December 3, 2014
I am writing to you as the year draws to a close, the days grow shorter, the light deeper and darker. Rain is falling today.
Lately I have been brooding about time’s passage, aging, living and dying, and being in the world as we know it, with all its trouble and pathos.
Practice is joy. That’s what the Buddha proposed: an end to suffering, a way of living easy, with an open and untroubled heart, based on a true understanding of what our life really is.
This has been another wonderful year of practice with all of you. A year of deepening our friendships, our commitment, and our appreciation of zazen and Buddha’s teachings. We are growing and developing together. Among other important events this year, in March we empowered two new lay teachers, Alan Block and James Flaherty, both of whom have been practicing with us for decades. They were truly inspiring in the ceremony. I am very proud of them and of what we have all been able to accomplish together.
So I am happy. But also I am unhappy. I believe that our bodhisattva commitment means we have to suffer too, on behalf of others. As long as people suffer from injustice, violence, oppression, and spiritual deadness, I too suffer, because I cannot be at ease when others are not. I am not isolated entity. My sense of self includes others.
It is easy enough to practice generosity and kindness, not to speak act or think in ways that are harmful to and disrespectful of others. This is something I have been committed to for a long time and work on every day.
But it is more difficult to know what to do about suffering in the world. Racism, sexism, national and religious hatreds. Terrible social injustice which seems ingrained in the economic and political systems we are living under. Environmental uncertainty and dread. A general sense of hopelessness prevails, underneath our frenetic shopping and doing.
We can’t ignore this, and we can’t imagine that our sitting and chanting by themselves will solve it. These practices sustain us and bring us joy, but we have to do more. We have to pay attention to our social systems, be critical of them, and speak and act to make them better, no matter how unlikely or impossible this may seem. Anyway, this is my feeling today as I write, and my commitment for the coming year.
I am grateful to have been able to live another year with you in my life. Thanks for your generous support. May you be well, may your practice bring you ease and happiness, and may we together with everyone work toward bring about one day the world we have all been dreaming of for so long.