Friday, June 1, 2012

"God has seen you struggling with something. God says it’s over."

The Buddha gets a Brazilian high-five 
Title came from part of a timely email forwarded today by my cousin Sandy.

I've been listening to the excellent Mary Karr (in Lit) work through her struggles with the idea of God and praying while trying to stop drinking. And the other night I saw Betty again. She's the lovely 91 year old Irish lady who prays constantly. (This time I was asking her about the farm she grew up on near Belfast, and, for some reason, how to make buttermilk. I didn't really know what it was, nor did I know I didn't know. So FYI for those of similar ignorant suburban origin, it's the liquid left after you churn butter!)

Who is God? God is a What, but we humans like familiar shapes. We like for things to be alive, or at least we used to. Materialism has changed that for a lot of us.

God has no personality or gender. Or only in the broadest most metaphorical sense, God's character is the character of the earth and sky.

And another
Part of human engagement with God involves projecting not only our vision, but our habits of judgment and intolerance. I remember hearing once that the word God is related to the word good. How could Good have rules, and hate those who break them? The intolerance, the violence, it does not come from outside - from God, or the Devil. It comes from these facets of us. Devotion to God, devotion to any good, should help ween us from these destructive impulses.

Who knew that I would ever profess to know anything about God, having been an atheist my entire life? Buddhism has helped me understand God, though it is not my 'way'. I do not pray but meditation and perhaps especially chanting or more devotional practice are related to prayer in some way. I have always been able to see in some people who have a great deal of faith in God, that there is something good there, it's not necessarily just a big childish delusion as I might have thought in more arrogant and intolerant times of my life. It's hard, it must be said, not to be arrogant and judgmental toward the arrogant and judgmental!

Christianity seems to spawn a huge spectrum of acceptance/ compassion and violence/ intolerance. But this is also just a spectrum of human impulse. The Buddha's teaching, practically speaking, shows us how to resolve the confusion that drives it all.

Lisa on the Zen Center roof,
with solar panels and skyline
I've been feeling so happy. I visited Lisa Kee who lives at Zen Center now and had lunch there. (Not to mention some kind of caramelized macaroon at Ritual Coffee in Hayes Valley. Mmmm.) I sat in our Center giving people their veg boxes, made $67 selling stuff outside and chatting with people wandering by, then taught the drop-in introduction to meditation class.

Talked to two Brazilian personal trainers for an hour afterwards, which I never do! The guy, who was doing all the talking since the woman didn't speak any English, said that I "transmit light". He had a very poetic way of speaking, possibly to do with vocabulary limitations, but some stuff came through. They had a lot of questions, and I loved them. Not surprisingly, now I really want to go to Brazil. I've had this kind of experience several times. You're trying to communicate with someone, and you have to keep it down to severe basics, but then you

Later today, I get the news that will have such a huge impact on my life. In a way, I have gotten used to waiting, and have been mostly so optimistic and happy...

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