During good times, it is easy to play the part – there is no learning and growth there. Tesshin gave the example of the Dalai Lama who commonly shows reverence to the Chinese even though they are bent on killing him and destroying his tradition. Why do this? First and foremost, the Dalai Lama understands that we must save all beings – even the ones who are out to destroy us. Next, he also understands that opponents are your greatest teachers. However, it is also important to remember that compassion does not mean to submit to your destruction. It is no coincidence that great teachers call life the “Supreme Koan.” Doing the right thing continuously is hard to figure out – which is why practice never ends.
Tesshin wrapped up by providing the story of a public entertainer who was walking down the street of a major city. Suddenly and randomly, someone walked up and punched him in the face! There was no reason or logic behind this attack. It is doubtful that the attacker even knew his victim. How do we deal with this? Practice is about dealing with situations like this. When you got punched in the face, what did you do? How do you respond? We are getting punched more and more of late? What do you do? How do you express it?